2013 was supposed to be an “in-between” year for me. A time of waiting until the unfolding of the next season. If I could only fast-forward to 2014, my supposedly “next big thing”. Graduation from my Master’s program coinciding with my Sabbatical from work. I was already mapping out my destinations for the three months I would be away from everything familiar. To get out of my eternally-busy routine. Travel. Live in another country. Meet people. Learn new things. Write. Oh to write, above all else. So let’s breeze through 2013, shall we? Silly me thinking to myself. But truth be told, I was dreading the year to come. Waiting, after all, is not my strong suit. That, and I have a thesis to hurdle.
Talk about exceeding expectations, 2013 proved not to be the uneventful year I thought it would be. My plan to breeze through it was foiled. Apparently, God, in His sense of humor, made sure it would be, well, a year full of surprises. Some of them, brought me joy beyond measure, and some brought me to tears, the excruciatingly painful kind. But doubtless, all schooled me, learning more about who God is and what He can mightily do in my life.
As I reflected on all the learnings of the past year, I found that I have five big words that the Lord has deeply impressed in my heart.
1. PRESENT. Kavanah, (Hebrew) “attentiveness to God, an act of appreciation of being able to stand in the presence of God…. It is one’s being drawn to the preciousness of something he is faced with…” (Spangler and Tverberg, Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus). No matter where you are, you are in the presence of the Lord. The start of the year was always slow. It allowed me time to rest and to gather strength for our busiest season – summer. I learned that the discipline of kavanah required that I be totally present in the moment. To crowd out the noise of my life and listen to His voice. 2013 taught me to practice the presence of God. Be it in the season of waiting. Even so, in the season of working. In the gladdest of days. And in the darkest of nights.
2. FAMILY. This year our bunso took a leap of faith and braved finding work in New Zealand. After more than a year of waiting, she finally packed her bags and flew to NZ last August. All of a sudden, our home felt quieter and emptier sans the familiar sounds and antics of our dear Charm. It’s only been a few months, but it already feels like years that she has been away. We still feel the pangs of missing each other. It’s like missing Daddy all over again. Through yet another changing season in our family’s life, God proves Himself faithful. As a family, we are learning to love each other perfectly in spite of our imperfections. Yes, learning and learning still. I am only thankful that 2013 allowed us to share precious memories together. Us five. Because it’ll take a while before we get to be complete again. For now, I just have to get used to ask for a table for four (not five) every time we dine out.
3. HOME. I live in a suitcase for the most part of the year, traveling to different regions and islands in the Philippines as my work requires. I find myself missing home occasionally. But now, more than ever, I am learning that home is where you find people who share your heartbeat. 2013 has allowed me to build my home in the hearts of the people I’ve known in my sojourns. Anywhere I am and will be, I know I have a place I can call home. For that, I will always be grateful.
4. CHALLENGE. Surprisingly, 2013 marked personal feats I never imagined I could still have. I challenged, I dared myself to try new things, being the control-freak that I am. Scuba diving. Surfing. Parasailing. Driving an ATV. Rapelling. Wall climbing. Frisbee. Mountainbike trail riding. Sleeping under the stars. Sleeping on an island in a tent. Riding at the back of a motorcycle through dirt roads and through the mountains for three hours. Getting a driver’s license. Accepting the challenge to serve as board member of our church. Each one felt like a conquest on its own.
“Faith that moves me, I unmoved.” A simple prayer I uttered at the start of the year. Indeed, every challenge was a faith-stretching moment that moved me beyond myself…
5. PERSEVERE. … and a faith that stands unmoved even in the face of the most heartbreaking situations. To obey even when it hurts. To choose love even when it’s unrequited. To be grateful, for all that was lost, for all that remains, and for all that is yet to be. To persevere in the path of obedience. For the blessings of obedience far outweigh all the pains, sacrifices, and deaths I could possibly make in my life.
And so I say goodbye to 2013, leaving no room for regrets or bitterness in my heart. I face yet another year, full of surprises, to endure and to enjoy, armed with faith in the sovereignty and goodness of God alone.
Here’s to enduring and enjoying 2014!