I tend to keep my non-food posts to a minimum. I suppose my tagline does say, “Food, family, life…with a dash of sass”, so I’m afforded a few “life” posts every now and then. For over a week, I’ve been seeing “2016 basically sucked” statuses on Facebook – and hearing “2016 basically sucked” stories on NPR. I guess I didn’t realize until then that 2016 was so generally wretched for everyone, not just me. I actually drafted this post way back on October 8th (because 2016 did indeed bite enough to warrant this post 3/4 of the way through it), but to avoid whining “my First World life is so hard!” to the masses, or jumping on the bandwagon of negativity, I was considering not posting it at all. But in the spirit of embracing vulnerability, and of learning and growing and building a better world (or at least a better 2017) together, I’m sharing my review of 2016, and perhaps some resolutions for 2017.
Generally, my end-of-year posts are full of gratitude and awe at the amazing blessings I’ve experienced over the past 365 days. I love life, I love the tapestry of people that come in and out of my life and the beauty they each bring; I love every moment of watching my kids grow; I love watching the seasons change; I love the new things I learn at work and home and church. I love the awe I feel as I go on a 7 mile run and am humbled by the miraculous way our bodies work perfectly; or the awe I feel at the path my life has taken – a path I never would have thought of, but that was so perfectly planned; the awe I feel at each tiny, little tender mercy that is only noticed by me. Each year truly is a miracle and gift from God.
I’m also generally a happy, upbeat, positive person. But I have to be honest here – while yes, the year was filled with all of those types of moments and memories I described above, I could not be happier to give 2016 a massive drop-kick into the already-written history of my life. I am so, so glad it is over.
So please join with me in giving this year the middle finger and bidding it farewell and good riddance. 2016 sucked. I try to not look too pathetic on social media, and I try to not complain too much. So while some of you know some of the challenges we’ve been through this year, no one except maybe Nick understands the extent of how difficult 2016 was for me and for us. I hide it pretty well, but I’ve passed through some of the hardest, darkest, and scariest moments I’ve ever experienced. And it was non-stop, layer upon layer upon layer, with no time to catch a breath.
There came a moment where “one more thing” happened, and I remember having a conversation with myself thinking, “Oh my gosh! Are you freaking serious?! Does God seriously not see that I’m already weighed down? Does He really not see that I CAN’T TAKE ANY MORE?! It’s like He’s kicking me while I’m down. When I can’t even bear what I’m given now, why would He throw one more thing at me??? Doesn’t He know I’m not this strong?!”
And then came the moment of clarity: “But that’s just the point. You ARE THAT strong. If you weren’t, he wouldn’t be giving you these things.”
Did I like that answer? Yes and no. No, because it still sucked. Life was still hard, it was still not fun, and I still struggled to find happiness in the midst of all of it. But yes, because it was a turning point for me. I realized I had a decision to make: Was I going to let these trials defeat me, or build me? I had the power to make the choice. If I could find a way to learn through these, to trust and have faith rather than fret and despair, if I could find a way to think less of myself and more of others, if I could find a way to live in gratitude rather than depression…then I would emerge so much stronger, so much wiser, so much more loving and kind as a result of these trials – so much more the woman I long to be.
The change didn’t happen immediately, and it’s still not done. But the vision is there.
So here’s to a clean slate as we kick off the new year. Here’s to praying that we learned and grew as we needed to through the school of our “furnace of affliction”, so that even if 2017 is no better than 2016, we will face it with more grace and less frustration and anger, more patience and less worry, more hopeful optimism and less despair, and much, much more love.