beneath the dirt

Wednesday, March 24, 2021


Impatience tugs at my spirit, and I don’t know if it’s aimed at myself or at Him.

I’m never doing enough or creating enough or moving quickly enough, and why am I living in this limbo? Why don’t I know where I’ll land?

I’m a child thrusting seeds in the dirt only to dig them back up again, clutching them in my muddy palm as I run back to His feet. “Why aren’t they blooming?” I beg, showing Him the seeds as though He didn’t set them in my hand. As if He didn’t send the rain that turned the dirt to mud underneath my fingernails.

But He reaches out and curls my fingers into fists, tightening what He’s always urging me to loosen. Guiding me back to my knees to push the seeds beneath the dirt once more.

And when the rain comes again, it washes over me, through my hair and down my back, dirt running down my fingertips and leaving me bare. The skin is tender and red and the words I’ve tattooed across my body day after day are gone now.

I look to Him and a smile tugs at His lips. He points to the ground where a single sprout pokes up from the dirt I’ve dug up and packed down again day after day.

And when He smiles, it’s not filled with the “I-told-you-so” that I deserve. It’s just a smile.
_____

#writtentospeak writing prompts: Blooming | Patience | Rain

My 2020 Bookshelf - vol. ii

Saturday, March 13, 2021



Happy March, and welcome to yet another edition of Grace Anne Needs To Catch Up On Life.

At the end of 2019, I did a giant roundup of my favorite reads of the year. And because 2019 was one of my best reading years to date, quantity-wise (how? I have no idea.), it was one heck of a lengthy post. When I hit twenty books read back in July, I decided to split the year into two posts, and volume i went out the first of August. Now seven months later, here we are, back with volume ii. A bit belated in some ways, but book recommendations are always relevant, I think. :-)

I didn't hit my goal of 40 books last year, which, in some ways, feels pathetic, seeing as we were essentially on house arrest for months at a time, but it was 2020 - we're going to just throw heaps of grace onto that year and move on, k?

So here we are - a few of my favorite finds from the final five months of the craziest year. What memories these books hold.


The Fountains of Silence -
Ruta Sepetys

|| "There is a tension that exists between history and memory, señor. Some of us are desperate to preserve and remember, while others are desperate to forget." ||

I had been hanging on to an ARC of this book for I don't even know how long - I want to say summer or early fall of 2019. Ruta Sepetys is one of my favorite authors, so I was over the moon to get an advanced copy of her book - and then, in typical Grace Anne fashion, I put it off so long because I wanted to keep looking forward to it that I didn't read it until long after it published, a literal year later.

Like I said. Typical.

Anyways, one of my best friends and I actually decided to read this one at the same time because we have similar taste in books, and in 2020, we were all getting a little creative when it came to staying connected. Ruta Sepetys's books are great to read with someone else because the chapters are extremely short - sometimes just a page or two - so it's not a huge commitment and you can pace it off of your schedules, and her work is also FILLED with cliffhangers, which makes for great discussion points. :-)

I have really mixed feelings on this one, which I hate, because I wanted to love it - and for the most part, I did. But the ENDING. Oh my gracious. Everything was going so well - the book was so well-written, the individual storylines were weaving together in that classic Ruta Sepetys way - and then it kind of just...fell apart. It was the strangest thing - my friend and I both agreed that it was almost as if something happened and someone else wrote the ending. It fell so flat - there were so many ways that I thought the ending could have gone, and it just...didn't. It was disappointing, and again, honestly just super strange.

I don't want to give the wrong impression - as a whole, the book is masterful. Ruta Sepetys is the queen of intrigue, characterization, and drawing you into a story more vividly than just about anyone. Her writing will forever be some of my favorite, and she peppers the chapters with quotes and excerpts from actual newspapers and letters written during the time of the story in the most poignant way. She sheds light on parts of history that I had no idea existed, and gave me a whole new insight into the history of Spain.

So while it was a bit disappointing, it was beautiful all the same.



