I have never been so ready for a year to end - 2014 has been a really tough year. I hate to even say that, because it sounds so trivial compared to what others have gone through. I didn’t lose my husband to pancreatic cancer. I didn’t lose my little girl to a brain tumor. There were no major tragedies in my life – my family is healthy, we have enough to eat, and we continue to serve our God in this place He has called us.
Still, 2014 was a tough year. From struggling relationships where I have tried to figure out where I have gone wrong, to difficulty processing things happening in our extended families, to difficulty processing the deaths of Precious, Jeff, Dr. Bob, and a little girl named Amanda, to the constant goodbyes that come with missionary life, to the fact that I haven’t seen my mom or dad once in 2014, to sometimes feeling forgotten, to trying to hold up to the constant pressure involved in running a non-profit organization….the list could go on.
I have found my plate so full this past year that I have had to back away from many things – I have backed away from our volunteer program, I have backed away from things that don’t really need my “leadership”, and I have caught myself backing away from people. “Please don’t need something from me,” I have found myself thinking. “I just don’t have anything else to give.”
I have really tried to process through things this past month, because I don’t want to live through another year like 2014. I came back to Zambia this past January with one word on my heart – GRACE. I wanted to strive this year to show grace to others – to not be so judgmental, to give people room to make mistakes, and to show kindness to anyone I encountered. I think I did ok in the grace department – not perfectly, but I feel like I really TRIED to offer grace. The number one thing I learned is that if you take the time to get to know someone’s heart, you don’t have to work to show grace – it flows out of you.
Where I have struggled, however, has been with JOY. I have had a hard time finding joy despite my circumstances. I didn’t find joy in the vehicle breakdowns, in Precious’s death, when relationships were hard, when the power was out, when our house was overrun with spiders – I saw no joy.
This past month, however, I feel like I have gotten a recharge. First, I read a book called A Thousand Times Yes by Wana Ann Fort. The Fort family was some of the pioneer missionaries in Zimbabwe, and reading her book and her experiences reminded me of why God has called me to this land, to this people, to these orphans. Secondly, I have been doing a Bible study on Nehemiah by Kelly Minter. I have had this Bible study for a while but just never got around to doing it. I opened it, expecting to learn more about Nehemiah and his call to rebuild the wall for his people. Instead, I have learned about relationships, about pressing on when struggles around us seem so unfair, and about choosing joy.
“If we have a vacation on the books, we have joy. If the promotion happens, the dress fits, the boy calls, well then…joy! We look for little pockets of happiness to sustain us like quarters being popped into our joy meters – which are always ticking, always gobbling up whatever we just fed them. True joy is different. Unencumbered, uncomplicated joy needs nothing but the presence of Christ to light its wick in our hearts. Joy frees us from having to constantly feed the meter with our next big plan, pleasure, or purchase.” – Kelly Minter, Nehemiah
So this coming year, in 2015, I choose true joy. Joy amidst the trials, joy when I don’t feel it, joy when life seems unfair. What do you choose?