Looking back at this past year, I can honestly say it’s been a rough one. In January, I lost my grandfather to lung cancer. In March my other grandfather had a stroke and was in a coma for almost a week. In April, my grandmother had a heart attack with a 99% blockage in her heart, and was in the hospital for about a week.

Needless to say, it’s been a rough year.

But, at the same time, I’ve also learned a lot not only about myself, but about how God works in mine (and sometimes, other people’s) lives. Some of the things I’ve learned have been small, like how to distinguish what I want from what I really need. But I’ve learned bigger things,like how to look for God’s touch in things that seem trivial. (I’m still learning this, but I’ve realized it most right now).

I’m glad to say that I truly believe in my life verse, Joshua 1:9, which says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” God has commanded me (and us as the body of Christ and his church) to be not only strong, but courageous! We can be strong knowing that He is always with us, and relax in the fact that he is for us, not against us. 

I’ve also truly begun to understand that sometimes God takes people away from us, not because He is mean, or hateful, or vindictive, or even just because he thinks it will be good for us. God takes some people away when he does, because for his glory to be self-evident, he needs to prove to us that we really only need to rely on Him and not on other people. Our salvation comes from God alone, through believing in Jesus. People can’t save us. People can comfort us, can be a blessing to us, can be a lesson for us, but they cannot save us. (See John 14:6).

When we get in his word and let his promises and his words permeate into our very existence, and into our lives in every aspect, that is when we truly begin to understand not only being in his presence, but learning to continually be in his presence (or continually praying). I learned last year that praying doesn’t have to be words to God, or even explanations or excuses, or even questions begging him for his grace from our sins, but true prayer is just being in his presence. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us to: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” That is God’s will for us! To be constantly in his presence and appreciating just how much he loves us, and letting him overflow his love through us to others. That is the true reason for Jesus’ birth. That is the true reason for the season. I’m very appreciative of that fact this year. I’m hoping this next year, in 2015, I can learn even more and appreciate how much God loves us, and truly rest in that embrace.