"When Heaven is going to give a great responsibility to someone, it first makes his mind endure suffering. It makes his sinews and bones experience toil, and his body suffer hunger. It inflicts him with poverty and knocks down everything he tries to build. In this way Heaven stimulates his mind, stabilizes his temper, and develops his weak points."
--The Book of Mencius (Chinese, 300 BC)
quoted in Timothy Keller's Walking with God through Pain and Suffering
January is always hard for me. I've tried to like this lackluster, step cousin of a month all my life, and just can't quite manage it. I think I shall give up the endeavor entirely, and attempt to peacefully coexist with the grey, cold, hard month of January, accepting her just as she is because she has much to teach me.
As the first month of the year, January offers an opportunity to reflect upon the year now gone and the new one to come. For the last three years, I have kept a regular journal which I like to review as a part of my new year contemplations. Upon the pages recorded in 2013, I find assurance of God's faithfulness, a reminder that January passes and clear evidence of quiet, mysterious growth over time. I rediscover surprises--both good and bad--and find how wrong my guesses concerning the future often are. The latter discovery has so humbled me, in fact, that I have resolved to make no resolutions this year, for a staggering amount of my good intentions and serious efforts crumble to dust. No worries though--dust has its place. And I do not have to dig deep to discover treasures hidden in the rubble.
1) Mom's jubilee birthday celebration. Though jubilee often manifested itself in perplexing ways, I don't think a one of us would fail to recognize its presence in 2013.
2) Brandon's personal and spiritual growth. A stronger marriage for the struggle. I so respect and admire this man.
3) God planted in my heart a desire to adopt. I expect a significant passage of time before this desire comes to fruition, but I am excited and expectant.
4) My Papaw, Jenny and myself looked death in the eye (almost simultaneously), and were granted more time.
5) Jubilee's first summer garden. I consider that first garden to be the miracle prayed for on my behalf on the 8th of June.
6) New friends. Meetings and reconnections with old friends.
7) The time spent in my parents' home this summer. A renewed closeness with each of my parents.
8) The inception of the novel I am writing.
9) Jenny's wedding.
10) Richard Morrison becoming a part of our lives through his marriage to Hannah. This man is a blessing to us all. We are thrilled to have him in the family. P.S. The wedding was beautiful, and I was able to attend.
All wedding photos taken by Jolly Tucker Photography.
Sara has responded well to changes in her diet. Her cognitive development and emotional control have improved tremendously. I thought she might be a slower learner than Micah, but it turns out that I was wrong. Now that the allergy-induced brain fog has cleared, she is incredibly observant, soaks in information like a sponge and makes impressive connections between concepts, events and persons.
It comforts my sore heart to know they are blossoming in spite of the limitations my illness creates. (Thanks to the family members who help me water my little flowers.)
12) My own growth. I don't say this with any pride in myself for I know the achievement belongs to the Lord alone, but I am a better person for living through 2013--January and all. I know and love my Jesus better, and that one fact makes me better in every way a person can be better. There are many "miles to go before I sleep," but growth is the thing.
The lesson of 2013 was "wait." I asked the Lord to show me what it means to wait upon Him years ago, and He answered. Not as gently as I had in mind, but He answered. Though I am still very much in a waiting period and still learning to wait well, God has revealed that 2014 has a new theme--"peace." Peace in knowing what is wrong with me and understanding my prognosis, peace in not knowing the future. Peace in fear, peace in loss, peace in heartbreak, peace in grief. Peace, peace, peace. Pure, perfect peace transcending all we comprehend of life and death.
While I have resolved not to make resolutions (as it seems I am powerless to make anything happen regardless of the strength of my will), I have in mind a collection of challenges for myself. Some matter more than others. God is my peace in success or failure.
1) Know Christ more fully.
2) Seek diagnosis and greater understanding of my disease at Mayo Clinic in May.
3) Potty train my girl.
4) Send my boy to school. Those of you who know me know I wanted to homeschool my children before I had children. However, I believe that for homeschool to be successful, a mother must be able to get her children out of the home regularly for cooperative learning and socialization experiences. I am unable to do that, so I believe it is in Micah's best interests to attend school. Thankfully, we have found a school which matches our educational philosophy and goals.
5) Love my family and friends in creative and meaningful ways; freely accept the love they are able to give; forgive disbelief and misunderstanding.
6) Be "joyful in hope, patient under trial and faithful in prayer."
7) Work on the novel.
8) Read more; Facebook less.
9) Stop trying to predict or control the future.
10) Dance during hard moments. Literally--dance.
11) Laugh upon every opportunity.
12) Stop waiting to feel better to live. Weigh the risk and reward. Pray for wisdom. Live.
While January 2014 seems to be no different than the Januarys which have come before and though I have not had a truly "good day" yet this year, I am brimming with anticipation. My girl will be potty trained soon. No more diapers! My boy will turn 5 and go to kindergarten. I will go to Mayo and turn 30 soon after. Brandon and I will celebrate 10 years of marriage. And then there are many surprises which will come our way. Some surprises will be welcome, some will be unpleasant, but all will be for our good. I can rest in the face of the unknown because "the Dayspring from on high has visited us to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace" (Luke 1:79).
Peace--a beautiful word.
May 2014 be a year of peace for you, too.