As you can tell by the date of my previous post, 2016 has not been a good year for my blog! However, it has been a year which we can all agree to be momentous in so many ways so I think it's worth a post, and I do hope to follow up with more regular blogging in 2017!
I know there will be many for whom this has been a wonderful year; people who got married or had children this year, people who went on exciting adventures or made significant achievements. But on the whole, it seems like 2016 was full of heartaches and shocks, so I couldn't even begin to summarise or comment on the global picture. Instead I'm going to be brave and look at my personal picture of the year and share it with anyone who might be reading (quite possibly no-one but I don't mind that!)
For me, this past year on the surface looked pretty good; there were some great camping trips, an epic holiday, a trip abroad with work, a family wedding, I trained for and completed my first triathlon, I got accepted onto and started a Masters degree, I even achieved most of my new year's resolutions (although I am still yet to complete watching the entirety of Desperate Housewives!) But under the surface, I've actually been a huge mixture of confused, stressed, lost, emotional, challenged, doubting, rebellious and a whole bunch of other emotions at various times throughout the year. I feel like pretty much every part of my life and my identity has come into question, which can be fairly exhausting and upsetting. Don't get me wrong, I haven't suffered any great sorrow or tragedy, and I am still very aware of all the wonderful things I have in my life; family, friends, mental and physical health, church, dancing, a home with a housemate who consistently blesses me, never needing to worry about having food on the table or money in the back, the list could go on. I just feel like I used to be so certain about who I was and what was important to me, but now it's a bit more blurry.
However, I know that this is a season, and although it is difficult I am assured that working these things out and asking lots of questions could be exactly the preparation I need for whatever season lies ahead. Notably, it's been a quiet season, with me not saying much to God or hearing much from Him, except for one significant thought which I am holding onto. I'm going to share it here although I can't take any credit for the words at all. They come from a book I was reading in the summer by Adrian Plass. It's actually a comedy for the most part, but there are little nuggets of truth and the extract below hit me right between the eyes:
The context is that Father John is a monk who has been speaking at a church weekend away and this is the final question and answer session before everybody goes home:
" 'Father John, I know this is a ridiculous question to ask as you're about to go, but could you just tell me - where do you think we can find the love of God?'
'Ah, you always have an easy one for me just before I push off, don't you?' he chuckled.'I am so flattered that you think I might have any answers to a question like that. Actually, Adrian, people quite often want to know this kind of thing. Where is God? How do I perceive him? Where will I actually discover the love of God for myself? There are so many answers. Music, the Bible, the natural world, prayer and worship, poppies with a small and a capital "P", romantic love, Marilyn Monroe, kindness, all those things. All good and true answers in themselves. But, as I near the end of my life, what do I believe? I believe we need the courage, the humility and the sheer will to be able to say, "The only place where I can guarantee that you will find the love of God is in me." I personally have decided to do my best to be an aid-agency for the distribution of God's love to all who need it. But I am not responsible for supplies. As I give out, so my supplies seem to be replenished and replaced, and it is in the willingness to give out that I also experience the love of God in my life.
'Adrian, please, never forget that because of this we are so deeply indebted to those we serve. They are our generous benefactors. They are making us rich. In the meantime, I'm afraid there will be no great credit attached to this role. Each of us needs to be a sort of depot. We will have a delivery door at one side and a collection counter at the other. Amid all the truly impenetrable conundrums - those mysteries that remind us how the darkest and sharpest of shadows can be thrown by the brightest of lights - it might be almost as simple and as practical as that. The wages are good, though, or so I'm told. I shall know very soon.' "
I think this is a wonderful sentiment. I really believe that the more I can understand this for myself, put it into action and share it so that others can do the same, the more answers I will have to my questions, the more I will practically grasp the love of God and the more hope I will see for 2017 and the years that follow. It's already on my heart to put this into action not only with my friends and family, but also with those we might consider more risky to love - in particular the homeless and refugees. This may just be on a small scale; chatting to and giving to homeless people I pass, supporting charities who work in these areas, writing to my MP or signing petitions when government are forming policies affecting these people. If it stops there, then I hope I can do these things with all of my heart, but my prayer for 2017 is that God will show me my full capacity to love those near to and far from me and give me boldness to step out from where I am comfortable so that I can grow into a bigger 'depot' or 'aid-agency' like Father John describes.
So here's my anthem for the year. It's not new, but I absolutely love the song and the words and I can't stop playing it! Hope you do too. Happy New Year to you all 💕