Uninvited - Lysa Terkheurst

|| "My heart struggles to make peace between God’s ability to change hard things and His apparent decision not to change them for me." ||

I couldn't even tell you how long I've had this book on my TBR - years and years now. I tried to read it at one point earlier in the year, but I got a few chapters in and I wasn't connecting with it, so I put it aside.

Round two: it definitely, definitely clicked.

This book is just filled with so much truth. It was exactly what I needed to read in a season of so much hurt, and I would quite literally throw it into the hands of just about anyone. It's one to keep in your collection - I promise. Even if you don't need it right now, you will. Trust me.

|| "Rejection—It may be a delay. It may be a distraction. It may even be a devastation for a season but it is not your final destination." ||

The Book of Lost Names - Kristin Harmel

|| "But if we shrink from them, if we lose our goodness, we let them erase us. We cannot do that, Eva. We cannot." ||

I can't say that this book was what I expected, but I enjoyed it all the same. If you're looking for a World War II book but would prefer to avoid some of the violence or gore that many depict, this would probably be one of my top recommendations. It's sweet and hopeful, and who doesn't love to read about a female forger? While it did fall a bit flat for me in a way similar to The Paris Library, of the two, I far preferred The Book of Lost Names. The romance is sweet, and it's truly a tale of heroism amidst a world of horror. If it's possible to have a wholesome World War II book, this is it.

The Four Winds - Kristin Hannah

|| "Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when it felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going... A man’s got to fight out here to make a living, they’d say to each other. A man. It was always about the men. They seemed to think it meant nothing to cook and clean and bear children and tend gardens. But we women of the Great Plains worked from sunup to sundown, too, toiled on wheat farms until we were as dry and baked as the land we loved.

If I close my eyes sometimes, I swear I can still taste the dust..." ||


This was my second Kristin Hannah read (I've since read The Nightingale, which will be in a 2021 book wrap-up, but spoiler alert: it's my favorite), and I have to say that it's probably the one that I enjoyed the least. Not to say that it's a bad book - it isn't at all (I don't think Kristin Hannah is capable of writing a bad book, honestly). I stepped into it with pretty high expectations, though, after hearing rave reviews, and I have to admit to being a bit disappointed.

I'd never read anything like it - the story takes place in the Dust Bowl, an era that I really knew nothing about. It follows a mother and her two children, trying to survive in a time of immense poverty and hardship. And truly, it had so many things going for it. In classic Kristin Hannah fashion, it was a heartwrenching exploration of female strength and the complex nature of mother/daughter relationships. It's a story of strength and gutwrenching resilience, and Hannah's prose will never fail to knock me off my feet. 

But the ENDING.

If I'm being honest, this is my biggest beef with Kristin Hannah in general, but it particularly came to a head in The Four Winds. The nature of most of her work (at least what I've read of it) is that it centers around survival, and sometimes I think she can go a bit far with it. I know that times like this were filled with tragedy after tragedy and trauma after trauma, and maybe this year has lessened my capacity for reading of tragedy, but this book in particular was a lot. But even that I could have dealt with. What really drives me a little mad is that the Kristin Hannah formula always has to include a melodramatic shock loss at the veery end of the story, in what feels like just an attempt to decimate the heartstrings of the reader one final time. I can deal with that kind of thing when it feels natural to the plot - and in some of her work, it does - but in The Four Winds, it felt like it was just thrown in as a "Oh, I need to make them cry one last time". I am all for sad stories when there's a purpose, but it bugs me when authors throw something horribly sad in just...because it's sad, and that's what this felt like to me. 

A gorgeously-written work, no question, but not one that I would read again.


Blackmoore - Julianne Donaldson

|| "I think the most profound beauty is found in what our hearts love." ||

I finally checked this one off my TBR while we were at the beach after hearing my sister rave about it for I don't even know how many years, and I am so glad that I did. Intriguing, thoughtful, and romantic, I loved the story of Blackmoore. Desperate to get away from a life that feels completely caged and the boy who can never be hers, Kate is forced to secure - and reject - three marriage proposals to win her freedom. But is the price worth the reward? 

