New Year’s Eve forces you to look back, to reflect, to analyse, to celebrate, to commiserate, perhaps. We wonder what we’ve achieved and make plans of how next year will definitely be different.
If there’s any reflection that I can make from this year, it’s that you can make as many plans as you like, but what happens, happens. It’s not that I think planning and dreaming is a bad idea, quite the opposite, but this past two years I’ve had to learn how to roll with it when the plans and the dreams don’t unfold as my diary entries at the start of 2014 and 2015 expected. The skill of living in the moment, celebrating where you are at, being thankful, faithfully, day-by-day is a muscle I’m learning to strengthen.
I look back on what has been the fastest year in the history of mankind, it’s been one of deep learning for me, pretty much from the word go. From jumping into situations which were waaaay above my ability, to fighting for little people but not yet seeing the fruit, from delving into the deep-set issues of insignificance I have carried for too long, to finally saying NO to a lot of it! From seeing family at its all-time best, loving, living and serving together, to seeing family at its most broken and loving and living and serving together.
I hold a lot of question marks in my mind for this year, of why we had to travel so far along certain paths before God showed us it wasn’t the right path for now, of why waiting seems to be an important piece for Lloyd and I, and honestly, for why things are so hard a lot of the time! I was having a bit of a pity party during the year, feeling a bit sorry for myself, when my super wise hubbie said something that was so simple, but so good! “Things are hard, because we choose hard things” Right?! I’m confident Lloyd and I could carve out a simpler path for ourselves, but it wouldn’t have so much richness, or redemption, or dependence on God. And while I find myself very ready to move on to what 2016 holds, I wouldn’t change what has gone before, because I am stronger for it.
I’m on day 70 in my 100 days of thank you and man, what a journey. This has probably been the most significant learning of the year. Very quickly I realised that there were days when thankfulness came easy, it flooooowed, but more often than not, thankfulness was a choice. On the days when things were boring, or there was conflict, where I was disappointed, am I still going to see God’s goodness?
Like the day I posted this…
…this was potentially one of the most disappointing days of the year for me, I hit a bit of a rock bottom, and I sat on my bed late at night, knowing I was supposed to be posting my thankfulness and I cried out to God, “I don’t FEEEEEEEL thankful” and he immediately replied “you don’t have to FEEEEEEEL thankful to BE thankful. It’s a choice”. And so I forced myself to see what I had, and as I did, some of my disappointment lifted, and peace started to settle in its place. The other challenge I’ve navigated is stopping myself from adding disclaimers to my thanks (let me be clear, I’m all for raw honesty, the ugly etc), but right at the beginning I felt the Father invite me to be thankful, without needing to also share the brokenness in my day, without worrying how my thankfulness might seem to other people, how it might be seen as bragging, or that I have some cosy little existence with no troubles. Lol. And so I stopped myself from the ..this has been the hardest day ever and I hate everyone and everything, but I did eat a doughnut..so thanks…and chose to be authentic in my thanks, to not say thanks for things that I’m not thankful for, which seems really obvious…and to use those moments where I close my day off in thanks, as sacred Jesus moments, where I receive new joy for the next day.
I listened to this short clip by Ann Voskamp around thankfulness and something she said stood out.
[Absolute paraphrase with my own additions…] We think we need to feel joyful before we can give thanks, but thankfulness produces joy. The fruit of choosing to be thankful is joy.
And this has been my experience. I find myself looking for ways to be thankful during the day, for moments to celebrate and while I don’t plan on keeping up with my photo record of thanks, I have felt a shift in my culture, of how I look at situations, and the discipline of having to post something has been a helpful one for me. As I step into 2016, I have absolutely no idea what it holds, hopefully a sabbatical, hopefully a home in Manenberg, hopefully a kid (?!?!?!), hopefully some butterflies released from cocoons and a whole lot of family fun, but I am choosing to enter this year as I am, holding dreams tightly, but lightly (I think that is actually how it works) and desperate to know more of God’s goodness as I journey.
There is always something to be thankful for.