Here we are. That time of year again when you can’t help but look back at all of the experiences, trials, turning points, moments, and memories of the previous year. As you reflect back, you either look into the next year with anticipation and hope, set personal goals based on the struggles and disappoints of the previous year, or look ahead with dread and fear, wishing away anything that won’t bring joy and comfort. A new year can bring excitement or anxiety. Every year it comes just the same. A new hope…perhaps a do-over…perhaps a time of restoration. What has the last year held for you? What does the thought of the new year bring for you?
This past year held so many moments of joy and sadness all in one. There were moments when the struggles and pain seemed to choke out all joy. Job changes, family health issues, a friend’s cancer journey. At times we felt like we were in the midst of all that God was doing in our lives and wondered what our future would look like. Sometimes these moments felt suffocating and threatened to lead me down a road of depression again. It was only a few years ago when depression took up residence in my heart, and sometimes I still struggle with the bitterness and unforgiveness that lived there for a time. The memory of the hurt we experienced can creep back in as an unwanted guest. Fears of the future can become so real I can hardly breathe.
But pockets of joy shined in through the hurts and sorrows this past year and reminded me that God is near to the broken-hearted. There was joy experiencing life as a party of five and watching our youngest learn new things and see life for the first time. And joy watching his big brother and sister spoil him and treat him like he was the only baby in the world. There was joy every time I got to listen to my husband, my best friend, do the thing God has called him to do: preach with all of his heart. And joy attending an annual marriage retreat and strengthening our marriage. There was joy walking through my daughter’s last year of elementary school with her and watching her grow in the Lord. There was joy speaking to a sweet group of women and getting to lead them in the Word at a women’s retreat. And joy when I sat in another women’s retreat and listened to my dear friend share about her cancer journey and how God is teaching her to trust and cling to hope. And he once again reminded me that I needed to trust and cling to that same hope. There was joy when I watched my family support each other whether it was the many games, practices, concerts and programs, or sitting in the hospital waiting rooms. There was joy in the midst of the job changes. Joy to see what God was doing and how He was creating even more of a dependence on Him. There was joy receiving word that I would have my first published piece in a print magazine! But the greatest joy this year was watching my middle child come to know Christ and seeing how God was working in him continuously. And then joy watching my husband baptize him and watching our family cheer him on. Throughout the year there was joy. Bible studies, retreats and conferences, races, celebrations, birthdays, holidays, sleepovers, prayers, board games, date nights, movies, books, church, new friends, old friends, and the list goes on and on. There was always sweet, unending, undeniable joy. And there always is. Every year.
As the next year quickly approaches, I tend to allow anxiety to take over, but then I look back and remember how the Lord showed himself to be faithful this year and all He does to continue to make Himself known in my life. I know this year will be no different. So my prayer for you this year is that this would be the year you would allow Him to make Himself known in your life, that you would cling to the hope that only He gives, that you could relish in those moments of joy, and rest in His unending peace.
So look back at all of the joy and when struggles, sorrow, or trials come, remember to find the pockets of joy he scatters throughout the year. Enjoy our year in review in the pictures below and Happy New Year, friends!