The characters were reminiscent of an Austen book, with a Jane-Eyre atmosphere and aesthetic, and a romance that's in a class of its own. It combined so many things that I love into one. I adored the concept, and even if I wanted to strangle the main character for her obliviousness for the majority of the book, I truly couldn't put it down. The one disappointment was the ending - after being incredibly strong the whole time, I felt that the last few chapters were really weak, which was a letdown - I wish that it had done justice to the rest of the book. Still, I love the book as a whole, so I just kind of pretend the ending was better than it was, y'know? :-)


A Thousand Perfect Notes - C.G. Drews

|| "You are worth more than a thousand perfect notes." ||

I've followed Cait's blog since my baby blogging days, so I was THRILLED when Hanne gave me a copy of her debut for my birthday! It broke my heart, but oh, it was good. It's definitely a heavy read - it's a story of abuse, and it's incredibly vivid - if you're a highly empathetic person, this book will completely break you. But it's so, so well done - it dives into trying to find who you are when you've grown up in trauma, and the many ways the drive for perfection can manifest, and the painful cycle that takes place when your abuse comes from the person you most want to love. It's startling realistic and yet decidedly hopeful. The characters are memorable and leave you just wanting to give them a hug. It's not an easy book, but it is a quick read, and a very good one.


Code Name Hélène - Ariel Lawhon

|| "War is too important to be left to the generals." ||

This was, without a doubt, my favorite book of the year. Ariel Lawhon was my best literary discovery of 2020 (in my volume i post, I talk about how much I loved the first book that I read of hers, I Was Anastasia), and I fell so utterly in love with Code Name Hélène. I already know that this review won't even come close to doing it justice, but I've got to try. :-)

First off - it's a true story. Don't Google her until you've read the book, because trust me - you want to enjoy this one for all it's worth - but Code Name Hélène tells the story of the very real Nancy Wake. I kid you not, the second that I shut this book, I was on my phone Googling Nancy. She was such a fascinating, spunky, intelligent woman, and the amount of detail that Lawhon was able to include and the truly vivacious life that she breathed into every page is exceptional.

One of my favorite parts of the book is the timeline in which it's told. If you've read any of Lawhon's books before, you know that she likes to use nonlinear timelines, which add this incredible level of nuance and depth and suspense to the story. For Code Name Hélène, she used four different perspectives - the four names and codenames that Nancy went by over the years. Each name is representative of a different point in time, and I loved the way that she wove everything together. 

I could tell you a thousand things about this book that I loved, but my true favorite part was simply Nancy herself. She was fierce and funny, and held her own in a world dominated by men. So often in WWII fiction, I think that women can almost become a caricature, but Nancy was dimensional and layered and so incredibly real. She was full of grit and could battle plan with the best of them, but never lost her compassion - never ceasing to become physically sick with the grief of what she would witness. She wasn't afraid to get her hands dirty, and knew that lipstick was both a comfort and a tool. She cursed like a sailor while loving the men fighting by her side with everything she had. I love the endless layers that Lawhon gave her, a clear testament to her research. I love that she was stubborn and kind and intelligent and sexual and tactical and decisive, all at once. Nancy Wake - a beautiful fighter who makes me proud to be a woman.

This book is definitely a heavy one - it's without a doubt one of the most graphic WWII books that I've read. There are a couple of descriptive torture scenes, so I do want to give you that heads up going in. (If you don't handle that kind of thing well but still want to read the book, shoot me a message and I can give you the page numbers!) I'd be lying to say that it's not breathtakingly sad, and I may or may not have been on the verge of throwing the book across the beach at one particular point (Trust me, when you get there...you'll know.) But it's a truly brilliant work about a truly brilliant woman, and I can't recommend it enough.

-----

I'm six books into 2021, and according to my Goodreads, I need to pick up the pace, because I'm apparently two books behind. :-) I just finished Seeing Voices by Olivia Smit yesterday, and am currently in the middle of reading The Ministry of Ordinary Places with Hanne. Next up on my TBR, I'm hoping to tackle The Night Road, Out of the Easy (a reread), and hopefully will finally get back to The Great Gatsby!

