An Unbelievable Year

My house wasn’t very private in 2023.

There were people at home almost 24/7 and there is no real place to go where what I say in a phone conversation cannot be overheard. My friends know to call me when I am commuting for work. There, in the privacy of my car, I can speak most freely.

An hour alone

The day after Christmas I had an hour of empty house. The hustle and bustle of Christmas day was over, so I got to walk around my house without rushing and speak aloud to God, saying absolutely anything I wanted to say as loudly as I wanted to say it. A rare treat.


As I reflected on the year, I felt stunned. What poured from my mouth was an unplanned list of sentences starting with, “It’s unbelievable that…” For example, “It’s unbelievable that my husband was in the hospital for our son’s high school graduation and then again for Christmas.” “It was unbelievable that I spent most of my year planning an event in December that hardly anyone could attend.” (The entire event was done essentially in anonymity.) The circumstances in every arena of my life this year were topsy-turvy, surprising, last minute, turn-on-a-dime situations. I never knew what was coming next and could not have foreseen anything on the list that I verbalized to God that morning.

I am not alone with surprises.

This year the husband of a friend died. Another friend experienced the roller-coaster of her husband’s leukemia. The cancer of a third friend returned. People with long-term health struggles live from one doctor appointment and lab result to the next, never knowing exactly what will happen.

But none of us know what tomorrow will bring. Messy relationships. Broken hearts. Wounds. Cars breaking down. Scams. I have watched people sob this year, and I have sobbed too.

I am not alone in anonymity.

There are foster parents across the nation bringing hurting children into their home, risking their own family’s routine and children to love others. Other families are facing serious challenges with their birth children. As we each drive past the closed front doors of homes, there are people inside that are anonymous to us and living a life largely unseen. We can feel informed by the daily updates of those we follow on socials and feel caught up on their lives, as if those snippets tell us the whole story. And we can forget the billions of others on the globe we know nothing about.

I am not alone, am I? Your life is as unpredictable and as anonymous as mine, right?

Also unbelievable

My prayer time ended up looking like the typical template of so many of the psalms. After the litany of difficult circumstances that were “unbelievable,” I looked at our Christmas tree and prayed to Jesus, “It’s unbelievable that you came to earth as a baby to do magnificent good within this unbelievable mess.” Words that a friend messaged me this week came to mind. She noted that the first odors our Savior inhaled as a newborn babe were of manure. Yup. That about sums it up, doesn’t it? It’s unbelievable that Jesus entered this messy life with us and stays with us in it every day.

In the list of unpleasant surprises is also the fragrance of God, like the birth of a beautiful grandson who has infused joy into our family, and watching God take care of my son with a job and good relationships. Our Christmas tree from the cheap pile at Home Depot slurped up water for weeks instead of drying up quickly. I liked my hours of being quiet in the glow of Christmas tree lights at night and in early morning.

Two Truths Driven More Deeply Into My Heart

  • People don’t need to know everything.

Life was so intense, I could not keep people current. Not only was there too much to tell, I didn’t have time to call anyone anyway. Circumstances caused me to spend most of my year underground in the sense that no one really knows my 2023 except God.

Too much. Too intense. Too swift. No time to breathe. Each day taking my full concentration to trust and keep walking forward. I was plunged into a new level of privacy with the Lord, and I was fine. Jesus was with me in everything. He knows.

  • We don’t need to know what God is up to.

When I was attending an advent study last week, the leader asked what we see God doing with our lives. I answered, “I have no idea what God is doing with my life.” People laughed, which is fine, but I meant it. I HAVE NO IDEA.

I am too underground right now to even see the hand in front of my own face let alone perceive what God is up to. I feel like a seed. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (John 12:24)

When seeds are planted, they burst open and disintegrate in the soil. The seed only knows the tearing apart, but deep in the dark is where growth begins. As we live by faith, we can trust God with the harvest. He will produce a harvest with our lives even if we can’t see any hint of what He is up to. He is not going to  waste any life connected to a surrendered heart: For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth so that He may support those whose heart is completely His. (2 Chronicles 16:9)

As we face 2024

Go ahead and make some resolutions. I have a few in mind. But also know that surprises are going to continue to come but we do not need to be afraid. We have enough in Jesus alone, even if we can’t post about it or keep people caught up. And we don’t have to know what God is up to to know He is up to in order to know He is doing grand and glorious things with our lives. One day we will see the harvest, but maybe not until we are no longer a seed.

Let’s rest in these truths as we ring in 2024 with smiles and confidence. 

Happy new year, everyone!

Picture Explanation: These pictures aren’t sentimental fluff. Each of these moments in a difficult year are real. They really happened and they were good. The hard stuff never erases the good stuff. May God give us eyes to see his goodness in the midst of it all.

Two One Gritty Blink studies are planned so far for 2024!

Speaking of trusting God with our lives: If you are interested in being contacted to participate in a One Gritty Blink Bible study, click on the Oaks Ministries link below and send me an email so I can place you on a list to be contacted as online and face-to-face studies are planned. Let’s not just focus on things in this short life, but also what counts for eternity!

Note: No part of my posts are derived from A.I. Thoughts and writing stem from my mind and heart as I process life week-by-week and continue to grow in my understanding of God and how to apply His wisdom to the world around me.

© 2023 by Oaks Ministries. All rights reserved.

2 Responses

  1. My reading today was in the devotional “Streams in the Desert “. It says “thus far the Lord has helped me ” . It is not about the past but about God’s goodness to see us through past and present issues. Good, bad, frustration and joy. Your post is in line with what this is saying. Confirmation!
    Thank you my friend for sharing your heart.
    God has us covered! Happy New Year ❤️

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I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes growth.

1 Corinthians 3:6

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