Hey…uh…I missed you guys.  So I’m just writing to tell you that.

You know, the winter is FINALLY starting to pass in ole Chicago.  It’s not the harshness of the winter here that bothers me.  The pastey, vitamin D deficient skin of my young spawn bothers me only a little.  It’s the length of the winter that bothers me.  It. Is. So. Freaking. Long. Come flowers! Come warmth! Come Sunny Sun Sun-ee! Come to me!  But now I hear some little birds that are chirping and staring at the slightly scary, hard-core-to-live-in-sub-zero-temperatures squirrels bounding away with leaves in their mouths. I feel the spring a-comin’.  It’s comin’ round the bend. And I ain’t seen the sunshine since…I don’t know when.  (Sorry, it was just so very fitting. Oh, Johnny, Johnny…I love you.)

No, actually this May marks the one year anniversary of Jack and I’s passage to Chicago, and up until about 2 weeks ago, I had no idea whether we were supposed to stay longer.  But I got my answer and we will stay indefinitely for now.  It just floors me that it’s been a year already.  It’s been a beautiful year of growing more in love with Nathan’s–my– family.  Though not an easy year, really.  Still bumpily learning to live as a single mother and without Nathan. Lots of learning about the past and wishing we didn’t still hurt from it.  Lots of learning about the present and wishing it might not hurt many years from now.  Lots of asking God to please make a peaceful life for us when we feel like we are a mess.  Then asking again at the next new mess.  And then again. And He will, we know, the question is just– when?

The last few weeks have been especially crazy– the biggest trial Nate’s family has had to face since he died, though it  most definitely pales in comparison to his death for myself– and I ache for them and especially for how it might affect my Jackabee. My Bible study had fallen to the wayside, so it felt like slipping in a warm bath to start studying it again this week. God brought me to a certain psalm that Moses probably wrote just after his brother, Aaron, and not too long after his sister, Miriam, died.  The parts that spoke to me most said this:

“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may have wisdom.

Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble.  May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children.

May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the works of our hands for us– Yes, establish the works of our hands.”

Yes!  That’s my prayer, Lord!  I want to count everyday as important, and live this life wisely, joyfully, fully. I want joy in my life even as it feels like it can be afflicted with so much trouble sometimes. I want Your joy to course through my body and take over, even when it doesn’t make sense!  No matter how much I screw up and have screwed it up, please, please Lord…establish the works of my hands.  Make every part of my life glorify You. Make beauty out of my ashes…

I did my spring cleaning a couple of days ago.  Aaahhh.  Something spiritual about cleaning out my home, which makes my mind feel cleaned, which makes my heart feel cleaned.  With this cleaning, this shedding of the winter, comes that Hope again that God gives us just when we need it.  And I had such Hope that I wrote new verses on all of our mirrors.  Such a college dorm room thing to do, I know, but, hey,scripture verse, cross-stitched pillows are not my style, so it works for me…  But in searching through my Bible once again to write something on Jack’s mirror, He brought me to this:

“I life up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip– he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you– the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you day, nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm– he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going, both now and forevermore.”

And that comforted me.  It’s an especially comforting one for a mother to write over her little one when she’s worried.  And I realized this week as I was thinking about the year we’ve been in Chicago, that He really has watched over us so well.  He’s watched over those of us here and those of us there. He’s watched over our laughter and watched over our tears. He’s watched over our coming and our going.  He’s watched over our breaking trials and stupid mistakes.  And He’s let me grow more from them and He’s let Jack get even more dashing and handsome (He’s offering me invisible coffee from a sippee cup as we speak, and saying, “Mmmm, coffee…it’s stho deliciousth!” Writing a 2-year-old’s lisp is hard. Go with me here. Also, can you tell I’m a coffee addict?).  I’m so thankful. Even for the hard stuff that it takes to make me stronger.

But I’m especially thankful for the Hope of Spring, the Hope of Redemption.  I cannot think of the coming of Spring without thinking of the hopeful words that have begun so many important times in my life:

“Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me.  See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone.  Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land.  The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.  Arise, come, my darling, my beautiful one, come with me.”

As I guess I expected, some parts of this year were a little easier than last, but other parts were a little harder. But this beautiful and hard first year of living in Chicago has nearly come to end.    The word “redemption” seems to echo over my weary heart (Maybe I’m actually hearing in it real life, too, since it’s Lent and I’m thinking about Jesus redeeming us…duh. Anyway, you’ll endure my drama so I can get my point across.). I’m excited to see what God does with all of us in this next year.

I love you, guys.  I just needed to talk to you about it. :)  Thanks for listening.