What about you? What are you reading these days? What's on your TBR? I'm always down for suggestions (as if I really need them - my TBR is probably going to fall on top of me any day now.) Have you read any of my recent picks? Let's have allllll the bookish chats in the comments below! 

field notes // vol. i

Saturday, February 27, 2021


If I'm being honest, half of the reason that I love blogging so much is because it's one of my favorite ways of remembering - what life was like in a certain season, what I was thinking, what mattered at the time. Last year, amidst the chaos of it all, I had a series called The Quarantine Diaries, and now, almost a year later, I'm so glad that I have those to look back on. 

Stepping into the new year, I want to keep those kind of posts alive on here, albeit with a new name, courtesy of my creative lifeboat, Keira. I don't have any sort of timetable for them - I suppose they'll just come whenever I have enough "new" to share to warrant popping into your inboxes. :-)

If I'm also being honest, I should disclaimer this post with the fact that this has been sitting in my drafts folder for a month now. I kept adding to it and editing to it, forgetting and then coming back and forgetting again. I feel like I always have *one task* that slips through the cracks at any given point, and for the past month, this post has been that task. So, I apologize if anything seems off, timeline-wise - it's been written at many different points. :-)

It's been a while since I've truly caught you all up on here as to what life's like as of late - which, if you follow me on social media, you hear much more about the day-to-day, anyways, so it doesn't truly matter - but either way, today's just about playing a bit of catch-up. 


We made it to 2021, and I think that we all breathed a collective sigh of relief, if even just to no longer have to say "2020" anymore. The holidays were quiet around here in the best way possible, for which I was immensely grateful. We quarantined in order to be able to spend the Christmas season with my grandparents, and it was so, so nice to be able to cook and bake and celebrate with them. We rang in the new year at home, with Taylor Swift music and cookie cake and a giant jigsaw puzzle, and it was the best way to say goodbye to a crazy, crazy year. 

I first began writing these words for you all on January 30th - one month down. I've never in my life had a January this quiet, but I wouldn't say that's entirely a bad thing. I'm wearing a million different hats this semester, but the world feels still all the same. I think that in some ways it's a comparative thing - last semester was without a doubt the most brutal academic semester I've ever had, so the calm of the semester feels a little extra striking. I made the mistake last semester of taking all of my heaviest classes at once, but it was a bit of a blessing in that this semester is shocking in its lack of academic projects, despite taking 18.5 credits. I finally feel like I can breathe, which I don't entirely know what to do with, if I'm being honest. 


I'm still doing school completely online, which, again, I'm incredibly grateful for. It's such a better fit for me than in-person was; I'm so much happier. I'm working a lot - still working for the bookstore and doing some choreography work, in addition to a new job that I've taken on with my university, and a web design internship. Some days feel like a major juggling act, but I feel like I've landed in a routine with it all. 

Whereas January felt long and slow, February has flown by. I can't believe that we're three weeks in, that we're nearly at The Month That Must Not Be Named (lol). It hasn't been unduly hectic or chaotic, but it's felt busier. My kids had their first show this past weekend, so that was a big project that got checked off the list. Other than that, nothing too out of the ordinary has taken place. The highlight of the month so far was definitely getting to go to a White Christmas museum exhibit - they had all of these costumes and set pieces and momentos from the movie, and let me tell you - I was in heaven. White Christmas is one of the pieces of art that I hold closest to my heart, so to see so much of it in person was incredible.


I could have CRIED I tell you


For as long as I can remember, I've always said that my goal is to have a sign just like this as a part of my own Christmas decorations one day. I cannot even deal with how happy I was.

For the first time in what feels like forever, I've found myself wanting to write again. It's something that I've always tried to keep up - half of the reason that I started The Tuesday Letters initially was as a form of discipline for myself, and I've hopped on a couple of poetry challenges on Instagram over the past year. But mid-January, late on a Monday night, I found myself curled up on the couch writing the longest poem that I've ever written. And then a few days later, I started writing a novel. A completely new novel, one I dreamed up in November but had yet to put to the page. Writing again feels weird and scary and wonderful all at once, and I really don't know what else to say on the topic except that I'm giving it a shot, and that in a small way, it feels like coming home. 

