2015: And Now, We Sing

A few weeks ago, my husband turned to me from our calendar. “Want to hear […]

Stephanie Phillips / 12.30.15

1a36aa10a0906f95fdf69c3c161b9839A few weeks ago, my husband turned to me from our calendar. “Want to hear how we did this year?” he asked half-jokingly, citing the list we had made at the beginning of the year: goals, wishes, resolutions. I’ve talked here about my movement away from lists, but God help me if I can get away from them altogether, their bullet-point succinctness taunting me away from the narrative-driven unpredictability of grace and tempting me back to performancism.

I told him to read me the list.

This was at the beginning of December. The goals were laudable (eat better, read more) and lofty (potty-train the preschooler, get published). One stood out among the rest as not so much a goal but a fervent wish, yet to be fulfilled:


My better half and I mirrored each other, our smiles a rueful mix of grief and hope. Our soon-to-be four-year-old was neither potty-trained nor talking. I whispered the Gospel to myself in my head, at least the version of it necessary for times like these, an adapted quote of Luther to his friend Philip: Let Stephanie cease to rule the world. Reminding myself of Someone Else’s sovereignty is at turns offensive, annoying, and revealing. Lately, it’s become more of a relief.

Two weeks later, our boy started to talk.

A lot of the lessons of 2014 were forged in struggle and suffering (my boy’s, mostly, and therefore my own). The year started with a surgery and ended with a birth. Blood, sweat, and tears. We’ve navigated 2015 as a family of four–a complete family, tied tubes and divine sovereignty willing, and that sense of completion has satisfied a longing that characterized past years and seasons.

Our older son was diagnosed with autism in February, my reaction to which was–in a mixture of denial, intuition, and faux British accent–“Let’s see, shall we?” Mired both in my own insecurities and a Gospel-driven sense that something more was going on (because something more is always going on), I forged ahead on the path that the professionals prescribed: countless therapies, a special-needs preschool program, even dietary changes. We’ve had him on horses, watching videos, doing drills, listening to modulated music, cutting down on gluten, dipped in Epsom salt baths–you name it, we’ve tried it. Chasing a treatment plan while trusting a higher one is a balancing act I will never nail (and suspect I’m never meant to; hence the need for a savior in the first place, amirite?). Fast-forward, though, to this month, marked by our son’s birthday and that savior’s, and look who’s talking now?

funny-new-years-blogs_1388107169Meanwhile, I am at a loss for words.

So I’ll quote the guy I mentioned last year, the Puritan Thomas Watson:  “These hard frosts hasten the spring flowers of glory. The wise God, by a divine chemistry, turns affections into cordials. He makes his people gainers by losses, and turns their crosses into blessings.”

I refrained from listing our Christmas cards’ return address this year as Easy Street, but when I hear my son rack up sounds into words and words into sentences, I’m receiving the gifts that could only come through the hard frosts, losses, and crosses. The road ahead is a long one but it is populated by people who walk alongside us and share our joyful tears, who celebrate our son with us, and who, skeptics and doubters among them, wonder if something more may be going on here. If there may be something to “Good News” after all.

I’m not looking for lessons right now; I’m not struggling for answers like I was a year ago. What I am trying to do is rest in a season of relative fulfillment and open my eyes to grace revealed all around me. I’ve always loved the book of Isaiah for both its poetry and its eventual fulfillment by a Person who showed up in the temple, read from it, and sat down in a form of ancient-Near-Eastern horizontal mic-dropping. Hallelujah, indeed–and also, damn–what a savior.

Our God and his grace are in the business of making the broken whole, of completing the incomplete, of making sad things untrue. We don’t always get to watch them unfold, but this year? My husband and I witness the Word come to life with our son; we are opening a gift born of a love who speaks into our lives in seasons of silence and of sound. This year, 2015, has been a song that continues, an anthem that we’re all learning the lyrics to. This year, we’re singing around streams.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.