A new year has just dawned. And in the midst of the whirlwind and chaos I call life, I’m not quite ready for it.
There has been so many new things in this last year, so many tears and sorrow, and so much anger and hurt . . . but I’ve been through that pain already. I already am acquainted with it . . . and facing a new year means facing new things, that I haven’t faced before. And I have no idea how much these new things will hurt.
2019 has been a hard year, for so many reasons — and I have purposefully been very vague online about what has gone on in my family. Only a few, very close, very trusted friends have walked with us through this, and have experienced this with us . . . and those are the people that the Lord has knit our hearts with. There’s been a bond forged, one that will never be forgotten. I have been silent, for the most part — I don’t want to say too much. The hurt has been too deep for words. But writing is how I think, and I can assure you, I have filled numerous pages.
Yet, I can’t let you think that the year has been horrid. Nope, not at all. It’s been one of the hardest years of my life, but it’s also been one of the sweetest. My Mama always said that the time in the hospital and in the NICU with my baby sister was one of the most special times she had — the hardest, because we all know recovering from multiple brain surgeries, a c-section, and constantly traveling back and forth from a hospital can’t be easy — but the sweetest, because she knew the Lord was near to her.
It’s been the same for me, in a different way. Betrayal — by those closest to you — is never fun. Words sear into your very being, accusations will never be unheard, and trust is hard to restore. Lies, when believed, can be crushing. But the lessons the Lord would teach you through these things, the joy that He promises for those who abide in Him alone, the blessings He bestows on each of His children . . . those things are priceless. Worth every single tear that I have cried.
Sometimes, the Lord has to take things away from you to teach you things. As much as I’ve written on having an identity in Christ alone, I have realized that I did not rely on Him alone for my identity. And it has taken separation from some people that I hold very dear to realize that. My identity can not be “caregiver”, “granddaughter”, or “sister” — it must only, always, be “Child of God”.
In the midst of pain and ache like I’ve never experienced, I’ve realized what it means to have a deep, abiding joy in the Lord. It’s so very easy to be joyful when everything is right and good. When the wind is blowing right, when my hair is curling perfectly, when the key on the piano decides to work, when I have a long conversation with friends. But is it not everybody who is joyful when these things happen? When everything is perfectly perfect, and we can dance through the day? What about being joyful when trials arise?
What about being joyful when lies are abounding?
What about being joyful when your character is called into question?
What about being joyful, when all you really want to do is curl up in bed and sleep for weeks?
This lesson may well have been the hardest this year — I have faced days and weeks — quite recently — where I felt quite like Anne, from Green Gables, when she asks Marilla, “Have you ever been in the depths of despair?” Marilla responds that to despair is to turn your back on God.
And she is quite right.
God did not call us to a life of despair. He called us to a life full of overflowing joy.
That means I can have joy when everything around me is falling to pieces, because I know the Giver of that joy. Jesus Christ is the only true source of joy, and I have experienced it first hand. I’ve still had my moments where I’m fighting — sometimes unsuccessfully — tears back for all I’m worth, and striving to join in the games and the giggles and the singing . . . but ultimately, I have a foundation that has been leveled and filled with joy.
And that, in and of itself, is worth every. single. thing. I’ve faced this year.
Near the end of this year, I had a sweet friend ask me if everything my family and I have been through this year would be worth it, if the Lord saved even just one person. And my answer then was yes. It still is. If the Lord uses this to save just one person, to touch just one person’s life, to show just one person what it looks like to follow the Lord, then I can, and will, be thankful for it all.
I will praise Him in the storm; though my heart is torn, I will praise Him. I will cling to Him as the anchor, and I will cling to Him in the fury and tempest that is raging on about me. I will trust in Him, and my trust will not be shaken, even when I call to Him from the depths of sadness I didn’t know existed.
I was reading back through this blog, through some of my earlier posts, and I came across this:
“How many times do we cry out to the Lord during adversity and never think about Him in times of peace? How many times do we thank Him for trials? Do you thank Him for the brain surgery? For taking the child you wanted to hold to be with Him before you ever saw it — almost before you knew you were carrying a new little soul? We can thank Him when we discover He has indeed blessed us with a life to cherish. We can thank Him when the surgery is over and done. Why can we not trust Him during times of adversity? When we are in the middle of it?
