I used to hate New Year’s Eve when I was growing up.
It was probably my least favorite day of the entire year. I hate endings, and time stresses me out. I was overwhelmed by the thought of saying goodbye to everything that happened that year and starting over, and I was intimidated by the thought of another 365 days passing. Now, this day is important to me for a lot of reasons. This year in particular, I found myself actually looking forward to it.
When I was a senior in high school, I attended a youth group at a local church a couple of times. The youth group was throwing a New Year’s Eve party, and I decided to go because, like any 18-year-old girl, I wanted to debut my favorite new outfit I received for Christmas, I was hoping cute boys would be there, and anything to hang out with friends instead of parents on New Year’s Eve, right? I walked in to the party worrying about my hair, worrying about whether I was fashionably late enough, and worrying about my outfit. I left the party with something better than all of that.
I was more stressed than I had ever been in my life that year (In my early twenties now, that seems like such a joke, and I’m sure it will become even more of a joke the older and more stressed that I get.) I was applying to colleges, trying to figure out what I wanted to be, dating for the first time and getting ready to move away from home for the first time too. It was overwhelming, and I was trying to take control of all of it. I was making all of these plans and feeling like a failure every time they didn’t work out.
But when the clock struck midnight, something happened that I had never been a part of before – everyone stood in a circle and held hands, and my friend’s dad prayed for the new year. I had never experienced a group of friends coming together to pray like that, and the love that I felt in that moment was indescribable. It filled the room. As her dad prayed, he said something simple that I’ll never forget.
“Every year, we make all of these resolutions on New Year’s Eve, and they’re all about how we can make ourselves better – how we can lose weight, get better grades, be a better person. They’re all about us. But this year, I pray that it would be all of our new year’s resolutions to have less of us, and more of You.”
Less of us, and more of You.
It seems so simple, but it made me realize that less of me, who has no idea what she’s doing, and more of God, who knows exactly what he’s doing all the time, is what I needed to find the peace that I couldn’t seem to get my hands on that year.
That night, I knelt by the window in my bedroom and talked to God. It was my favorite spot to talk to him because you could see the moon and the stars. I had done this so many times, but this time, it felt different. Until that point, God had been an aspect of my life just like school, friends, family and youth group were aspects of my life. But that night, as I knelt by my window in tears, I asked him to become the center of my life. And that made all the difference.
Since then, this day is one of the most important days of the year for me. It reminds me that I can let go of the year before and don’t have to worry about the year ahead, because I am loved and I am His, and that is enough.
This year is particularly important because tomorrow on New Year’s Day will be the first day of the same year that I get married.
My fiancé Vince and I met at a church called St. Mark’s in Florence, Italy. We were both in Florence studying for four months and attending St. Mark’s while we were there. We met one afternoon on the outdoor terrace above the church where everyone usually gathered for coffee and tea after the service.
I still remember the radiant smile on his face when he walked in, and I remember turning to my friends and saying, “I call that one.” (We were always calling dibs on cute boys.) We became friends right away, and I guess the rest is history.
After we were together for about two and a half years, we took a trip back to Florence, and he planned to propose to me on the terrace in the same spot where we met. He had all of these elaborate ideas. He bought a guitar and had it shipped so that he could play a song he learned for me. He planned to decorate the whole terrace with candles and ask me to marry him after playing the song. To top it all off, the day he planned to propose at St. Mark’s was a Sunday – the same day as the feast of St. Mark. It seemed too good to be true.
That morning, I went out for a run, and he started making preparations. The guitar still hadn’t arrived, and the church didn’t have any extras. None of the stores were open in Florence because of the holiday, so four months of planning and learning to play that song were probably not going to work out after all. Halfway through the morning, it began thundering and pouring rain. He waited for it to clear, but as I came back from my run and the thunderstorm still hadn’t let up, he realized that decorating the terrace with candles and proposing in a monsoon would probably only be romantic as described in a Nicholas Sparks novel.
Despite everything working against him, so much planning and preparation had gone into this moment that he decided to just go with it anyway. He told me we were meeting some friends for dinner later and to meet him downstairs in the church in about an hour. I showered and began getting ready, and Vince and our friend Jason hurriedly scrambled around the church to dig up any candles they could find and light them throughout the sanctuary and all along the staircase.
I was running late (as usual), and when I ran flustered to the top of the steps, I stopped to see Vince standing at the bottom of a staircase glittering with candles in a tuxedo and his grandfather’s bow tie, with the same radiant smile as the day I first met him.
I immediately felt nervous and thought to myself, “The day I have been dreaming about since I was a little girl is really happening!” I was too shocked to even cry, and Vince hasn’t let me forget that.
He took my hand and led me laughing through a dark broom closet. Not exactly how either of us pictured the proposal to begin, but hilarious all the same. He took me straight to the altar at the front of the church and began explaining all of these elaborate ideas he had. He told me there were so many ways he wanted this day to go, so many plans he had pictured in his head, and he watched each one of them get stripped away until all that was left for this moment was us and God.
The whole process made him realize that’s all there ever needed to be.
He learned we are constantly trying to make plans and take control of them so everything goes our way. But if we let go of the control and let God be the center, He’ll strip away the excess and give us what we truly need – which usually amounts to what that midnight on New Year’s Eve in high school made clear: less of us and more of Him.
Vince held my hand, knelt on one knee inside the empty church and asked me to marry him. I said yes, of course.
A lot of changes in plans led to that moment with me on my knees in front of my bedroom window six years ago, and a lot of changes in plans led to that moment with Vince on his knee in front of me at the altar last year.
Vince is always apologizing that the proposal wasn’t perfect and didn’t go quite as planned. But I’m thankful for a God who disrupts our plans so that something greater can come together in his perfect timing. And I’m thankful for a man who reflects so much of God’s heart by reminding me that there is beauty in imperfection, perfection in simplicity and true love to be found in letting go.