As 2015 comes to a close, I love reflecting on my year through the lens of the one word I chose for the past year. At the beginning of this year, I chose the word Joy. This past year has been a year full of joy, even in the midst of not-so-joyful circumstances.
In March, I spoke at our church's annual women's conference on Joy. I learned much more in preparing for this opportunity than I'm sure anyone else gleaned from my teaching. As I focused on the story of Nehemiah and the words of Ezra reminding the people that "the joy of the Lord is my strength" I learned that joy is there on the mountaintops and joy is there in the valleys. Why? Because the Lord is with me. Though I may have known that in my head, really immersing myself in that truth really stuck with me. I love teaching women and I love opportunities to speak and I hope that the words I shared made the same impact on the ladies in attendance as they had on me.
The end of June brought the closing of the last book in the pursuit of my MBA. After two years, I was done. Finished. Complete! I was ecstatic! For the first time in two years I wasn't balancing work, church and school and having some resemblance of a social life. Let's just say that I've been a reading fiend since July 1, and not of the textbook variety. When I started my MBA, it was just a few weeks after my Dad passed away. The journey took on a different perspective as I pursued this degree not only for my future career growth, but because Dad knew I was going back to school and was so proud. On days when I thought I couldn't read one more page about business strategy or economics, I would remember my Dad. My hero who never went to college and earned his high school education by taking the GED. Yet, he was one of the smartest men I ever knew. This was a joyful, albeit exhausting, journey.
In September, I celebrated the culmination of my year of Golden Jubilee. You see, this was the year I turned the big 5-0 and I prefer to call it "Golden Jubilee" than hitting the half century mark. I am blessed with so many wonderful friends. The celebrations were plentiful. If I was honest, I wasn't really keen on this birthday. I did accomplish my Master's by 50, but you always reflect on what you haven't done, not what you have accomplished. But, God is so faithful and I look forward to 50 more years (or however many the Lord blesses me with) to conquer new challenges and reach for my next milestone.
Lest you think the year was all lollipops and unicorns, there were some sad times as well. Many of my close friends lost loved ones suddenly or after long illnesses. Friends faced serious health issues. Work changes abounded. But that is the part about this year's word - Joy. Through all of those experiences, I still found joy. Granted, some of these didn't impact me personally, but in many cases, the losses just brought back the memories of the past losses in my life. Joy was there. And it all goes back to the Scripture in Nehemiah...."the joy of the Lord is my strength." The Lord is my joy and my strength. Without Him, life is desperately hopeless.
It's been a great year, full of joy. Even amidst the darker times. As I reflect on the year, I am grateful for His mercy and grace. As I look forward to 2016, and meditate on my next word, I know that my word for the upcoming year will be rooted in the foundation of joy. Stay tuned for the big reveal!