How many times do we seek to be close to the Lord in times of blessed contentment? How close do we get to be to Him during times of grief and mourning? Do you see the contrast? When we are tempted, tossed on what seems a never ending sea of turmoil — when we are brought face to face with the fact that we are, indeed, human, and can’t change eternity — when we find ourselves in a situation that we can’t control — we instinctively know Who turn to. The One that even the winds and the waves obey. The One that controls everything — has ordained everything — and we long to be close to Him. We long, with an innate, unsatisfied thirst, to be intimate with Him. We place ourselves — our very lives — into His hands unhesitatingly — because there is no where else to turn to. Should this be so? Should it be this way? Should I only trust my Saviour when I am faced with trials?”
I wrote that at 19. And I still believe that to be true. I’m still that same girl who wrote that four years ago . . . only I’m grown up now, and I know that putting into practice what you know is true is hard. Daunting. Terrifying.
What other things has the Lord blessed my family and I with this new year? What lessons have I learned besides joy and having an identity built firmly on the Lord?
For one, it is so important to pray with and for people. And a simple message — card, email, or text — is extremely comforting. I want to be that person, the one who says, “Hey, I’m praying for you.” It means a lot . . . a lot.
For another, I have realized that my siblings are the most precious people I will ever interact with. Excepting my parents, of course =) These are the people who know me, and I know them. I *thought* I had a pretty good relationship with them — I’ve realized that my definition of “pretty good” was simply “better then most”. I realized that I had put distance between us for reasons that I’m not going to get into here — but if you asked them, they would agree that there was distance.
And the funny thing is, between the three sisters I have at home, we had all put distance, for almost the same reasons.
And you know what else? I’ve never been closer to my sisters than I am right now. We have a relationship that is thriving and well nourished by the grace of God. It is built on trust, and love, and forgiveness, and mercy, and grace. Ask any of them, and they’ll say the same thing I’m going to say: I would live and die for them. All of my siblings, really, but don’t you dare go messing with my sisters.
We’ve created a bond that will never be severed or broken, and I would trust them with my life.
My siblings trust me every time I get in the drivers seat of the car and we go run an errand . . . and I trust them to navigate me safely back home. ‘Cause, yes, I’m one of those people that could get lost in my own backyard — and they know that.
Speaking of sisters, one of them was saved about this time last year, and I have been blessed to see fruits of salvation in her life. She has matured, grown up. Her conscience is tender before the Lord, and her silliness has turned to thoughtfulness. And I am blessed to see that.
My other sister has grown and matured. She’s taller than me, a girl tottering on the cusp of womanhood. I have seen the tenderness of her heart this last year. She’s been hurt, trampled on . . . yet she is so willing to forgive. I have seen her personality blossom and grow and become all the Lord created her to be . . . and I have thanked the Lord so many times that I am at home to watch this all unfold.
My brothers are growing every day, in some new way. The woodwork my oldest brother is doing is wonderful, and I am blessed by his meticulous attention to detail. My second, almost-taller-than-me brother has been learning how to carve and turn wood, and he’s made quite a few spoons. When my sister broke her wrist in October, and was still in the cast come Christmas time, both these boys stepped in to help with the cooking. Who woulda guessed that the sweet potatoes they made would actually be delicious? And I have a long-held prejudice against those things . . . but not any more. One of my brothers can make from-scratch brownies that are better than any of us girls’ are.
I have another brother who was in an accident with his eye — and for a while we thought he would lose his vision all together, possibly the eye itself. And I was blessed to watch him struggle with disappointment over giving up his life-long dream of flying in the Air Force . . . and that struggle never included any complaining on his part. A lesson we should all learn.
All of the younger ones are growing like weeds, and all but the baby is learning to read. My sister sat up with me while I worked on bakery things and read me books — and it made me feel old =) Only two who can’t read . . .and one of those two is learning.
And so, as I enter into 2020, I will purpose to look for the good in all the brokenness. Beauty rises from ashes, and I will seek it out. I will focus on the blessings the Lord has given me, and everything I have to be thankful for — and I have much.
Everything the Lord has taken, He has replaced with something better and greater than before.
Everything the Lord has done is to teach me to trust Him more.
And living in the center of God’s will is a beautiful, perfect place to be. Though the way grows dark, and troubles arise on all sides of me, He has promised that He will never leave me nor forsake me.
And I can trust Him.
And because of this, I can say, wholeheartedly, that it is well with my soul.
I am a 23 year old young lady who is redeemed and saved from my sin only by the grace of God. A bibliophile at heart with a love of history who desires to see the Word of God practically applied to all aspects of our daily lives -- in our homes, in the grocery store, in the political realm. I strive to put my jumbled, chaotic thoughts down onto paper -- reducing them into black and white rows, letters, sentences. Into some semblance of sanity. And I share them here with all of you, where I can challenge you, make you think, and cause you to ask questions. I am the oldest of eleven children living the country life in the deep south.