When You Don’t Want A New Year but A New You. . . {Camera Giveaway} *UPDATED with winner

How Maggie Pluim knew to ask that question, I’ll never know.

Grace has it’s unending ways.

True, I had told her straight up that I had no intention of showing up for the church’s annual New Year’s Eve party with Marian Brubacher’s caramel popcorn and Viola Gingerich’s raspberry punch and Mr. Vaness’ countless rounds of Dutch Blitz.

“So— you’re just not celebrating New Year’s Eve this year?




Maggie just straight up asks me and I’ve got the phone cradled like an awkward appendage between my shoulder and ear and I’m putting away the Farmer’s socks.

Maggie’s talking loud over kids on her end banging out “Go Tell it on the Mountain” on a sagging keyboard.

“Yeah.” I ball up matching grey socks with the obligatory Canadian red stripe, stuff them into that organizing shoe box in the Farmer’s top dresser drawer. “I’m not ready for 2013 and moving forward. I want a do-over on 2012.”

I don’t tell her that sometimes it’s not the moving forward that is the hardest — it is to keep moving forward. Just ask Lot’s wife.

“You really wanna a do-over on 2012?” Maggie’s running water, crashing pots in her sink. Her kids are belting it out now — “…. over the hills and evvvverrryywhhhhereeee.”

“Beecauuse? …” Maggie cuts the water quiet.

I sink down on the edge of the bed, pile of holey socks in lap. The snow dusts the grey limbs of the apple trees in the orchard. The dog’s at the edge of the field barking like an incessant lunatic at some imagined shadows in the woods.

“Because…” I finger a threadbare hole in a sock I should have thrown out last year.

“Well…. do I tell you that 2012 was the year I didn’t lose 10 pounds, forgot every morning for. a. year. to exercise, didn’t finish reading the Bible, failed to write what I really wanted, never got the basement backroom gutted, rammed about in the same ruts on rinse and repeat, only read half as many books to the kids as I’d planned, and missed living up to what I’d named this year?”

Regardless of how shiny any life looks like from the outside, the honest and the Lord look on the bare heart.

We all are failures — at least the honest of us are.

That dog could be barking at a lot more than imagined shadows out there.

How in the world do you step hopeful into the next year when you tripped messy through the last year? How do you stand brave with all the smiling rest and ring in the new year when the old year still feels a bit like a millstone around the neck? What if everyone else is making New Year’s resolutions and you just want New You solutions?

“Remember Hope-girl’s piano piece at the Festival in the fall?” I’m saying it quiet now, more to me than to Maggie.

I can tell her this when I can’t bare my telling heart.

Our Hope-girl had sat in the front row like on death row, waiting for the piano adjudicator to call her name.

Beside her sat this wisp of a Mennonite girl in a long skirt and longer braids who had played her piece like a cheery lark. The girl smiled, swinging her sneakers back and forth blithely.

Hope wrung her hands.

Wrung her hands like a prayer that couldn’t find words. Wrung her hands like hope can be wrung out of nothing. She had said it just before we walked in here, as she’d slung open the van door with her music books, “Last chance to break my ankle and get rushed to the hospital and not. have. to. do. this.”

It doesn’t take much of a leap or rocket science to see how she’s my daughter.

In the adjudicating stillness after the Mennonite protege’s piece, and before Hope’s name was called, you could see Hope, sitting there in the front row, waiting there in her cowl-neck sweater, that patch of bare skin there below her neck, pounding — pounding like one caged, frantic sparrow — and there was no wringing that could set it free.

I sat there and watched it, a helpless witnessing, and I’d never seen terror so tangible — her bare, terrified heart pounding right out of her bare chest, and you could see it, throbbing and moving, fear pounding its wings right there in her, and I tried to catch her eye, to somehow cup her face sure with my eyes, but she couldn’t see me for the drumming of her heart in her ears.

When her name was called, she went to the piano bench.

She pushed it back to make room for the full length of her. Her whole pounding heart filled the whole soundless space.

Her music was with the adjudicator. She must play the whole piece from memory.

She waits at the keys, not moving, waiting for her heart to calm, to hush. I close my eyes tight. Mothers know how to pray for the moving of mountains.

Hope waits. It always does. But when the silence is so expansive it’s awkward and her fear hasn’t shrunk small, Hope does what she has to and she reaches out her hand for the piano and finds that first note. I can see — her fingers shaking.

