Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year End Closing Thoughts

With 2012 rapidly approaching, I find myself torn between somewhat dreamy reflections over the year that is now ending and expectant contemplations regarding the year that is to come.  I've heard a number of people express immeasurable gratitude over the current year's end, but I'm not so sure I'm among the many ecstatic future goers.  I'm happy to be starting a new year and chapter in life, but I'm not in some zealous hurry to jump across the line into 2012.  I guess 2011 just hasn't been so bad that I'm in a mad dash to leave it all behind.  On the other hand, it has had moments that were so painful I didn't think I could cope unless God Himself would come down and scoop me up - in person.  I may even have asked Him once if I could light a bush on fire and pretend it was Him. My pain and inner pyromaniac aside, however, 2011 was actually a blessed year, one that contained more good than bad, greater love than pain, and increased hope and trust in God.  I'm okay that it's coming to a close, but I guess I'm thankful for what it brought, so these are my closing thoughts...

I began the year in masked uncertainty of what it would hold.  In January, I had pebbles for ideas about where the year would lead, but never in the brightest or darkest corners of my imagination could I have predicted the things I would both lose and gain, the boulders that would fall onto my path and the clear streams that would appear along the way.  I climbed the mountains, often falling hard against the rock and I tasted the sweet refreshment of perseverance.  I felt grievous pain, but experienced the beauty of sacrificial love.  I gazed long and hard at my life's unexplored paths and came to better understand the one I'm on.  I drifted away from God, but grew closer to Him from it. My hopes met with despair and I cried, but when the last tear fell I actually felt the loving arms of God wrap tightly around me and that made it all worth it.  More than once I considered giving up and more than a hundred times to each one God helped me to go on.  Throughout the year, my emotions hit every possible location on the spectrum and even those dips I didn't know were there.  I've experienced the joy of the Lord and the pain of suffering, and I'm grateful for both because I know that there's a beautiful God-given purpose that flows inside of every tear.  As the year closes, I'm grateful.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28)

I am aware of my size in this world - and it's small...very, very small.  I'm in tune with how much I know about life, love, purpose, and plan - that knowledge is also very small.  I no longer want my plans to take shape unless they are a reflection of God's plans. I also don't have to have all the answers because to have them would be entirely too overwhelming; instead, I trust that God has them and knows what's best for me.  I love Him - I really, really love Him, and not just because we're told that we should but because He finally showed me how.  My love for Him is so imperfect and often hurtful, but His for me is flawless and full of mercy and forgiveness.  I would be truly lost without Him, and because I once was I now appreciate life with Him. I'm no longer lost, wandering in some dark tunnel trying to find my way out. I'm safe in the arms of Jehovah-Elohim and I know why I'm here and where I'm going.  He is my past, present, future, and everything in between, and without Him I am nothing and have nothing.  I was made by Him and for Him and now that I know and love Him, I could never live without Him.  This is an awareness that when we truly come into it is beautiful because immersed in it is the undeniable fact of how very far I have to go, how far we all have to go.  As the year closes, I'm humbled.  

Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud.
(Proverbs 16:19)

This, for me, was a year of many goodbyes on so many levels.  I watched in heartbreak as friends lost their loved ones and I cried countless days over my own personal losses as they came into view.  From the birth of a wished for child that never came to be to the pain of clenched hands as they tightly held on to love slipping away, my most difficult moments have also been my most valuable.  God has taught me more about love in just this one year than I've learned on my own in 31 years.  It hurts, but it heals. It will never burn out or die, but people will.  Love, even at its most agonizing, is still the most beautiful thing for which we can ever hope. It truly is the great compensation of this life, and if it's genuine love then it sacrifices over and over and over again.  The only perfect love is that of God's for us, but the more we strive to love as He loves, the closer we'll get to Him.  It's hard work, but we were created to be able to withstand it, just not on our own - it takes His strength.  There were times throughout this year when I actually wanted to despise love, but then I realized that in despising it, I was despising the very God who exists in love.  No, love is not to be despised. At it's most hurtful it is to be embraced, because no matter how badly it strikes us, it will never be so hard that it could ever undo what Jesus did as He hung nailed to a cross - all because He loved.  As the year closes, I choose love.  

Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.
(Deuteronomy 7:9) 

 As I sit here New Year's Eve and type, I'm reminded of how much God has changed my life. How boring mine today must seem to the girl of my past.  She was reckless, but I'm cautious.  She was wild, but I'm calm.  She drank hard alcohol, but I sip water.  She stayed up late, but I'll be in bed by 10.  She was social, but I like being home.  She laughed at the idea of church, but there's nowhere else I'd rather be.  She said "God who?" but I say "Jesus, I love you." She would be gearing up for the impending year's most riveting hangover, but I can't wait to wake up refreshed and clean. She would be alone on the inside, but I'm filled with God's Holy Spirit to keep me company.  She would be consumed with guilt, but I'm free from condemnation.  She would cry, but I'm laughing.  She would be sad, but I'm happy.  She would help herself, but I want to help others. She has changed into the me of today and I'm so excited to see what happens next.  I'm nowhere close to perfect, nor will I ever be, but the difference between today and my yesterdays is that I now know I don't have to be.  So, perfection? Not at all, but never for a minute do I want to stay where I am on the inside, and instead, I hope that each day I'm transformed just a little bit more into the person God created me to be. I hope I help one more person today than I did yesterday, I hope I love better tomorrow than I did today, and I hope my heart is daily changing into a more clear reflection of God's.  I want each of my moments to find me renewed, my days to find me reborn, and my years to find me changed. With the birth of each new day is the opportunity to be a new me and for that, I'm grateful, humbled, and in love with the God who makes it all possible.  I know who I was and I love her, but I now know who I am, and for that I love Him.  As the year closes, I'm ready for even more change.  

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. 
(Romans 12:2)

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