As another year of this crazy, awesome, unpredictable, scary, exhilarating thing I call my life comes to a close, I find myself yet another year speechless and amazed as I watch the glowing flames melt the shining wax on twenty-seven birthday candles. I can honestly say that despite the array of ups and downs that have twisted and bent my year, I have still somehow found myself in a state of inexplicable contentment. My life may not always be easy or clean, but it is exactly as it should be.
The life lesson my twenty-sixth year taught me: life never happens the way you expect or hope. But in spite of the thousand curve balls that life has thrown my way, and despite the fact that in my now twenty-seven years of living, my life has never given me what I expected or hoped for, it has always given me exactly what I need.
In year twenty-six, so much about my life changed immensely, almost to the point where I sometimes barely recognized it myself. I lost so much stability, so much certainty, so much predictability, yet I gained a life that I can safely say, despite semi-frequent moments of complete doubt and panic, has made me profoundly happy.
A year ago, I was coming out of a deep, dark valley, one I’m only now able to recognize and identify because I am standing on the other side of it, one that left me shaken and doubtful, feeling more small and weak than I ever have in my life. I had been broken by a diagnosis of infertility and an estimated fifteen percent chance of pregnancy with the assistance of treatments. I had just ended month three of my first and only attempt at treatment, and I was left disappointed, crushed, and bitter after it proved unsuccessful. I had just taken a leap of faith by quitting my full-time job in pursuit of school after having spontaneously applied to grad school on a whim in an effort to ease the pain and fill the gaping hole in my heart that my diagnosis had left me with. My life was spinning and changing around me, and I had no idea what was going to happen next. The best I could do was keep moving forward and hope and pray that the crooked path before me would eventually straighten. [Storm Clouds Over 26.]
Along with the uncertainty that came with year twenty-six came a year that plagued my family with a variety of difficulties: health problems, crisis, natural disasters–things that drove my mind in circles even more on top of what was already a state of deep unrest. One thing on top of the next on top of my usual layer of doubt and self-pity that left me constantly wanting to ask that shameful question: what next?
I realize now that God always has an answer to that question, regardless of whether or not the answer is what we want to hear at the moment. What next? Despite the fact that I often ask that question sarcastically, wondering what could possibly go wrong next or what other hurdles could life possibly throw at me, I realize that it is also a question of what do I do next and where do I go from here. While my horizon always appears vacant at first, I realize sooner or later that just because I can’t see my horizon from here, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t there and that it isn’t fuller and brighter than I could have ever anticipated.
In year 26, I quit my full-time job to pursue grad school. It was scary, and I wasn’t sure how we were going to do it financially without me having a source of income. And I asked: what next?
What came next was the opportunity to wholeheartedly pursue my dreams through grad school, along with the chance to work a graduate position at the university.
In year 26, my family was plagued with a long string of health scares, one after another. And I asked: what next?
What came next was a long string of miraculous recoveries, ones that couldn’t have ever been explained by anything short of the hand of God over our family.
In year 26, my husband and I made the decision to not pursue pregnancy through treatments. And I asked: what next?
What came next was the beautiful, broken road of fostering, an unconventional, foreign kind of parenting, but one that filled our aching hearts in a way we could have never imagined.
For every moment of weakness in this past year, God has proven stronger. For every moment of uncertainty, God has proven more secure. For every moment of doubt, God has proven more steadfast.
This year has shown me a lot of things. It has shown me uncertainty, unpredictability, and doubt. It has shown me obstacles, challenges, and trials. But with each moment of uncertainty and unpredictability, I have been brought to peace and clarity. With each moment of doubt, I have been given moments of affirmation. Though there have been obstacles, I have been given strength to overcome them. For every health problem or crisis my family has seen, we have seen an even greater answer to prayer in return. With the unconventionality of our crazy life comes spontaneity and the excitement of anticipation.
Though this year was still full tears and heartache, what I remember most when I look back are the moments of pure, incomparable joy. The kind of feeling I get when I sit back and reflect on the fact that I have the honor of finally following my dreams through school after years of putting them off, the kind of feeling I get when I gain the love and affection of a precious child who has been able to find moments of security and stability in my arms, the kind of feeling I get when I finally get to experience what it’s like to see my husband as a father, even if only for a short time.
In these moments, I realize that I truly cannot wish for much more than this.
And so, just as with every year prior, someone has placed a cake with candles before me and has asked me to make a wish. And as I think of what to wish for, I can only think of how fortunate I’ve been to be able to celebrate my birthday wrapped in the sweet affection of the ones I love, both near and far: parents who’ve shown me what true love is from the moment I’ve entered this world, a sister who has been my greatest partner and supporter in life, sweet grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles, in-laws that fit perfectly in my heart and life as though we were born to someday be family, two perfect, healthy nieces of whom I am convinced are the prettiest little girls in all the world, so many sweet friends that have continuously reminded me that I’m never alone when I need it most, and a husband that never ceases to amaze me with his strength and compassion every single day. But this year, I’m not only thankful for the family that is before me, but I am thankful for our future family, the children we have had the privilege to love already through foster care and the ones God will someday send our way. In this moment, I am marvelously aware of how blessed I am.
And so instead of making a wish, I say a prayer. I pray that love will continue to prevail on this earth. I pray that healing will come to all those who need it. I pray that there will always be more good people than bad. I pray that I’ll never be too busy to recognize and appreciate life’s simply beautiful moments like these. I pray that families will stand together in love. I pray that every child will have the opportunity to experience the love and security of a happy childhood. I pray that everyone can have the opportunity to experience love and friendship and family as I have. I pray that God’s truth and grace be evident to all. And I thank God for being an ever-present help and reminder that we are not alone. I thank God for moments of quiet reflection like these.
So as I end this crazy, twisted and bent twenty-sixth year and look forward to whatever new and improved twists and bends year twenty-seven has for me, as I celebrate the beginning of another year on God’s extraordinary earth, I wish to share this joy with others. This crazy life may never be what we expect or hope for, it may not always be easy or clean, but it is exactly as it should be. And despite its endless array of curveballs, I’m still here believing these very important truths:
Life is good. God is still here. Blessings still exist. Good is still evident. There is truth, there is light, there is peace, there is joy. Pain and heartache and sadness and grief can be overcome. Love is real. God’s goodness and truth can be yours as much as it is mine. Keep loving each other. Keep being the friends and family that you yourself deserve. Keep smiling, keep laughing, keep living. Strive to be the person that you’ve been created to be. Let positivity flourish and negativity vanish from your life. And once again thank you for being part of my blessings in life.
To all those who have been there to pick me up when I’m down, to those who have been a smile or laugh when I need it most, to those who have loved me unconditionally even through those dark days where I was difficult to love, thank you. Because of you, I am who I am, and because of you, am where I am. Because of you, I am still able to confidently say that I am truly, indescribably, and undeniably blessed.