A Backward’s Glance that Will Change Your Trajectory

Miniscule snowflakes drift by sleepily today, while burly college men sprawl around our cherry wood kitchen table with my husband.

Photo: Gabriela, Creative Commons, cc license

Raucous laughter breaks out as they tease each other about the board game in front of them, and I grin quiet and shift more comfortably on my desk behind them. Scouring digital photos from last year, I select a few, inserting them into this year’s Christmas letter. The photos trail beside tales, and I can’t help but see it.

It’s laced throughout the document, and I hear it again and again. And the words just flow it out, this truth that I know but it takes a year’s worth of telling to see it so plainly. In a paragraph on page one, it’s there in Times New Roman font, “We are overwhelmed by God’s gracious care for us and his extravagant kindness.” And somehow it’s in a paragraph about demolition and destruction, and yet he amazes me with his kind care.

On page two, the line weaves throughout paragraphs about seizures and cancer but once again the lines speak a truth I had known but the seeing it in black and white still takes me by surprise. Because the audacious truth of joy and seeing God’s constant love is that the circumstances might surprise us. It’s there, and I can’t lie. The words reflect and recite it back to me, and nodding, I agree. “That incident reminded us how precious Daniel is to us and gave us an opportunity to experience God’s palpable kind love and presence in our lives as we walked the days and weeks that followed.”

And those truths that we can know in our heads really do come bursting from our hearts in the hospital rooms, outside the surgical ward, and in the MRI waiting rooms. Because the truth is “While it was an emotional time for our family, we were amazed at the innumerable ways we saw God’s kind gifts to us throughout the nine-day hospital stay and the weeks before and after.”

Taking a break from revising the family Christmas letter, I joined my daughter in making beef lo mein for supper. College boys had trickled in and out until there was just one left, playing games at the table with my husband on his day off. This former youth group man is now in his thirties and today is his birthday. Six year old Daniel and I frosted the cake, twirling spoons with white frosting across a yellow cake.

“Can I do the sprinkles?” Daniel asked eagerly. He pinched them up a few at a time, concentrating to drop them precisely where he wanted them on the vanilla frosting. Soon, we sang Happy Birthday and gave Brandon his card. Daniel was so excited that he jumped into a version of the song early, and we hurried to catch up to him, starting a second refrain. And our love for this thirty-two year old former teen in our youth program wells up inside us, jumping off the page of our homemade black and white card.

But this love? It pales next to the love that our God has for Brandon, for us, and for you. This kind love and palpable presence leaps off the page to me this year, reading back over our family’s news for the Christmas letter. And I never would have guessed that a year with words like seizure, house relocation, house demolition, and cancer could hold so much joy, and uncontainable stories of God’s kindness, but it does.

And may I tell you? For we know, brothers and sisters that you are dearly loved by God, and that he has chosen you. In this Thanksgiving week of finding and giving thanks, even a cursory glance backwards will show you trails and tales of God at work in your life. You are dearly, unconditionally, loved.

(Yes, yes, you too.)

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  1. Alecia Simersky on November 25, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    What a year, huh. So many thing can happen, yet when we choose to look for it, we can find goodness in it all. Thank you for this post, today. For the reminder that no matter what the year has planned, we are loved and held by God.

    I hope you have a wonderful, Thanksgiving!

  2. Floyd on November 26, 2014 at 1:19 am

    Love the imagery… I could feel the spirit of God in your home. Thanks for sharing and reminding me of the heart we're to have in humble thanksgiving to the One who gave us life. God bless you and yours, Jennifer.

  3. Unknown on November 27, 2014 at 9:51 pm

    The older I get, the more storms I weather, the easier it is to see God's grace and remember to thank him for his provision. And yet, sometimes the glass looks half empty. Thanks for this reminder.

  4. Loren Pinilis on November 29, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    Sometimes it seems like the toughest times are the times where you end up growing the most. Then in hindsight you can be thankful for the closeness and care of your Savior.

  5. Dolly@Soulstops on December 3, 2014 at 10:10 pm


    What a year and you testify to God's love in the midst of it so powerfully and beautifully, my friend 🙂 Thank you 🙂

  6. Jennifer Dougan on December 6, 2014 at 3:52 pm


    Your line, "No matter what the year has planned, we are loved and he;d by God," is delightful and true.

    Thank you,
    Jennifer Dougan

  7. Jennifer Dougan on December 6, 2014 at 3:54 pm


    Thank you. Always nice to have you here.

    Jennifer Dougan

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