As this year comes to a close, I can’t help but reflect on all that has happened. While some of it was hard to handle, such as my dad passing away, I am incredibly grateful for the many blessings God has provided my family and I.
I, like many others, had a pretty rough childhood. I was lucky to have family that loved me and did the best that they could but our circumstances weren’t always the best. I vividly remember watching another family load my horse into their horse trailer and drive away with her. Another little girl got my horse for Christmas and the money we got paid for bills and a very small Christmas for our family. As an eight-year-old I thought my world had ended that day. That was the same year that my biological father and mom divorced. My family was split up and now I had no horse. Little did I know, that was just the beginning of some very difficult times.
In the years ahead I would know what it’s like to struggle. I understand what it’s like to absolutely need government assistance in order to have food on the table and for that food to be egg and cheese burritos every night. We struggled to keep a roof over our heads and at times, like my 15th birthday, we were homeless. My mother tried her hardest and worked multiple jobs to try and provide for us but times were tough and we struggled to make it year after year. While some might use that as an excuse, I use that to drive me.
As I look back over those tough times in my childhood I am incredibly grateful that my kids don’t have to experience those things. I am grateful that my kids woke up this Christmas morning to a tree full of gifts from not only us but from the many family members that love them. Most importantly, I am extremely grateful that my kids are appreciative of the things they have. While they may not experience the tough times that I did as a kid, we have taught them that there are kids less fortunate. My children are grateful for what they have but also don’t hesitate to give to others. They don’t argue when I ask them to go through their toys and fill two boxes full of old (but pretty much like new) toys to give to other kids in need. To me, that’s a big win!
This year hasn’t been all happy times though. We started the year off with a major loss to the family. My Dad, technically my step-dad but to me he was just dad, had a heart attack and passed away. He was far too young and it rattled the whole family including my children. While it hurt to lose him, I will forever be grateful that my kids were able to know and love him. Through that tough time, I also learned a lot about myself, parenting and marriage. The funny thing is, my dad always had a special way of teaching me life lessons…and he continues to do so even after he’s gotten his angel wings.
I am also grateful for the healing I have experienced. While I know that I am not cured of my PTSD and anxiety, I know that I have healed more over this last year and I can’t begin to put into words how wonderful that is for my family and I. A huge part of that healing involves self-care which is something I would not have time to do if it weren’t for the amazing husband that I have. I am beyond grateful for my husband. We would not have the life we do if it weren’t for the hardworking and loving man that he is.
I could go on for days about each and everything in my life that I am grateful for as I reflect back on this year but you wouldn’t want to read that book. So, instead, I leave you with a little homework. Take these next couple of days and reflect back on this past year. Grab a piece of paper if you need to and list out the good and the bad. If it’s a difficult or tough experience then look for the good that came out of it. Allow yourself to see that while you go through tough time, you will see the light at the end of it. Use this reflection to help you this next year. When you are faced with difficulties, you can look back to this year and know that you not only made it through the tough times but maybe learned something in the process.
I’ll leave you with a few quotes from Max Lucado’s book Anxious for Nothing. (Great book by the way so click the link and get it for yourself! Totally worth the read!) Ponder these quotes as you prepare for a new year. I certainly am!
The good life begins, not when circumstances change, but when our attitude toward them does.
Gratitude is a mindful awareness of the benefits of life. It is the greatest of virtues. Studies have linked the emotion with a variety of positive effects. Grateful people tend to be more empathetic and forgiving of others. People who keep a gratitude journal are more likely to have a positive outlook on life. Grateful individuals demonstrate less envy, materialism, and self-centeredness. Gratitude improves self-esteem and enhances relationships, quality of sleep, and longevity. If it came in pill form, gratitude would be deemed the miracle cure. It’s no wonder, then that God’s anxiety therapy includes a large, delightful dollop of gratitude.
As you look at your blessings, take note of what happens. Anxiety grabs his bags and slips out the back door. Worry refuses to share the heart with gratitude. One heartfelt thank-you will suck the oxygen out of worry’s world. So say it often. Focus more on what you do have and less on what you don’t.
Rather than ponder our problems, I chose to enumerate every indication of God’s presence.
What you have in Christ is greater than anything you don’t have in life. You have God, who is crazy about you, and the forces of heaven to monitor and protect you. You have the living presence of Jesus within you. In Christ you have everything.
If that doesn’t give you hope, comfort, excitement and a grateful heart then I don’t know what will!