Betty J. Slade
This has been some kind of a year. We discussed it as the family gathered at the table for Christmas dinner. How beautiful to hear our children and grandchildren talk about their many blessings, things that easily overshadow what was the prior 358 days of the year.
Last year was certainly a time for the unexpected. We received phone calls telling us three family members had passed away. News on the television pounded at us with fear and unrest. And, then, there was my fall where I strained muscles I didn’t even know I had.
If that wasn’t enough, a fierce wind came through the Lower Blanco a few days before Christmas. It destroyed two of our garages. Everything was leveled to the ground. Underneath it all, many of my Sweet Al’s family heirlooms, his tools and things that were being saved for the family.
We had a limited amount of time to salvage and remove the garage’s contents. Other storms were predicted, so we worked for the next few days to clear a mammoth move. Working until Christmas Eve, mixed emotions ran through my heart as I watched two 30-foot roll-offs carry away items from the property.
My Sweet Al, the sentimentalist, viewed it a disaster. My son, the minimalist, called it a Christmas miracle. One of our daughters, the practical one, said it was biblical, referring to the man who built too many barns.
This year did its job. It revealed where we struggle. It also showed what needs to be changed if we hoped to enter a new chapter on a positive foot. Mainly, finding that a change of our attitudes makes circumstances better. God is still in charge and everything will be OK.
As I searched for a devotional book for the new year, Mark Buchanan’s book, “The Rest of God,” caught my attention.
His illustration about change gave me an interesting perspective. Buchanan wrote, “Good practices are both catalysts and incubators for new thoughts. It’s like a marriage. When I married my wife, I had to change my mind about who I was. I was no longer a bachelor. My habits of thought had, for more than 20 years, taken shape around the fact of my singleness.”
“I had bachelor attitudes about how to spend time and money, about the ideal color to paint a bedroom, about the best car to drive, about other women. It all had to go through a dramatic shift, in some cases a complete about face. When I took vows, I had to change my mind. But, if I changed only my mind and never changed my behavior, I doubt I’d still be married.”
When I read these quotes, I realized that the last few years have changed us to contemplate the negative. Challenges occur and we often aligned with fear or even anger when it takes shape around us. We became doubters of what God promised us. Life crouched at our front door and looked in our windows and we let it.
In one of the translations of the Bible, the letter of James states, “Embrace all of the various trials as friends, knowing that the testing of our faith produces patience. When patience has its perfect work, we will be complete lacking nothing.”
As we grow older, we find change to be hard. Why? Probably because things seem to be changing all around us and in odd procession at that.
Final brushstroke: This last year didn’t feel like a friend on many levels. But, how we walked through it makes me thankful nonetheless. As we bid the old farewell, we know that we are fuller and more complete because of how we will start a new year, where challenges bring new victories through the unexpected.