As I reflect on 2016, I am inclined to hang on to the most recent days and months of the year. Either my brain or my heart – or perhaps both – can’t go beyond what was the hardest part of the year. And as I force myself to think about January or March or June, those months were made up of both great joy and great difficulty. And still, instinctually, I want to hold on to the hard. I want to be mad and angry and look up at God with a “really?!” smirk on my face. I want it to be dramatic and believe that 2017 is going to be a thousand times better. It has to be…
…Or does it?
The truth is, a year is a long time. 365 days. 12 months. Nearly 9,000 hours. 4 seasons (unless you live in Miami in which case there would be 1 season…hey, at least it’s a season of sun, right?!). Anniversaries. Birthdays. Career highs. And lows. Opportunities to meet new people. Moments to connect deeper with those who are close to you. Vacations. And staycations. Sleepless nights. And nights where you wake up feeling more rested than you have ever been. Hugs and kisses. Tears and pain. Goals met and exceeded. And those not started. Pregnancies and births. Miscarriages and infertility. Marriages and divorces. Close to God, far from God.
For me, this year was filled with all the juxtapositions. ALL OF THE JUXTAPOSITIONS. I quit a job. Risked a decent amount (financially and otherwise) for a new, but good, career path. When I was near hopeless in finding and connecting to a home church, we ended up finding the best church in the world. Vous Church. I designed spaces and events. I had more flexibility as in this season, I traveled less and worked from home. Which means I cooked more. More time with Zoey. More sleep. Can I get an amen? And meanwhile, I craved travel and that growing career in corporate America that I once had. And I craved the familiarity of my old small group and church in Chicago.
My love for Miami began to truly flourish and grow. I met more incredible women, incredible moms. Some literally blocks from where we live. God changed my heart to give me peace and contentment about this crazy city we live. But Chicago. Oh sweet home Chicago. And all my sweet friends how I missed them dearly. I began a journey of helping to design spaces at and for Vous. God opened my eyes to a new approach to design, to excellence, through this experience.
God was taking me on a new journey, one that wasn’t about the juxtapositions. But one that was about the reality of being faithful to where He has me and letting the waves keep me afloat. A journey that I can call a juxtaposition or one that I can claim is from God, with God, for me, shaping me and building me day after day. Reminding me that chapters end. And chapters also begin. And the words and sentences and the pages represents our stories, the culmination of a beautiful mess of his perfect artistry.
I spent hours with women in my home studying God’s word.
I spent hours with friends in my home cooking and eating and drinking.
I spent hours with Rick at home, on the road, and back home again.
I spent hours with Zoey at home having dance parties, pretend cooking, reading, playing, Mickey Mouse.
I spent hours with myself at home. Working out and cooking and creating and dreaming and sleeping and designing and working.
And I loved it.
And I traveled back to my home town. To Seattle. To Naples. To New York. To Chicago. And sometimes it was hard being away. And other times it was refreshing and life giving
I celebrated my 36th year of life. Six years of marriage. Two years of being blessed with our miracle baby, Zoey. I celebrated friendships, new and old. I cried with friends who were suffering. I prayed for many that have gone through loss and pain and suffering.
And I watched my husband have a terrible accident. I spent countless hours in the hospital. Wondering if my husband would recover, if he would be the same, if we would be the same. And desperately praying. And I mean desperately. And people showed up – literally and figuratively – in ways I could never have imagined. God showed me selfless love. God allowed me to be angry. He allowed me to be raw and real – alone and with close friends. Above all, God is healing Rick and answering the hundreds – even thousands – of prayers.
Here’s the deal. I could go on and on. The highs, the lows. The days and moments and memories of this thing we call a year. But as I sit here and get my thoughts to paper and reflect, here is what comes to me.
First, as humans, we often gravitate towards the crappy stuff that happens to us. I don’t know exactly why – maybe the devil, maybe it feels easier, maybe we want to suffer – but we do naturally go to the darker place. But guess what? We have a choice. Life is lived well by choosing well. And a few days ago, I 100% was playing the “I can’t wait for 2016 to end” card. But today on my run and last night opening the pages of a new book, something changed. God reminded me he is with me, he has this and to let go. Today, I’m choosing gratitude for the whole year. All of 2016. All 365 days. The ones of joy, the ones of suffering.
Because all the days shape us. All the days help us. All the days people show up. People disappoint. All the days God is close. And then He feels far. All the days are emotions are high. And then low. Toddlers behave. And then they don’t. All the days we experience fun and laughter. And all the days we experience pain and sadness. And 2017 will be dang similar. Ups and downs. Sometimes we have more ups than downs. Thank you, God. Sometimes we have more downs than ups. Thank you, God. God did not promise a perfect, joyful life. And I know from dozens of very, very tough life experiences of loss and suffering that God does incredible work in the downs. His promises of never leaving us and using it all for good and loving us perfectly are much to hold on to. And so, today, and as I start 2017, I am choosing to be thankful for it all. I am not choosing to be perfect and to be perfectly thankful. But, I am choosing progress and perspective and reminding myself that thankfulness will lead me closer to joy and closer to God than wallowing in the pains and heartaches. There is a time to wallow. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been wallowing for about two months now. We are bound to do this across 365 days at some point. But, life will be better lived outside of the wallowing. I promise.
As I think forward to the new year and all the anticipation, I am going to remember it, inevitably, will consist of highs and lows. But, my perspective and my expectation and my hope in what’s to come will play a large part in how I embrace it all. All the hours, all the days, all the months, the year in totality. I do believe in setting 3-5 goals for the year. I do believe that the best is yet to come. Note, the best doesn’t mean perfect. It doesn’t mean that suffering won’t come. It’s a philosophy. It’s remembering the hands our future lie in. It’s having faith that God is at work and tomorrow is new and so are his mercies. I do believe God is a miracle worker. I do believe God can transform. That I can make progress where I am weak. That over time, I can learn to handle the lows as well – or even better than – I handle the highs.
Because I am a work in progress. And I love it so. I love knowing that God isn’t done with me yet. While on earth the new year comes, I don’t think God does his work based on it being December 31 or January 1. He does it always, every earthly day and we can start over with him every. single. day.
He’s not done with my marriage. My career. My mothering abilities. My heart. He’s just that good of a God that he doesn’t leave us where we are. He only continues to grow and teach us. I am so eager and excited for what God will teach me in 2017. I am hopeful that all my design dreams will come true. I am expectant. For Rick’s health to be 100%. For Zoey to continue to grow and learn and develop and be her amazing little self. Through the good and bad, the highs and the lows. I have to be. Because what is the alternative? Walking into the new year remembering only the lows of the previous year? Or relishing in the hundreds of good. Of all the good.
And being thankful for it all. All the mess, all the beauty. All the good, all the hard. It’s all part of His work, how He’s shaping and changing and growing us. Growing me. Thankful. So thankful.
Happy new year, my sweet friends and family.