Through has become my favorite and least favorite of all the prepositions. It also represented my 2023 better than any other word I’ve found.

I choose two words each year. One on January 1st for the upcoming year as a hope for the blank year ahead, and one on December 31 as a reflection of what actually was. Typically the January 1st word is a bit more hopeful, ethereal, and grandiose as a mantra to meditate on for the wide open new year, while the December 31st word is reflective, somber, and humble, filled with memories of what was. Looking forward to 2023, I chose the words Sheltering Light as my hopes for the year. I wanted to feel sheltered, protected, guarded, and free of the burdens of the past several years. I wrote, and I quote, “I want to understand why life is hard sometimes and how to keep going with grace. I want knowledge and wisdom. I want to see the light at the end of the “foot years” tunnel and emerge into a new phase of life.”

Well, I have good news and bad news, Self… you did indeed enter a new chapter of life, defined not by one appendage, but by one organ. Shall we count that a win? When reflecting about my year and my desire to end the year a little lighter than I started it, I did not imagine that would mean rounding out 2023 with fewer organs than I started with!

2023 was full of many highs and lows for me, as it likely was for everyone. I was hospitalized in May, had surgery to remove my right ovary, and spent the rest of the year “tracking the tropics” of my abdomen and worked toward healing on every possible level. I have new scars, new sensations, and new normals as it turns out removing a grapefruit sized mass isn’t the end of the story. When I was admitted to the hospital in terrible pain that even IV pain medications could not relieve, I desperately wanted another preposition. I wanted to go above, below, beside, between, or against the path I was on. But my only choice was through. I had to forge steadily onward, tackling each task, scan, lab value, appointment, sensation, and follow up phone call allotted to me. I walked through the valley of fertility desires, pathology results, hyper vigilance of new bodily sensations, and retraining my mind that life is not a catastrophe. The only way was through.

I am still walking through. Sometimes trudging through. Sometimes, slogging. Doing my very best to keep my eyes toward the horizon rather than on the ground.

In the midst of all the hard things I have walked through. I still somehow felt both shelter and light. I was protected on a wide variety of levels as surgery was successful, pathology was benign, and many other follow up tests have been clear. And I haven’t been alone in any of it. I had a friend spend the night in the hospital with me (and keep my nurses on schedule with pain meds!) My mom came to live with me so I could heal and remain within my surgical precautions. I had weeks of food provided by many. Others have been generous with money, rides, hugs, and laughter as co-warriors for defiant joy through the mystery and the madness of 2023.

I shall close 2023 with words from one of my favorite authors, Leigh McLeroy, as she too meditated on the purpose and power of “through” in one of her weekly emailed devotionals:

“Through says there’s more. Through says wherever I am is not permanent. Through implies motion and change and possibility. Through secretly carries the freight of hope, hidden for now, but reasonable. Whether I know you or not, I’m certain that right now, there’s something particular you’re going through. How do I know this? Easy. If you’re reading this, you’re breathing. And if you’re breathing, you’re passing from one grief or joy or trial or consolation or season or celebration to another. Through is transient, but also constant. It’s where we live.  

So today, here’s a prayer for your own through, wherever it may lead:

Heavenly Father, bless this through. I’m not sure how I got here, or the duration of my stay. I didn’t choose to be in this place, and I ache to be somewhere else. Maybe anywhere else. It comforts me to know I am not unseen by you. Not lost. Not abandoned. Not ever. You know my whereabouts and the present condition of my heart. You are at work in ways unknown to me. You’ve made the sun stand still. Turned back rivers from their source. Divided seas. Caused bushes to combust and donkeys to speak. You’ve raised your beautiful Son from the dead, making even death a temporary passage. You will not lose me. I cannot lose you. You are with me. You’ve promised. We are going through this “through” together, and nothing can separate me from your love. Hallelujah and Amen.” (Leigh McLeroy)

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.

Isaiah 43:2, NLB

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