Someone asked me what the best thing about Christmas was for me this year. Before this year, I might have thought about all the people I spent Christmas with, the gifts, the music, the tinsel, the “magic” of the season… but this year, although all of those things are PART of the holiday “magic”, only one thought came to mind: I was just glad to be alive to experience Christmas at all.
2016 was a difficult year. A roller coaster of emotions. There’s no way I could blog all of it, nor would I want to. It has been a quiet year because it has required more of me than I had to offer, and I had nothing left to put in to “other projects” (like blogging, finishing the remodeling projects, gardening, etc.). If it wasn’t a necessity, it was set aside for a while.
We had my oldest son’s graduation this summer, deep relationship hurts, major health battles (the big C)… yes, this year was a bitter pill at points. The thing that kept running through my mind, though, and has since August, when I emerged from the hospital with part of my colon missing… was that my surgeon told my husband, “If she had not come in when she did, and we had not found this, you would never have known she had cancer. With only 6 units of blood in your body, the systems begin to shut down, so she would have had a stroke or heart attack and been dead before Thanksgiving or Christmas.”
It could have been a really bad Christmas for my husband and kids. I don’t know why it wasn’t. I have friends who also got diagnosed with cancer this year, friends who died from heart attacks, friends who have lost their loved ones to health issues. I know that God loved them just as much as He loves me. You might wonder why you have been given a gift that is more precious than anything else in the world, but you can’t help but cherish it and use it wisely when you realize the giver didn’t have to give it to you at all. That’s where I’m at. Just total and utter awestruck appreciation.
Every breath is a gift. So I’m breathing. Not just breathing, but being AWARE of my breathing. Breathing deeper than before.
Every moment is a gift. So I’m trying to use them towards what counts.
I’m not just sitting idle.
I’m also not working myself to death.
No more extremes. I’m all about celebrating – and grace; even for myself, now.
I’m making the most of the time, the people I spend it with, and creating margin for myself to focus on healthy living and rest. We all talk about doing this every new year as the clock chimes and the ball drops in Time’s Square. Then we don’t do it. We rush, we fret, we bog ourselves down, we forget ourselves and waste time on what’s not important. It didn’t take a new year for me to stop – it took a new chance at life after a possible death to break my habit. It took the oncologist giving me statistics measured in too few years.
Just like 2016 and all those years before, I still have my lists. That’s just part of who I am. I still get a lot done. But somehow it is different when your attitude is soaked in gratitude.
I’m busy stopping to smell the flowers in between laps.
After years and years of no TV or reading time or me-time, though, I sit down and watch TV with my husband. I stop what I’m doing when he gets off work. I play with the kids more and we take extra time off for fun. We have friends over for board games. I pace myself and take breaks when working on photography jobs, and make sure to feed and water myself. We read in bed more, goof off more, and enjoy each other more. We go outside more. We tinker at gardening and art and DIY more. We cook together. We BREATHE. Sometimes we just sit and have tea and talk. I let the five year old play the piano even though he hasn’t really learned much more than “Chopsticks”. I let the boys get in the mud and dig without fretting about how they will have to take yet ANOTHER bath today.
My carpet hasn’t been vacuumed in weeks and my desk gets piled up a little more often… but I am still taking time for me. I don’t like it when it seems like the to-do’s are closing in on me, being the workhorse that I have been for so many years, but I am learning that a messy desk is less important than time with my nearly 20 year old son, or snuggling on the couch with my husband, or sitting down with the boys to play board games. Wow. I wish I had really stopped and slowed down before. My 40’s haven’t been easy so far, but man, have I been learning the good stuff.
Speaking of stuff…. I have a lot less of it. I threw away all my fake jewelry (and my jewelry box) and took nearly a fourth of my clothes to Good Will. I’m not just talking about simplifying my life anymore. I’m doing it.
So there will be a lot going on in 2017, still. I won’t be laying around in bed all day eating bon-bons, but I will be resting when I need to. I won’t feel ONE OUNCE guilty about it, either. There will be school work, cooking (I spend a LOT of time in the kitchen – eating healthy isn’t for sissies), building, painting, field-tripping, picture-taking, … you name it! But the overarching theme of the year will be Gratitude.
I’m rocking gratitude that causes me to spend my days reflecting, pausing, resting, and abiding in the one who filled my life’s bank account with more moments to spend.
You want to know what’s crazy? I’ve talked a good game for years… 2009 was “Intentional Living”, 2010 was “Simplifying”, 2011 was “Joy”, 2012 was “Peace”, 2013 was “Wise Choices”, 2014 was “Running the Race to Get the Prize”, who knows what 2015 was… and 2016 was the prefix “RE”. I literally said I wanted…
Refreshing (My perspective was refreshed. You can’t look a possible death sentence in the face and not be forever changed.)
Renovation (My house is being renovated. We are still in the process, because we had to wait on some foundation issues, but it will hopefully be completed this year.)
Restoration (My health has been restored… and a few relationships have been as well.)
Reformation (My family has been reformed after some fiery trials.)
Recovery (My recovery was remarkably swift after surgery and I aim to continue to do my part to prevent any future return of cancer.)
Redemption (I feel as if my life was redeemed from the grave, like Job in the Bible. The doctor said he didn’t know how I was functioning when I got to the hospital this past summer. I know others whose health crisis did not have the same ending… and I am just filled with gratitude for my children and husband that I have this extra time with them.)
Last year I used the quote about being careful or you might get what you ask for with God. I prayed for peace, strength and victory.
I got all of that in spades, but not how I ever would have imagined getting it, or wanted to get it. No one wants trouble or adversity, but that is one of the ways God grows us, refines us, makes us better.
I have felt peace like a river this year. It isn’t some cliché Sunday School song anymore to me. I know what it is for God to carry you when you can’t walk or see the way now. I have felt supernatural strength moving in my body, my life, my soul – forgiveness that came to me from only God, because of wounds so deep I couldn’t breathe. I spent a good portion of this spring crying my eyes out.
I know what it is like to see victory – small daily ones, big miraculous ones that can’t be explained away, and ultimately, to have less fear of death so you can REALLY LIVE.
Through all of the experiences of this year, I can only say that what the devil intended to harm me, God used for my good. I’m thankful for everything, even though I may never understand it. I have seen God bring the most beautiful rainbows from the rain, and the brightest “God Light” rays and silver linings over storm clouds. I have spent much of the latter part of this year just being still and in awe as He has fought on my behalf.
My gift is the same one you have: life. Our gift of GRATITUDE back to a loving savior is what we do with it. I pray I can sandwich in every hope and goal I have in to 2017… as long as it brings me closer to Him.
Happy New Year, friends!