For years now I have been remarking about how fast time flies. As every year would draw to its close I would wonder where it went and how it got by so quickly. This past year has not been like that. For the first time in too long to remember I feel like the year was incredibly long. Sadly, it wasn't long in that happy-kid-on-summer-vacation way. It was more along the lines of "Wow, has it only been six...nine...eleven months since January? It feels more like three years! So much has happened!" Some years have been such that I've been glad when they came to a close because I was hopeful that the next year would be better. This past year has been so hard, and has so many unresolved issues that I'm sorry to say I don't have the hopefulness that I should.
Early in the year we were under a lot of stress due to a difficult situation over which we had no control. We were in the end stages of the situation and were waiting to see if it would conclude in a peaceful manner. Then there was the passing of my husband's grandmother, which proved to be a lingering one. We are thankful to know that she is safe in the arms of Jesus, but it was a sad situation. Our pastor retired this year. He had been at the church for many years, so it was bound to be a big change. (The church did call a new pastor who is supposed to come in January.) Some family moved away, as I mentioned in an earlier post, and there were some deep emotions involved with that. We had a flea outbreak that involved a lot of active effort to control it. We've had some health difficulties. In particular, I've had a considerable amount of stomach trouble and worsening food intolerance, as well as other health issues.
After my optometrist discovered my optic nerve is swollen in a routine eye examine in February, and after a couple tests, I was diagnosed with Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension - elevated pressure in the spinal fluid which is also in the brain and so causes symptoms that mimic a brain tumor. Because I have a swollen optic nerve, avoiding treatment was not an option because there is a risk of losing or permanently damaging my sight. Not a happy thought. The medication I'm taking that is supposed to help reduce the pressure has caused difficult side-effects which have been very disruptive to normal living at times. We're still trying to find a balance where my body will tolerate the medication and the symptoms of IIH will continue to reduce - because, thank the LORD! - the optometrist said during a recent exam that there is improvement in the swelling!
But thanks to this condition and pre-menopause, I've added some new experiences to my list. One is seeing a neurologist (for the IIH). Then there were four significant tests I had that were new to me - two of which were an MRI and a lumbar puncture (the latter included complications from the sedation they gave me that were quite unpleasant.) Some people would think this was not a big deal, but when you have to manage an anxiety disorder and you have claustrophobia, it gets a little more intense. The Lord was so kind. Some of the people who have helped me have been great. In one situation we had some much needed comic relief which unfortunately I can't share with you here. ahem. Suffice to say it was one of those laugh or cry situations where you choose to laugh so you don't cry!
Then there was a complication of buying a new-to-us vehicle this year, and the place we chose to buy from was a good hour's ride away. You know, right when I was having increased difficulties in getting out to do even simple things. But, thank the Lord again, we found a vehicle that works for us in what was actually a short time. It just felt long. We wanted a car but ended up with a large pick-up truck (Ford F150) because I needed comfortable seats for traveling any distance and the truck had the best seats of the things we looked at. We like the truck very well, but it has a strange smell in the air conditioner/heater. It started out smelling like cow manure (maybe from a ranch?) but has gotten worse and now smells more like a mix of tobacco and mold. (I'll leave to do your own thinking on that progression.) Cow manure smells I'm used to, there's a ranch across the street from us; but tobacco and mold are kind of - blech. One thing that's worse is perfume, and we had to turn down more than one vehicle because of that!
My mom also had knee replacement surgery this year. The surgery and the physical recovery went remarkably well (Thank God!), but she suffered from hallucinations and delirium for a couple days which was quite unsettling. She has had some other challenges this year as well.
My brother and sister-in-law have had their house up for sale for months, and after a long drawn out effort on the part of one family, they still didn't sell it. So, that one is still hanging.
We've had friends go through some really, really hard experiences this year. I mean the kind of things that just make you feel sick for them. You pray and you wonder and you hope, and in one case it just never seems to end. One lady's grandfather died at the end of the year on top of everything else they've been through. And, among other things, my husband's grandmother passed away this year after a long downward turn; and two valued friends from my family's past also passed away.
