I grew up with a large, very united and faith filled family. I grew up with a loving group of extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins who were more like many mothers, fathers, and brothers and sisters to me. Last night I led the tradition of praying the rosary before midnight every New Year’s Eve. I messed up a few times when I started and then closed in tears because as I was praying, I could not stop myself from playing a reel of 2008 events in my mind. I felt incredibly grateful for my family.
Another year has gone by and I can hardly believe it. I can’t help but look back on the year behind us and think of all the ways God has saved us over and over again. My family (extended included) has been given so many blessings in overcoming set backs as are many other families in this world. Kidney failure brought on by diabetes, cancer, dangerously premature birth, and life threatening blood clots. One week into 2008 Mom’s house was destroyed by a bursting frozen pipe which kept her away from living in her home for nearly a year. The failing economy and bursting housing bubbles dampened the expectations and risks taken by my brother. My sister worried over being the sole provider for her son and being away from him and Mom as her job kept her traveling.
Yet, through all the angst and worry, we overcome and begin to see the blessings that always seem to emerge from the adversity in our lives eventually leaving us better than we were before–whether financially, physically, or spiritually. We are the Habakkuk’s questioning the injustices of this world; we are the many Jobs left to wonder what it was that we did wrong; we are the Qoheleth’s wondering why we even bother if all is in vain. Yet, surely as the cold and harshness of winter turns into the warmth and beauty of spring, God lifts us out of our misery and begins to peel away the cataracts from our eyes so we can see all the true gifts he has brought us throughout the year.
Just as The Book of Baruch reflects for the Jews to return from their exile, we return from ours.
Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever: wrapped in the cloak of justice from God, bear on your head the mitre that displays the glory of the eternal name. –Baruch 5:1-4 NAB
We come out of our suffering not only stronger in character and will, but hopefully in a stronger relationship with God. We emerge from what we come to realize is a spiritual journey better people knowing that our lives are richer yet for having our friends and family among us.
Up, Jerusalem! stand upon the heights; look to the east and see your children Gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God.–Baruch 5:5 (NAB)
Her boss recognizing effort and hard work gives her a new position keeping her from traveling and saving her career amidst job layoffs; a new job that brings him close to family, his son, and the mindset that material things aren’t as important as loyalty and love; a newly remodeled home, much needed spring cleaning, and the company of a loving daughter and grandson; a loving husband and father already appreciated but whose daily presence is not taken for granted; a beautiful and healthy baby girl; a very loved son, brother and cousin learning to control his diabetes. The unconditional love and graces of God that draws us ever closer to him and provide us with the gift of wisdom that we must carry on not only to enjoy the beauty and love we are blessed with, but to share it with our enemies and those less fortunate. After all the good that occurs out of adversity, how truly blessed we are when we get to experience…Seemingly once in a lifetime travels and adventures exploring new places and things; the fruition of ideas come to life through years of hard work; the many successes of our children graduating college, playing sports, excelling at school and developing kind and caring hearts.
Yes, 2008 brought us many surprises some wanted, some not, but last night, looking back, I was happy to see us all gathered under God’s name grateful that we accomplished it all as one strong, united family. For all that we undergo, all the things we have, and all our successes and failures would truly mean nothing if we had no one with which to share them.
I look forward to a new and adventurous 2009. Here’s to the continuous awareness of God’s presence not only during the optimism, but even during the times our discouragement. Here’s to the hopes and dreams of our futures and that we live it with as much faith and love as God gifts to us daily. Happy New Year.