I blinked, two months flew by, and suddenly we were in the month of December. Um, how did that happen?!
So much has transpired in the past few months. When I reflect on this year actually, I am pretty astonished at all that’s unfolded. Through the good, the bad, the ugly, the sad, the amazing: I can say I’ve seen God’s hand and His mercy at EVERY turn.
I’ll be honest and say that this year I haven’t been in a particularly Christmas-y mood. With the hustle and bustle of life, I’ve really been looking forward to the AFTER Christmas. The time where things get to slow down a bit and life takes its deep breath. So here I am, left to reflect on this year and what better way than to write about what I feel this year has taught me so far?
What 2017 taught me:
1. God is faithful.
When I can’t see what’s in front of me, I can trust that He has my back. When I don’t know what the next day will bring, I can trust that the author of my days has my life in the palm of His hand.
‘The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.’ Lamentations 3:22-23
2. My joy doesn’t depend on my circumstances.
There were parts of this year that flat out stunk! I’ll be honest. I found myself putting my joy in people, material possessions, wealth, career, etc. If any of those things faltered or failed, there went my joy right out of the window. God taught me that my joy isn’t dependent on whether or not I’m crushing every aspect of life or whether I can’t see the next step in front of me. This is my prayer for myself and for you!
‘I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.’ Romans 15:13
3. I can be happy with little. I can be happy with a lot. I’m not defined by what I have or don’t have.
I really struggled with this! When finances were tight I felt like my joy was threatened. My husband is in a profession that can fluctuate at times. When business was great I felt like I was slaying life, but I found it hard to be happy when things were slow or I had to stick to a tight budget. God REALLY challenged me this year on that and I felt like He was asking me to put my hope and trust in Him and not material possessions. For the better part of the year, I fought Him on this kicking and screaming. “It’s not fair…” I would think or “Okay God, I get that you’re trying to teach me something…can I have an A on this and move on?” I would think. The answer to that was a resounding NO. The secret was found in this verse:
‘Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. ‘ Philippians 4:11-13
4. good friendship should be cherished.
The past few years and as I entered my 30s I think I recognize more and more what a gift true friendship is. I have had the blessing of experiencing this through a few people and a few solid woman who are like sisters to me. I have had people I thought were friends pass through or walk alongside me for a season and then be gone for the next. This has taught me that good friendship is worth holding on to and that if it’s a meaningful friendship, BOTH sides will hold on to it for dear life. If not, thank God for the season that He allowed them to be in your life and move on.
5. Hard circumstances will bring you and your spouse closer if you let it.
The harder things got, I think the closer Jose and I clung to each other. When you’re walking through things that are challenging, it can be super easy to turn on each other. My advice is this: don’t. Turn TO each other. Share. Vent. Encourage. Strengthen. Be real, honest, and open. Holding things in will do good for no one in the relationship. Whenever I felt like I just wanted to cry or scream, I would sit with Jose and tell him.
Sometimes I felt really bad because I didn’t want to make him feel bad (especially if it related to a financial stress or something like that) but at the same time, I didn’t want to carry my burdens alone. I found that we’ve endured a lot together that could have destroyed us. We’ve endured things that some couples divorce over (infertility, family issues, sick children, job loss, etc.) but I think the only difference has been the fact that Jesus matters so much to us and we want to live a life that pleases Him and we have true love for each other. I know that I can be honest with him and he’ll hear me and vice versa.
6. being busy for god doesn’t substitute an actual relationship with god.
People love to talk about how busy they are. I do it sometimes! I’ve even whipped out the good ol’ Google Calendar for people who think I’m being flaky or trying to avoid hanging with them. I’ve also found that being involved in ministry, it’s ridiculously easy to get so involved in the ministry that you actually neglect your relationship with God. Busyness is not a substitute for authentic communion. Also, I have nothing to offer if I’m empty and haven’t spent time with the Lord or in the word. Relationship is everything.
7. be present.
In the age of cell phone technology, it’s super easy to replace actual conversation and true blue communication with it…IT’S NOT THE SAME. If you’re hanging out with friends, actually hang out with friends! This is a work in process but I do try to make sure that when I’m talking with someone, my phone is away or on the side and that I can learn to actually be present and in the moment and enjoy that person and that moment for what it is. Be present in the moment.
8. godly counsel will save you from a lot of headaches.
I learned that if I’m going to make any major life decisions my process should look like this: pray about it, speak and pray with my spouse about it, talk to Godly leaders and pray about it. I’ve written about it before. Talking to people we trust about some of our big decisions has saved us some serious heartache! For example, this year Jose got a job opportunity we weren’t sure about. On the surface, it looked like a great opportunity and a great fit but we lacked a complete peace about it. We spoke to our Pastor and he confirmed how we felt about it by just pointing out some valid practical points about this whole thing. We passed it over and God ended up bringing some awesome things our way that were a billion times better than the opportunity was.
9. parenting gets better and better.
They say it doesn’t get easier. To that I say, yes it does in a lot of ways. I enjoy each year more than the last and each age has something special but I really love the older the boys are getting and how our family dynamic is changing! IT’S SO FUN!!!
10. the best is ahead of me.
‘That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”’ 1 Corinthians 2:9
More than anything, I know the best is ahead of me. I don’t say that as a cheesy quote and I’m not saying that I expect life to go perfectly and for everything to go in my way. As a Christian, I feel like we always come out with hope and victory because our life is rooted in JESUS. Nothing can take this away from me and for that, I know my best days are ahead.
These are just some of the few things that 2017 taught me! I wish you an incredibly joyful Christmas! BE IN THE MOMENT! Enjoy time with your family!
The Lopez Squad