Reflections on 2016

I’ve had writer’s block for a year.

Well, that’s not entirely true. So many thoughts have fluttered back and forth between my heart and head that have just never made it out through my hand. More often than not, my thoughts have found a page by necessity. Typically, it’s been impossible to keep them in. Writing is how I have processed, meditated, and spoken truth to my own heart. Writing is how I have remembered. But not this year.

Maybe it would be more accurate to say that I’ve been too exhausted to write for an entire year. Never really a coffee person, I have found coffee a dear friend of late.

I asked Adam how he would describe 2016. He responded, “Hard!” without even looking up from his computer. And I feel the same way. There has been no major crisis in our family. No one is sick. No one has died. We have numerous blessings to count and countless reasons to give thanks. Nonetheless, the year has been hard. And that is ok. Because hard and good aren’t mutually exclusive. Testings and blessings are often two sides of the same coin.

For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried . . . we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance. -Psalm 66:10,12b

At the close of 2015, just when {I thought} I was finally getting the hang of life with two little boys, we welcomed our third baby boy into the family. What a precious, undeserved Christmas gift! Truly, I could not have picked a sweeter baby. What joy it is to have three sons to love and nurture in the admonition of the Lord–what fun to trod this unlikely journey of “life with boys” —a journey I certainly never anticipated or could have orchestrated for my own life. What a gift for them to have the camaraderie and deep love of brotherhood. Nevertheless, I would be lying if I said the journey has been easy thus far.

Trials and testings are part of living in world that is fractured by the curse of sin. Sometimes testings come in powerful, shocking blows of crisis that knock us off our feet and send us into what feels like a tailspin. In other seasons, trials and testings are more subtle. They come in the form of a daily grind that feels like a weight so heavy it might eventually crush us–a responsibility so demanding that we feel sucked in and fear we might be drowned in the quicksand. Sometimes challenges take the form of numerous little life stresses that compile to wear and tear. Different personalities respond to hardship in various ways, but regardless of the form it takes, hard is hard and very real nonetheless. And no one is exempt.

This year held a lot of adjustment for us. If I’m being honest, it held a lot of “daily grind hard” in both parenthood and ministry. It held a host of real life, real world stress. I could not have imagined the heavy demands wrapped up in the beautiful blessing of caring for three small boys. No one can prepare you for it. And eight years ago, when we moved nine hours from home to start seminary with nothing but about five hundred dollars and {rather weak} faith, I never could have imagined the strength of faith I would need for the journey of vocational ministry–a faith God is still growing in me 8 years later. There were times during 2016 that I distinctly longed for 2017…a new year and a fresh start…an easier day-to-day that hopefully involved more sleep and time to sit in a chair and read.

But when I reflect on 2016, I see more than the hard. I see the good. I see the refinement in us. I am reminded that our God is so merciful that he uses the hardships of a world broken by our making to accomplish his own good and perfect purposes. He uses the fire to refine us until He sees His own image. Beauty from ashes.

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,

My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.

The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design

Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

Were we not laid bare in the hardships and trials of day-to-day life, would we ever really see our need? Would we ever cling to God as our ultimate provider and be amazed at his consistent and abundant faithfulness to us? Would our hearts ever cry out with the Psalmist, Whom have I in heaven but you? And besides you, I desire nothing on earth! My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. God is so kind to show us our constant need for him–to force us out of ourselves and into Him. To show us that He is willing to be our portion, a portion that will fill and satisfy. 

The constant demands of marriage and  motherhood have exposed my tendency to worship so many golden calves–self-sufficiency, productivity, order, ease, and “me-time” to name a few. Though I would not trade this season, at times I have mourned what it has required me to lay down. In addition, the unknowns of ministry have exposed my desire for control and my struggle to really trust the sovereign God I proclaim. But where I am weak, God is strong. He is so patient and forgiving–an ever-present help in times of need. He is a Father who loves to give good gifts to His Children and a perfect husband who is burning away impurities and preparing for Himself a holy and beautiful bride.

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. {Matt 10:39}

But when we ourselves become refined like silver to the glory of God, the transformation pays back what has been lost or owed. We are not yet “gold”; that awaits the restoration of all things. On this side of heaven, the closest we become is silvered. We gain this gleam from walking with the God who walks with us, and giving Him back the glory and the praise. Our silvering reflects him to a world much in need of reflection. {Carolyn Weber, in Holy is the Day}

God has been faithful every step of the way–through every beautiful and hard moment of 2016. What a joy it has been to see his love and care for us–His perfect {and sometimes unexpected} provision and his abundant grace! I don’t know what 2017 will hold, but I can march forward without fear or angst because our times are in His hands, and He has proven time and again that He is good.

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. {Corrie Ten Boom}

One thought on “Reflections on 2016

  1. I love your writing Sarah and always feel like you can write what my heart is feeling but I haven’t really processed! This has been a hard but good year for us and we too are in the ministry trenches. Thank you for posting, for your words and scriptures and quotes! To a new year and the continued refinement and hope that each day brings!

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