2019 is here. You might have celebrated the New Year with a big feast with family and friends, and you countdown on New Year Eve till the dreamy fireworks went out at midnight, then raised a glass of champagne cheering to the loved ones and to the coming year, starting strong.
However, for our family, the beginning of the year has been nothing glamorous but challenging and humbling.
Just before last Christmas, we found out that our car didn’t pass the vehicle inspection due to some malfunctions, which means we need to either fix it and let it be checked again soon or change one. It’s a second-hand old jalopy which my husband bought 5 years ago. It’s not worth the cost to get it fixed. That only left us the option B, to buy another car. If we hadn’t been struggling with our monthly incomes for the last many many months, it wouldn’t be an issue to just buy another family car. Unfortunately, that’s not our case right now. Between lending me great strength and practical help in raising our baby in a foreign country without much external help, and transitioning from the previous career to a new field he’s convicted to move into, my husband has been working very hard daily juggling with our family life and figuring out his entrepreneurial work. While still spending our savings which I’m very thankful to have, the reality now is that we need more income to pay the rent, ASAP. I don’t know how on earth to afford another car.
As you probably have guessed how I was feeling during the just-ended holiday season, I was not feeling super excited or had many holiday activities planned out, or take a trip somewhere to relax. We kept it quite simple. If we were not home, you could find us strolling our baby down in the city for a walk. Don’t get me wrong, just because we were struggling financially didn’t mean we had a gloomy Christmas and New Year. No, I’d say we had a decent holiday within our means. We decorated our small apartment, had meals with friends, video-chatted our parents in China, cooked at home and enjoyed some good movies. I’m truly thankful for what we had for the holiday season.
I’ve been pondering and seeking God deeply in this season, asking Him all kinds of questions. Fundamental questions like “ Why are we still in Geneva? Why still haven’t we a financial breakthrough? Should we move back to China or move somewhere else because living here is really hard and expensive? What’s the purpose for us to live in this city? Would You help us, God? Are we going to have a new car this year? …” Some of the questions, I knew the answers right away because they were the guidance and words of God recorded in my journals and my memories. Yet some of them, I have no concrete answers other than quietly trusting in God’s goodness.
Yesterday we were out in a store with our baby and I bought some jelly candies for my husband and myself. Back to the car I started to eat my candy. My 17-month-old son saw it and he wanted it. He was crying out loud desperately. I said to him, “Dear son, it’s too sweet and you might be choked if you had it. It’s not for you. If it’s for you, I would have given it to you. ” I don’t think he understood at all what I said, but all of sudden, a fresh revelation flashing into my heart. “If it’s for you, I would have given it to you.” Doesn’t it sound like what God would say to us? All the things we have been asking Him for, if they are good for us and for us now, He would have given them to us. Just like any loving parent, even better than any of them, God wouldn’t hold anything back from his children if it’s good and timely for them. We might have asked Him to grant the breakthrough now, but now apparently is not the good timing. I know He is always after the development of our faith and character. What better training ground it is for faith and character to grow than in the trials of life?
Among my anxieties and meltdowns in this season, through some great podcasts and books, I have learned some valuable lessons.
A custom-fit yoke
I realized that in Matthew 11:28-29, when Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”, the yoke from the Lord is custom-fit for me. For a yoke is a device that hitches over the shoulder of a working animal (or a team of animals) so they can comfortably pull something heavy, such as a plow. Since every animal is different in shape and size, the yokes a caring farmer gives to them are also different. The yoke has to custom fit the animal. Our loving Lord asks us to take his yoke, which is custom-fit for each one of us, for us to find rest for our souls in this busy unpredictable life. With this new perspective, I realized that the challenging situation we found ourselves in wasn’t as much as it had been perceived, regardless of my feelings. With the grace of God, I can manage it. I just need to distinguish the parts for me to carry and give the rest to the Lord. I realized God’s heart for me is to teach me to find the true peace and rest, which can’t be learned when sailing downstream and can’t be taken away even in the storms of life.
Steward the mundane
Not only do I desire for a financial breakthrough for our family, but also I have some things I’d love to do, apart from being a wife and mom. Right now, taking care of my son, doing domestic work plus French learning, my plate is quite full. Slowly I realized that the abundant life Jesus has promised to me, to us, doesn’t have to wait until all my desires and dreams being fulfilled to happen. The abundant life happens right now. It happens when I do anything that life offers me to do wholeheartedly, no matter it’s cooking a meal, playing with my son, making my bed, cleaning the apartment, washing dishes, folding laundries or baking a cake for the people in my French class from the community… When we have learned joyfully and wholeheartedly to serve the needs in front of us, we will be prepared and given things that we desire to do. God is after our heart. This understanding gives me a fresh eye to find the many different ways in which I can serve my family and community. Not every day I get to do things I love or my wish is granted, however, I desiced to steward the mundane well.
I’m going to end this post with still some unknowns regarding our family situation hanging in the air. Nevertheless, I’m glad to say that I have found rest for my soul. Just like what I read somewhere, our life is a story. Each page and chapter of good times or difficulties will be eventually turned over. We already knew the end of the story. It’s going to be a good one. I heard a preacher said that 2019 is the year of heart. I can echo that. For from our heart flows everything we do. No matter what 2019 might bring to us, in the midst of trials and blessings, may we not lose sight of Hope and guard our heart well.
Happy New Year, my friend! 🙂