“The righteous person perishes, and no one takes it to heart; the faithful are taken away, with no one realizing that the righteous person is taken away because of evil. He will enter into peace – they will rest on their beds – everyone who lives uprightly.” Isaiah 57 1-2 CSB

I was born in Wisconsin and grew up with cheese as my second language. From an early age, I knew that fresh cheese curds should squeak, how to properly eat string cheese, and what aged meant in terms of cheese. American cheese was referred to as an artificial plastic cheese food and cheddar was king! We took pride in being the inventors of Colby cheese and even if California was technically the dairy state, we still wore our cheese heads proudly at Packers’ games!

A family favorite in our home was aged brick cheese, purchased from Gibbsville, a local cheese artisan. This soft, pale white cheese is considered a part of the cheddar family and was first created in Wisconsin. As it ages, it develops a pungent odor that some believe resembles dirty feet. Yet, if you can get past the distinct order, and slice it thin, this cheese melts in your mouth and its creamy texture and taste leave you wanting more. Someone recently shared with me that as you eat these strong cheeses, like blue cheese, Limburger, and Brick, your taste-buds change the smell as you are eating the cheese, making it more pleasing to you. I may have liked brick cheese as a child but haven’t been able to get past the smell as an adult.

December is wrapping up, along with 2021, and I am so looking forward to a fresh start in 2022. I’ve been transparent about this having been a tough year on so many levels. I remember in early November sharing with God that I felt like I was stretched thin, and couldn’t handle any more challenges, begging for peace. But within a few weeks, we had a job loss, an email that set a boundary I didn’t understand, and my uncle died unexpectedly. I felt like my world was unraveling and I could barely hold it together. I went through the motions of living but felt distant and numb. The only thing I could cling to was my relationship with God and His faithfulness.

It’s so easy to look on the outside and not see the goodness of God working at all when life is hard. If I take an honest look at this past year, and made a list of pros and cons, the cons will outweigh the pros. Yet, just like the stinky brick cheese, I must get past the stinky life situations, most of which I have no control of, and believe that God is working through these difficult situations. Notice, I said He is working though these difficult situations, not around them, not despite them, but through them. I must trust the process and believe that God is using these situations to build my trust and faith. Furthermore, He is using these situations to bring light to some areas in my life where I need healing and clarity.

Some of that healing comes through the process of confession. I am talking about finding a select few friends with whom you can be honest about your feelings. For me, that looked like sharing with my husband and a few friends that I was struggling with believing in the goodness of God. It was telling someone that I felt like I was a failure. It was being honest with all the difficulties and how I wanted to stay in bed during the holidays and only get up to play with my grandson.

 I spent most of Sunday afternoon and Monday being authentic with a few friends. My situations haven’t changed, but my perspective has changed. No one tried to fix me, instead they listened and validated the challenges. They demonstrated compassion and allowed me to be not ok. It helped me clear the air and not put on a facade that everything was fine. It helped me exhale all the hard parts in my life and inhale the love, compassion, and empathy from others. And it changed me.

This change was not a magic pill that made everything look and feel great. Instead, it was more subtle, but still life giving. It helped me release some of the burdens I was never meant to carry, and truly give them to God. It meant that I spent some time praying with my husband asking God to demonstrate His goodness and work in situations that will clearly display His glory. It meant that I wasn’t alone and that these situations are hard. It gave me glimmers of hope!

 I have no idea how some of these situations are going to end up next year. I can’t even imagine the solutions or paths that God has prepared for me. As author Lysa TerKeurst often says, “I do know that God is good, He’s good to me and He’s good at being God.” That is what I am clinging to! The stinky situations still stink, but I am choosing to embrace them, and let God work through them, just like sometimes you need to get past the smell of Brick cheese to truly enjoy it.

 Finally, I am choosing to end my year reflecting on some truly beautiful moments I have experienced over the last twelve months. Those beautiful moments will help shift my perspective and help me imagine a better year. I want to thank you for taking the time to read my blog, and I hope it has been a blessing to you. Happy New Year!

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