As the end of 2011 has gotten closer and closer I've been tempted to shout: "GOOD RIDDANCE" at the old year as we welcome 2012, or possibly hide my head under a blanket and wait the old year out scarred 3 year old style.
At a glance 2011 has been an incredibly hard year. We have seen more of the inhumanity and cruelty of humans than maybe ever before. We have struggled through situations with life and work and school that tested every ounce of courage we didn't have in ourselves. We had times of intense hope on the medical front only to see that hope dashed like so many times in the past. We watched our dear friends bury their baby. We have been grieved to the core by people we love abandoning their resolve to follow God's way even when it isn't easy, and choosing to live in opposition to everything we used to fight for together. We have felt isolated and alone. We have often felt like we lived in the twilight zone because of the chaos all around us and often inside our own hearts. We have sat sleepless nights crying out to God for answers, begging for an end to suffering.
He didn't bring an end.
As we enter 2012 many of the same situations are still part of our life. Our eyes, which we have longed to close so we didn't have to see the pain around us, are wide open. And we have a choice as we always do: we can allow the pain of 2011 to make us bitter and closed, or we can allow the peace of God which passes all comprehension to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. We can hate the circumstances we have been placed in, or we can love the people around us who are hurting in very real ways. We can speak of God's joy and peace and then act like it doesn't make any difference choosing to live in a perpetual bad mood, or we can take to heart what we believe to be true and let it make us beautiful people with beautiful attitudes.
2011 was probably the hardest year of our lives thus far. Yet, if we look deeper we can see blessings that came directly from walking through this valley:
1. Relationships deepened through walking alongside others in their pain.
2. Patience with those who need it from us on a daily basis. (I;m definately still working on this one!)
3. Joy in little things: moments just the two of us alone together, peaceful walks, a trip to the lake for a quick swim before church, singing, poetry, mastering a new recipe, the 3 baby summer squash we harvested from our garden, the Farmer's Market, camping trip even in the rain, going to class with my Husband, laughing with my Grammie, lunch with my sisters, text messages from friends, hugs from my brothers, the Grocery Outlet! (Brie is only $1.49!!!), wisdom from parents, flowers and the joy of arranging them .... the list goes on and on.
4. Clarity in our future dreams. 2 New Year's Eve's ago my sweet husband hugged me and as I cried and told him that I didn't know how to dream anymore, he told me that he would help me dream again. It's taken time, but I am beginning to REALLY dream. That dream includes our plans after his graduations to move to Africa where he will teach and I will hold babies in a high risk orphanage. This dream is most precious to me because we have been in contact with this orphanage for awhile now and are planning to begin the adoption process 3 months after we move there. There are a LOT of variables with this dream - but we are excited about the possibility! We know that God can change the way this dream looks over the next 18 months, but we are taking the first steps and holding onto His mighty hand for guidance every step of the way.
So, as we say good-bye to 2011 I won't yell: "GOOD RIDDANCE!!" out the door at midnight. Instead, I'll breath a sigh of peace and joy in all that God did through the challenges, and a prayer of thanks that no matter what 2012 holds for us, we will have that Everlasting Arm to lean on with each new day.