The Big Truth I Learned In 2015

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At this time of year I typically spend some time reflecting on the past 12 months. Some years are full of happy memories and hope and promise. Other years are full of shattered dreams and disappointment and the twinge of loss. And other years–like my 2015–are a chaotic mix of the two. 2015 has been one of the most challenging, heart-breaking, life-changing years of my life…and, yet, it’s also been filled with more hope and joy and grace than ever before.

My take away this year? The one big truth that I learned? God is faithful. Time and time again this year I have seen God keep his promises and remain unchanging in His love and care for me. Through both the hope and the disappointment, through the promise and the shattered dreams, through the joy and the hurt: God is faithful.

2015 began on unsteady feet and my whole world flipped upside down when we discovered in late-January that we would inevitably miscarry what would have been our third child. We’d only learned about the baby a few weeks before, on Christmas Eve, and the hope and joy we’d entered the year with was quickly replaced with fear and heartache.

The pain I felt during those first few months of 2015 was so real and so deep that I didn’t think it would ever go away. Truth be told, it probably won’t ever go away–not completely. Yet things have gotten better and, through it all, a resounding truth has sustained me: God is faithful.

I knew God’s faithfulness each time I was spoken to with love and truth from His Word, friends, family…even strangers who came alongside me in support. I knew His faithfulness each time I looked at my boys and relished in the vivacity of their lives. I knew His faithfulness when I observed new flowers blooming in the spring, bounding forth as new creations after the dark, cold days of winter. I knew His faithfulness when, in early summer, we discovered that we would be blessed again with a baby. Through some of the darkest, coldest days of my life His light never dimmed. God is faithful.

I witnessed God’s faithfulness again in August when we were forced to move out of our comfortable and still-new-to-us home at seemingly a moment’s notice. Granted, the circumstances were highly unusual–our landlord had been murdered (What the what?!?!) and his family had to sell the house–but I took the whole transaction very personally.

We had literally moved halfway around the world and had just begun to settle in to a new life in our community. Finding out that our home was being taken away from us after less than a year was frustrating and incredibly stressful (if you’ve ever tried to find a home–or two–in one of the most competitive real estate markets in the nation–while dragging two young children along with you to every open house within a 20-mile radius–then you totally get it). I began to question our very existence in this land of over-priced, unavailable housing. But then I was reminded: God is faithful.

As a last-ditch effort I put out a plea for housing to my local mommy running group’s Facebook page. Within a few hours I had gotten several responses from people vowing to help us find a house before our move-out deadline. By the end of the week we’d not only signed a lease on one of those houses, but we got it for below the budget we had set out to find. Add to that the fact that our neighbors are truly some of the most generous people I’ve ever met and our new community has embraced us with open arms. I feel like we hit the housing jackpot. My fears of homelessness and being uprooted from our home were replaced with amazement the moment we arrived at the place He had planned for us: home. God is faithful.

In September I experienced God’s faithfulness again when we finally settled on an education plan for the boys during this school year.  After months of considering our options and feeling unsettled about decisions that had already been made, we decided to scrap it all and try something completely different: homeschool. I had never wanted or planned to homeschool our children, but as soon as we made our decision I felt at peace.

Over these last few months as I’ve spent time teaching, learning, praying, and playing with my boys at our little “school” I have seen God work in amazing ways. The boys have shown a great interest and joy in learning, which basically fulfills my wildest teacher fantasies. Their relationships with each other, with us, and with God have grown deeper. The flexibility we have with our time and our schedule have positively impacted our family in so many ways. In the end, this decision that I had dreaded and attempted to escape has actually turned out wonderfully. God is faithful.

And there have been countless other times this year when God has proven his faithfulness in the ordinary moments of life.

Like that time when I was walking through a parking lot with both boys and a car backed out of their parking spot to within about an inch of my big toe before slamming on their brakes.

Or the time when I was having a particularly rough day and an unexpected care package arrived on my doorstep.

Or the time when our house in Washington just would NOT sell and we were paying overlapping rents in California and  I was sure our checkbook would never find it’s balance again–and we received a long-forgotten Irish tax refund in the mail.

Or that season when a beloved family member passed away and we were able to rekindle family traditions in her honor and pass them on to our children.

Or the hundreds of times when, out of the blue, one of my boys randomly professed his undying love for me or snuck in for a kiss or called me beautiful…and I knew I must be doing something right. Time and time again, God has shown His deep love for me through His faithfulness.

