Usually, I love New Year’s. I love the new calendar, the planning, the goal-setting, and the feel of a fresh start. I love re-committing to everything and thinking about how amazing it will feel when I finally do all the big things this year I ever wanted to do: write my book! Run a marathon! Be a better mom, wife, friend! THIS IS THE YEAR! I will finally be and have it all. (Because, you know, that’s possible).
This year feels a little different. There are a few things in life I just couldn’t make happen this year. Calling them disappointments would be a strong way of saying it, but all in all, I had some unrealized dreams and resolutions that have left me feeling a little half-baked. I maybe even disappointed myself a little bit by how I approached a few things. I am sure I’m not the only one.
Don’t get me wrong. My life is beautiful and amazing and I am grateful for every ounce of it. But that doesn’t mean there are also times I feel like unaccomplished, frustrated, and wondering what I am doing wrong. Why didn’t I get more done? Accomplish more? Get more gold stars on my little non-existent checklist that says I am rocking at life?
Here’s the thing: we always feel like with God on our side, we can do anything! We can have it all, do it all, be it all because God is with us. If we pray hard enough, try hard enough, work hard enough, life will all come together how we want. Then when it doesn’t, or when people or circumstances get in our way, we look at Him accusingly.
Yes, God is with us. But He never promises to help us do all that. Most of what the Bible tells us is that the process of following and trusting God and living a fulfilling life is typically a slow, tedious process that leaves most people feeling like me: a little half-baked, a little frustrated, and a little “am I even doing this right?”
The Scripture I read today not only described how I felt but promised it will get better if I remain faithful and filled with gratitude. In the Old Testament, God saved the Israelites from slavery. They watched Him close an ocean over their enemies. They followed His pillar of fire to freedom. They ended up wandering in a desert where God sent food from heaven (literally straight from heaven) to their feet to eat. He made water flow straight from rocks. Miracle after miracle kept them alive in that desert. And what couldn’t they stop thinking about?
“We are in a freaking desert!”
And just like that, they forgot every single miracle and became angry with the Lord. They forgot He kept them alive. They forget that He kept their “clothes from wearing out and their feet from swelling (Deuteronomy 8:4)” during those long forty years in the desert.
Right in the middle of His providing, they got mad and even wished they were back in slavery.
I always shake my head at that story. But I am also exactly like them. God saved me from an anxious and hopeless existence, and currently has me in a slow and steady season that feels a little “in between.” I guess in some ways you could call it a desert, even though, overall, it’s pretty pleasant. It’s not necessarily painful, just dry. And yet, to be alive and thriving in the desert is something to note. He has provided for me what I have needed. But instead of being thankful for that, I get mad I’m not in my Promised Land, as if we can even reach a place like that in this life. I am doubting He knows where I am and how I feel and what I want. I am feeling a little washed up, a little unsure of where I am headed.
Deuteronomy 8 is a reminder from God not to forget. It’s a reminder to trust. It’s a gentle nudge to remember that some seasons are testing us, humbling us, and seeing if we will stay faithful to Him even when it’s challenging. It’s the confirmation that life isn’t about where we are going but the journey that we are traveling and the person we are becoming. It’s a promise He’s leading us to a wonderful place of faith, wisdom, and peace. We only get that by remaining thankful and faithful through the desert seasons of life. Many good things in life only come with experience and time.
So as much as I usually love looking into the New Year at all I hope to accomplish, I feel compelled to look back on 2018, not with regret but with complete gratitude. We made it! There were really awesome days but also really hard days. I had a great attitude sometimes and other times it was complete and utter crap. I was pleasantly surprised a few times and really disappointed other times.
Basically, that’s life. And in it all? God provided. He was present. And He continues to push me into being a stronger person. Isn’t that miracle enough?
This year, I want to focus a little less on what I want to accomplish and a little more on who I am becoming. It may not be quantifiable on a New Year’s Resolution list, but it’s a more sustainable way of living (the Resolution hype can be so inspiring but so anxiety-ridden, right?). I want to retrain myself to tap into God’s fullness, peace, and joy, regardless of what season we are in.
I want to see the miracle in God’s providing, even if I am not loving the bland, same old manna. Bland or not, it’s still a complete miracle that He provides it. And I don’t ever want to forget to be thankful for that.
This is what the Lord says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43
8 Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. 2 Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. 3He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 4 Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. 5 Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.
6 Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in obedience to him and revering him. 7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; 8 a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; 9 a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.
10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day