We huddled on a blanket as fireworks launched over our heads in a burst of color and sound, the literal kind of fireworks that are so prevalent on the Fourth of July, not the figurative kind lest you think me some kind of sappy romantic. (Okay, sometimes I’m guilty.)
I watched with lips parted, uttering the occasional “oh” and “wow.”
I’ve seen dozens of fireworks displays through the years, some better than others. Maybe it was the absence of our kids or the gathering of friends or something yet unnamed, but this show of sparkle and sound left me in awe.
Moments earlier, a Civil War-era cannon brigade fired 16 times during the 1812 Overture, leaving my heart pounding as I giggled like a teenager and clung to my husband.
It was, all of it, a celebration of freedom and life and even as we sat in traffic waiting to leave the mall parking lot, I was grateful.
For this and so much more.
A year ago, we sat on the edges of the group who’d gathered, unsure of ourselves and our place and how we’d fit in. We were moving soon and this would become our family and though we couldn’t stay for the entire picnic, we dropped in to say “hi” and introduce ourselves. Our kids played on the playground and we met new people and we left with hope that this whole moving to a new city thing was going to work out okay.
Later that week, people we hardly knew showed up to our house, driving nearly an hour on a Saturday to sweat and lift and pack up the life of a family they had no blood connection to. They chauffeured our stuff to our new house where Phil and I sat amazed at the amount of work accomplished in so little time.
It took us months to settle in (in truth a year later, we still have unsettled areas) at least where our “stuff” is concerned but our hearts are a different story. They began to settle that day when near-strangers adopted us as family and ushered us in to our new community with grace, love, sweat and sore muscles.
But it was only the beginning.
It’s been one year. One. Year. We’ve spent a whole year of our lives in our new home, our new community, and some days I can hardly believe it’s only been a year. The people who fill our daily lives have deeply embedded themselves in our hearts.
I am always amazed at the people God brings into our lives when we move to a new area, people I can’t imagine having never known. People who love us and our kids. People who challenge our thinking and encourage us in our struggles. People who offer us tangible support and friendship.
I used to let people in only so far, never knowing if we would be sticking around only for a few years. If I didn’t get too attached, it wouldn’t be too hard to leave, I told myself.
But this year has taught me that love with abandon is deep and fulfilling. It’s scary and wild and no guarantee against hurt or disappointment.
It is overwhelming, too.
In one year I have more people I can call “friend” than I did in multiple years when we first moved to Pennsylvania. It is good and yet I am forever falling short in maintaining and investing in these relationships.
Perhaps my goal for the next year will be that.
There are years I look back on and wonder how we survived. And I marvel at the work God did to bring us through and how He has changed us.
And then there’s this year of living in Lancaster. Not perfect but altogether good, without any soul-crushing low points.
And I can’t hardly put into words what I feel–how a year can be filled with such goodness, not because we deserve it or have earned it but because it is a gift.
This year, it has been a gift. Better than any wrapped present or expensive purchase. It has been a year to renew our hope, restore our relationships and heal our hurts. And just as those years of trials have changed us, so has a year of goodness.
We are moving toward our best selves, the people God wants to make us. We are healthier in our whole selves, not just getting by but taking tiny steps toward thriving. We are thankful. Less grumbling. Less bitter. More aware that this journey is not about us and the plans we’ve made but about God and the dreams He has for us.
It is not perfect because we are not perfect, but it is good and I will rest in that.
And a year from now, let it be said that we embraced each day knowing that God was at work for good.