I’m not going to beat around the bush: 2013 was not a good year. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say it had very little to offer in the way of high points and was filled with a lot of very low lows. Low-lights include losing one of my uncles and one of our cats, substantial freelance income loss and a whole lot of stress and frustration.

There was also a lot of blaming myself and beating myself up, feeling completely helpless and useless, and wondering why God was punishing us. What can I say? It’s hard to think healthy and helpful thoughts when you’re standing knee-deep in the doo. 

For a while there, though, I really started to believe that He no longer wanted me to want things — I don’t mean material things, but I mean having dreams and goals and plans for myself and my family: having a writing career, helping my husband in building a photography career, becoming financially independent, finally growing our family by adding an actual human baby instead of just fur-babies. Somehow, I got to such a dark place that I’d made up my mind that those were selfish desires and, since I wasn’t seeing anything that looked like blessing or open doors in any of those areas, that it might please God if I gave them up.

So I tried really hard to stop wanting. To stop dreaming. To fill up all of my daydreams with prayer and meditation on scripture. And all I was doing was making myself depressed and miserable and feeling more and more distant from my Lord.

The problem was, I forgot a great deal of God’s promises. Or I didn’t forget them so much as stopped trusting Him to keep them.

The good news is, I no longer think we’re being punished. Sure, there were areas in which we both needed discipline, and I believe God used our circumstances to teach us some valuable lessons and help us grow. But once I delved into God’s word and remembered that He thinks thoughts of blessing toward us and not of evil, that we may have a future and a hope, I repented for my error and made up my mind to start trusting Him again, to not only allow myself to have my dreams, trusting that He gave me those dreams in the first place, but also to start EXPECTING good things to happen.

Let me tell you something: if you’ve been following me online for the last several years then you already know this, but this last year, as bad as it was, has hardly been one of the worst in recent memory. Life has been beating up on us pretty steadily for a while now. I say that not out of self-pity or looking for sympathy, but just to point out that I know how easy it can be to get worn down when it seems like the pressure is never going to let up. When you keep getting pummeled it’s easy to forget how it feels for good things to happen. Which can in turn make it easy to miss some of the good things when they do come.

Since returning to a place of trust with the Lord, and of expecting manifestations of His goodness, I’ve realized that some good things have indeed taken place. They were easy to miss because they weren’t what I was hoping for or looking for. I was hoping for external deliverance to our problems. What I got instead was a big leap forward in my spiritual growth.

Aside from the fundamental blessings like feeding us and clothing us and helping us keep a roof over our heads, here are some of the things that God has done for me this year:

  • For the first time in my life, I feel I’m truly able to be content and have peace in all circumstances.
  • I’ve figured out that it’s not my job to fix everything or to be in control of the situation. God is in control, which means I can relax, trust Him and rest in that knowledge.
  • We’ve learned to do without the things we don’t need and that don’t really matter, and that doing without those things really isn’t so bad.
  • We’ve had a lot of really excellent Biblical teaching this year, and have really grown in our knowledge and understanding of God’s word.
  • I’ve become bolder about sharing my faith and standing up for what I believe.
  • All of this year’s hardship has brought my husband and I even closer, made our marriage stronger and made us both more appreciative of each other.

As a result, as we close out a really difficult year, I’m filled with peace and contentment, and with hope and expectation for the coming year. I’m not sure exactly what to expect; I’ll make my plans, and trust God to order my steps, and be willing to go where He leads. I’ll keep dreaming my dreams, while trusting that whatever He’s got planned  for us is better than our wildest dreams.