Another year has come and gone, and with it the familiar vents of "what a horrible year that was, hope this next one is better." I don't believe the year ever really ends without this, for we have an uncanny ability to forget the good and to see only the bad always wishing things were better, but unable to see very well when they are.
Every year is different and holds its own challenges; personally, politically, and globally. Every year natural disasters happen, people die - some of them famous people, most of them not, but affecting us all the same. Scandals abound and people in high up places make bad decisions. Some of them effect us directly and some of them have the potential to, while others simply hang over us like a shadow. People are elected and removed from election, laws are changed and bills are passed. For better or worse, these things effect us.
People are also born. Kindnesses are shown. Memories are made. People show love and care even to those they don't know and lives are changed. People meet. People fall in love. People marry and new families begin. Babies are born and change those families in amazing ways as they live, learn and grow. Milestones are met, life changes are made. Consequences abound, both from the decisions we make as well as the decisions made by others, resulting in circumstances both good and bad in our lives.
This is the journey we are on. It's called life. Over the ages it never really changes much, though the circumstances of it do. The reality is that what this new year offers us is one part new situations, challenges and blessings and 3 parts how we respond to those situations. The sum of these parts is eventually how we end up feeling about how the year has gone, and how we feel about our lives in general.
Personally, the more I focus on the negative things that have happened, are happening or (worse yet) could happen the more negative my perspective becomes and the more gloomy my future looks. However, I have an opportunity in these exact same situations to choose to listen to the holy spirit and ask for his guidance. I can choose to love instead of hate. I can choose to serve instead of asking to be served and I can choose to bless instead of curse.
Being justified in bitterness or resentment doesn't mean it's a good idea. Though it may seem deserved those are not the things that bring restore life, they just draw in more bitterness and unforgiveness, slowly eating us from the inside out. Instead, by choosing daily to forgive, to have hope, and find joy in our circumstances, we bring about contentment. Contentment changes our lives from the inside out as well, but instead of eating us up it brings forth a joy and love that mere circumstances can't take away. The kind acts of strangers helping out at a grocery store, a lovely picture drawn for me by one of my daughters, a fun evening playing cards with friends, or an encouraging card in the mail just when you need it most. Choosing to look past our own circumstances and to reach out to others naturally puts us in a place where we are more able to receive and appreciate the blessings that already abound in our lives. Looking around to see what God is doing in my life and asking him how I can take part in it, these are ways I find joy, contentment, and life in a changing world full of uncertainty and despair.
I recognize, even as I write this, how blessed I am to live where I live, with the opportunities that I have and the family, friends and community I have. We have a warm home, plenty to eat, a decent job, and lots of good friends and support. We live in a country where we have a lot of freedoms that many do not. We are indeed blessed. Maybe it seems easy for me to talk about being content when I have so much to be thankful for, but wherever you're at, in whatever circumstances, I still believe that how we approach the every day situations and the attitude we have towards them makes all the difference. How can people who have almost nothing still smile and give generously of the little they have? By choice. No matter who we are, where we live or what challenges we face, we will never fully understand those who are not in our own position, or what challenges they face and how they affect them. Something that is difficult for me could be super easy for the person next door. We are all different and affected differently even by the same situations. All we can do is look at where we are at and ask ourselves what it means to choose to be content in our own circumstances and to fully appreciate what we do have instead of always longing for that which we don't.
So as we enter this new year my prayer for each of you, and for myself, is that we would truly be able to see all that is offered to us and to live lives full of gratitude, love and hope. The God I serve is bigger than my circumstances and is worthy of my trust and my faith. He will not let us go. Wishing you all a year full opportunities to love and by loved by others, and hearts that are able to receive all that is so lavishly given to us. May you be able to see beyond the circumstances of the moment and see all there is to be grateful for. Happy 2017! Below are just a few of the everyday moments I'm grateful for from this past year.