This year has been one for the books for us. I know that I did not provide much in the way of blogging frequency, but I surely hope that you, Savvy Homemaking reader, know that I thought of you often. That might sound weird to you, but we bloggers tend to get very connected with our audience and our message. For me, this year was all about learning to let go.
Have you ever had a season like that? A season where everything that you once knew was being gently and quietly torn down by the stillness of the Lord. Barriers, walls, various boundaries originally established in childhood removed one little piece at a time as He reveals that you no longer need their insulating protection?
That’s what this year was like for me. A wall slowly and surely being torn down, one little brick at a time.
Our Year in Review: From the Heart
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” ~ Philippians 4: 11-13
There have been many experiences throughout this year that have pushed my beliefs and challenged my faith.
We have experienced financial struggles, emotional upheaval, tight spaces with many people, significant frustration with our situation, lack of support and encouragement (though plenty of suggestions for how to fix our situation, sometimes outright judgmental, which surely made the bits of encouragement and support we did receive all the more sweet), moving to a new location, onset of another auto-immune disease in the family (in addition to the first), marital struggles, parenting struggles, AND grad-school busyness.
It. has. been. a. year.
The things that I have lost this year, though, are mostly things I would not take back for anything:
- Fear of poverty – for all intents and purposes, we have been in poverty this year, but we have never been in the deepest, darkest parts of need. We have always had a place to live (even if it is 240 sq ft, fights to produce mold regularly through condensation, takes a lot of work, and has wheels), always had enough food (especially when those moved by the Spirit brought us bags of food or bread that they happened upon or purchased outright by His leading), had enough to pay the bills and our needs (though we had little left over for luxury items or experiences), etc. So, yep…for all intents and purposes, we have been in poverty, yet I still don’t know if I could say it for I know that so, so, sooo many people experience far worse than we have.
- Fear of man – I have struggled with this spiritual issue since childhood. What will they think of me? This year has been all about the Lord showing me that He is the only One that matters and naysayers will always be alive and well, speaking against whatever or wherever He is leading. This has continually taught me to own my walk, my faith, and my journey with Him, and to stop looking for approval from man in order to move. I’m still working on this to completely resolve it.
- Fear of failure – The Lord has continued to show me time and time again that life’s setbacks do not need to completely upend us, but rather are meant to be used as learning points and stepping stones along the path as we follow Him. Failure only happens when we give up on any hope of change and our life getting better, and therefore stop acting as though there is a way past our current predicament. This is not something for which to judge and condemn people, like some “pick yourself up by the bootstraps and get to work” slave driver; but rather a concept and Truth that should solely be a point of true encouragement as someone slowly and surely continues to walk through life struggles. Fears are very real, and should be handled with care.
- Fear of disappointing God – This one has been monumental for me. There are so, so many voices nowadays that people who are walking with God, alive in the Spirit, and obedient to His leading are have somehow stepped into sin in one way, shape, or form, as evidenced by their life struggles. This is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Yes, for sure, there are absolutely natural consequences that come from overt sinful behaviors and/or attitudes, BUT these rarely have to do with a true life struggle (such as bankruptcy, death of a child, sickness in the home, etc.) In many cases, the Lord allows life struggles as a means of growth and wall demolishing, because they shake us away from a foundation built on the facade of the world (“sinking sand”). He wants us to have our foundations built upon the Rock, HIM, which is ALWAYS the same, NEVER changing, and full of love, compassion, peace, and gentility. His has been the loudest voice telling me how much He loves me, cares for me, is still here with me, and is still GOD (see this post analyzing if God is disappointed with us for struggling). My difficult life experiences are not evidence of His judgment or turning away from me or our family, but rather a testimony of how much He loves us because He is discipling us through this time by the spiritual disciplines that we are learning (“The Lord disciplines those He loves,” Prov. 3: 12). He has shown me that His “discipline” is not the worldly, fleshly idea of punishment for sinful attitudes and behaviors that are clearly and overtly antagonistic to His Ways (such as sexual immorality, murder, idolatry, etc.), but more so like the fine-tuning of a piano. He is tightening a string here, and loosening a string there, to obtain the proper frequency and balance within the piano to give just the right notes: a beautiful, crystal clear, harmonious sound that is no longer in discordance with Him. This is the idea of sanctification; slowly being fine-tuned to become more and more like Him. People who are alive and active in the Spirit must not worry about “disappointing God” and somehow “getting it wrong,” since the probability is that they are in a constant state of prayer and contemplation with Him about various aspects of their life, where to walk and how. God is God, and for those things which are absolutely imperative, He will bring to pass; for those things that are not, He will permit as they come; and for things that are closed and off limits, for whatever reason, He will make clear and obstruct. We simply must trust Him with the leading He places on our hearts, not make decisions based on whether or not the many ideas and thoughts of others agree with His voice. Sometimes following Him is a lonely road.