In general these days, I just keep finding myself feeling creative in a way that I haven't in a long, long time. Typically, I like to have a project or two that I'm super honed in on, and work like a madwoman on those specific things. But lately, I feel like I just have idea after idea, and I don't quite know how to condense it and rein it all in and actually make something come of it. It feels so out of character for me, but it's not a bad thing, I suppose. Here's hoping that the next few weeks of life brings a bit of creative clarity with it, eh? 

So, that's life these days. It's a little quieter. I'm reading more, and writing letters more often. I never made a great list of new year's resolutions, which is still bugging me a bit. I need to do some goal setting to make myself feel a little more sane, I think. I'm trying new things, and my brain is still a mess more often than not, and I still probably don't drink enough water. But we're here, and we're okay. I'm not where I was a year ago, and even though I find myself desperately wishing I were more often than not, maybe here is okay, too. 

-----

d o i n g:

- I've wanted to learn how to macrame forever, and I finally taught myself some basics over Christmas break. I'm still trying to get the hang of it and there have been a couple of disasters along the way, but I made my sister a plant hanger that didn't turn out half bad, so I'm calling that progress. :-)

- not enough design work - I haven't touched any graphic projects since finishing up with December's commissions, and I miss it. 

- lots of knitting! I love knitting, especially in the wintertime, but it's one of those things that I always forget about or don't let myself take the time to do. Lately I've been letting myself tackle a few small projects, and it's been my favorite thing to look forward to at the end of the day. 

- I've been writing so much snail mail over the past few months, and it's been one of my favorite parts of the year so far. I spent days making Valentine's, and even if some of them got out a bit late (oops), it was a lot of fun. 

- I got some organizational cubbies that I'd been wanting for ages, and it was SO SATISFYING to do some organizing. 

- If you follow me on socials, you know that I've been having way too much fun obsessing over Taylor Swift conspiracy theories with Hanne. Listen, we can't help it that every single thing she does is somehow laced with meaning, okay? It's like playing detectives, and enneagram sixes love a good mystery. :-)


w a t c h i n g:

- we finally finished Frasier in January, after working through it for heaven only knows how long. I definitely should not get as nostalgic about finishing shows as I do, but here we are.

- we also started watching Frasier's predecessor, Cheers, a while back, and it's been a fun show to watch when we just want something light and funny.

- speaking of finishing things, I also finished Madam Secretary this fall! It feels like a while ago now, but since it made many an appearance in my Quarantine Diaries posts, I feel like it should receive the proper closure. :-) Definitely one of the best pieces of art that I became acquainted with in 2020- forever in your debt, Keira!

- Runaway Bride was an impulse watch, but a good one. If there's anything that you can count on in life, it's Garry Marshall movies.

- we tried watching Dawson's Creek, and while I don't think it's one we'll be revisiting, it made for an absolutely hilarious girl's night in.

- I'm very, very tempted to get into Bridgerton, which may or may not be mainly due to the musical that Emily Bear and Abigail Barlow are creating. Thoughts? (Edit: As we all know, this post has been in the works for a WHILE, and I have since given in and started Bridgerton. I haven't finished it, and I cannot possibly recommend it because the content is A Lot, but I adore the aesthetic and the drama of it all.)


r e a d i n g:

I'm going to toss in some of what I've read since my last Quarantine Diaries post, but I'm still planning to get a 2020 Bookshelf post up soon! I'll try to remember to link it here when I do. :-)

- A Thousand Perfect Notes by C.G. Drews. I'd wanted to read this for ages, so I was thrilled when my dear friend Hanne gave me a copy for my birthday! It was heartbreaking and beautiful all at once, and I'm excited to dive into Cait's next book sometime soon! (I gave my sister a copy for her birthday, but let's be honest...it was a gift for me, too :-) )

- Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon. Ariel Lawhon is, without a doubt, my favorite author that I discovered in 2020. Her work floors me - the way that she structures her stories is brilliant, and she really makes you fall in love with the characters. I couldn't get enough of this book, and it was made even better by the fact that it's a true story! 10/10 recommend - read this book!

