Everything about 2016 for me felt like a couple of days lagged, just like this post. We’re now on the 7th day of 2017 but here I am, still trying to make sense out of the year that was.
The truth is, I slowed down a lot in 2016 and it wasn’t the good kind of slowing down. I slowed down mostly out of helplessness, because I couldn’t go faster even when I tried so hard. I reluctantly let go of commitments, unintentionally stopped publishing blog posts, regretfully turned down projects mid-way, and fought through quite possibly my worst creative drought ever.
When I chose the word remain as my one word for 2016, I had a feeling that God would really strip me down to the end of my strength and willpower. He knows well how hard it is for me to “remain” that he made it possible by not giving me a choice.
to remain means:
to be left when the other parts are gone or have been used;
to stay in the same place or with the same person;
to stay after others have gone;
to continue unchanged;
to stay behind;
In all honesty, 2016 did feel a bit.. lonely
First off, it literally made me feel left behind.
It started with our yaya (nanny) leaving us in May to go back to her family. We had her for 3 years and although we’ve somewhat adjusted to a new yaya-less routine, we’ve carried the weight of her absence for sure.
It completely changed our family dynamics, placing me in the kitchen and laundromat a lot more than usual, and taking away a lot of hours from the routine we thought we already had figured out.
And then it was my brother (and his wife)’s turn to relocate for some work assignment abroad, officially adding to the list of people in my life who have gone away.
My brother’s always been a constant character in my life, and even though he’s still very much present (thank you, Internet!), his sudden physical absence has been giving me all sorts of feels.
My husband and I feel a sense of homesickness everywhere we go, like we don’t belong anywhere. People are migrating, colleagues are pursuing dream jobs, friends are launching projects and working together and going places, and many times I find myself wondering, what, Lord, is next for us?
I just want to keep moving. I want to take the next flight to somewhere. Launch a new project. Do the next big thing. Chase the next big dream.
Instead, God would gently tell me, no, not yet, stay put, stand still.
He stripped me down to the barest minimum—just Him, my husband, the twins, house chores, work, rinse, repeat—and taught me what it’s like to remain in Him.
And while that sounds all romantic and mushy typed out, the process was really mostly.. messy.
I had to learn to surrender
most all of what’s written on my planner, the daily to-do lists, the things I should be doing “by this time”, the projects and trips I was going to fill up 2016 with—basically everything I’ve plotted on the imaginary gantt chart of my life.
In the process, I had to learn to confidently say no, to let go, and to stand my ground even to the point of disappointing people, being judged, getting blocked off people’s lives and feeling like an outcast.
It was painful but it was necessary. It involved a lot of crying and doubting and picking broken pieces of myself. It was frustrating, and messy, and beautiful and humbling, all at the same time.
In fact, I’m still sitting right in the middle of that mess right now, still learning to embrace the struggle, still learning to acknowledge that none of this is up to me.
I’ve never felt more restless and rested, to be honest.
There’s a lot of peace in knowing that there’s nothing I could have done to save that client, or to earn more money, or to speed up the process, or to make them understand and accept me.
My husband and I are reminded time and time again that as long as we live according to God’s Word and follow His lead, everything is under His prerogative. It doesn’t matter how we feel or how bad it looks sometimes, He is working things out. And that simple truth brings me the strength, contentment, and joy that I so badly need.
The joy is in the process
In my selfishness and desperation, I went into 2016 wanting that joy that was promised in John 15:11.
7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
What God taught me loud and clear is that, I don’t need to reach the finish line to experience joy. The joy is right here, in the process, right in the mess of it all.
In hindsight, amidst the constant desire for bigger things, I’ve never enjoyed the little things more. To say that I have immensely loved and enjoyed this precious season with my family is an understatement. Watching the girls become their own unique selves, my husband and I enjoying jobs we get to do from the confines of home, growing together in love and in faith, seeking God’s purpose for our family together. You know, the good stuff.
We’ve grown deeper roots, learned new perspectives, and gained this new found joy—the kind that shines through the loneliest hours and unfair criticisms and unanswered questions.
That was a beautiful year of remaining, indeed.
Thank you, Father, for 2016.