Happy New Year everyone. It’s a great day when you can start a new year with falling snow and Husker football! And even a few flakes fell this morning as I left the gym and headed into work. Like most people I tend to look back over the past year and evaluate how it went. Like usual, there were good things and some not so great things but that is the circle of life and very much expected. But at the end of the day, at the end of the year, I have far more items on my “blessed and well” list than I do on my “that stunk and was hard” list. And sometimes, with hindsight, it becomes obvious that some difficulties really do turn into blessings.
We’ve had some really fun times too. If there is one thing our family of six knows how to do, it’s goof off. There are a lot of people who would probably be uncomfortable with all the silliness that goes on in our home. We make lots of noise (some pretty gross), we laugh, we tell crude jokes, we make fun of ourselves, we have a great time together. That’s what family is about. Learning how to do the good times together in spite of the bad that also binds us. It’s all about perspective and as long as my kids know how to behave in public, then they can be as goofy and inappropriate as they want while inside our four walls. This is our home and home means acceptance and love.
And as I look forward to this new year, I am hopeful that we will have many more days of fun and laughter. I’m certain they will be sprinkled with seasons of pain but if there is one thing I have learned in the last few years it’s this. It is in the season of need, in the moment of sheer pain, in the panic of uncertainty, in the despair of an unknown that I truly meet Jesus face to face. I have many stories of meeting Jesus in my pain. I am convinced some of the hard things I have faced have come because I forgot the One I love. I am the first to admit that when my moments are sunshine and happiness for days on end, I find it very easy to forget Who gives me my next breath. I leave behind my Companion who never leaves me or forsakes me. I ignore my Rock from whom my foundation is never shaken. Because in those morsels of good, I find myself not needing my Savior like I do in the hard. I find in the good, I don’t give Him the time and energy and attention I do when I’m all alone and can’t see through the fog of doubt and hurt. I hate to admit it but it’s my truth. I am good at making it on my own when things are going my way, when life is good and predictable and easy. My independent spirit loves to come out when it’s sunshine and roses. But in the moments of need, I make the quickest turn to my Lord. Oh I never forget Him in the good. I don’t forget to spend time in the Word. I don’t lessen my prayers. But I also don’t seek Him and rely on Him with the same intensity when things are all right with my world. So I have really learned to appreciate the tough situations because they draw me to the One who is my strength. I’ve learned the most, grown the most, cherished my time with my Savior the most in the hard times. And I’m learning to have that same dependency on Him in the good too. But it takes practice. It takes discipline. It takes intention. I’ve discovered my mind tends to look for the next bad. I’ve trained my mind to do this. I’ve allowed Satan to creep in and fill me with expectation for the next difficulty. It’s sad, it’s disappointing, but it’s my truth. And now I have to undo the lies. Undo the lie that God doesn’t intend for good to happen because I don’t deserve good. The last ten years have been full of many wonderful, beautiful, blessed moments. I have been showered with love from my children and my husband. I have been blessed with wonderful family and friends. My community is loving. Yet I’ve seen so much injustice. So much pain. So many heart wrenching things happened to those I love that I’ve convinced myself I don’t deserve good. But I didn’t realize I was teaching myself those lies. And so here I am learning to rely on the Lord as much in the good times as I do in the bad. Yet I struggle with feeling worthy of the blessings and stress free days. So the journey continues of learning to believe that God does desire good in my life. That He is passionate about me. That He simply asks me to glorify Him regardless of good or bad, easy or hard, sunshine or clouds. Because every day is a blessing. I can learn as much in the positive as I can in the negative if I allow my heart to listen and believe. It’s a journey.
But as I talked about learning the most through difficult times, the “ah ha” moments when I realize how far I’ve come, how much I’ve learned, how strong my faith has become – well those moments often reveal themselves not in the midst of the difficult but when I am able to take a few steps forward then look back at the storm. It’s then that I see the hand of God on my life. It’s then that I feel His loving presence. It’s then that I know the hard had to come so I could shine the light of Jesus. I still don’t understand His plan, nor do I get to see what is coming next. But I will say this. He is good. He has a plan that is far beyond anything I can hope for or dream about or create in my finite mind. I don’t know how my tomorrows will play out, but I do know from past experience that because of the difficulties, I’ve grown in my faith. I’ve learned the true meaning of joy. I’ve experienced unconditional love. And I can honestly say I wouldn’t trade any of the hard these past six to ten years have thrown at me for more days of easy. Because beauty can be found in the midst of pain. Learning can be accomplished in the tangled web of uncertainty and hardship. I’ve learned to love my life. The good, the bad and the ugly. I’ve learned to cherish the love and acceptance of family and friends. I’ve learned to grasp the moments of laughter. I’ve found the essence of grace and the humility of forgiveness.
So whatever 2014 brings, I’m ready to face it. I’m ready to praise God in the sunshine even more than I have in the storm. I have big dreams for this year. I desire – and am working hard for – a body that is healthy and strong and fit. A temple of the Holy Spirit that is honoring to Him. I want to bless others whether it’s through a meal to their door or having a family over for dinner. I want to give with groceries or a gift card or a tank full of gas or time spent cleaning someone’s house. I want to learn to be a servant. It’s what I love to do. I simply have not taken the time to invest in others these past few years the way my heart desires to do. I want to spend more time in prayer with people. I want to memorize more scripture as a family. I want to learn a new skill, take a photography class, read more books, take up quilting again. I want to master the art of dance so I can two step in my family room with Travis. I want to spend a cozy night at a bed and breakfast with my love. I want to teach my kids what mercy looks like. I want to make memories with dear friends doing crazy, new things together. I want to exude a joy and peace no matter what life throws at me. I want people to see Jesus when they look at me.
So here’s to a new year and a new focus. Here’s to living with thankfulness. Here’s to enjoying every moment of good. Here’s to laughing til my belly hurts. Here’s to paying it forward and giving to others. Here’s to time with family and friends. Here’s to new opportunities. 2014, bring it on! May you be blessed and know how very much I love you all!