When you don't even know which way is forward
Sure, I've come to expect Christmas to feel bittersweet. We spend the autumn months anticipating the hubbub of the holidays. We brace ourselves for the social gatherings, reminders to be happy, unfulfilled traditions, and the constant feeling that someone is missing. Over the last two holiday seasons, I've discovered just how much joy and sorrow intermingle at Christmas--and have gained a better understanding of why that little babe in the manger came to offer hope to a world in darkness.
Then comes New Year's. The holiday most of us don't prepare for. I've said it myself and heard the same thought echoed by many of my fellow mamas-in-loss this year; entering a new year was unexpectedly harder than Christmas.
Perhaps it's because entering a new year makes us feel even further from the day that we last held our child. Part of it for me was the loss of the ability to say, "Last year..." With that, perhaps I feel the societal pressure to be okay with everything that happened now that the story begins with "Two years ago..."
For me, the biggest struggle has been the realization of how fast time is moving forward and how out of control I feel. I love a well crafted plan. I love timelines and the way that everything points toward a specific goal. I love seeing a good plan come together. Yet, I don't know what 2017 will hold. I see the announcements all across social media of what 2017 will bring: a wedding, a big move, a new career, a new family member, a new lifestyle, an education. I try to imagine my own big plans for 2017 and I can't even begin to predict it.
The world is moving full speed ahead, while I'm still trying to figure out which way is forward.
About a week ago I told my husband, "I feel so out of control." He said something so wise and so encouraging; something I've always known, but wasn't truly grasping before that moment.
"We've always been out of control--We just realize it now."
Wow. Talk about truth hitting you when you really needed to hear it.
I've never been in control. Sure, we can make plans. I don't think there is anything wrong with that. In fact, I think it's wise to count the cost of a decision and make preparations toward attaining a goal. Go ahead and set goals, and make steps to reach those goals! (Luke 14:28 "For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?"-Jesus)
Yet at the same time, I also think that it's wise to hold our plans with an open palm. Ultimately, we aren't the ones in control. Sometimes, our plans are thwarted in ways that are beyond our control. Sometimes we can have the most well thought out, beautifully crafted plan, all wrapped up in a pretty gold bow...and then life happens and throws us off track. Sometimes we face hurdles toward achieving our goals. Sometimes we sit down to count the cost and realize that we don't have the means at this time. Sometimes it's our health. Sometimes it's our finances. Sometimes it's an unforeseen emergency.
So back to 2017. I'm hopeful for a year that terrifies me. I know that each of us on this earth are still here for a purpose and that each day is a gift that wasn't promised.
Lately, God has been reminding me of just how much He is in control and just how little I am in control, and it's been a comforting realization to rest in that truth. Again, not saying I'm going to sit back and eat bonbons all year and wait to things to just fall in my lap--but I am saying that we have the privilege of resting in the knowledge that it's okay if we don't know where to go from here. It's okay if our plans fall apart. We're more valuable than our best laid plans.
2016 has been a year of tears. In it, I've said goodbye to two more babies. I've struggled to find the good. I've searched and questioned. We faced a few health scares. I was diagnosed with PCOS. I've continued to miss the tiny one who left the biggest imprint on my heart--my Ethan.
2016 has also been a year of healing. Of growth. Of laughter. Of letting go. Of being vulnerable and open, when it was scary. Of friendships. Of love made stronger through fire. Of refining. Of encouragement. Of surrender (and still working on it). Of hope. Of realizing that I don't know what tomorrow holds--but I do know the one who holds tomorrow.
May we all rest in the assurance that God holds us in his hand and each of our days have been written in his book.
Proverbs 16:9 "The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps."
James 4:13-15 "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit'--yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you out to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.'"