“I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all of their toil-this is the gift of God.” Ecclesiastes 3:12-13
Recently, I stood in the music section of Morning Star (local Christian bookstore), and I scanned the choices of albums. I planned on buying a Jonathan McReynolds cd, as I have been blessed by his real and inspirational songs. Unfortunately, his cd wasn’t there. I finally ended up buying John Mark McMillan’s “Live at the Knight.”
The album contains poetic ponderings of God’s love and His sacrifices for us. McMillian is a worshipper, poet, and storyteller. Before he sings his live version of “Love at the End,” he talks about his views on true success. For McMillian, true success lies in spending time with family and friends through eating food, laughing, and talking about Jesus.
His short interlude on the album is reminiscent of the above Ecclesiastes verses. On Earth, we get up in the morning, and we go to work or to school. Some of us even go to work and school at the same time. But throughout all of this work, there are opportunities to be joyful. Sometimes, we can view the Christian walk as serious or even boring. But I believe that God wants us to be merry. To see the bursts of joy despite the “hard things” that life releases upon us.
In 2015, my main “hard things” were grief and grad school. I continued to grapple with emotions related to my grief journey. I fought with myself to quell sadness or negative memories associated with my sister’s illness and passing.
I trudged through classes in my graduate social work program. I had days where I questioned if I wanted to be in school, because I felt stressed and inefficient. I wondered if I would be a “good” future social worker, and if I had chosen the “right” career.
But God taught me lessons in these “hard things.” He taught me to pour out my concerns on His lap and to reach out to family and friends. He showed me that there is truth in being vulnerable. That His healing dwells in my cracked skin and brittle bones. That in my weakness, He is strong!
As 2016 approaches us, it seems worthwhile to reflect on what God did for me in 2015. I experienced several bursts of joy.
In January, I started my second semester of grad school. I survived papers with long pages limits, a group project, and multiple readings on social work theory and research. I grumbled about the crazy snowstorms that lasted throughout most of the semester. But I was blessed by stellar grades when May came along. I survived my first year! Thank You Lord!
In May, I saw two of my favorite Christian rappers, Lecrae and Andy Mineo in concert. I went to the concert with my friends J and E, and we got autographs from these artists. We also ran into them randomly around Beantown. I appreciated how down to earth these guys were whenever we saw them in the city. And they gave us a concert filled with creativity, ministry, and hype that will rank as one of my top concert experiences.
In June, I celebrated another birthday that God allowed me to see. Additionally, I witnessed my strong and beautiful friend get married to her sweetheart. My friend D has contended with chronic illness for numerous years, so her wedding day was a gift she needed to have. Throughout the challenges of her illness, she and her husband have chosen to “press” through their pain and frustrations. If you would like to read more about D’s resilience and positive attitude, please check out her blog: The Ramblings of a Young Bostonian.
In August, I was excited about the huge milestone of completing a year of blogging on afrotasticlady.com. It may have been around this time that I decided that I should focus more on my writing/blogging. I realized that I needed to be more consistent in publishing posts and encouraging others to visit and to subscribe to my blog. As an introvert, I found these tasks a bit challenging as I would rather hide pieces that I have written than to shout to the world that my words are floating online. But I needed to invest more in the gift of writing that God has given me. I needed to write and to invite others to read what I have plastered on a page.
During my August vacation, I went to San Diego, California with my friend JH. We enjoyed the ocean and laidback atmosphere of the city. We hung out with my nephew and his wife, and we allowed them to be our tour guides. The California trip was a real vacation for me, which was an experience that I hadn’t had due to my circumstances.
In October, I was a bridesmaid in my friend A’s wedding! I was humbled that A asked me to be in her bridal party, and I enjoyed meeting her other friends. The bridal party consisted of a beautiful group of women who gathered for a God-given purpose: marriage. We showered love on our friend and her husband, and we wished them congratulations.
In November, I was brave with what I put on my blog. I love creating short stories, and I shared one of my original stories with the blogosphere. I was surprised by the number of folks that visited my blog to read, and I was overjoyed by the positive comments that were left. I have learned that when a writer composes a story that they are allowing readers to see parts of their imaginative mind. Thanks again friends for reading what goes on in my mind.
In December, I announced that I would complete a grateful things list for each month. Plus, it’s fun to take a break from introspective writing and be a complete goofball in a vlog post.
As a social worker in training, I am not a fan of the word “resolution.” If I treat myself as my own client, I would say that I should focus on the word “goal” instead. In my last job, I was taught that goals should be measurable and broken down into steps.
For 2016, I crave to be more joyful. I know that this goal sounds abstract, but I plan to read the Bible more. If it doesn’t happen daily, I need to meditate on His Word at least four times out of the week. Previously, I read His Word, but I did not read it enough. I allowed the demands of school to push me away from learning and discovering God’s instructions for me. But I believe that His Word is my sustenance. I cannot become more joyful if I am not even spending quality time in God’s book.
I can be joyful in family gatherings with nourishing home cooked meals and in coffee shop hangouts with friends. In 2016, I plan to attend 1-2 concerts with friends or family members, because fellowship and music edifies me.
Friend, what are your goals for 2016? I would love to hear about them, so we can encourage each other in achieving them!
Happy, happy New Year friends! Thank you for reading my blog and for allowing me to be transparent with the “hard things” while sharing the bursts of joy! And because I love music so much, I have included McMillian’s “Love at the End” video.