After putting 2,600 miles on the car this Christmas season, we’re sputtering into 2020 with cough drops and laundry piles. Today, December 31, I’m finally sitting down to reflect and take stock of not only the last 365 days, but the last decade. While there’s a debate on when the new decade actually begins, I think looking back over the last 10 years is a healthy, thoughtful way to ring in 2020.
For us, the beginning of 2010 ushered in the hardest years of our lives. We were facing the loss of our first pregnancy and the unexpected death of my mom that same year. The very next year brought joy with the birth of our son, Reed, while simultaneously receiving my Vascular EDS diagnosis. 2011 and 2012 meant life-saving surgeries, fears, and adjusting to my diagnosis and all of its implications.
Finally, in 2013-2014, we were able to embrace “normal” family life – play dates, vacations, family visits, the beach, the mountains. We sold our first home in 2015 and bought a new one in the same town. 2016 continued to be a year of more memory-making. 2017 brought two more aneurysm surgeries for me, our family’s first trip to Disney World, and kindergarten for our son.
In 2018, I began blogging to chronicle what God’s goodness means in the face of impossible circumstances. In addition to our own trials, I was seeing with new eyes the heartache of friends near and far – and I knew that clinging to faith by my fingernails may just help them do the same. Not by my own strength, but in my weakness God’s strength is present, persistent, and perfectly-timed.
Over Christmas, I had a conversation in the car with my sister-in-law. Her oldest heads off to college next fall and she shared how her desires for her children aren’t outright ease and success, but for them to handle life’s challenges with strong faith and integrity.
My sister-in-law, who’s known me for 20+ years, outright asked if I would change having VEDS. “No,” I answered slowly, but honestly. “If it would remove what I know of God now, I would not change it.” I would’ve had a different answer to that question five years ago, but by God’s refining grace I’m beginning to trust the bigger picture even when I can’t see it.
God’s goodness has shown itself in
the bruises, not just the blessings.
I know many who are limping out of 2019 – eager to see the calendar change to 2020. For some, this year brought loss, illness, anxiety, and just plain exhaustion. Personally, we began 2019 with a car accident and while I avoided any major health complications, I’ve faced more small illnesses that have threatened my joy, contentment, and trust in the One who holds my future. But in all of it, God’s goodness has shown itself in the bruises, not just the blessings.
Faithful friend, this is what I’m praying for you into 2020 and beyond: that you’ll know God’s comfort in the confusion, His faithfulness in the unknown, and His goodness in the impossible.
2019: A Review
The Best Thing I Made
For my own spin-off from the Food Network show The Best Thing I Ever Ate, I thought I’d share this yummy recipe. Anyone who knows me well understands that I love a good s’mores dessert (plus potato chips to finish off salty), so when I made these S’mores Cookie Bars for a fall gathering, they were a hit. I mean, the recipe calls for two sticks of butter – how could you go wrong?!?
What I Read
I’m not a voracious reader like I’d like to be – but this year I read a variety of books from fiction, memoir, and Christian non-fiction. While I’m in the middle of several books, here’s my 2019 completed list. I’d like to add more completed titles to my stack in 2020, but I’m not going to stress myself out. In the last month or so, my little family has added a quiet reading time to our evening routine, so I’m hoping that will provide more time to finish some great reads. Fun fact: I read five titles by people I actually know! I’d love to meet several other authors on my list, like Joni E. Tada, Michele Cushatt, and Vaneetha Risner. Several books had a running theme of trusting God through suffering, a necessary theme that runs through my own life.
2019 brought some new (and revived) adventures. “Pray” was my word of the year, and it’s brought some of the deepest learning and application I’ve had in a long time. My last living grandparent passed away this fall – and she was a great prayer warrior for our family. I’m learning that it takes time and discipline to become a woman who prays diligently and scripturally.
One new adventure included leading the parents’ prayer meetings at my son’s school – this small work has been some of the most rewarding. Other adventures included getting back on stage for our church’s Easter program (oh, how I’ve missed it!) and pursuing some small speaking opportunities. My hubs coached Reed’s soccer this year for the first time, and I assisted him. I also met a goal of attending the hope*writers conference this fall – walking away with pages of notes and new friends.
Travel was also a big theme of this year, with trips to Washington state, Florida, the Midwest, D.C. and our state’s beaches. My trip to the PNW was a solo trip to see my high school BFF – a much-needed trip that filled my soul and reminded me that traveling alone takes some courage.
Another BIG adventure we’re taking on this year is hosting a 14-year-old international student for the school year. It’s been fun watching Reed take on the “little brother” role – we’d love your prayers as we try to do this with wisdom and love.
It’s no surprise that some of my favorite memories from 2019 include people – but the blessings have come in the most unexpected “yeses” and surprising “nos.” Meeting with a college student for discipleship and a 78-year-old in my church for fellowship and encouragement have provided such richness to my regular schedule. Plus, frequent coffee dates with some of my dearest friends keep me fueled. My writing community at hope*writers has brought online and in-real-life friends to round out the year. Finally, finishing up my days with my intense hubby (of almost 17 years!) and our clever eight-year-old makes me smile with gratitude.
I don’t know what the next year – or the next decade – will bring, but I have learned that God’s goodness is never far away.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. Psalm 23:6