I have a lot of questions for 2017. But only after I ask a few of 2016.
Many feel 2016 was a merciless savage to the world. Social media tells a story of struggle and a celebration of good riddance. My own family’s year included some polarizing experiences, some of our highest highs and deepest lows. We began the year by moving 700 miles in a blizzard. It was us— our two U-hauls, two cars, babies, all of our belongings, “Pop”— and about 50 electrical trucks traveling North on I-95 to beat “Jonas”, the worst winter storm to hit the DC area in a decade. It wasn’t the hello I envisioned for us Floridians, but I heard an unexpected whisper in my spirit…
My daughter, this is going to be much harder than you think, but it doesn’t mean you’re not right where I want you.”
And much of 2016 was just that –a hike up a mountainside, with glimpses of beauty all around us and sharp rocks making it a shaky trek.
You see, we took some GIGANTIC faith steps in 2016, and we’re still feeling the weight of those. So pinterest boards and lists of stretch goals aren’t that appealing to me this new year. And that makes me feel slightly left behind as everyone else plots out all the amazing ways they plan to dominate 2017.
Even though the calendar flipped, I’ve not yet transformed into my usual goal-setting optimist self, calling on my inner Tony Robbins to “take massive action!” Nope, this time I’ve hit pause to make time to sit with a few things from last year, to sort through them, time which, despite my intentions, did NOT happen the week between Christmas and New Years. (I’ve learned that a house full of rowdy boys doesn’t lend itself toward much profound introspection.)
Before I can begin to dream about 2017, I have some real questions. For myself. For God. For the world.
I imagine myself as Oprah, having God over for an afternoon cup of coffee in my backyard and a little chat, getting His insight on a couple things…“That year 2016- what was that all about? Why can’t we overcome brokenness…isn’t that the point of Jesus? That we overcome and live differently even on this side of Heaven? How long will hateful quarrels be our country’s conversation? Why do marriages have to end? The innocent babies suffering in Syria… who will do something? Why does disappointment seem never ending?” (Don’t worry, I’d make sure to air it on “Super Soul Sunday” so we could all enjoy the answers.)
As I process through these questions in hope of some insight, I’m still annoyed that I’m starting my year like this. Feeling behind and on the reactive side of asking, instead of on the proactive side of resolving doesn’t line up well for me. I’m a go-getter, driven, work my a– off kinda girl. I’m not a wallower or a venter. I’m a solutions-finder. I may struggle with tardiness and perfectionism, but I’m a curious visionary on a quest to go somewhere. I’m your typical new-years-resolution setter, so this place of confusion and inquiry is quite frustrating.
And yet it fits perfectly with my fresh outlook of letting go of silly perfectionistic standards and embracing messy. So, maybe this is actually the PERFECT way to start the year, forcing me to continue working on these areas of authenticity and vulnerability. Of self compassion. Of facing my fears of inadequacy. I’m seeing that my inclination to put the brakes on January is actually me asking these hidden, core questions…
“How can I be resilient from 2016 and still hopeful for 2017?”
I can’t authentically make any resolutions until I choose hope. And I can’t choose hope for 2017 until I figure out how to overcome the adversities of 2016. So this question forces me to do the hard, uncomfortable work of digging deep. If I can face the pain of the previous year, I am one step closer to leading the resilient life I want to live. An honest assessment will also help me shovel out any bitterness from unanswered prayers and unending questions. Because bitterness doesn’t belong in my heart and isn’t a part of resilient, wholehearted living.
According to Brene Brown, a research professor and author of the book “The Gifts of Imperfection,” hope is an essential piece of wholehearted living. She explains that hope is actually a conscious choice. It’s not an emotion, it’s a way of thinking. Hope can be learned and cultivated. She goes on to say,
The new cultural belief that everything should be fun, fast and easy, is inconsistent with hopeful thinking. It also sets us up for hopelessness. If we want to cultivate hopefulness, we have to be wiling to be flexible and demonstrate perseverance. Tolerance for disappointment, determination, and a belief in self are at the heart of hope.”
What’s encouraging through all of this is that the intentional skills of overcoming adversity and living with hope are not for the spiritually elite or those with seemingly perfect lives. No, resilience and hope are for ALL of us. They are most powerful when we face our pain and disappointment first… and then hope in spite of them. Because hope does not come without adversity. It requires a persevering choice.
I’m reminded of Psalms 39:7 in my quest to find hope…
And now, Lord, what do I wait for?
My hope is in You.”
And I repeat to myself… my hope is in You. My hope is in YOU. When I feel the pain of disappointment and the fear of uncertainty, I pray, I cry, I ask God every question I can think of. I listen, I write and I repeat… my hope is in You.
Sometimes, I need this pairing of solid secular research with the truths of the scriptures to remind me, “Kassie, put your big girl panties on and persevere until that hope is yours. Fight for hope with everything you’ve got.”
So, as I dig into the discomforts of 2016, I’m realizing that my first resolution of the new year is that…
I want to embrace disappointment and actively choose hope.
After all, I can’t control every circumstance and outcome, but I can control my response and outlook. I can control how much I put my hope in Him, despite how much harder my year has been or will be. I’m so thankful for the whisper that is ever present, waiting on me to incline my ear. I’m so thankful for the opportunities I have this year to persevere for resiliency and hopefulness, and, i’m expecting that 2017 might just be my best year yet.
Cheers to a year of cultivating resiliency and hopefulness, friends. And thank you, 2016, for teeing up this much-needed-lesson.
PS: If you’d like a copy of Brene Brown’s book, you can click here. (pretty life changing stuff)