If I had known last December that 10 months after putting our house in Maryland on the market that it would still be sitting there, empty...would I be sitting here today? If I had known last December that we would have been making two house payments for going on 5 months now, would I be sitting here...right in the middle of where we believe God meant for our family to be?
It was about this time last year, just 2 days before Christmas, that Matt came home and turned my comfortable world, as I knew it, upside down. With thoughts toward a transition at work and a move to Virginia for our family, the coming months seemed full of uncertainty at a time when I was ready to just relax and enjoy the peacefulness and joy that this season brings. With a peace not my own, I supported Matt in his decisions surrounding his job and the move.
Now a year later, that peace seems to have at times in the last few days packed up and run as far from me as possible. I tend to be fairly laid back about most things, so the anxiety and almost panic-like symptoms that have gripped me at the most random of times make me frustrated with myself when I can't just "talk myself out of it" or just decide to not let what I'm feeling have a physical effect on me. The pain and tightness that seem to grab hold of my heart and squeeze relentlessly make me feel out of control. I don't want to ever pretend like I have all the answers (or ANY for that matter!) or that it's ever easy to just simply make the choice to trust...if these past few days have taught me anything, it's that I am as vulnerable to completely losing it as I ever was. However, I have to say, attitude and my choice to view things in light of how I'm so very blessed, even amidst difficult circumstance, makes all the difference in the world. I remember last Christmas my father-in-law reading an excerpt from a book that talked about an "attitude of gratitude". I have many times in this past year reflected on that idea and seen how God's faithfulness is always evident when we choose to see our circumstance through His promise to give us a future and a hope. "'For I know the plans I have for you', declares the Lord, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'" (Jeremiah 29:11)
If someone had told me, many years ago when Matt first broached the idea of moving to Lynchburg, that I would be living there today and absolutely filled to the brim with excitement over being there, the love for this place as deeply rooted in my own heart as it was his, I would have told that someone that they were certifiably insane and to go tell their tall tales elsewhere! Yet here I sit...in love with the city that the name of which literally used to make my blood boil everytime it would cross my husband's lips. I'd like to say that back then I had prayed for God to change my heart to be united with the dreams of the man whom God had given me. I did not. I prayed instead that God would work in Matt and remind him that I was staying put! And that when Matt did come to his senses, I'd be able to forgive him and put all these hair-brained ideas behind us. :-) How grateful I am that God instead worked on my own heart, even while I was trying my best to selfishly stamp out any thought of a desire other than my own. He proved Himself faithful, even when He shouldn't have had to, that if He had a plan other than my own, He would change my own heart's desires to reflect His own, enabling me to be more blessed than was ever possible in my limited view of what I wanted. "Trust in the Lord, and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it." (Psalm 37:3-5)
Right now the desire of my heart is for our house in Maryland to sell. The stress of it sometimes overwhelms me. Its never fun to feel like you're being stretched to your limit with no view of, or plan for relief in sight. I have no earthly idea why God would have allowed this financial burden to have continued to this point. Or why other desires He has placed so deep in our hearts have to, as a result, be put on hold. But what I do know, what I cling to, is that He IS faithful. "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful." (Hebrews 10:23) I am blessed beyond measure. His changing of my heart in this one instance is only one of hundreds that I could testify to if I choose to reflect on His blessings instead of circumstance that can at times overwhelm and threaten to steal my joy. "Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus...Faithful is He who calls you..." (I Thessalonians 5:16-18, 24)
"You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fulness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." (Psalm 16:11) Matt read this verse last week in our family devotional time and it caused me to reflect on the journey that our family has been on, for years really. The path has at times been a winding one, far from direct and it has sometimes been difficult to see just where we're headed through the shadows that loom across the path in places. At other times it has felt as if we're wandering without a clear purpose. Then there have been times when God has given such a clear vision of where we're headed that it's been easy to tie up our laces and run head on into where He's leading, only to be stopped short by an unexpected detour. Through it all God has been faithful to continue to reveal the path to us, sometimes in just inches at a time. I can honestly say though, as I reflect on this past year in particular, that we have found "fulness of joy" and "pleasures forevermore"...in a plan not of my own, but of His design for our lives to be ones of abundant joy.
In this season which gives us so many opportunities to reflect on the great Gift that has been given, I urge you to choose gratitude and joy over distress and darkness. At the suggestion of my brother-in-law, as a way to unite our family while we look forward to being together over Christmas, I've been reading thru a series of Advent devotionals entitled "Journey to the Manger". While I must admit that I have hurriedly read thru some to just keep up with the days, this one in particular struck me as it spoke to the perspective I was desperate to regain in my moments of anxiety in the past few days. To give credit where credit is due, this particular one was written by Peter Kuzmic and reflects on the words in Isaiah 9:1-7.
"But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them. Thou shalt multiply the nation, Thou shalt increase their gladness; They will be glad in Thy presence as with the gladness of harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For Thou shalt break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders. The rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian. For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult, and cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire. For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over His kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this." (Isaiah 9:1-7)
"Isaiah saw more than he could fully grasp, for his own boundaries of understanding were transcended by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Apart from the divine light, people live in 'distress and darkness' (Isaiah 8:22 and 9:2), but the great prophetic insight is that God is willing and capable of changing our human circumstances and transforming the situation by replacing the 'shadow of death' with the 'dawning of light' (9:2). The coming of light brings with it much joy and abundance (9:3). Light, joy and abundance speak of freedom from oppression. The ultimate deliverance comes with the birth of a saving ruler, the Son of God. Royal titles ascribed to this 'light and child/son' clearly point to his deity (9:6). He is the source of all wisdom and power, fatherly love and is the ultimate peacemaker. The final result of his deliverance and rule is harmony of peace and justice. Just what our world needs!"
...and just what I needed. <3 May this Christmas be one in which you revel in the greatest Gift ever given, the only Gift capable of making our joy full beyond measure, regardless of circumstance. Merry Christmas, indeed!