The gift of time for quiet reflection. This seems to be a day for that doesn't it? We look back over the past year and evaluate our goals/resolutions that may (or may not!) have been set last year. Then we look ahead to the coming year and ponder what we hope to achieve. I have learned the hard way that both have to be done together. It doesn't do much for me to just look back (though I am very prone to doing that), and it doesn't do much for me to never look back.
This past year was in many respects a difficult year. To be honest, the past two years have been challenging in many ways. I have a choice when I look back. I may choose to focus on the negative aspects of those challenges, or I may choose to focus on the positive aspects of those same challenges. Or I may look at them and see that there are both negative and positive parts in these challenges and grow and mature from both sides.
Hardships strengthen us. They can, if we let them, give us a deeper empathy for others. They make us more dependent on a Sovereign God. They teach us things about the nature of God. They force us to spend more time in prayer ~ communion with God. They remind us that there is something better coming.
As I look back over the year, I am confronted with a number of failures. In so many ways I was not the woman I want to be. It is easy for me to be overwhelmed by my short-comings and wallow in regret. I have to remind myself that this accomplishes nothing, and brings absolutely no glory to God whatsoever. When I am tempted to give in to regret and get lost in the day-dreams of "what-if", the only thing that happens is that I give bitterness an opportunity to grow in my spirit. I don't get anything done that needs to be done, whether that is dishes and laundry or Bible study and prayer. It takes great effort on my part to resist that, but I must resist. Instead of giving in to the "what-ifs" or the "if only I hads", a better response is to go to my Heavenly Father and beg Him for the grace to be what He wants me to be, and to do better at the next opportunity. And then move along with life.
I can not wrap up without acknowledging a few of the more wonderful things that have happened this past year. Here are some of the blessings I will be counting today:
- The privilege of going with my dear friend (who also happens to be my sister in law) to her chemo treatments. The joy of seeing her come through those treatments strong and with minimal side-effects.
- The assurance that my cousin Dan Carlton and my niece Meaghan McNutt are perfectly and completely healed and living in the presence of God in heaven
- My dear brother survived his heart-attack and is strong and healthy.
- My parents are still, in their mid-80's, able to travel and be with us.
- I am able to travel and visit with my parents!
- A new church home
- A pastor who faithfully, consistently and unapologetically proclaims the Truth of God's word
- Text messages from nieces!
- The opportunity to take part in a women's Bible study class and find some new friends there
I hope that you too will make some time for quiet reflection today. May God's comfort, peace, love and strength fill your hearts, minds and homes as we end this year and look forward to the next.