- The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. My first read of 2021, a Keira recommendation. You know how much I love my WWII fiction, and this one didn't disappoint. The character work was breathtaking. 

- Fighting Forward by Hannah Brencher. I was SO excited when Hannah announced her new book, and its release was definitely a highlight of my month. Hannah's words are filled with so much truth + hope, and I couldn't love her writing more. 

Radha & Jai's Recipe for Romance by Nisha Sharma was a work read that I enjoyed. It actually doesn't release until this July, but my boss sends dance-related ARCs my way, and I was pleasantly surprised by this one. I learned a lot about Indian dance culture, and the characters are so sweet. The book itself is well-written, and I was glad that I gave it a try!

- In The Event This Doesn't Fall Apart by Shannon Lee Barry. I've been following Shannon's writing on Instagram for ages now, so when she gave ebooks of her new poetry book away for free on Valentine's Day, there was no possible way I was going to miss out. Shannon writes about people so beautifully - she sees their nuances and quirks and paints them in your mind's eye with so much love. Her writing is whimsical and magical and filled with hope, and I love it dearly.

- As far as Bible reading goes, I've really just been skipping around lately...lots of Psalms/Proverbs, as well as Isaiah. I'm in desperate need of an actual plan! Here's to hopefully getting more disciplined with that.

- On Instagram, I've been loving @resurrectionpoetry and @gracewritesthings_ 's work!

- "You Will Have Time For All These Things" from with risa. Joanne is one of my favorite bloggers, and this post was filled with so much that I needed to hear. 

- This and this - in all honesty, I would tell you to read every word that Amanda Beguerie ever writes. But these are a good starting point. :-)


l i s t e n i n g:

- If you follow me on social media (shameless plug: insta and twitter), you already know that Evermore was the album of my December. Merry Christmas to us all, indeed. :-)

- Also, the era of Taylor re-releases has begun, and I am so incredibly here for it.

- lots of dodie, once again thanks to Hanne

- Lizzy McAlpine + Jon Bellion + John Mayer forever

- now that I'm doing school online and spending SO MUCH LESS time in my car, I've kind of gotten out of the routine of listening to podcasts, but a friend of mine recommended the Crime Junkie podcast to me, and I'm slowly getting hooked. If you're a true crime fan, it's so good. 

- One of my goals for myself for this year is to become better at organizing my music into playlists. My Spotify is still a bit of a disaster (or, as I like to call it, a work in progress), but I made this playlist to step into 2021, and I kind of love it. I asked you all on Instagram to send me your favorite songs that reminded you of hope, added a few favorites of my own, and the final product has definitely been on repeat. We all need a little extra hope stepping into the new year, I think, and what better way to remind yourself?

other notable songs from the past month and a half:

- all of Bridgerton the Musical by Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear. (When I tell you that these girls are BRILLIANT oh my goodness)

- Place We Were Made // Maisie Peters (Hailey, are you proud??)

- Come Back Home // Lauren Daigle (A rec from one of my sweet elementary girls!!)

- Praying for Sunshine // Cody Fry

- Friday I'm In Love // Phoebe Bridgers

- U Suck // Emily Bear (When she released this on Valentine's Day, I literally just left it on repeat for ages. Such a fun song!)


m o m e n t s:

- a girl that I've been teaching since I was fifteen painted the most beautiful box for me as a Christmas gift, and when I tell you I was a PUDDLE oh my goodness. 

- reading by the Christmas tree well into January

- car jams with Mama J

- golden sunlight through my windows in the afternoons

- dancing with my kiddos

- getting the absolute most PRECIOUS Valentine I have ever received in the mail from Hailey

- having fresh flowers in the house

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How's life treating you these days, friends? I've missed this space. Hoping that your weekend is a lovely one. xx


the weary world rejoices || 12.21.20

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

 


This year, I think we've all found ourselves praying for light.

