The Best Surprises of 2016

This has become one of my favorite posts to write every year. Most of our days follow the pattern of the day or week before, but over the course of a year it’s amazing how many happy surprises slip into our lives. 2016 was such a rough year on the national and international front, I feel almost guilty for counting my blessings, but I think it’s good to recognize all the beauty in the world. Even if it’s just a movie that puts a skip in your step.

In roughly chronological order:

1. Stefan and Heather’s wedding on January 15th was undoubtedly the most important event of the year, but it wasn’t a surprise. What did delight us? How absolutely beautifully both Sammie and Heather fit into our family. How they make every tradition brighter and better. The love and kindness they show to every member of the family. The way they’ve wrapped their arms around Mary as a little sister and their arms around each other as travelers in this great journey.

2. Xander’s election as Student Body President was an amazing surprise (and stressful journey). The job itself entails both privilege and challenge, but I’ll write more about that on Xander’s birthday.

Xander & Jesse SBO Pres. & V.P. from Michelle Lehnardt on Vimeo.

3. If you’re Mormon, you see photos and videos of kids opening mission calls several times a week– but it’s an event that’s never mundane, never ordinary. We were lucky enough to host our beloved Lizzy’s mission call opening at our house. It seems SO long ago, but it was just last March. Hasn’t Lizzy been gone a year already? We miss her every day. And I hope you had the opportunity to read the amazing story of Lizzy and Katie’s mission calls. Lizzy Gets A Call from Ben Lehnardt on Vimeo.

4. Creating was a labor of love this year. I could have never imagined all the incredible people who lent their talent and support to this website. With writers all over the world, we’ve given teenage girls a voice and a place to share their talents. The RubyGirl Retreat in August was both amazing and exhausting. The site is still small, but I have faith that if it’s supposed to grow, the right people will step in to help me. For now, even if we help just a few girls, it’s enough.

5. Not a single person of age in our family voted Republican in the presidential election this year and THAT was a surprise.

6. This summer, Erik and I were called as Sunday School Teachers to the 14 and 15 year olds in our ward. We have the BEST class full of smart, fun, interesting, spiritually minded kids. Every Sunday we love hearing their thoughts and getting to know them better. Truly a dream-come-true calling.

7. In late June, Ben started running. In September, Ben and Sammie completed their first marathon with a few half-marathons along the way. Sammie had run a half-marathon before, but Ben never ran more than a few miles at a time until this summer. AMAZING!

8. I know, I know, Hamilton made the list last year. But who could have imagined the musical would actually exceed our sky-high expectations?

9. When I told Xander I’d signed him up for the September ACT test, he was less than thrilled. Who wants to spend an entire summer with a huge standardized test hanging over their head? Still, he studied and took practice tests and seemed absolutely ready the night before the test. But when we went to print out his admission ticket, we couldn’t find any record of signing up for the test. Oops. My bad. S0ooooo, he spent another six weeks studying, while I spent six weeks apologizing. But when the test score arrived, it was well, absolutely perfect.  Xander’s first words when he saw his score? “Thanks mom.”

10. Living SO far away in Provo, we don’t see as much of Stefan and Heather as we’d like. Don’t cry for us. I’m being silly, we actually see them at least once every two weeks. Still, in an effort to stay close to their siblings, Stefan and Heather started “Little Sister Sleepovers” where they invited Mary and Heather’s younger sisters to spend the night, eat pancakes, visit the sights in Provo and just spend time together.

11. If you ask, she’ll probably tell you she hates it, but Mary is actually surviving jr. high. After two years of homeschooling, the jr. high life is rough, but Mary has incredible teachers (esp. Shelah), the nicest counselor in the world and darling friends. It’s still jr. high, which involves a fair amount of misery, but probably the best possible scenario for these middle years.

12. With pretty much no training, I somehow completed the Spudman Triathlon on July 30th. I give pretty much all the credit to the Whole30 which has become my favorite way of eating.

13. No contest, our favorite movie of the year was La La Land. We’re addicted to the music, the dialogue and may take up tap dancing as a family.

14. Ben and Sammie started not one, but two businesses this year: Lionheart Paper and Blue House View. The former creates incredible cards and word art and the latter includes all Ben’s video and photography work.

15. When the cast list for The Little Mermaid, went up at the jr. high in early December, many people were surprised to see Gabe cast as Prince Eric. At our fiercely competitive jr. high, he’s stayed out of the spotlight for the past two years. But he decided early in the summer to try for the coveted part of Prince Eric and worked hard to acquire the voice and acting skills. I’m amazed at how much he’s accomplished and can hardly wait to see him perform March 14-17.

16. It’s no surprise Hans served in Madagascar every day of 2016 but gaining worms, losing his English and gutting a turkey might not have been on his list of expectations.


Reading over this list has been an embarrassment of riches. 2016 was such a hard year in so many ways, but also full of unexpected joys. May the coming year bring you happiness, delight and lovely surprises.

December 30, 2016
January 15, 2017


1 Comment

  1. ellen patton

    January 17, 2017

    Thanks for sharing this list! I love it!!

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