The first few bars come from memory. Then steady, into the refrain. Then a stumble. Then a finding and high notes, trembling. Can she remember what comes next? I look up to the ceiling. And then — a faltering, off-tuned and wincing. A silence. I can’t look down, only up, up, whence does our help come from.

Hope tries one note. No. Not that one. Quiet. Hanging. Heavy. Then this note? Haltingly, maybe.

Then the next string of notes, a few more, a high chord.

She finds her way again into the familiar refrain and I look down to see her close over keys, her body in the music, her shoulders and arms and back all feeling the song. She is carrying the song and the song is carrying her and we are being carried forward, slow and certain and faster and surer, and then the finish, the flourish. And she sits. Sometimes you can hardly trust your legs, trust turning and taking the next step.




“It was what the adjudicator said to Hope at the end.”

I can hear Maggie draining the sink.There’s a blue jay at the far end of the orchard. The dog’s still barking all pained…

At the end, the adjudicator had stood there with all of their marks in hand and she’d smiled at Hope and asked it gentle, “Do you know what you did so perfectly right, Hope?”

Right? Hope looks down at the floor, shakes her head. Hope’s whole body is saying it: Right? What about any of this was perfectly right?

The adjudicator bends a bit to find Hope’s eyes, tries to pull her up with her smile.

“So you forgot some notes! Fear and old habits and people pressure and your own interior playlist can do that — to all of us. But! When the piece started to fall apart? You fell forward, Hope. You didn’t fret about the music behind you — you focused on the next bar.”

Hope had nodded slowly, like a dawning, smiling.

The adjudicator looked down the row of girls and budding pianists and said it with this steady beat.

“We are all going to botch it somedays. We all sometimes get the notes wrong. But the song only goes wrong when we keep thinking back to the wrong notes.”

When a piece starts to fall apart — fall forward. Fall forward into the next bar. Moving forward is what makes music.

And I sit there at the end of the year, on the end of the bed before the sock drawer with a lapful of holey, mismatched socks, and I can hear it, these notes that I might wear like a habit —

Failing? What feels likes losing is really gaining experience. Forward!

Falling apart? Fall into whatever. comes. next. Forward!

Fearful? Fear is always the first step of faith. Forward!

Whenever you are lost, forward is always the way Home.

And in a fallen world, I fall forward into a New Year, and I fall forward into Christ’s safe arms and it is safe to trust. He is safe to trust.

“Exactly.” Maggie’s still there on the other end of the line. “Moving forward is what makes music. And that list that you’re running around in your head? Of all that you got messed up and wrong in 2012? That’s the wrong list to be playing, Ann. Because I read this game-changer of a book all about joy right where you are ….” I can hear the tease in Maggie’s voice.

“And the real list that you need on replay is that gratitude list — that list of all His gifts in 2012. Playing the list of God’s gifts is what makes music….” Maggie’s on a roll. “And the truth is: Your 2013 doesn’t need to-do lists like it needs to-God-be-the-glory lists!

The dog stops barking at shadows in the woods.

I can hear her girls in the background, “GOOOOO teelll it on the Mountain!

And Maggie hollers happy: “Forward!”

And with Maggie Pluim, I laugh yes to all this unending grace and leave it there on the dresser, the new devotional journal pressed open to the new page —

the pen laying out for Day 1 and #1…



“But one thing I do:

forgetting what lies behind

and straining forward to what lies ahead…

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

~Phil. 3:13-14


To Celebrate Joy Dare 2012 and 2013: Giveaways

I only do a little something like this once a year, but wouldn’t sharing a bit of joy be a good way to look FORWARD to a New Year?

So let’s crank open the rusty comment box and cheer each other on — FORWARD!


Remember this? And how we began the beginning of this year?  so… did you take the Joy Dare and count your own 1000 gifts in 2012? 

If you counted 1000 Gifts in 2012 — {we made it!} — we’d like to enter you for a draw of the same model of camera that’s sitting here on our counter — a Nikon D90 {& 18-105 mm f/3.5-5.6G Zoom Lens included.}

{To enter, thanks for all 1000 gifts must be counted in 2012. But don’t worry if you didn’t get to 1000 — we’re going to do it again in 2013 and share the joy of another camera by December 2013. Forward!)

