Last year at Thanksgiving, my teammate and I were back in a house we strongly disliked (no running water, critters of various sizes and shapes, piles of termite dust heaping up under our bed every night, etc.), our hurting hearts trying to be brave. We had just arrived after a month in the States, dealing with a thick layer of dirt everywhere, our front gate area turned into a chicken coop by the roving mama hen and her growing babies, and plants that had not survived the lack of rain. We gathered a few of those leafless sticks and made ourselves a thanksgiving tree, digging deep into our hearts for the good in the midst of the hard, straining to see with grateful eyes.
When I think back over the last 11 months of 2016, mostly the moments of heartache come to mind, the seasons of exhaustion and discouragement and all those times I was ready to just give up. Yet, I know there have been gifts, riches in the darkness and even the hard things have been used in my life to grow me and push me closer to Jesus.
Walk back through this year with me as I celebrate God’s goodness.
- I turned 30 this year, a milestone that was worth celebrating. I looked back over my 20s and felt sad over some of the things I thought would happen but didn’t. There are also plenty of things that I got to see, experience, and do in that decade that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I’m super grateful for a teammate, sister, brother-in-law and nephew who made the entrance into my 30s extra special, and for all kinds of cards and messages that made their way across the ocean. 6 months in, I have to say 30 isn’t half bad.
- When we left Liam, I was exhausted by the drain of village life and full of guilt for not being able to make it. But, each time we went back to visit, the Father reminded me that He is in control and is still at work there. I have been surprised by relationships that have deepened since we left, new friendships that have started, and fresh ways to pray for that area.
- I was supposed to go to Indonesia this year, a trip I’ve dreamed about for a while now. But it didn’t happen. Even though I wrestled through disappointment and doubt in God’s plan, I can look back and thank God for how He ministered to my heart in the midst of the upheaval, spoke through His Word and brought me through that valley.
- Having surgery in a foreign country wasn’t on my bucket list. But I am so thankful for all God’s gifts in the midst of that happening- compassionate doctors who were there on the days I needed them to be, my supervisor and her support and presence, sweet friends who walked through the whole week from diagnosis to surgery to waiting for results and sent emails and songs and prayers from afar, special treats while recovering and waiting to find out if the tumors were cancer like Starbucks coffee and real books from a bookstore and a movie theater all to myself.
- I am thankful for the 34 years of my cousin’s life, the 30 years I got to know him. It was too short and yet I am grateful for the way that he impacted my life.
- I am thankful for the people who gave me permission to go home, permission to be honest and broken and weak instead of putting up a strong front and pretending it was all okay, especially my supervisor, teammate, sister and the rest of my family. I am thankful for the ones who have spoken Truth into my life over this year, even when I wasn’t in a place to hear it yet. I am thankful for the opportunity to be at home now, to find healing and refreshment and the freedom to listen for God’s voice and say yes no matter what that means.
- I can’t imagine my life without two very precious people, my nephew and new niece. I love them with all my heart and am so, so privileged to be their auntie.
- There was a trip many years in the making, and a dream that actually came true when my sister and I found each other in the Frankfurt airport to start our adventure in Germany and the Czech Republic. Chocolate croissants, family history, majestic cathedrals, train rides through the gorgeous countryside- yes, my heart is certainly full from that trip this fall.
- The kindness of Jesus, freedom I don’t deserve but is lavished on me. The heart of the Father who delights in me, even at my worst, who rejoices over me with singing, and His abundant Grace. I am SO quick to forget the essence of the Gospel, to work it out in daily life. Yet, God is so very patient with me and it is because of Him that I can look back with joy at all He has done this year.
Psalm 28:6-7 Praise the Lord! For he has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.
Who can resist this sweet face? The birth of Miss Grace Elizabeth was certainly a highlight of this year.