For the past few years instead of making a New Year’s Resolution I have chosen a word. That word sticks with me throughout the year and is something I hold on to when I’m doing life. For example, 2016 I chose the word joy. I had no idea what I was getting myself into with that word. It was a hard word to live by. But probably the most important for all that 2016 brought.
In the beginning of 2016, we had a baby in our home who was not our own. Her Mommy was homeless and unstable. Navigating all the crisis that came along with that hosting was chaotic, but we did so joyfully. When they were successfully reunited, no longer dealing with homelessness, our hearts were so happy. We chose joy.
My parents, sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew all came to Texas. We all slept under the same roof, we took lots of pictures and did lots of things. We shared meals and worshiped together at church. So many precious moments on that visit. It was so easy to choose joy.
In April, we experienced a first. The first time our family of 5 all had the flu at the same time. We were in pajamas with blankets all over the floor and it was all about the Kleenex and Netflix. A hailstorm quite literally ripped through our roof. I will never forget the way the kids screamed at the windows shattering or the way I pushed them into the closet not fully understanding what was going on. Church family came to the rescue, risking our flu germs to board up windows and tarp holes in the roof. Although we were overwhelmed, we were reminded that God has placed some of the most incredible people in our lives. So we chose joy.
We spent two months hotel-living while the house was being repaired and that was a low point. There was a lot of eating out and taking walks to keep from getting stir crazy and a lot of “please-for-the-love-of-everything-go-to-sleep-already” with the kids. Getting a call during our time there that my father was in the hospital felt a whole lot like getting kicked while I was down. It was ugly. I planned to spend another summer in Florida and tried to wrap my brain around what was happening. I’d like to say that I reached out to my support system and refocused and got my junk together. But mostly I cried a lot and introverted. I did a lot of writing and deleting, I did a lot of giving God a piece of my mind in the car alone with the windows rolled up. But when I did all the shouting and bore my ugly heart and was still met with undeserved grace, I was reminded to choose joy. And that’s what I did.
When dad got poor news from the doctor, when dear friends heard the diagnosis of cancer for the first time or lost people they loved dearly, when there was a messy house and piled up laundry and 504 meetings and “Mom nobody at school likes me.” When the days were too long and the nights were too short it was always, always about choosing joy. Sometimes right in the middle of ugly, painful sadness.
By no means did choosing joy mean living in denial. It meant living in confidence. Confidence that God knew what He was doing even when it didn’t make a lick of sense to me.
When there were highs- like the kids coming home with great report cards or our church starting a clothing closet to minister to the community or the same dear friend diagnosed with cancer successfully completing radiation or family time at the North Pole Express in Grapevine, or the way Jordyn’s face lit up Christmas morning- the joy that came naturally was not taken for granted. I’d venture to say it was even more sweet.
On the rollercoaster ride that was 2016, I chose joy and the joy of the Lord was my strength.
For 2017- I am choosing a word that is literally tattooed across my wrist.
I will admit that a lot of my time has been spent preparing for the worst case scenario. Maybe I have forgotten to hope for the best. Okay, not maybe. Perhaps in the process of learning to choose joy in hard things, I have lost sight of holding on to hope that it won’t always be the worst case scenario over and over. In my life, I have become so busy bracing for what will come next that I have stopped hoping. I don’t want to go into 2017 bracing for impact. I want to hope for a good year. It’s been about survival since March of 2015 and I haven’t been able to dig myself out of that. I’m ready to now.
So I will hope. I will look forward to the days that lay ahead for myself and my family instead of trying so hard to make sure we are ready for every bump in the road…I mean, we’ll still wear our seat belts and everything, but maybe I can just start to enjoy the ride a little more. Maybe I’ll look out the window on our road trips and notice something beautiful. Maybe I will spend the ride in hopeful anticipation of our destination instead of spending the entire time trying to prepare myself for what will happen and how we will handle it if the car breaks down, so to speak.
In 2017, I will hope unswervingly.
What word will you choose?