Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Happy New Year, 2017 Style!

How is it I stand here, in another year
As fresh and shiny as new fallen snow?
What joy is this, another day blessed.
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord my soul!

This year, in just two days, I'm going to be twenty-nine. 2016 was a crazy, painful, beautiful, awful, wonderful year. There is so much that went on, I cannot possibly cover it all. To me, New Years is often a bit depressing and stressful, because I get caught up on all that I didn't do last year that I feel I should have and all the things that I've got no plans for in the coming year. It's like anticipating more failure. But this year feels a bit different. A bit more hopeful.

Last year, was one of the hardest wrestling matches with doubt than I can ever remember. I have learned so much, yet in all my new knowledge, those stupid seeds of doubt still found room grow. I often wonder just what I've done with my life, what it is that I'm even trying to do. Through that perspective, it often seems as though I've done next to nothing and that I'm utterly lost. My hopes and goals never fail to fall through, year after year. Schedules? Those are clearly skittish, exotic creatures that I cannot tame for the life of me.

And oh the legalism! I could swear that legalism is like hard alcohol, the taste of it seems to get better with each one you throw back until the next thing you know you're drunk on it and passed out in your own spiritual vomit... okay a bit of a gross image, but that's how it feels. In striving for some perfect line to balance on, I forget my first love, just to pick up that 'bottle' foolishly thinking it's going to be some quick cure for whatever I think is wrong with me. Yet, it's this hyper focus on 'what I do' that keeps giving my flesh the ammunition to shoot holes in my belief. I cannot argue that my works are inadequate and I'm often tempted to despair, to doubt Him, and to drink deep of saccharine apostasy. After all, I can't be good enough, so why bother try, right? After all, I keep slipping. In this year alone, I have been many things I wish I hadn't been. Cruel, foolish, proud, rash, and much more. Paul sure knew what he was talking about when he wrote Romans 7:15-20.

And yet, there are these rare moments. When life is just still enough that He gives me the grace to be able to look back and understand that my foolish heart is a liar and that it's not about what I have done with my life. That's not what gives my life meaning or worth. From my very first sin, I was unworthy. To me, it's still an unfathomable mystery how He could love me. The only explanation I can have is that He is love. That it is His nature, not my worthiness, or rather lack thereof. It's not me. It's Him. What He has done and what He is still doing.

When I pause to consider, I am amazed at Him. Just a half a lifetime ago, I was this young, wild, and foolish girl. Forget running with the wrong crowd, I was a wrong crowd all my own, licentiousness, mysticism, and rebelliousness my drugs of choice. My mother always thought it was others that turned me that way, as mothers tend to do, but no one forced me down those wrong roads. I was deep in wrong before they ever could have had the chance. I was a thoroughly lost child, drunk on pride and a head full of dreams of writing get-rich-quick stories and of running my own night club with my gal pals. Life, was going to be an endless party if I had my way.

But I can genuinely say, thank God that those dreams died.

Looking back on those days, I cringe and wrinkle my nose at myself. And yet, those days provide a needful visible contrast to my now. Even on my bad days, when I still doubt that He would ever have wanted me and fear the heart of my own motives, I cannot say that I am who I was. Looking at my past, even when everything else seems utterly uncertain and clear as mud, the proof remains that He has changed me.

If not for His working in me, there is no way I could be standing where I am, how I am, today. The sins that I once relished in disgust me now. The negative emotions and self-depreciation I got high on are no longer an addiction. I was a mess y'all. But He is rearranging me, slowly, purposefully. He makes me a better person, a better wife, a better mother, with each year that passes. Each year, I find more joy in, even despite the bad moments.

Some people might loathe the idea of anyone, much less God, controlling our lives and I understand that, I know I used to something fierce. But now that I have lived under my own rule and have lived under His, I'm glad He'll never let me return to the life I used to know. He is far more gentle, more patient, more kind towards me than I ever was to myself. It is true that His yolk is easy, because His strength is what gets me through and it's His work that ultimately changes me, not my own. Sure there is struggle, but none that I have ever walked through alone. My way tastes good for a little while, but it makes me sick in the long run. His way tastes bitter at times and there are growing pains along the way, but the peace His way brings I never could find in mine.

To be honest, I hesitated to share this post. In a way, all this feels just a little bit... contradictory. Almost as if there is an invisible someone accusing me that I'm lying about how I’m really doing. Suggesting that because I see a therapist and am taking Prozac means I’m not really doing as well as I suggest. That it somehow disproves that God exists, could possibly be good, etc. But what anyone believes about all of this is the wrong thing for me to be concerning myself with. The truth is that, while my therapist has been nice and given a listening ear during a hard and stressful time of my life, the credit for the changes or healing in me do not rightfully go to my therapist, nor myself. The medication is not the source of my peace or joy. It’s a gift from God to help me better manage my mental health. And to be completely truthful, I was improving, long before I started to take the medicine.

While I might talk of my mess often and my screw ups even more, the self hatred is gone. The suicidal thoughts only return when I start wandering down my own ways again. I am not always comfortable, but I am nearly always content. I'm not always happy, but between my numerous blessings and His joy, sadness doesn't last long. It's rare to have a day that passes when I do not sing for joy or a night when I do not sleep well(except when I just don't feel like sleeping, because sleep is boring :P ). If this is slavery, then I can say with certainty, I never want to be free again!

So, you’re probably wondering what I have planned for this year. Well, to be honest, I don't know, but not for lack of ideas and aspirations. I have plenty of those! 

I anticipate there will be many changes to the blog, likely including the name and the direction of it, because I'm not the person I was when I changed it last time. My focus and intent has changed. Also in my writing and my approach to life. I've tried to lead my life so often, wanting to force it down my own road, grasping at how I think things ought to be, but I think this year I'm going to aim for something different. To follow, instead of trying to lead. To walk and work, but accept that He is the one that establishes my steps, not me. To rest in grace and trust, instead of striving and checklists and another bottle of legalism. But this year, above all else, I want to fall in love with and find my all in my Lord, all over again. 

P.S. In the spirit of starting off the new year new, I've decided to unpublish my other previous posts, because of reasons. Lots of reasons, but mostly, growth.

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