Thoughts from Abbey Nash

Finding Blessings in a Challenging Year

My friend gave me a journal for Christmas. It’s a new kind of journal–one that seems to be trending lately. Rather than writing out pages upon pages that detail your day, you instead write a one line summary. The next night, you do the same thing, and so on, for the rest of the year. The idea is that when this date comes along next year, you’ll have a one sentence reminder of what happened on this very day one year prior.

Kind of like FB memories, but for us pen and paper types.

Earlier this week, with 2019 drawing to a close and the first day of a new job ahead of me, I was looking forward to my first entry, January 1st, 2020. But on New Years Eve, I found myself planning (a full day ahead of time) what I was going to write, based entirely on the kind of day I HOPED to have.

Would we go for a hike as a family? Maybe–except my kids hate hiking and would probably whine the entire time.

Would we grin and bear the obscene ticket cost for an hour in the confetti-filled Candytopia? Probably not–my husband would whine the entire time.

So then what I would write? That I exercised? That I walked the dog? That I read by the fire?

These day to day activities are hardly first-journal-entry-worthy.

And even worse–what if something bad happened? What if someone got in a car accident? What if my epilepsy medicine suddenly stopped working and I had a seizure after seven months of freedom? That would be a super fun thing to remember a year from now.

Suddenly, I found myself consumed by anxiety about this sweet gift from my friend. Any entry, I realized, would be a record (in my own hand) of a “good” or “bad” day, and cumulatively, a “good” or “bad” year.

No pressure or anything.

If I was in the business of putting these kinds of labels on years, then the past two would be considered pretty rough for my family. We’ve faced health crisis, job loss, and wellness challenges with our children. If I had been keeping this kind of journal then, it would no doubt mention multiple seizures, the day my husband was let go without warning, or the nights my daughter cried herself to sleep.

Recently, I heard someone say that these types of challenges are spiritual “tests”–that God wants to know if our faith will waver, even now, even with this.

If that’s true, than I failed. There were times over the last two years when God and I were definitely not very good friends. I have cried, sworn, and in my worst moments, even asked God to take His crap and dump it on someone else because I’d already had enough.

And yet.

Through the events of the past two years, I’ve come to believe in a God that can handle anything I throw at Him–a God who doesn’t create challenges for us but who walks with us through them. A God who gently guides us at times and who carries us at others.

If I’m being honest, I’ll tell you that I sure wouldn’t choose another year like 2018. But no amount of resolution is going to change whatever’s ahead. This journal may very well hold entries about seizures, pain, and sorrow. But it may also hold entries about walks with my dog, books by the fire, and quiet nights at home with my girls.

None of it’s “good,” and none of it’s “bad.” It all just…is.

Because here’s the thing:

Over the last two years of challenge, my family has been given unimaginable blessings. Our marriage has grown stronger. Our family has grown closer. My faith and courage have grown to the point that I’m willing to accept opportunities and pursue my dreams in a way I never would’ve dared before.

I’m not going to tell you that these “good” things wouldn’t have happened without the “bad” things (even though it’s true). I know what pollyanna feels like when you’re sitting in the dark. But I will tell you this:

Life is both. It’s blessed, and it is broken. All of the time.

Holding this tender truth allows me to be present to the holiness of normal. It allows me to remember that no matter what happens, I am always loved, and I am never alone.

Whatever the year ahead holds, God lives there, too.