At the beginning of the year, I wrote about my hopes and prayers for it, about what I wanted to learn and how I wanted to live in 2016. You can read the full post here.
… I’ve been thinking about how there’s always something new going on, inside us and around us. I’ve been thinking about my own life, how the past year  has been a beautiful treadmill of waiting and hoping and building friendships and finding out about myself and about God. Each week with its routines, the day-to-day work, cook, clean, talk, tv, sleep (and all the other quotidian elements of my modern British life) has been a genuine blessing, a genuine affirmation of the life in me, the growth in me. So now as I look ahead to a new year, wondering what it might hold, I’m excited and curious and ready for the challenges it might throw at me too. I’m not overly worried about the fact that there may be disappointments or grief or struggle. Obviously I’d prefer not to go through those things, but I can see that God has brought me through those before and will do again. Life is always going to be hard, but it will never stop being good too, and this year I want to celebrate all that goodness, shout about it.
Now, I face my own, self-imposed challenges: to accept grief, disappointment and struggle as part of living and growing, and to look for goodness and celebrate it.
When I blithely wrote ‘I’m not overly worried about the fact that there may be disappointments’, I’m not sure that I was actually expecting disappointment. When I typed that final sentence so breezily – the one that said ‘life is always going to be hard, but it will never stop being good too’ – I think that I had forgotten how that hard stuff actually feels to live through.
I wasn’t wrong, though.
I’m going through a big disappointment at the moment, grief that scares me and a daily struggle against physical limitations. But I wasn’t wrong – God has brought me through these things before and will do again.
Life is hard – harder than I remembered when I typed that post at the start of the year, so hard that even the sweetest of things feel painful because of the stark contrast they bring. Sunshine, flowers, the way the wind moves the clouds across a bright spring sky: these things hurt a little in the face of grief. But I wasn’t wrong even when I said that life ‘will never stop being good too’. The pain doesn’t diminish the goodness of those things, it highlights them all the more.
It hurts a little bit to say ‘it is good’ when sadness surges within you, but by doing so you’re laying claim to some of that goodness. This sunshine, this is for me. These flowers, these are for me. The way the wind moves the clouds – that’s for me.
That fire in the grate, the way it flickers cosy and warm, that’s for me. That husband, strong and kind, he’s mine.
These songs – on an old CD I found, a playlist made by a friend one summer – these songs are for me, now.
I’m grieving, but wow am I blessed.
I finished that new year blog post with this prayer, and in spite of everything – or perhaps because of it, I echo it now:
Lord, life is for celebrating, especially because You are in it.
Let my days never be short of rejoicing.
All those moments when You show Yourself – every moment – help my soul turn to celebration, to lived-out joy.
Lord, this year, let me learn joy.