Just about anywhere you look on the internet right now, you’ll find someone focusing in on how stupid 2016 was… whether it be how many beloved celebrities died, or what disasters took place (terrorist attacks, natural stuff, the election, etc).
It’s become a bit of a sad joke, it seems… one that you laugh at so as not to cry.
2016 hasn’t been terribly sweet to me either on a personal level…. most of it, I’ve wanted to punch in the face.
It’s been the most challenging year that I’ve ever lived through, which some would say gives me room to mope.
Even yesterday, I caught myself in the downward spiral of negativity that the world has taken on, claiming that I really only had two good things happen this whole year, which absolutely isn’t true.
But this morning, Jesus tapped on my forehead and challenged me in my negativity, which was slightly annoying because pity parties are so much easier and enjoyable in a masochistic way, especially at 5:45am.
While this year has been really hard, there is goodness laced in the midst of the dirt, whether you want to see it or not.
So here are some good things about my 2016:
- I was given a temporary full time job that I adored, with students that added a whole new wing to my hall of favorites.
- I grew in my adaptability, flexibility and humility.
- I gained a ton of knowledge, and read more than I have in a long time.
- I got to experience being pregnant, which was wonderful about 95% of the time.
- Brady and I celebrated a year of being married.
- I have sweet new friendships that are so life giving, even if I don’t get the chance to spend much time with those individuals.
- We met our beautiful son, who has absolutely taken the cake for being the best kid in the world.
- I’ve grown sturdier in my beliefs and personal convictions, specifically in what it means to follow Jesus, how He views marriage, how He views me, and my callings.
- I’ve grown in my endeavors with photo… shooting more this year than I ever have before, and praying for continued blessing in that realm in this next.
- I learned that I love asparagus.
- I flew 4 hours with my 6 week old so that he could surprise and meet his great grandparents.
- My sister and I drove through Ohio, Pennsylvania and part of New York just because we could.
- I went racing for the first time, and discovered I’m not horrendous at it.
- I found out I can hit a baseball traveling at 60 mph.
- I went to multiple Angels games, which is always a good thing.
- I took Memphis to Disneyland, and it was as awesome as I thought it would be (it’ll be even more amazing when he can actually process whats going on… but it was still amazing).
- I learned that home isn’t a structure.
- Jesus has had my forehead against His for the last 7 months… and I know Him better now than I ever have before.
The most crucial thing I think we can all take away from this whirlwind of a year is that you can sit and mope in the sorrowful moments (and there is absolutely a time and place for that), you can let yourself be totally defined by your life’s circumstances, and you can let really awful situations dictate the way you will live.
Or you can choose to shift your head and allow your life to be bigger than the negative, because letting yourself be defined by the negative only holds you back, and that’s not the life that Jesus has for you.
Yes, 2016 was the fat, mean bully kid who threw up in your hair and then laughed.
But for me, it was the year that I grew up more than ever … it’s the year that I am able to look back on and absolutely say without a shadow of doubt that I became more like Christ… and the year where I sowed in more than I reaped.
The beauty of sowing in means that come harvest time, God honors that work.
So back to this morning. At 5:45, I got to wake up from an utterly restless night of sleep with a pounding headache. Annoyed and frustrated I mumbled “Figures that this would be the way the last day of this stupid year would start.”
And instead of just leaving me alone in my pity party, Jesus scooched into my world and said, “Honey, remember this:
‘Why would you ever complain, O Jacob,
or, whine, Israel, saying,
“God has lost track of me.
He doesn’t care what happens to me”?
Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening?
God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
they walk and don’t lag behind.’
Seek the good, Ali. I gave you good things this year… and I give good gifts, even if they weren’t what you were expecting or asking for. I will sustain you.”
So with all that, I’m refusing to live in a world where my life is defined by the difficulty and the struggle. Instead, I’m practicing hunting for the lace in the midst of the dirt… of letting the hard times shake off the dust that covers the beauty… of choosing goodness, truth and beauty over evil, lies and destruction.
Just like Lucy and Susan sat in the shrubs and cried as their Aslan was killed… just like the disciples sat in hidden mourning for a day before resurrection happened… and just like the villains of those stories (both fictional and fact) celebrated their temporary victory… so it is with this year.
2016 is the Holy Saturday of the Redemption weekend… where all hope seems lost and the world is at its darkest.
It would be so easy to let the enemy steal my joy, my purpose, and my grace. It would be easy to let him destroy my life and my heart, and to give him the space to kill the goodness, kill the lessons and kill the potential.
But he can only do that if I give him room to do so, and I say to hell with him.
Because when it comes down to it, I’m called to be a warrior, not a victim. Hell fears me… not the other way around.
I’d rather be defined by my pursuit of goodness, truth and beauty than by the crap that happens to me. I think my little one deserves an example of a relationship with Christ that is vibrant and boundless. He deserves a mom that lives in graceful strength and boldness. He deserves to see someone who chooses to hunt for the good and not settle for being a victim of bad circumstances. And my goodness, the world needs people like that more than whiners and pity party hosts.
So, dear reader, I challenge you to hunt for the pearls in this past year. Seek out the good. Find the lessons and learn.
And in the times when your strength wanes, remember the promises in Isaiah. Speak them out, and trust in a God that takes ashes and makes something beautiful.