The end of the year is such a natural time for reflection, and as 2018 comes to a close I’m finding it almost impossible to not think about this past year. I’m thinking about where I was exactly a year ago, what’s happened since then and the depths and heights along the way. Exactly a year ago I had just started another round of cluster headaches. It was a few days before Christmas and I knew what was starting, but didn’t tell anyone until after Christmas. I didn’t want to ruin their Christmases. So I went through all the usual festivities hanging out on the edge of of tears. Carrying around a heavy secret during the most hopeful time of the year. I felt broken. I knew that about 100 days of terrifying and debilitating pain was coming my way. In actuality this time ended up being 171 days. yay.
I processed some of that time “out loud” on social media. I held up a fragile and unpolished heart and allowed you in. I saw it as my holy work to notice and name the treasures I would find along this path of pain. I hoped that it would keep my head above water.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what it was like to stand at the foot of that muddy mountain in the rain and what I learned during that climb. I made it through the first half of 2018 thanks to my good friends, Jesus and vast amounts of dry shampoo. Good friends brought meals, groceries and helped love my kids on days when I couldn’t get out of bed. I learned to say yes to help. I learned how to be humble and receive. Jesus gave me promises and hope that kept me wanting to live each day. Someday soon I’m gettin’ a crown of life (James 1), even though I’m falling apart I’m being renewed on the inside each day (2 Cor. 4), nothing can separate me from his love (Romans 8), that he himself will restore, confirm, strengthen and establish me (1 Peter 5:10), he is always at work for my “forever good” (Romans 8). Joy isn’t having a well-curated life. Peace isn’t having a life without difficulty. Blessing doesn’t mean you got the one thing you've always wanted.
I’ve started to hate the word blessing the more and more it’s been used as a hashtag. My kids smiled for this picture #blessed. Got the promotion and the new dream car and my kids are obedient and I lost 10 pounds all before Tuesday! #blessed.
Blessed does not mean ease. It doesn't mean comfort. That’s #crap and if that’s what we believe we are buying a #lie. It’s mercy that in the midst of great suffering we can have joy. It’s having peace that passes understanding in the eye of a freaking hurricane. It’s having hope in a completely hopeless situation.
There’s really so much to say about the things that I learned this year, both at a practical level and a spiritual one. I learned to say yes and I learned to say no. I found myself drawn to other people who have also been to the edge. I found I really needed to choose wisely who to spend time with, who got my energy and who got to have a voice in my life. I set new boundaries, I dug deeper and have been more reflective than ever before. If I were to encapsulate the year into two words, I would say that I was broken and blessed. Both beyond all measure.
For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.
– Genesis 41:52