To Enter for 2012’s camera:

1. Post a photo of you holding up your entries of 1000 Gifts over in the Facebook Gratitude community  (it could be a photo of you with entries from  your 1000 Gifts Journal, a screenshot of your blog, or you holding up your mobile device with the 1000th entry from the free 1000 gifts app? Just any photo of you (or screenshot) with the way you recorded your 1000 gifts)

2. After you’ve shared the joy of counting 1000 gifts and the dare to really live on the Facebook p….

come back and leave a comment here with the HEADING CAMERA … and what the Joy Dare has meant for you…  

Entries for 2012’sNikon D90 {& 18-105 mm f/3.5-5.6G Zoom Lens will remain open until January 3rd, 8am EST — and then this post will be updated with the recipient…

**UPDATED: !! When Random.org selected a number and we checked who it was — only God could do this!

The winner of the Nikon D90  — is Kelly Gerken who wrote:

Kelly Gerken

I wanted to enter, just in case, as our ministry, Sufficient Grace Ministries for Women (and Families) Inc., is starting a perinatal hospice.
A good quality camera would be so helpful in our efforts to take precious images of the time parents share with the babies whose lives are brief.
As far as what counting the gifts has meant to me…well, I still keep several copies of your book, and give them away often on the Sufficient Grace Blog and to my friends in real life.
Other than the Bible, it is the few books I would call life-changing.
Gratefulness is the key to so much healing. Our perspectives change from what we do not have to what He has already given…but it’s so much deeper than that. It’s a soothing salve for every brokenness…grief, bitterness, depression, hurt. A journey to nestle deeper in the grip of His grace, to discover the incredible nature of our loving God. Counting the gifts lifts us beyond our circumstances and deepens our relationship with the Giver of the gifts.
I have counted the gifts through the funeral of one of my best friends, through big job changes for my husband, and for me, through health and sickness, through abundance and the threat of “not-enough”, counted the gifts of brief lives…and the privilege of walking with grieving hearts, and the incredible miracle of being comforted as we offer comfort. I’ve slowed to notice beauty I didn’t see before.
Thank you, dear Ann…you are among the gifts I count. Many blessings to you and your beautiful family.


Annnnnd… to enter for 2013’s Nikon D90 Camera!
Just count your own 1000 gifts in 2013 … How?

1. Check out the whole year’s Joy Dares! 3 prompts everyday adds up to more than #1000gifts!

2. or… Blog your 1000 gifts, or tag #1000 gifts on Instagram, or join us on Mondays and link up to the list on your blog, or record a legacy of your 1000 gifts in the new numbered journal, and, if you’d like to be entered into the monthly draw for a JOY BASKET mailed out to you (including a $100 Amazon gift card), share your gifts everyday in the Facebook Gratitude community  (everyday we post 3 prompts of what gifts you could look for #JOYDARE!) … and next December (after recording only about only 3 gifts a day) …  be back here to enter for the camera!

What do You Get when you Count 1000 Gifts?

Write 1000 gifts and keep a gratitude list and the research proves this is what you really get:

1. a relative absence of stress and depression. (Woods et al., 2008)

2. progress towards important personal goals (Emmons and McCullough, 2003)

3. higher levels of determination and energy (Emmons and McCullough, 2003)

4. closer relationships and desire to build stronger relationships (Algoe and Haidt, 2009)

5. Increased happiness…. by 25% — (Who wouldn’t want 25% more happiness!) (McCullough et al., 2002)

Who doesn’t want all that? Begin counting — just 3 gifts a day  — FORWARD! 

And a Little Giveaway today to launch #1000gifts 2013?

To enter today to win:

a signed copy of One Thousand Gifts,
a signed copy of the new One Thousand Gifts devotional & numbered journal to record 1000 gifts in 2013

a turquoise nest pendant with necklace
and your own journal

just wave in the comments box today with one thing you are thankful for (yes, the comment box! Open!) — 

Reading via email or in a reader: click here to join the encouraging gathering in the comment box and leave your entry to the giveaway…

For another entry (or two):
Share that you’re doing The Joy Dare {Count #1000Gifts in 2013} on facebook or on Twitter:

Dare you: Count #1000gifts in 2013. Who doesn’t take a dare to Joy? {the free camera would be bonus} http://bit.ly/Rr50vw #JoyDareand then leave another comment here for each share?

Entries for the Books/giveaway package will remain open until January 3rd, 8 AM EST.

***UPDATED: Winner of the signed copies of One Thousand Gifts, of the new One Thousand Gifts devotional & numbered journal to record 1000 gifts in 2013, a turquoise nest pendant with necklace, and her own journal  is Merissa Nel  who wrote:

I am extremely thankful for the work God has done in my heart. He has made me more whole, relationally, physically and emotionally.
Taking the dare to FULLY live with you! FORWARD!

{Join the Joy Celebration in the Comments}