There's no denying it's been a very tough year. Winter seemed to carry on almost till the end of May; baby calves struggled in the plunging temperatures and vicious winds, and the orphans fared terribly despite the best meds and food and love they could receive.
Summer was far too short; and with not much rain came the anticipation of scarce feed and the resultant high prices of what was available. Of course, right then, the cattle prices dipped too …
On the house front, I had resolved to get rid of 40% of my personal "stuff" that I dragged with me when I moved out here, and that didn't happen.
Relationships seemed like so much work too. What used to come easy was now often a struggle. The nature of friendships changed in certain instances. I missed my family.
I couldn't even get into a proper rhythm with music or with reading. My personal quiet time with God fluctuated - I never once doubted that He was there for me; it was I who was unsettled and insecure and withdrawn.
And over it all, the hazy, barely visible veil of sadness and anxiety floated, ready to settle into the creases and crevasses of my heart and soul at any time. The intensity had abated somewhat from last year; the days when it was a struggle even to get out of bed were slightly fewer. During some days when my doctor was on maternity leave, I could barely breathe. When she came back, it was the best day of the year!
She and her nurse - like God - never left me or forsook me, despite my unreasonableness and lack of progress. They never made me feel what I often am, hopelessly incompetent and not worth the time and effort. They never told me to suck it up and think how fortunate I am compared with 98% of the world (I know, I know!). Before the ubiquitous hashtags, my doctor was already on the front lines, fighting, mitigating, reassuring. She proffers hope and I must trust her enough to accept that it can be so.
I kept as busy as I could, trying to fill the gap my Dad's passing had left in my life, maybe. But I never seemed to catch up with what needed to be done.
There were, of course, amazing days, wonderful people in my community whom I finally started getting to know a little bit. Friends came to visit, even from great distances. Everyone was so kind.
And now here it was, the day before New Year's Eve. Driving home from church I wondered what promise I would receive this year. I specifically asked God to show me what to do to make it through the upcoming year.
As I rounded the correction corner on the 855, I was greeted by this:
I continued up the road to the venerable old Lund house, and it too was graced with promise:
I was reassured that whatever promise I received would give me the key.
New Year's Eve we drove to a nephew's place - passing the holiday baton from one generation to the next has been remarkably easy as one hosted Christmas, another hosted new year and yet another supplied the entertainment!
Just before midnight we dimmed the lights of the house and pressed our faces to the window to see the annual fireworks display put on by nephew #3. For some reason, this was the first time I was ever witness to this part of the evening. As the lights shot up into the sky and came dancing back down to us, my heart soared.
And then. Midnight was almost upon us and we gathered for the single most beloved annual tradition in our family. The promises originally chosen and typed by my Dad are now produced from his lists, on his word processor, by my sister, much to the relief and gratitude of the rest of us!
Allan read the passage to close out the old year from one of Dad's favourite daily reading collections; we sang a couple of songs; Allan prayed, asking God to help each of us be directed to the special word each of us needs for the coming year; and then a sister offered the carefully arranged plate to the people in the room.
I was one of the last to select. I chose green. Again.
As soon as I read my promise, it was like I could hear God saying these words to me: "This is the answer to your question. You've gone about it all wrong this last year. Seek Me first. Make Me your first call. Everything will work out as it should."
And I thought about the fireworks we had enjoyed just a few minutes earlier. They didn't explode into showers of light and colour immediately after they were lit; they had to shoot single-mindedly up into the air to start with before their magical beauty and incandescence were released.
For me to find the solutions to my problems, to find beauty amid ashes, I need to get single-mindedly to the source of my strength. I need to seek Him first, not seek solutions from people or ideas or things that are by their very nature finite, imperfect, also struggling.
This isn't going to be an easy verse to take hold of this year. But if I can be guided by it, it will be so worth it!
Happy new year. To all of us.