This morning I made a list.
It wasn’t a list of goals or dreams. It wasn’t a list of things I want to improve in 2023. It wasn’t even my usual practice of a list of items that needed attention this weekend. My tendency is to forget the good and remember the bad, so I put pen to paper and listed the things I loved about our holiday season. Amid the challenges, and there are always challenges, there were some truly beautiful moments that I don’t want to forget.
As the list grew longer, I realized that we are starting off the year from a place of abundance! When my eyes are on my problems, I’m blind to my blessings. If nothing else changes in my life this year, I’ll keep on remembering the goodness of God. I never want to be dismissive of my own difficulties, burying my head in the sand on things that grieve me. My hope is always that I would learn to hold the two in tension: deep sorrow and inexplicable joy. One does not negate the other. In fact, the deepest sorrows of my life remind me that I have a joy that cannot be taken away, a joy that will last forever, a joy that only Jesus can give.
Fast forward a few days. I’ve stashed the Old Year List away now in a bin of ornaments so when the time comes to decorate again, I’ll remember. More and more, I find I need the intentional reminders of the things that matter most so as I carefully packed up our baubles this year, I decided to leave one ornament out: an unfinished slice of a thick branch with the word JOY in black.
A bright and hopeful word burned with a 900 degree pyrography wand into a small disc of cream-coloured wood. It hangs at eye level in a common room, so that every single day I have a reminder that true joy comes with a cost. This little decoration was once a living branch full of buds and leaves and although it has changed shape and been marred by fire, it has a new kind of simple beauty that touches my heart.
Nothing stays the same, does it?
This is my eighteenth year of keeping a blog. I’ve been plodding away at this for nearly two decades, fully aware that social media has now become the preferred method of sharing bite-sized pieces of one’s life, but unwilling to let go of this long-form personal web log of snapshots of my life thus far. When I first put my fingers on a keyboard to write out my feelings, social media was just a baby.
So why, in 2023, am I still doing this?
Why don’t I move everything over to the interactive spaces that will grow my platform and prove my worth as a writer to any publisher I aspire to impress one day?
Perhaps it’s because I’m satisfied with a simple journal of sorts, one that that does not require membership and login information to read. Maybe deep down, I know that the process of turning a hobby into a career is a long, arduous, time-consuming venture that my current season of life has no space for. Most likely it’s because I know that one day I will be gone, but my voice will remain in these words for my loved ones to return to from time to time.
May they know the inexplicable joy that comes from trusting in Jesus, even when sorrows like sea billows roll.
Whatever my lot, You have taught me to say: it is well with my soul.
That’s true joy.
(Horatio Spafford, “It is Well With My Soul”, 1873)
Image: Negative Space/Stocksnap