My Grandma G never said “goodbye”; only “so long.” She believed that goodbye was final, whereas so long meant until next time.

I never want to relive 2013, so when I say so long it doesn’t mean I want a similar visit in another year. It just means I can’t say goodbye. I want to. In fact, I want to say good riddance. But 2013 changed us profoundly which means that, like it or not, we will always carry parts of this year with us.

2013 was the year of mistreatment, misunderstanding, and seeming hopelessness. Who wants to carry that around? Not me. But 2013 was also the year that shaped us into becoming better people. Why? Because there was nothing to do but cry out. Cry out to the Jesus who loves us, then collapse and watch Him work.

And the work is amazing. We learned that even in what seem to be desolate circumstances, we can trust God for good. ALL THE TIME. We learned to be gracious and thankful recipients. We learned just how many friends we have. Well, actually we don’t have an accurate count because—bless you!—some of you remained anonymous in your giving. So what we really learned is that we have more friends, or at least more people who care about us, than we thought. That blessing alone has been lovingly humbling and incredibly moving.

My personal journey this year has been about “eurcharisteo.” Thanksgiving in all things. Does that mean I say thank you to God for the awfulness of 2013? It does not. But it does mean I thank Him for being, for providing, for allowing us to have joy in the midst of despair, and peace in the midst of chaos. In thanking Him for these things, they become real.

The other big thing that 2013 taught me is that thanks always, always precedes the miracle. In learning to give thanks, even when it’s not a natural reaction, there is a supernatural result.

Does my new spiritual shape mean I enter 2014 a woman of wisdom and a pillar of spirituality? It does not. I am a mess. But I know where to bring my messiness. And guess what? Messiness can turn into beauty.

May your 2014 abound in true peace and joy. It’s possible!