I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Life is too unpredictable and out of my control to ever fully stick to them. And who said that a new year is what should bring about a goal? That can occur at any time. I do however select a Bible verse to dwell on each new year as God’s word stands firm through any circumstance. The verse I chose for me to meditate on in 2022 is Habakkuk 3:17-19.
“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet like the deer's; He makes me tread on my high places.” ~ Habakkuk 3:17-19
Everyone rejoices in a new year…the clock strikes 12, and all of sudden it’s magical to some folks. They revel in the last sunset, the last purchase, the last hug, the last experience, the last kiss, the last “you fill in the blank.” I find this really odd. We’re never promised tomorrow, so shouldn’t everything in every day be treasured? Somehow the flicker of a clock number and turning of a calendar page induces excitement over every activity and thing. I really never will understand that one. To me, the flicker of a clock number or flip of a calendar page induces nothing. Nothing new is expected to occur for me this year…I will still be in the hospital alone trying to work through healing the damage in my body caused by covid and CF. At 12am tonight, I will be doing another exhausting respiratory treatment and hoping for a night of sleep with tolerable pain. Come Saturday morning daylight, I still have to brace myself for yet another day of physical difficulty that overwhelms me quite often. However, what is new every moment is the Lord’s mercies. His kindness, love, strength, compassion, and unbroken promises remain whether we are crushed deeply or experience times of delight. That is hope. Christ is hope. This is the real thing to delight in on any given day, month, or year. I want to rejoice in the God of my salvation, not in earthly pleasures.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.” ~ Lamentations 3:22-24
New Year’s Eve is the day christened as people’s yearly social media recap. Scrolling on social media, one can be sure to find other's year in a nutshell displayed in a cluster of photos and posted with inspirational quotes, dismal declarations, or straight up comedic notations. For me, this is a year I wish I could mostly erase from my memory. I think I’m in a bit of shell-shock trying to process what just happened in the span of 365 days. I'm numb, I cry, I ponder, I shove the thoughts all away, only to lasso them back into my mind for more rumination and tears and numbness. I feel a bit like Habakkuk…my fig tree withered, the vines grew thorns, my olive tree and field produced nothing, my flock ran away, and I don’t know even know where my herd went. You know the saying “I have to get all my ducks in a row”? Yeah, I don’t even know where my ducks are. I spent 26 days in the hospital in April over Easter dealing with serious digestive system failure, spent 6 days in the hospital in June enduring multiple failed feeding tube placement procedures and ended up on TPN (IV nutrition), had a major two-in-one abdominal surgery in July to remove my large intestine and place a feeding tube in my small intestines, had port replacement surgery in October, battled respiratory infections all year, struggled through the difficulties of no longer being able to eat most food and the social awkwardness it causes, received a diagnosis of a serious medical condition that I am still struggling to manage, watched dear friends battle serious illnesses, injustice, and various other heavy hardships, experienced painful broken relationships, and am slapping the icing on the 2021 cake by fighting covid in the hospital alone over both Christmas and New Year’s. There are many more unspoken pains. Only by God’s strength am I able to survive and keep fighting both my mind and body. Every moment requires strength, and none of it is my own. I am weary and heartbroken. I have cried more tears this year than I ever remember. Yet, a ray of light breaks through the dark pit: we serve a God of compassion. God is acquainted with grief and carries our sorrows, carries our tears in a bottle, and remains steadfast in His love for us. This is a promise worth clinging to tightly.
“And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her.” ~ Luke 7:13
Opposite of the pains of the barren fields and trees, there are a few "grapes" that were produced on the vine. My sister got married, I traveled home to Colorado a few times, enjoyed a beach vacation with family and dear friends in Hilton Head, went to the Blue Ridge mountains to see fall colors, celebrated friends getting engaged and married, and I continue to work a job that I deeply love as I serve the Lord and His church. I love these grapes as they are the only harvest from a year of barrenness and brokenness. Yet, somehow the thorns of the vine seem to hurt me more than the few grapes harvested from the vine soothe me. It frustrates me that so often pain is so much more magnified than the blessings. The blessings seem to fall away into the background, drowned by the deep struggles. I resonate with the statement of the author of Ecclesiastes, “Everything is meaningless…” Yet, in my heart I know God placed these blessings in our life, and as fleeting as they are, I am learning to break free from the thorns, even if only for a moment, to be grateful for each "grape" gift, no matter how fleeting they are. For 2022, I pray that I show much more gratitude for even the smallest of gifts. I pray that gratitude will be a soothing balm to the injuries from the many entangling thorns.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” ~ James 1:17
2021 was about survival for me. It beat and bruised me, induced levels of pain I didn’t know were possible, brought about deep sorrow, grief and even anger, thankfully never towards God. In my heart and soul, I knew and trusted that God was my anchor, my fortress, and my rock. Did I run to Him as much as I should have? I am ashamed to say no, I did not. Many times, I neglected Him, put Him on the shelf, and questioned Him intensely. All things I should not have done. Yet, despite my many times ignorance and questioning of the One who created the universe, designed my very being, holds my tears, and saved my soul from destruction, He kept His promise of Emmanuel. He followed through with “God with us.” He never forsook me. When I perceived Him as being silent and absent, He was never silent or absent. I wanted an answer in the midst of my storm. And I wanted the answer now. My storm roared around me, the winds of pain screamed, the raindrops of uncertainly stung me, the lightning bolts of sorrow flashed all around me, and worst of all my mind was screaming louder than the circumstances, crying out the question, “God where are you?! Are You even here?!” But then God spoke just as He did in the midst of Elijah’s suffering. Once my mind was silenced and I decided to shut up, the Lord reminded me in the gentlest whisper that He was still there. He was always there. He had never left. I was the one who strayed from the Fortress in hysteria and full of desperate questions instead of leaning into Him. How foolish was I…oh me of little faith! God has brought me this far, why do I even worry if He is present to care for me, His child, now? Furthermore, why should I even bother with asking questions of the Most High? My mortal mind cannot comprehend His answer. In 2022, I pray I remember that God is my strength who helps me tread on the high places, and that I will shut up and listen to the Wonderful Counselor.
“And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.” ~ 1 Kings 19:11-12
This is enough rambling for one day. To close, I pray that in 2022 we all will remember God’s strength and everlasting love, rejoice in the Lord and never in our earthy circumstances, walk in faith, no matter how small our faltering mustard seed is, and encourage others as we all journey this difficult road to eternity with Christ. It seems long, never-ending, and brutal, but when all is said in done, the journey is really quite ephemeral in the light of eternity, but it requires faithfulness. Lord, grant me faith to endure each day of 2022. Grant all of us faith. We can’t do it on our own feeble strength. Lord show us Your mercies that are new every morning. Cheers to a new year from my hospital bed with my ginger ale and saltine crackers.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” ~ Romans 8:18