It's officially January 1st, 2018. A new year, with a clean slate and endless possibilities. I know a lot of people tend to roll their eyes about setting goals and coming up with new year's resolutions, but I've always enjoyed the process of simply reflecting on the past year and then asking Jesus what He wants this coming one to look like. I usually try to get a word or a phrase that He might be pressing on my heart, and then come up with a few practical applications to make my life just work better. I get my husband involved and always greatly appreciate his input. Most of what he said this time had to do with time management and intentionality. Now I know everyone loves the word intentional these days, but I don't think that's a bad thing! Especially when you're raising little people (2 one year olds over here!) or you're just being pulled in a thousand different directions and have so many potential distractions to suck up your time and energy. If we don't reevaluate from time to time, we just run around feeling frazzled! So this week I'm asking for fresh faith and a renewed hope and strength. Because 2017 was rough! There was so much good in it, but it was by far my most challenging and refining season. 

When I first sat down to reflect on the year the words that were coming to mind were exhausted, insane, hard, surviving. I couldn't even remember what I did all year, it all seemed to revolve around babies. I think the majority of my time was on the floor playing, cleaning up spit up, changing poop, getting babies to nap or go back to bed, or saying "no, don't take her toy" for the billionth time. And then there was the overwhelming drama of foster care and the broken court system, and a child in our home that seemed to just bring chaos and heaviness. But then something stirred in me. I felt like God kept telling me the word for this year was joy. I decided to get out my journal and jot down a list of all the good that happened this year. And you know what the list was long and it was a quick heart change that I so needed.  It really is true that a thankful heart is the key to joy. This year we celebrated 5 years of marriage and grew to love and appreciate each other in more ways then we can count. It was our hardest year, but also the richest. We rented our first real house, signed another 4 years in the Coast Guard, traveled to California for some sweet family time, my sister in law (who I adore!) moved here to Florida to be near us, we made some precious friends, and stepped up to serve more in our church family. Not to mention, saw our foster son heal, grow and thrive, and our daughter learn to share us and welcome him in. They both turned one and learned to crawl, walk and even talk a bit. We are SO blessed.

Last year around this time I felt like my word was obedience. We were stepping out into new, scary things but trying to hold God's hand and keep putting one foot in front of the other where He was leading. I wanted to be faithful in the mundane everyday things, and that proved to be no easy task. I think overall we were faithful, but our joy was lacking and there was a little too much striving on our own strength. Too many days were spent exhausted and snappy with each other. I've been frustrated with our little guy's case, and filled with anxiety over his future. I hate how long everything takes, and all the back and forth...some days I could scream! My heart almost couldn't handle making the decision that we would adopt him, but then having no idea if or when that could even happen...everything about foster care makes you feel out of control. Court is coming up, and I feel like I'm getting bitter, like I'm going into self-preservation mode. And I don't want to live like that. I know my kids both need me now, day to day to be fully present and in love with them. They need me to teach them about Jesus and HIS love for them, and to lead by example. I know that I will not always 'feel' like being joyful, but I want to continue to ask God to fill me with his joy and not allow circumstances to dictate that. Wrapping up my prayer time that day I read a verse in Isaiah and clung to it. 

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace
— Isaiah 55:12

Happy New Year friends! Thank you for all the love, encouragement and prayers for the journey. God is so faithful and I know there is so much good in store for this new year if we do not grow weary.