The beginning of a new year is often a time for reflection and pondering. This week, prompted in part by the sermon last Sunday, I’ve taken time to sit and process. The last few months have held many changes for me and for my family. There is a lot for me to ponder, and a lot of it can pull me down and leave me feeling sort of stuck and foggy and confused. I’m grateful though that I’ve been able to prioritize using a variety of tools to find anchors for my values, stories that help me make sense of the world, and some reassuring ideas that progress will happen and there will be good things as I keep working through life one step at a time.
A few years ago I was feeling trapped in failure and feeling so useless. I couldn’t make sense of why I was so bad at reaching out and creating connections. But in what began as a defensive moment, I sat down and made a long list of the last 10 years or so, noting the significant things that had happened each year. And suddenly I could see where my “failure” made a lot of sense. For example, I have twin boys. But when I looked back in my timeline I remembered the work that was involved with having twins. There was only one birth day, but before that there were weeks of thinking about and discussing if we were ready for more kids. Then there were 9 months of many appointments, and stress, and watching. Then came the demanding weeks around their birth. Then came approximately 2 years of literally constant demands to keep two infants and a toddler alive and unharmed. That adds up to around 3 years of unexpected strain and effort – all of which has actually been successful.
BUT that incredible amount of work DID detract from energy left for other efforts, resulting in my sense of failure in reaching out to other people. In that low time as I evaluated where I was it was immensely helpful to look back at where I was coming from. It made my sense of failure shift and I could see the positive results of my years of work, even if it wasn’t what I had expected. And I could see that I didn’t have to hold on to these feelings of defeat, or my defensive responses to my lack of growth in other areas.
I was reminded powerfully of that exercise this week because of a suggested activity offered at church. The sermon (you can find it here) was about Hagar and her times in the desert when the angel of the Lord asks her “Where are you coming from? Where are you going?” and “What ails you?” We were given a worksheet to go along with the story giving space to reflect for ourselves on these questions. This was useful for me but the second part was the most striking – a space to add in what the Lord says in the Word about my answers. I was surprised at the stories and quotes that quickly flowed in as responses.
For example, when thinking about where I have come from I noted long times of feeling drained. And as I moved to the question of what the Lords says, immediately the story of the woman healed from a constant flow of blood came into mind. When we seek the Lord there is healing even from the things that have drained us for nearly a lifetime. Such a peaceful and hopeful answer I didn’t even know I needed before I sat down with this simple piece of paper.
In this busy time with work and school and plans all starting up again, I found it profound to take a few minutes to sit and ponder. I invite you to see if you can fit it in too. You can find the worksheet here, and the video, audio, and text for the sermon at the link above.