I am not what you would call a person who lives in a perpetual state of optimism. I am in fact a realist. Not a downer, for those of you optimists who don’t know the difference. I’ve experienced enough life to know that life isn’t necessarily smooth and easy. Quite the opposite, actually. Jesus confirmed this one, so you can take his word for it (John 16:33).
So, I have to be honest with you. I’ve seen a lot of people sharing posts on social media about all the good things this year, how there’s so much to be grateful for, and come on guys, be thankful! And you know what? It made me mad. Their cheery dispositions and calls to rejoice felt like salt in my wounds. Because I’m still grieving. Seeing all these happy grateful people made me wonder, Am I not allowed to still feel sad? Do I have to forget about all the hard things we’ve endured this year? Can I grieve these things in my life that God is calling me to continue to endure?
I’m writing more about that in my newsletter this month (you can sign up to receive a copy here), but for now, I want to share with you how God changed my heart in the past two weeks.
And I have Laura Wifler to thank. She posted a photo a couple of weeks ago, and attached a hashtag to it: #2020goodlist. At first I couldn’t participate. I wanted to. I know a lot of good has happened, and I’ve seen the gifts in this year on multiple occasions. But I just wasn’t feeling it. We were in the midst of some challenging circumstances (not at all Covid related) and there was no end in sight.
But. There’s always a but, right? As a Christian, I’m not allowed to choose whether or not I will look for goodness. I even wrote an article about God’s goodness not that long ago, so I know God is good. I believe it to be true. I’ve tasted his goodness and it has indeed changed me. Daily. We are called to rejoice, even when life is dark and bleak.
Not in our circumstances. I don’t have to be excited that my daughter needs surgery, my friend gets Covid, or we almost lost our son this spring. No, I rejoice because my hope is set on something greater than this life. I rejoice in what awaits me on that day when Jesus returns and my faith is made is sight.
Because of the eternal realities awaiting me, I can feel the weight of the hard things in life, grieve them, and be sad. And then, I can say with a resounding Hallelujah, there are indeed good things. Right now. Right here. In this.
It took a few days of wrestling, honest prayer, tears, and reading my Bible, but the Lord moved my heart away from tasting the bitter prick of my circumstances to delighting in his goodness toward me. Yes, ultimately the goodness I have in Christ. But there’s also a lot of goodness in my actual, day-to-day, 2020 life.
So, here is my #2020goodlist.
On the top of my list: God preserved our son. When we thought our son was dead in a horrific choking accident, I watched my husband literally breathe life back into our little boy. I couldn’t be more grateful. God didn’t have to save our son, but he did.
Our youngest daughter emerged from her bad sleeping habits and we now consistently get a full night of sleep.
We welcomed Bradely home safely from two deployments. Our children handled his absence beautifully, and I could not be more grateful for the way God sustained us.
Our home has not needed any major repairs. For a 1940’s home, this is miraculous.
My hydrangea bushes bloomed from June through September, the longest season yet. I learned lessons from their growth, their beauty, and then through pruning them at the end of the season. What a blessing that God uses his creation to teach us how to walk with him.
We moved the raised beds to the other side of the backyard, and they produced an abundance of tomatoes. I got to eat cheese and tomato sandwiches almost every day, all summer long.
Through two deployments, our marriage grew stronger. Grace, this is nothing short of grace.
We accomplished 75 days of homeschool.
I had the privilege of contributing to my friend Abbey Wedgeworth’s book, Held: 31 Biblical Reflections on God’s Comfort and Care in the Sorrow of Miscarriage. I wrote several times for Well Watered Women, and even had a face-to-face (via Zoom) conversation with an Editor at a Publishing company about some potential writing projects. God was so kind to provide these bits of encouragement in my writing life.
We had an unexpected week-long vacation at the beach with my parents, sisters, and their families.
Our backyard was the perfect haven for months of staying at home. Everyone used the big swing, we played soccer as a family, Mason improved his basketball skills, and we chatted with neighbors around the fire pit.
We’ve shifted ministry around at our church due to Covid, so instead of community groups this year, we’re doing small groups. Mine meets on my front porch, and it has been the biggest blessing. I’ve even made a new friend. She showed up on the coldest night of December, at 8pm, not knowing me or anyone else who would be there. I can’t tell you how much her willingness to jump into community, three weeks after moving to town, in the midst of a pandemic blessed my soul. We need Christian fellowship, friends. I hope you’re doing whatever it takes to engage in it these days.
I read close to 50 books. Most of them challenged, informed, or stretched my knowledge of Christ.
We mailed Christmas cards for the first time since 2013. Truly, it’s a Christmas miracle.
I read through the Bible this fall, using these journals, and now I have one sentence written for every chapter of the Bible. It was one of the biggest blessings of the year.
Making a good list doesn’t erase our hardship. And, really, these good things aren’t ultimate things. But, I want to leave you with a quote from Nancy Guthrie’s book God Does His Best Work With Empty, because she summarized well what I needed to hear.
Here’s what she says about the teacher’s words in Ecclesiastes:
“[He] seems to want us to loosen our grip on ‘life as we dreamed it would be’ so that we can take hold of ‘life as it is’ and really enjoy it. He wants us to enjoy a delicious meal, a funny joke, a job well done, and the company of a good friend. He wants us to enjoy God’s presence with us in the mundane, the ordinary, even the uncomfortable. He wants us to stop chasing the wind thinking that we will finally be happy when we get married, or get a promotion, or retire, or have children, or get our children raised. He wants us to learn to savor the simple pleasures of the life we have now.”
We’re meant to enjoy what God gives us in this life. We recognize they are gifts from him and we rejoice in his goodness.
There are indeed good things because we have a good God