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I am a mom of two now. The thought of what will be my new daily reality was admittedly overwhelming at first (and I’m sure will continue to be some days). My first couple weeks home with Audrey were covered by a little cloud in the back of my mind as I thought about how in the world I was going to do this myself once I didn’t have the generous live-in help of parents and when Ben started his rotations, some of which will take him out of town for up to four weeks at a time in the coming year. But one day, as my two-and-a-half-year-old son played in the backyard with his dad and I watched him through the window, time seemed to slow down and I realized what a precious age this is. The age around two to three has always been a favorite of mine. Even looking at people’s baby pictures, I tend to think most kids are cutest at that age. And of course these early weeks with a baby are equally special. As I sat there watching my son climb things in his little plaid ear-flap hat, I decided that I did not want to miss the beauty of this year of my life and theirs by being stressed out and negative. I want to enjoy it and live it with joy. I surmised that mostly that will mean accepting some chaos and being ok with things not being perfect. Maybe the house will be a mess most days. Maybe we’ll be even later for things than we already are. Maybe I’ll only get a couple showers a week, and maybe some dinners will get burned, or consist of cereal or something. But there’s beauty in that stuff, and so often we don’t see that until we’re on the other side and have missed the chance to bask in that beauty. I don’t want to miss it.

I also decided that I want to be depending on God this year. That I need to, in real, practical ways. Through in-the-moment prayer when I’m nearing the end of my strength, asking Him for His strength and believing He will give it instead of falling into complaint or desperation. By founding my days and moments on His rock solid Word, even if I can’t find any significant chunks of time for reading the Bible. So I’ve been gradually adding to my collection of verses written on notecards, ones particularly relevant for the things I’ll be facing each day.

And as I thought about all this, another verse came to my mind, and it hasn’t left me since.

“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” Psalm 126:3

There are a lot of tough things a person can go through in life. Things that are truly overwhelming, stressful, or despair-producing. Two beautiful children and a house full of stuff to be managed and enjoyed, as big as that task can be at times, is not one of them. It is blessing. So I will remember this verse frequently this year in those moments when I’m starting to lose it a little. This is one to hang my hat on. The things in front of me are God’s gracious gifts to me. So let me be filled with joy.

I’ve felt like shouting this verse to anyone who will listen. It’s such an important revelation to me. But as I’ve pondered it, I’ve been aware that it might sound a lot different to someone who has been going through one of those truly hard things, or many of them. Maybe they’d wonder, If my life is filled with pain right now, what does that say about God, and how can I have joy? And even to someone for whom things are going well, it can seem to suggest that our joy is dependent upon things going well, on God giving us what we want, when we want it. Yet I know that’s not how it works. So I asked myself, how can a person be filled with joy if the Lord is not doing great things for them?

Then I realized, it is a moot point. Whatever darkness might descend on my life, the Lord HAS done great things for me. He spoke this beautiful world into existence, spoke me into motion, breathed breath into my lungs, and into my children’s and husband’s and family’s and friends’, too. He sustains our breath and heartbeat each moment. He gives us life, and the freedom to live it. And because of that freedom he graciously gave us, a lot of things have gone wrong with the world, making it a painful place to live in sometimes, making it hard to see the beauty, separating us from Him. But He did the Greatest Thing for us. Jesus came down as one of us, willingly experienced our pain and guilt and separation from the Father, and he died to make things right. He died the death I deserved so that I could stand before God as one bathed in grace, my sins covered over by His perfection, reconciled to him and able to bask in his loving presence, being filled with joy for eternity.

And that is enough. Forgetting the lifetime full of beautiful blessings he gives me, like these two wonderful children. Regardless of whatever he doesn’t give me or the heartache he allows me to experience (which I continually find him so capable of turning into something beautiful). If my life on earth were full only of hardship, grief, and pain, still I could say, by all rights should say, “The Lord has done great things for me.” If I truly believe that, and could fully grasp that, how then could I not be filled with joy?