So, there you have it. My big lesson of 2015 is that God is, always and forever, faithful. Life will have its ups and downs and there will be times when nothing seems to be going my way, but that’s…life. Even during–maybe especially during–these hard times, I need to remember that I am not alone. God’s plans are always bigger and better than my own, and His big picture holds many more details than my sliver-of-the-picture that I can see.

As this year concludes and the next one begins, I hope that I can keep this truth close to my heart. For all of the challenges that this year has brought me, I am grateful. Grateful because the challenges have changed me, grateful because it has made me appreciate the not-so-obvious blessings in my life. I am grateful, because God is faithful.

And on that bombshell, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

My New Year’s Resolution

Our last sunrise of 2012

Our last sunrise of 2012

It’s been a CRAZY month. Jon’s company has a major project they are shipping this week, so he’s been putting in a lot of time at work getting everything ready. Jon spent the first part of December traveling for work in Ireland and Turkey. While he was away I went down to visit with my extended family (and get some much-needed help with the boys). He got back the weekend before Christmas jet-lagged and sleep-deprived. He got Christmas day off, which was wonderful. We spent the day with family opening presents, eating, and truly enjoying each others’ company. Then, the very next morning, he was back to working like a mad man trying to get this project out the door. Cypress had him working around the clock (quite literally. On Saturday he went into work at 8 AM, then got to come home for a 3 hour nap from 3:30-6:30 AM Sunday, then he was back in the office by 7). I am happy to say, though, that after nearly a month of not seeing each other the end is in sight!

Jon’s reward for the manic work schedule this month was a surprise week (mostly) off work this week. My reward was a run. Since Jon was home this morning, I decided to seize the opportunity and go out for a run. All. By. Myself. I’d nearly forgotten how much I enjoy running when I’m not pushing an 80 pound stroller full of two screaming children.

One of my favorite parts about running is that I’m truly all alone. In my life that is constantly interrupted by the needs of others, I relish the times that I experience solitude. I purposefully leave my iPod at home when I run because it’s just about the only time I have to be alone with my thoughts. I usually find my thoughts wandering over to prayers, and that’s exactly what happened today.

As I was running, I was just reflecting on this year and all that it has brought. We’ve had so many wonderful things happen and, yet, I still find myself complaining. Complaining about how things are or how I wish they would be. And, so, as I was running along my favorite trail (the one with the bumps and the stairs that I can’t bring the stroller on) I had a great conversation with God. I just gave him all of my complaints, and he showed me the praise in each of them. It went something like this:

Complaint: We still don’t know when we’re moving to Ireland. Or even IF we’re moving to Ireland. Cypress is really dragging their feet on this one. Can we get some answers here already? I need to plan my LIFE! I mean, should I buy the Costco pack of toilet paper or just get a 4-pack?
Praise: I am not the one in charge of my future. No matter what happens, I just need to live today for today and know that God is in charge of all of my tomorrows. He always has the best plans, and I just need to be patient in waiting for them to unfold. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

Complaint: I never get time to be alone. Someone always wants my time, my attention, my physical body (a familiar scenario finds me simultaneously rolling out play-doh and nursing a baby while dinner cooks on the stove).
Praise: I have an incredible husband and two amazing children. I get to care for them, teach them, help them, and love them every single day. God has given me the opportunity to be home full-time raising my children and serving my husband. There truly is nothing else in the world that I’d rather be doing right now.

Complaint: I’m lonely
Praise: I know it sounds like a bit of an oxymoron to say that I never get to be alone and yet I’m lonely, but there is something very isolating about being the only adult present for hours on end each day. However, I have great friends who are also moms. We can relate and we get together regularly to let our kids play while we confirm with each other that it’s normal to not feel normal as a mother. Another benefit to my loneliness? Since I have nobody else to talk to, I gab at the kids all day. I talk to them incessantly. You’d think they’d be annoyed, but I think they actually enjoy it. And David is becoming quite the chatterbox himself now! He will have the vocabulary of an Oxford theologian by the time he enters kindergarten.

Complaint: My house is always dirty, there’s too much laundry, the yard needs to be mowed, yadda, yadda, yadda…
Praise: My dirty house and never-ending piles of laundry mean that little people are living in my house, exploring their surroundings, and learning the life-skill of cleaning up after yourself. And I have a house.  7 years after buying our house “for 2 years so we could sell it tax-free”, we have a home that still meets our needs and provides a safe place to raise our family.

..and on and on and on. So, here is my resolution on this eve of 2013. To find the praise in every complaint. When I am tempted to fall into worry, doubt, or distress to turn it around and find the good in every situation.

May your glass always be half-full. Happy New Year!