by Ashley Anthony

*Ashley has offered to give one of our readers a special, customized painting to go along with today’s post! See below for giveaway details.

Joy in 2015

Can you believe 2014 is almost over? Each year seems to slip by faster than the one before. A few years ago, our family began the tradition of choosing a word instead of resolutions to help us better focus on our year ahead. Resolutions would quickly be broken and likely not remembered by spring. A word seemed like a simple solution to fix that.

One word would help to shape our prayers and hopes for the new year. 

2009 was crazy busy, so in 2010 we chose the word, “SIMPLIFY.” By January 3, we had made one 911 call, ridden in two ambulances, and met our insurance deductible for the year! God immediately tested our resolve with “simplify.” We’ve also chosen the word, “LOVE,”—to love others more, each other more, and God more. Another word, “GROW,” focused our attention on growing spiritually and deepening our relationships with Christ. And then there was “DELIGHT,”—to delight ourselves in the Lord in all things. I truly did see those words as defining words for each year. 2014 has been a much different story though.

In October of 2013 my mother-in-law, “Gran” as my kids call her, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, a very aggressive cancer. The cancer was too close to vital organs and blood vessels, leaving treatment necessary to hopefully shrink the tumor before surgery was optional. Our family was obviously paralyzed by this news. By the end of 2013, after enduring more than 2 months of pancreatic chemotherapy, Gran received the good news that the cancer shrunk such that surgery was possible. While everything seemed dark at that time, the Lord rested the word “joy” on my heart for 2014. The specific verse He gave me was Romans 15:13, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” 

I wanted to keep a record of the joy in 2014, which I did through journaling and using the hashtag, #joyin2014, on social media. Joy may seem like the wrong word considering what Gran was facing. Weren’t words such as, “heartbreak,” “sadness,” “grief,” “despair,” or “hopelessness” more appropriate? No, those words were not and are never appropriate for anyone who trusts in the Lord, and my precious Father in Heaven made it abundantly clear that joy was exactly His word for our family in 2014.

In early January of this year, Gran went in for surgery, but was given the bad news minutes into the multi-hour operation that the cancer had spread to her liver (stage 4), and that surgery was no longer an option. Looking back, time almost seemed frozen, but my joy journal showed great encouragement, hope, promise and faith. “Thank you Lord for giggles today, they give me joy.” “Thank you for family movie night.” “Thank you for friends who say they pray and really pray!” The Lord knew I needed to find joy daily in the simple things all around me, and I did!

In March, my mom’s cancer (breast cancer that first surfaced in 2005) had spread to her liver and bones after being pretty well contained. What? What word did you give me, Lord? JOY? How do we handle this? How do I find JOY in this mess? Both moms. But the Lord never fails, and His love is good. He’s always right on time. My joy could only be found in Him and how He would carry us through. My joy journal praises the Lord for time with my parents and fun times with my kids during those next few days.

Missional Motherhood

This year has been filled with a lot of pain, (I also lost two precious grandparents) and I’ve probably cried more than in all the others years combined. However, I cannot think of a better word for 2014 than “JOY.” Jesus has given us complete joy through every moment of every sad day. He has strengthened our faith in Him and deepened our prayer life. We don’t just speak words. We pray in faith that God hears our prayers and will answer them.

As this year comes to a close, there are so many things for which we are praising God and finding JOY in:

  • My mother-in-law’s last two quarterly scans showed NO cancer in her pancreas or liver, and she is feeling better than she has in years—JOY!
  • My mom’s pain from earlier in the year has subsided. After being told that her legs were so fragile they could shatter at any moment and that rods were needed, her legs are strong and she is feeling well—JOY!
  • The Lord continues to put people in our lives to encourage and love us—JOY!
  • We have friends and family who love Jesus and pray for us—JOY!
  • We have been given several opportunities to share what God has done this year—JOY!
  • We have been able to share the gospel and see people receive it with GREAT JOY this year—JOY!
  • We have three healthy kids we love to pieces—JOY!
  • The Lord has graciously given us the opportunity to teach a young couples class within our local church—JOY!

I’m so thankful that the Lord put the word “joy” on my heart! It brings me to tears to think about how good God is and how much He loves us and provides for us even when we have absolutely no clue what is ahead.

This is something I wrote on January 2nd, 2014 on my personal blog:

“I pray all of our days in 2014 be filled with JOY.  I know we will have trials, bad days, sad days, frustrating days…but I only want GOD to get the glory of our days. When our focus is on the negative and the ugly, Satan wins. But we can easily defeat him with our JOY that we find ONLY in JESUS!”

I have no idea what 2015 will hold for you, but my prayer is that it is a joyous one. I pray that no matter what happens, you can point every moment to Jesus and the good He is orchestrating in your life. I encourage your family to choose a word to characterize 2015. We never know how God can use the simplest things to teach us great things and draw us closer to HIM! Happy New Year! (Almost!) And please check out the giveaway details below!

Ashley Anthony

Giveaway Details:

Ashley has graciously offered one of you a special painting, custom designed to represent the “word of the year” of your choosing. See the picture above to get an idea of Ashley’s work! (And, if you want to see more of Ashley’s art, visit her site here.) Here is how to enter:

  • Share this post.
  • Subscribe to Missional Motherhood via e-mail on the top right of this page.
  • Comment below this post “Shared and Subscribed” and why you want to win Ashley’s painting. Feel free to include your choice of a special word to characterize 2015 for your family!

Giveaway Winner: Kelly Clough! 

Thank you to all who participated!

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