I had to check the calendar. “What day is it?” Tuesday, Sunday I’m not really sure. Somehow the six days between Christmas and New Years feel like a strange time warp, a bit of a prolonged blur. But, I actually really appreciate those days because I’ve come to see them as a chance to slowly pack up the Christmas decorations, reflect on the past year and think ahead to the new one just around the corner. Do years have corners?
I managed to give out a few Christmas cards to friends on Boxing Day (see how organized I am). I got the salt dough Christmas ornaments, that my friend gave me, decorated during that six-day lull. It took a couple days to finish them, and we did markers instead of paint because I didn’t feel up to cleaning up a paint mess. My 3 year old colored one, and I made a cute one for our daughter’s first Christmas. With the final two, I used them to reflect back on 2019 and look forward to 2020.
I find that years often have a theme or a word that keeps popping up. I noticed this particularly in 2013 after getting through a particularly rough year (See To Butterflies, 2013, and New Beginnings) that was tainted with the sudden death of a close friend and a car accident just before Christmas that landed my grandma in the hospital with a broken hip and eventually cost her life. I felt completely stuck running a newspaper in a small town that I had opened not because I had wanted to do it but because other people had wanted me to do it. I battled some serious depression that year until I finally decided to stop living other people’s dreams for me and to go out and live the dreams God had tucked deep into my heart. 2013 was a beautiful year. I moved to the amazing city of Saint Louis, worked as a nanny, travelled, met the man who would later become my husband, and got the privilege of parenting 19 beautiful kids in Kenya. After one of the hardest years of my life, it was one of the best. Through out that year butterflies (a symbol of freedom and new beginnings) kept popping up. Sometimes it was a butterfly sticker on an envelope. Once it was the mom of the little boy I nannied for buying a butterfly shaped cookie for me as a way of thanking me for giving her the peace of mind that her little guy was in good hands while she took a few days a week to pursue her dream of opening a coffee shop. Those butterflies that popped up were always little unexpected reminders of God’s love throughout the year.
This year it was during a retreat in April that the word Healed was impressed on my mind as the word for 2019. At first, I thought it referred solely to physical healing. At the time I was in the midst of recovering from a painful wound that had resulted from an abscess steaming from mastitis that had burst and took several months to heal. Then, mid way through the year, I got a deep cut on the back of my ankle that at first seemed to be healing but then became very infected and took months to heal. Both those wounds have healed now although the scares remain. As they healed, God has used a variety of things throughout the year to show me that He longs to bring emotional healing not just physical healing. I struggle with anger, people pleasing, a constant fear of losing those closest to me. I struggle with feelings of bitterness and feeling unseen as I pour many hours into taking care of two little people who seem to constantly need me when emotionally I just want some space. This past year God has shown me my emotional wounds of anxiety, insecurity, and rejection; and as we have journeyed together this year the healing process has begun. There are still scars, but God has shown me that for anxiety- perfect love casts out fear. I no longer have to live in that place of fear but can settle my heart in a secure love. For anger rooted in the chains of legalism, insecurity and feelings of never being enough- God has shown me the beauty of living under grace and I pray as I continue to grow in this area, I can pass that lifestyle of grace on to my children. For feelings of being unseen- God has shown me that He sees me even when no one else does and that I need to let go of unnecessary burdens and duty and just sit at His feet.
So Healed is the word I wrote on the salt dough ornament surrounded by some PNG inspired designs that almost hide the word. Healing is such a slow, intimate, messy but needed process. What is the word for 2020? I asked, and the word JOY came. Joy? I was a bit skeptical. I tend to be a more of a glass empty type person, a realist I guess. But, yes, I would love for my life to reflect more joy. So that is the word I wrote on the last salt dough ornament and hung it on a push pin tacked to the shelf in my room. This coming year I choose to look for Joy. I read Psalms 43 after the impression of the word joy came verses 2-4 resonated with this search for a joy filled life. “Why must I wander around in grief, oppressed by my enemies? Send out your light and your truth; let them guide me. Let them lead me to your holy mountain, to the place where you live. There I will go to the altar of God, to God- the source of all my joy.”
I got a message from my sister on Sunday. My aunt, who recently had a stroke, was taken to the hospital with water in her lungs and heart. “How I thought, in that moment, “is this going to be a year of joy?” It is so hard at times being on the other side of the world when difficult things are happening in your family over on the other side of the world. But joy does not mean a year without trials. I have the verse from James 1:2 on my wall- “consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
So JOY- joy in trails, joy from the one true source of joy, joy in each day of 2020. May 2020 be a year of joy for you as well.
Do you have a word going into 2020 or a word from 2019?