It's been a year uniquely marked by darkness, to the point where I think that in the sheer magnitude of the year, it's become difficult to know what exactly to pray for. So, more often than not, I've found myself just praying for something good. For any stray bit of light to pierce through the mess of it all.

And if I'm being honest - it's a prayer that hasn't always felt answered. The months have dragged on and things haven't gotten any better and suddenly we're nearing the end of this chaotic tangle of a year, the holidays are here, and I'm still a little shell-shocked from it all.

The world is heavy, and burnout is as prevalent as peppermint these days, but when I look out my window at night, I still see Christmas lights. Carols play on the radio, and churches tell the tale of a virgin who gave birth to a miracle. 

Despite it all, the weary world rejoices.

-----

Every year during the holidays, I always seem to find myself with a single song lyric running through my brain on repeat, a pattern that's kind of fun to look back on when I scroll through old Christmas musings. Those four little words have been this year's refrain as I stumble through the season, in all of its strange, sacred simplicity.

I don't think I've ever felt as detached stepping into the holiday season as I did this year. It's one of my favorite parts of the whole year, a season of warmth and life, one of the holiest times of the year. And yet it was as though I couldn't wake myself up to it, like my brain knew it mattered but I couldn't make it click. I was excited for the season, excited for traditions and rest and family, but rejoicing felt so far away.

I've been going through Hannah Brencher's Advent study, and was reminded of something that I read last year - that the first prophesy of Jesus's birth came at a time of massive darkness in Israel. The people had once again turned from God, and their world was a chaotic mess.

Sound familiar?

Yet right in the middle of the chaos, God sent them a promise of hope. The promise of a light that would come to illuminate the darkness. It didn't come in their lifetime - it didn't come for another 700 years, in fact. But it came, and it changed the world forever. He changed the world forever.

----- 

As I'm writing these words, it's Monday, December 21st. Today is the winter solstice - the first day of winter, and the darkest day of the year. The days have been growing shorter and shorter since June, culminating today, the shortest day of the year. Light showed up late and went down early, and as I'm pecking away at my keyboard, all that I can see when I try to look out my window is darkness. 

Today also marked the appearance of what many people are referring to as "The Star of Bethlehem". Jupiter and Saturn met in the night sky in what looks like a brilliant, beautiful star, a sight that hasn't been seen in around 800 years. Some people call it the Christmas star, saying it might be similar to the star that the Magi saw, the star that led them to their Savior. 

A little after sundown, while the soup still simmered on the stove, my mom and I bundled up and trekked up the hilly streets of our neighborhood to get a look at this star. And as we walked, I couldn't help but be struck by the fact that here we were, the week of Christmas, on the darkest day of what has been the darkest year of many people's lives, heading through the cool night air to catch a glimpse of the light. That of all days for this star to appear, of all years, it was tonight. 

It wasn't at all what I had in mind when I prayed for light time and time again. But there it was, a speck in the night sky above me, laced with color and shining clear as could be. And I couldn't help but think that it was a promise, this light piercing the dark. That it was a reminder that hope holds true yet. 

It's like they say in the song - a thrill of hope. You know the feeling - a butterfly flutter in your chest that maybe there's more. Maybe there's better. Maybe it's almost here. 

Over 2000 years ago, we were given the greatest hope of all. And that hope is something that no circumstance, no year, no darkness can ever triumph. 

This year has left me weary, but I want to be rejoicing all the same, because my God is still on His throne. And maybe this season is different. Maybe we're different, because seasons of challenge do that to us. They change us. They grow us and shape us and shift us, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worst. 

But I want to rejoice in the chaos because I know that He is still good. I want to be able to look back at this year and say, "I can count my bruises, but I can also count the goodness of my Father." 

I don't know what the holidays hold for you this year. I know that things are probably different, and I know that's never easy. But I also know that on the darkest night of the darkest year, the sky was pierced by a light, and I have to hope that light is going to pierce our darkness, too. 

So we sing, and we share, and we sit by the fire. And with all of the weariness in our bones, we rejoice, because light has still won. He has still come. And His hope will never fail. 

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