There have been so many beautiful things throughout this year, too, among the hardships and the struggles. These are the greatest blessings of all, the beauty in the mess and the lessons among the struggles, the ones I hope to forever cherish and remember:
- strengthening of family bonds
- laughter of little ones and peaceful interactions among siblings (not always, but more often)
- gazing up at the stars (I think I have looked at the stars and stood in awe of His majesty more times this year than all my previous years combined…”camping” permits this so very much)
- enjoying campfire discussions, and sometimes even s’mores
- meeting new people with amazing, adventurous lives of their own, also led in new directions by the Lord’s guiding voice and often against the stream of the many
- appreciating the little things more and more, like a warm, handmade blanket to snuggle up with on the couch, or snuggling with a little one, reading time with the kids, prayers as a family, delighting in our Sabbath rests, the quiet of the mornings and the nights, the beauty of change and transition, etc.
- the blessings of generosity, compassion, a true listening ear (not one who listens only to advise, but listens just to listen and understand), grace, friendship, family, and love
- the power of words, both to build up and to tear down
I have faith and hope that the end of this year is also the beginning of the end of this season for us. I feel that we are on the cusp of our next step and new beginning, like a caterpillar about to emerge from the cocoon. I do not believe that this emergence will be “easy.” It will take work and continued strengthening in Him, but I can feel Him leading us to walk on the water, encouraging us to move in faith and keep our eyes on Him alone.
Just like the caterpillar emerging from the cocoon, the struggle and process for emerging is necessary. The caterpillar must be squeezed and work its muscles as it pushes out of the tight cocoon in order to remove excess fluids and build up the muscles in the wings to have the strength to fly once it emerges. If the cocoon is torn off to “free the butterfly,” the butterfly will never fly and will simply die a few days later. It needs the struggle to emerge fully matured.
Life is often quite like this. We must embrace the struggles and the work they take so that we can emerge fully matured, grown, and strong to endure the next leg of the journey: flight.
A Word of Encouragement
If this year, or succession of years, has been difficult and full of struggles for you, you are not alone. The Lord continues to be Good, even though the liar wants you to believe that He has turned His back on you. He is there. He does love you. He has not forsaken you. Take captive the lies and the voices that want you to believe that you have somehow brought life’s struggles upon yourself, disappointed God, are receiving His judgment, wrath, or condemnation.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” ~ Romans 8: 1-2
Walking a life of faith does not equate to an existence free from experiencing hardships (see this post). Any beliefs that suggest this idea are full of the deceits of the enemy and the laws that bind and are not of His making (i.e. the laws of man). A cursory review of scripture reveals that all God-fearing, obedient servants of His endured enormous trials, struggles, and hardships in life, some to the point of death, but not related to punishment and judgment from God, but rather due to the butterfly effect. He was strengthening them for their calling. He was preparing them for the journey ahead. He was breaking down barriers and walls, and building up a new foundation set on the Rock. And, then He prepared them for flight.
A Christian can only truly fly once these things have spiritually occurred. As long as His children continue to walk with Him, seeking His wisdom, praying for His guidance, listening to His Spirit, and asking for Him to tear out the fallen pieces of self and reveal any areas of sinfulness within (see the Psalmist’s heart in Psalm 139 below), He will be faithful to reveal the broken pieces, to deal with them optimally, and to prepare His children for their purposes. Have faith. Stand strong in Him. He will provide.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.” ~ Psalm 139: 23-24