Then there were some situations where people chose life paths that are hard to believe and you pray and you (try to) hope, and wait to see how it turns out. And, you wonder what you can do and you feel helpless and sometimes afraid.
I tried my hand at a new writing direction this year which was exciting in ways, but is still very daunting and I'm not at all sure I'll go on with it. Maybe it was that, maybe it was something else, but I've struggled sometimes this year with writing, and with feeling productive both in that and many other areas of life. This is a bit odd when I look back and consider how much I actually got done in the way of writing (and other things). But, there it is. (Aspiring writers, you are not the only ones who feel this! I have been writing for around 20 years now and I still feel it pretty badly at times.)
There are other things. The orbiting smaller dramas that always accompany larger ones and make the stress worse. A HORRIBLE election cycle which is still bothersome and which we won't discuss. A stomach bug that took weeks to recover from. And then there are things I can't even remember now because there was so much; plus all the usual scum of life and the struggles to keep up with things and to keep moving in the right direction and to not give up. Ah!
Sometimes things are pruned away that we feel like we can't live without, and it's hard. Really hard. And it hurts. A lot sometimes. But we survived. By the grace of God.
And, then there's God. The wonderful, compassionate, almighty God who spoke all creation into existence and upholds all things by the word of His power. The God who is interested in each of our lives at a personal and daily level. The God who controls all the powers of this world.
Isaiah 45:18 For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.
Isaiah 45:22-24 Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed.
Hebrews 1:1-3 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
And there are the lessons. The things the Lord uses to change how we live and think. The understanding that we get from those experiences that we would not have chosen. The new tools we gain for our work for Him, things to carry with us through life and use again and again. Important things to remember.
2 Corinthians 1:3-6 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.
2 Peter 1:5-8 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And there are the new things and people that God brings along to help us over some hurdle just when we really needed it. And, when one person goes or changes or stops, He often sends someone else along who will bring something into our lives that we really needed, who will show us something new or expand our thinking in ways we didn't know were necessary.
2 Corinthians 7:6-7 Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus; And not by his coming only, but by the consolation wherewith he was comforted in you, when he told us your earnest desire, your mourning, your fervent mind toward me; so that I rejoiced the more.
And there's the blessings and encouragements and the little every day miracles by which He says, "I love you, and I'm still here, and I know what's going on - even when you don't." The balancing of burdens and blessings to keep us from getting lopsided.
Psalms 86:17 Shew me a token for good; that they which hate me may see it, and be ashamed: because thou, LORD, hast holpen me, and comforted me.
James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
And there's the scripture which gives us a strong foundation and something by which to measure ourselves, other's experiences and choices, and the issues of life. There is that safe haven of knowing that this isn't about us, which somehow makes it so much better!
James 1:23-25 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
Psalms 19:7-11 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.
And then there IS hope. Not the empty, silly hope in a man or woman, or politics, or activism, or churchiosity, or any of the the things of this earth. But, the anchor of hope in Jesus Christ who is both steadfast and sure. The hope of better things to come - especially the hope of seeing the Lord Himself one day. And the hope and peace of knowing that God's mercies and compassions are new every morning and His faithfulness is great.
Hebrews 6:17-20 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
1 John 3:2-3 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.
Lamentations 3:22-23 It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
New Every MorningYea, "new every morning," though we may awake,
Our hearts with old sorrow beginning to ache;
With old work unfinished when night stayed our hand,
With new duties waiting, unknown and unplanned;
With old care still pressing, to fret and to vex,
With new problems rising, ours minds to perplex;
In ways long familiar, in paths yet untrod,
Oh, new every morning the mercies of God!
His faithfulness fails not; it meets each new day
With guidance for every new step of the way;
New grace for new trials, new trust for old fears,
New patience for bearing the wrongs of the years,
New strength for new burdens, new courage for old,
New faith for whatever the day may unfold;
As fresh for each need as the dew on the sod;
Oh, new every morning the mercies of God!
By Annie Johnson Flint