Christmas has come and gone, with all of its celebration, joys, and maybe some trials and tribulations thrown in for good measure…  Racing up next we say goodbye to the old year and cheer in the new; but how that makes you feel might well depend on the kind of year you’ve had, and any expectations you may have for the year ahead…

In the world of additional needs parenting, unpredictability comes as standard…  As Tom Hanks’ character reminds us in the film ‘Forrest Gump’, “My mom always said life was like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you’re gonna get.”   Well, what did you get in 2017?

You may have had a year filled with blessings, with delightful and positive steps forward as you have cared for your child or young person.  Maybe they have coped really well with difficult situations, adapted well to change, or made a breakthrough in a previously difficult area for them.  Perhaps you look back on the year with relief, with tears of joy, with deep thanks for all that it has brought.

Or maybe you’ve had a hard year; a year of setbacks.  A year where it seems to have been a constant battle; one step forward, two steps back.  Maybe you’ve seen regression, challenge and struggle.  Perhaps you look back on the year just thankful to see the back of it; your tears are tears of grief as you think of all that has changed for the worse.

In reality, like me, you will probably look back on the year that is ending with a mixture of both of these feelings… recognising the good things that the year has brought, while touched with sadness for the things that have changed for the worse.  In our case, we’ve seen a year where James has developed his personality, we’ve seen joyful times together, seen successes, and enjoyed seeing James growing up (he celebrated his 15th birthday in June).  This joy is tinged with sadness as James has struggled to leave the house during the day, including for school, and has been diagnosed with epilepsy (to add to his autism and learning disability).

With all of the emotions that looking back on the year stirs, it is easy to look at things only through our own eyes, in our own strength, from our own perspective…  And if we do that, we can be crushed by the hard things that have happened, overwhelmed by the challenges we have faced, allowing the good and wonderful things that have happened to be blotted out, erased by the pain of the difficulties we and our children experienced.  But let us listen to what God might be saying to us, even through the pain, and be encouraged by the words he gives us…  words like those we find in Psalm 103:2 “Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me.”  Or in 1 Chronicles 16:34 “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!  His faithful love endures forever.”

It is through the storms of life that we see God working in our lives the most; it is then that he helps us to grow the most, and it is through the challenges that life brings that he moulds us into who he longs for us to be, “And yet, O Lord, you are our Father.  We are the clay, and you are the potter.  We all are formed by your hand.”  Isaiah 64:8   Are we willing to be moulded?  To allow the Father to create something wonderful out of our hardships?  Or do we resist, wallowing in our self-pity and being defined by the difficulties we and our children face, rather than thinking about how they might shape us positively to serve and help others?  For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  Jeremiah 29:11

 So, with these thoughts in mind, what will we take with us into the new year ahead?  Will we drag the chains of the struggles and trials of the old year with us into the new?  Will we allow the failures, regressions and setbacks of the last year define us and our child?  Or will we allow our heavenly Father to use these experiences to shape us positively for the year ahead…  to bear our scars as symbols of where we have been, what we have endured together, the experience we have acquired together, to take into the future to help us, and others, to navigate through another year…

Be more awesome than last year

As the new year resolution slogan goes… ‘Be more awesome than last year…’  You were awesome last year, you are awesome now, you will be awesome in the year ahead…  and you don’t have to create all of this amazing awesomeness on your own…  “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.  They will soar high on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary.  They will walk and not faint.”  Isaiah 40:31

Of course there will be tough times in the year ahead; there will be times of rejoicing too.  But whether we are crying tears of grief or joy, if we give it all to the Lord, if we trust in him, he will be there with us, fighting for us, he’s in our corner, he’s got our back…  “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”  Romans 8:28

And that, for me, means that whether next year is a Happy New Year or not, I know that I and my family couldn’t be in safe, better hands…

How about you?

Mark
28th December 2017

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