I hate New Year clichés, so let’s just skip those.

That being said, welcome to 2021! It already sounds better than last year, doesn’t it?

Currently, I’m wrapping up a 3 week Christmas break… one of the many perks to teaching at the sweet little school where I spend my days. It’s the perfect amount of time, and I’m really excited to go back – rested, relaxed, and so ready to see the students again.

I’m such a weirdo sometimes – being home with my family has been much-needed and wonderful, but I’ve spent the past couple days in serious need of being out in the world again. And then this morning I woke up feeling sad that the break is almost over because I’m going to miss being home with my guys.

It may be a woman’s prerogative to change her mind, but I’ve got to tell you… I exhaust myself.

As an emotional overthinker, it feels impossible to enter a new year without reflecting back on the last one a little. I don’t know a single person who wasn’t ready to turn the page on that last chapter and start a new one (myself included), but admittedly, I’m tiptoeing in with one eye closed and the other one looking pretty squinty.

I guess I don’t want to assume this next year is going to be everything last year wasn’t. It’s too much pressure.

Looking back on last year’s blog posts, I spent a lot of time writing about looking for the good among the bad… that it really was there. It’s always there. I’m not sure if people get tired of reading that from me – it seems to have accidentally become my theme, even if it’s not an accident at all. For reasons I’m still not sure of, that’s where the Lord directs me again and again.

And while I’m asking Him for direction this year when it comes to writing topics, I can’t help but try to drive this thought home a little harder.

The great Dolly Parton once said, “We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.”

I’ve been thinking about those words a lot these past couple weeks, and even though I’m sure they can be taken different ways, there’s one way I like to view them:

Although God is most certainly in control of my life, I am the only one who can control my attitude.

Have you ever been around someone who constantly blames their problems on someone else, their circumstances, or anything else they can think of?

Have you ever been that person?

It’s a whole new level of exhausting.

We’ve all experienced hard things, and none of us would ever choose to walk through them. Not for a minute do I wish to belittle those times in your life. Never. There are things you’ve been through that I don’t understand, and vice versa.

But I think I can safely say that the most magnificent treasures are found in the darkest places, meaning – there are precious lessons we learn and a deeper understanding of God gained in the difficult times.

And it’s also safe to say that we can live a glorious life even in the midst of suffering.

That statement is not meant to undermine the real devastation that comes alongside grief and suffering. Not at all. There are events in our lives that mark us forever. It’s a side effect of this temporary home we live in.

But when we truly grasp the depth of the love Jesus has for us and believe that He sits beside us in our grief, that He walks next to us in our suffering, we begin to see that while there will always be scars, we will find reasons to smile again.

Friends, you can live a great story, no matter what is currently happening in your life.

There are parts of my life that I wish were different. It’s really easy to focus on those parts, and I spend a lot of time praying that God will restore and redeem what is broken. However, knowing that He always answers every prayer, I have to trust that if He chooses not to fix things it’s for my good and His glory.

And when I can trust Him in this it gets easier to focus on all the good He has gifted me with.

Like my darling, fun, attentive husband of almost 23 years.

Our 3 beautiful, sweet, protective boys.

A supportive extended family.

A job I love that God dropped right in my lap.

A wonderful church family who loves us unconditionally.

A gentle, loyal dog that drives me crazy but I still can’t live without.

A group of dear friends who challenge and encourage me.

And although I don’t care a whole lot about stuff, He’s given us a beautiful, comfortable home with super cozy beds and plenty of laughter – a refuge from the world.

And of course, a powerful yet gentle God who is patiently teaching me to trust Him as not only the Lord of my life, but also my Father who is tender and cares very deeply about me.

That list of gifts is pretty incredible, friends.

And I know your list is too.

God promises us in Isaiah 45:3 that He will give us the treasures of the darkness and riches from secret places, so that we will know that He is Lord.

He is the God of Israel, who calls us by name.

How could we believe for even a minute that a God who does that doesn’t love us or care about our story?

I assure you, He cares about every detail, and it’s time we start living like it.

It’s time to lay down our stubborn determination to focus on all that is wrong with this world and our lives and instead bask in the glory of the good gifts He’s given us.

It’s time to be a good gift to others.

Once you make these adjustments, you’ll see – it changes everything.

Yes, friends, you can live a great story. In fact, you already are. Write it down. Tell others what God is doing in your life. The more you practice this, the faster all the good will float to the top and stay there.

And one day you’ll look back on this one wonderful life He’s given you and smile, knowing you lived it to the fullest.