The year 2016 is nearly over and as I look back, it has been quite a year. It was a year ago that I read a comment about each day of the coming year being an unwritten page. The question that followed was something to the effect of what were we going to do with each page. I don’t remember the exact question nearly as much as I remember the idea of the unwritten page. As a writer it almost seemed like a challenge, and so I embarked on the adventure of living each day and then actually writing that “unwritten page”. And so, tonight finishes “Tom’s Book of 2016” as I look forward to the next book of unwritten pages.
Page 366 has been a day of recovery and preparation. Yesterday’s illness eventually subsided and even after sleeping off and on for most of yesterday, I felt like I slept well through the night and into the morning. When I eventually woke up, I finished going through the photos I took earlier in the week. After lunch out with my family, the afternoon was spent reflecting on the past year and taking a nap before heading to work to finish up the cleaning and building prep that I didn’t get to because of being sick yesterday. Fortunately, MJ and Susan had done a good part of it for me so my time at work this evening involves both the building needs and a continued refining of the teaching and sermon I’ll share at Deer Run in the morning.
As I look back on the year and consider the lessons that God has been teaching me, it has been a year of great joy and great sorrow yet through it all, God’s presence has been with me. Today’s photo is from one of those “great joy” moments. One of my greatest joys in life is the time I get to spend with my wife and daughter. Whether it is a day or two excursion hunting down lighthouses or covered bridges, or an extended week vacation in sunny Florida, relaxing together is good for all of us. Yes, we have our moments of disagreement and tension, and some of those even take place during our getaways of whatever length, but we press on and continue to find joy in the journey and in each other. As joyous as vacations are, life isn’t just about vacations and good times. The year also contained one of the most difficult things I have done so far in my life — I conducted the funeral service for my 21 year old niece. Even now it is hard to reflect on that time and the great loss experienced by the family. Yes, because of Breanna’s faith in Jesus, I was able to share a message of great hope. A hope that she has seen fulfilled and a hope that is also available to all of us. Yet even in the midst of a knowledge of hope, I knew my ability to bring comfort to my brother and his family was limited and the true comfort would have to come from God Himself.
Most of the pages of 2016 fall somewhere between those two extremes and I imagine that 2017 will contain its share of ups and downs as well. The question for the coming year probably has less to do with what we will face and more to do with how we will face it. The joys in my life are all amplified by a knowledge that God’s presence is with me in the midst of success and happiness. But God doesn’t leave me when times get hard. In fact, the sorrows in my life are all manageable because of a knowledge that God’s presence is with me in the midst of great difficulty and sadness. It is that one constant — God’s presence — that I want to be more aware of each day of the coming year. And so, farewell to the year 2016! I pray that these written pages have been useful according to God’s purposes. After I finish my work here tonight, I will go home and go to bed and if God permits that I awaken in the morning, another year of unwritten pages will lie before me and I will eagerly anticipate the writing, and living, of each one that God gives me.