A three-tiered platter filled with treats isn’t really designed for a two-person party, but we’re using it nonetheless this New Year’s Eve. It was supposed to be part of a new holiday tradition in our house, but things didn’t turn out that way. At least this year.

One of the challenges of living away from family is that you always have to travel for holidays. My parents and siblings all live within an hour of each other…but six hours away from us; my husband’s mother and two of his sisters all live within an hour of each other…but four hours away from us. So, understandably, the majority and, more importantly, the grandparents win—and we pack up ourselves and our pup (which takes a ridiculous amount of time, effort, and space) and hit the road, repeatedly, between November and the New Year.

Don’t get me wrong: having families we actually enjoy being with is a gift we do not take lightly. But I would be lying if I said road-tripping didn’t add another layer (or two) of stress to seasons that can already be stressful.

Holidays are special times, and, if one has family, they are also a time to be with families. But the rub comes, we discovered early on, when your little family (even if it’s just two and a pup) never gets to spend a holiday together at home because the rest of the family lives in another state (or states). In seasons steeped with tradition, it’s hard not to have any that happen in your own home.

So this year we decided to eliminate some of the stress, spend the New Year at home, and try to start our own new tradition: having a group of “over 50 and on their own” ladies from our church join us for a New Year’s Eve lunch. We delivered the invitations, and I mulled over a multi-course meal to be served on my grandmother’s beautiful china—because ladies over 50 and on their own are particularly special. The morning after we returned from our Christmas road trip, I pulled myself together enough to make the grocery list and get to the store before the weekend shoppers descended on it.

By Thursday afternoon, when the post-travel tornado had yet to be cleaned up and the fridge was full of culinary potential, I was hit by what seems to be a holiday tradition of its own: the “gift” of the Christmas bug. By Saturday night, the road-trip residue and the bulging refrigerator were eclipsed by evidence of the unwelcomed gift: cans of soup littering the counter; an empty carton of bone broth in the recycling box; over-the-counter medications strewn, well, over the counter; a mountain of blankets heaped on the couch and all three remotes within easy access; glasses of water, juice, and herbal tea on nearly every coaster in sight.

By the time I had mostly resurrected, our scheduled party was less than twenty-four hours away, and we decided it was in everyone’s best interest to cancel. We wanted to give the ladies the gift of a nice holiday lunch—and no “gifts” to take home.

Which brings me to the three-tiered tray of goodies for two people to consume on a quiet New Year’s Eve at home. Between nibbles of chocolate and gingerbread today, we’re reflecting on a year that began with profound pain in our extended family and is ending with more of it. Between bites of peppermint bark and sour chews, we’re reflecting on God’s incomprehensible goodness to us. We’re remembering the good and the bad of 2018.

With our china-plate lunch canceled, I almost didn’t bother with the three-tiered dessert tray.  The food was all within easy reach where it was before it landed in the tower of treats. The cookies were in the Ziploc bag on the counter or the tin in the freezer. The chocolates were in the box next to the stove. The candies were in a bag on the counter.

But traditions are important, no matter how many people share them. They mark memories and milestones and meaningful moments. They represent the choice to remember.

Remembering is in the lifeblood of God’s people. We are called to remember who He is—His person and character and attributes—but we are also admonished over and over again to remember His works. Remember what He has done. Remember how He rescued you. Remember what He did so long ago for people you never knew. Remember what He did yesterday for you. We are told so often in the Bible to remember that it seems likely we are prone to forget. And we are.

Traditions are important, but those that remember God’s hand at work are particularly important. They remind us of His faithfulness. They remind us of His lovingkindness. And in so doing, they give us courage to move into the always uncertain future. Whatever happened in 2018, He was there. Whatever is coming in 2019, He will be there.

Today, we’re snacking off a three-tiered dessert tray and choosing to remember. Tomorrow, we will wake to a new year with the same God and know that He is still with us. Immanuel.

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