This year we made new Christmas memories. All our family gathered here in KY and I was able to be with them, instead of in the hospital. On New Year’s Day, I was at church, rather than being inside an ambulance headed to Cardinal Hill. Gratitude fills our hearts as we count our blessings this year. While I feel so blessed by the family and friends God has given me, I am also filled with gratitude for a God who loved us so much He sent His Son into our story to suffer and to save, that we might enter into His story. At one particularly low moment of pain and suffering in the hospital, I remember being overwhelmed by the very thought that He left Heaven and took on the pain and suffering of this world, even mine, to offer me freedom from sin and life eternal. Several times during the season, this spiritual reality pressed in upon my physical realities. Recently, when I was feeling quite humbled as my therapist was teaching me to turn over and to crawl, I felt like God was saying to me,”I did this for you, humbling myself to come into your circumstances. Would you now do this for me?”
As we start a new year, I feel both relief to end one year and some anxiety at facing a new one. I have to admit it feels like I’m starting a road trip in the rain, with broken headlights. I can’t see the road ahead. I do not know what twists and turns are coming. What else will the Sovereign God allow in my life? I feel, sometimes, as though I have reason to fear. But then I remember that the same God, in Christ, who led me safely through the darkness of last year’s unexpected trauma and losses, can lead me through whatever might be ahead. I have learned through what He has allowed, that fear only robs me of the joy, peace, courage, and faith I so desperately need. I can either clench my fist in anger and anxiety, or I can open it in utter surrender and submission. Lately, I have been purposefully holding my palm open, especially Wilson, who is inclined these days to clenching not opening. It is a good reminder for me to pry it open,in a gesture that helps me open my heart in fresh surrender, saying with Mary, “Let it be to me according to your word, will, and way.” Mary trusted the One writing the story, without knowing the ending. Because of His Word, I know the ending. How much more can I trust Him with the road ahead? He saw this last year for me, when I didn’t. And while he didn’t deliver me from the pain and suffering, He led me through it and chose to enter into it with me. The way to keep anxiety and fear from paralyzing me in the start of a new year is with this open-handed posture of surrender to whatever God allows – knowing He does all things well and He works all together for good.
Throughout this journey, some have commented on my courage, peace, and patience. These are not things I feel, but they are more states of mind or being for me – because I know all is well, that He does all things well, and is in control of all things. Because He lives and He loves, I can embrace each challenge with His peace. I have not felt brave, strong, patient, or courageous. Yet I have spent much of the last year forced into a posture of waiting or of facing a new challenge that felt daunting. The courage, patience, and peace come from focusing on Him. Author Ann Voskamp says it this way:
“I will focus on Jesus this week,
The secret of joy is always
matter of focus: a resolute focusing
on the Father, not on the fears.
And when I feel like I can’t touch bottom
is when I touch the depths of God.
If He gave His Son to save me,
will He not give me everything I need?
I will Behold Him everywhere today – and be held.”