Once again, it is January. A new year!Sitting down to write a blog post at this time of year got me thinking about beginnings. And the more I thought about beginnings, the more I saw them everywhere.In the 24 hours it takes the Earth to spin on its axis before beginning a new turn.In the 30 days it takes the moon to orbit the Earth before beginning again.In the closing and then opening again of every winter, spring, summer, and fall—(although here on the equator, not as much).And in the 365¼ days it takes for the Earth to orbit the Sun before beginning its trek all over again.
And as I pondered all of these celestial and terrestrial realities, I thought about God. In His wisdom and, I believe, His mercy, God built into His creation new beginnings and I think one of the reasons He did so was to give us hope. Hope that in the midst of so many endings all around us, there is a new beginning somewhere close.I thought about how Lamentations 3:21-24 says: “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.”Hope is what bookends this passage, but it is not hope in ourselves or our circumstances. Rather, it is hope grounded in who God is. That not only is He bigger and more powerful than our circumstances, but that He who is in control of every tragic ending and every new beginning is also a God of steadfast love, mercy, and faithfulness. There is hope in that.
Anyway, in the spirit of the new year of 2016, I thought it might be good to write down some reflections on last year—our first year in Papua New Guinea. And since life is just the sum of the good and the bad of our circumstances, the easy and the difficult, I have divided this topic into two separate blog posts with three reflections in each category: the 3 Best Parts of Last Year and the 3 Most Difficult Parts of Last Year.A caveat: When I first sat down to write this post, I had in mind light-hearted, specific things. Like what a joy it was when my mom came out in July or how amazing it was when the first house was built or how humbling it was every time we got a package or an email from a friend or a church’s VBS group that showed us such timely love and support.But then I started writing.And I realized that while those were certainly highlights of last year, the best parts of the year were not specific, light-hearted things at all because last year as a whole was more weighty than light, and the best things that came from it were more general than specific. Perhaps it will be different when it comes to the most difficult things; we’ll see.But for now, here are the good things.The 3 Best Parts of Last Year
- We are still here. The fact that we are still here in Papua New Guinea in light of the myriad of obstacles and delays we faced this past year is in itself some kind of miracle. You would have to live here, I think, to understand, but trust me when I say that us still being here is one of the best parts of 2015 because it means that God sustained all of us physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually throughout one of the most challenging environments in which I have ever lived. God has seen fit that, come what may in 2015—be it power outages or broken bones or sickness or drought, unexpected costs or a damaged helicopter or fistfights or team conflict—we have not been moved. We are still here.
- We are still together. We have all kinds of sayings in the US that I could throw out here. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. There were tough moments aplenty last year, but by God’s grace, we are not just here languidly or passively. After 400 days of being away from the United States, my husband still makes me laugh out loud almost every day (well, when he’s here and not in the mountains and sometimes even then when there is cell reception) and my children are still the absolute sweetest four children God could have given me. We still do dance parties in our living room (although with no air conditioning and constant heat and humidity, there is definitely more sweating involved). And our team is still together. Throughout the year, we have weathered some storms, figuratively and literally, but we have stuck together and taken care of each other. This is evidence of God’s grace in our lives every day of the last year. Seeing how far we have all come together is one of the best parts of last year.
- We are still moving forward. Again, to really appreciate this, you would have had to live through each problem as it flew at us, but suffice it to say, not only has our mission of bringing the gospel to the mountains of PNG not been stopped, but we are still moving ahead. Nine days from now, the men, along with a small team from the US, will make one more trip into the tribe to hopefully get our houses move-in ready. We have tentatively scheduled flights to move us into the tribe for the end of February barring any (more!) unforeseen difficulties. Particularly in this country, that is not just holding steady, my friends; it is surging forward! The fact that God has somehow managed to overcome every formidable obstacle of last year and is still moving mountains to get us into the tribe is one of the best parts of looking back at last year.
Just writing this post has been a source of fresh encouragement to me as—for just a moment—I haven’t thought on the multitude of uncertainties and troubles that await me this coming year, but rather have gotten to think on the certainties and things that God already accomplished last year. And I am so thankful!It has not been easy being here, as you will see in the next post. Not one single day here has been easy. But God has been faithful. We have seen His steadfast love and His mercy towards us when our circumstances were in an uproar like waves all around us and our plans were tossed and dismantled like a rowboat in a hurricane.In those times, we really had no choice but to wait and look to Him and trust that our lives were in His hands. If He wanted us to move forward, we would. And if He didn’t, then we could trust Him in that. So far, the answer has been point 3 above.Really, I could go one step further with this reflection and apply these three things to my life as a whole. I am prone to forget all the good things God has done for me and focus instead on all the things that He hasn’t. But if I look at my life through the lenses of the three points above, they remind me not of what I’ve lost or what I don’t have, but of what I do have and what He has given me.
Am I still here on this earth? Praise God that He has seen fit to let me see another January! Am I together with Him? With some family, though others are far away? Praise God that I have Him and those that He has given me here!And the last one, well—the last one might be more of a daily choice that flows from the first two. As long as He gives me breath and strength, despite my circumstances, I can choose to keep moving forward, not so much to see the things I can accomplish in the future, but the things that He can. Because therein lies my true joy and hope on this earth.So, here’s to reflection and giving thanks for all the things that God has done in us and through us and for us this past year. May I take them with me into 2016 as my ballast for future storms!