Here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson.* I mean 2013.

2013 (and 2014, too),

2013, I need to tell you thank you for not giving up on me.

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When we first met, I was so scared. So much about you seemed great—college graduation, my best friend’s wedding, the chance to write for a living like I’ve been dreaming about for so long. But I remember sitting at my kitchen bar, nursing a mug of tea, in the first days of January. I remember paging through the second half of my beloved planner, my heart slowing down as I thought about all of the time I didn’t know about. I penciled in every test, paper, and reading assignment for my last semester of college; I know that some people are just ready to get out, but I adored carrying Joyce and Austen around in my bag, reading on benches in the afternoons. It felt like a dream to me, and some days it felt like I had stepped off of the cover of a college brochure, perched on the library steps with a cup of coffee, poring over Moleskine notebooks. It’s strange to me now, because while that time feels far away, I spent half of this year doing that. When it ended, I got to put on a cap and walk across a stage, and everyone was so proud of me. I was very happy. I was very scared.

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The fear is hard to describe—it wasn’t paralyzing. I moved forward. It wasn’t depressing; though saying goodbye to a city, community, and life that I loved wasn’t easy, I was excited to step into brand-new things. It was just scary. But you taught me, 2013, that being afraid is OK. You taught me that fearlessness isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be, but open hands, turned up for receiving, are. You taught me that shaky knees do not keep you from walking, that teary eyes do not keep you from seeing, and that a pounding heart can feel all the same, if not more, than a gently beating one.

Once I began to learn about being brave, you taught me that the moments after being brave are worth it: After I got lost in the city, I learned her streets. After I soldiered through the awkward moments, I came up with some excellent fodder for dinner party stories. After I said yes to dinner and coffee and walks with acquaintances, I made new friends. After I decided that I would trust the Lord no matter how my bones shook, I saw hope—the faith in things unseen—turn tangible. I saw the unseen turn to the seen, the dark turn light, the shaky turn steady.

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You taught me how to wake up early, how to waltz with the morning, how to be grateful for the smallest thing, which is my roommate making the coffee before I wake up. I learned about the value of twinkle lights on the fireplace. You even taught me more about the things I thought I knew: the magic of a baby, the anonymity of a coffee shop, the sweetness of holding hands. In 2013, my appreciation of my mom’s cooking increased six-fold, and this was a year of fleeing to the lake, my very own happiest place on Earth. I bought at least 14 new coffee mugs, and honestly, I imagine I’ll buy just as many in 2014 (maybe 2015 will be the year for that lesson.)

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I learned how being intentional changes everything. I learned that if I want my relationships to be bright, I have to open the doors for light to pour in. I learned that sometimes friendships do perish when a bevy of distance is stuffed in between, but I also learned that sometimes, they don’t. I learned that I’m as well-rested, well-read, and well-stretched as I choose to be.  I learned that looking people in the eyes is a game changer, and I tried to do that more often.

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The first half of this year taught me all about letting go, saying goodbye, moving on. I sat on the banks of my river and watched the water rush to its new place; it never stopped. This, I understood, is like time. I was accused (more than once) in 2013 of being nostalgic, and I occasionally took offense to that. But I sat on those river rocks and memorized the details of a place that felt so very mine, and because I did, I got to bring it with me. Goodbyeing—to everything—never got easier. But I learned the art of it, and I tried my best to do it properly, so that after the fact, I knew that the world I’d lived in and the people I’d loved knew how much they meant to me. And then, I let go.

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The second half of this year taught me all about embracing change, and while I’m probably less open to change than you, I think even the most gung-ho world changers tremble sometimes. (Understanding this made me feel more normal, but I didn’t figure it out until at least September.) But once I did, I let the new become my normal; that is to say, I let the barista down the street learn my name. And I’ve arrived here, the very last week of 2013, better for it.

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Lest you worry, 2014, that you’re dealing with someone different than you think, let 2013 and I assure you that we made a lot of mistakes. I said all kinds of things I shouldn’t have. Sometimes, I stomped around with the morning. I rolled my eyes and spit fire back when I should have delivered grace. I was self-absorbed in the way that blocked me from seeing when the cashier needed me to smile or my very own best friend needed me to stop telling her about my day and ask about hers. I was uptight when I could have let things go. There were times when I could have been a ringing endorsement for the love of Jesus, which brought me here, and instead, I was just another person turning away. Too often, I looked at people and saw instead addicts, annoyances, skin and bones that weren’t worth my time. These are the kinds of things, 2014, that I’m concerned with; yes, I want to be healthier and happier, and I’d like to hold hands more, but even more than that, I want to make you a year where there is less of this mess.

And still, I learned an awful lot about the far reaches of grace.

2013, I spent a lot of you telling people that while I was grateful for this season, I was ready for it to be over. Of course, now that it is, I’m already nostalgic for it (shocker). But I want to do right by you, and I don’t think you’d be pleased with anything less than me stepping bravely into all that is ahead. You can count on me to do that.

2014, may we dance and sing and cry and kiss and read and run and laugh and talk. May we spread the lovely things that undo bad things. May we cook good food and dream good dreams and drink good coffee and read good books. May we concern ourselves with what’s important, and may we do a good job at figuring out what that is. May we live fully and deeply, and may we greet 2015 better for having known one another.

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Here’s to the joy that we find in the in-between places.

Here’s to the hope that spurs us on when the days get cold.

Here’s to the light that makes all things new.

Here’s to the love that compels us.

Cheers,

LL

*This is a popular song.

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