Thank you for contributing this guest post, Jonna Nixon, answering the question: What gifts has God given you in 2021?

For many, the past couple of years have been… well, just hard. We all know the reasons. For
many of us, we’ve lost people we love, we’ve been critically ill ourselves, we’ve endured multiple
negative repercussions on our jobs, our finances, our health, and our very standard of what
previously qualified as normalcy in our lives. During seasons like this, it’s easiest to narrow our
focus on all the negative changes happening and really slip into a pessimistic tunnel vision of
sorts. It certainly takes more work to hone our vision on the gifts God has given us, but it is an
effort of tremendous reward. Looking back at the end of the year is the best time (second only to
any time that qualifies as ‘the present’) to really evaluate our state of mind and perform any
heart adjustments that might be necessary.

For me, 2021 has had plenty of trials. My family lost one of our dearest and best friends to COVID. My husband had many, many trials within his career. I lost an entire month of summer while sick with COVID and then a couple of months later, I started losing my hair as a result of the virus. I may be bald soon but at the end of the day (or year as it may be), I have SO much to be
thankful for.

God is good. It’s a common statement, one that most believers hear and or say on the regular.

But… God IS good. Think on what good is. God encompasses everything that is good. He sets
the standard for the measurement of good. It is all that He is; the great I AM. And it’s what every
gift He gives us is. The Bible tells us that every good and perfect gift comes from the Father. I’ve
been pondering more on what that looks like.

I think it’s fair to say that when most of us think about the gifts we’ve been given (or gifts we
hope to receive), we think of things we want; the things that we have longed for, or think might
make our lives easier. From small to large most of us have ongoing, accumulating lists in our
minds: that new kitchen appliance that will make dinner a breeze, a new wardrobe, the dream
car, the perfect job, that perfect house. Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with having these lists
and dreams, so long as they keep their place and don’t rule our lives. But are these things
REALLY the best gifts? Or are the best gifts more lasting, more eternal? I am telling you,
promising you, assuring you… they ARE made up of the eternal nature.

God’s greatest gifts to me aren’t the lovely, tangible things of my mental gift list. They have
actually been born out of the hard: hard times, hard experiences, hard losses. It’s during these
times that God works on our hearts and draws us closer to Him. They aren’t usually super
enjoyable seasons but looking back on the other side of them, all I can do is worship my God.
My good, good Father. He uses such things to mature me and help me in my goal to walk closer
with Him every day. He strengthens my faith, stretches my perseverance, and most importantly,
gives me a testimony that does nothing but bring HIM glory. I fade to the background, and He
becomes the shining centerpiece of my life. Simply put, the greatest gifts that God gives me,
bring glory to Him.

God has used times like these in my life to show me that I can ALWAYS trust in Him. He is
ALWAYS worth trusting in because He is ALWAYS faithful. When we walked through some
questionable and difficult circumstances this year, the Lord clearly whispered to my soul that He
was working on things I couldn’t even imagine. I could write story after story, but I am sharing
the following one with you because it was years and years in the making.

This summer there was a week when someone spoke words to my husband that were just life
sucking, dreaming crushing words. I don’t think the individual even meant to come across that
way but what was said was harsh and cold; the kind of words that deflate a person. The words
spoken were NOT truth and I knew it. I knew beyond a doubt that God had a plan for my
husband, his career, and our family because for so long He had assured me of it. This day was
just a chance for the enemy to try to wreak havoc on my husband’s spirit and cause his faith to
falter. The day these words were spoken, my husband came home completely crestfallen; worn
down and exhausted from fighting for his lifelong dream; the dream God had certainly given him
using the talents He had supplied him with. He shared this interaction with me just as I was
about to leave the house to run an errand. As I drove, I completely poured out my heart to God.
Through quiet whispers to my soul, He assured me that His promises were true, and His plans
are always for our good. He strengthened my faith (yet again) and gave me a confidence in His
plan. He reminded me that He could do things far beyond what we could ever even dream. I
went home feeling strong and excited about the future because I knew He held it in His perfect

That happened on a Friday. On Sunday morning during worship at church we sang two songs
that absolutely were a gift to us on that day. As tears rolled down my face, a friend (knowing our
situation) leaned over and whispered that those songs were clearly for us. [Praise Jesus for
tending to our hurting hearts in ways only He can!] It was not a week later when my husband got
a phone call that would change everything. His dream was becoming a reality! After so many
setbacks, so many high hopes, so many empty words from others…it was actually happening!
And it was bigger than we ever could have imagined! He has persevered in this career quest for
so long amid the setbacks, but we always felt we were headed in the direction God had for us,
so we pressed on.

The thing is, sometimes God has a lot to do to get us ready for any given place He’s taking us.
Sometimes we must go to the desert like Elijah before we go to our own Mount Carmel. We
must learn the hard stuff before He can give us more. The word Cherith, the desert where Elijah
went, literally means a cutting or a separation. The desert is hard; it’s place of helplessness and
solitude, a place of sparseness not plenty. However, it is the place we see God provide for our
every need; a place where we can do nothing but trust in Him to sustain us. And He does.

And let me tell you, what a testimony of His faithfulness we have to tell when He moves us onward!! Does coming out of a desert mean we will never go back? Certainly not. But like God’s faithfulness to the Israelites, it gives us a place to set an Ebenezer stone in our minds and in our hearts to serve as a constant reminder of God’s help. The Hebrew word Ebenezer means
“stone of help.” When we experience God’s faithfulness, erecting a stone monument in our minds (or prayer journal or any way you choose) serves as a bookmark in our lives.

When we need to recall the times when God showed His faithfulness to us, we can quickly flip back to that place. Sometimes we need it to be able to share with others for the purpose of encouraging
them; sometimes we need it for our own lives when our faith is weak. We must remember,
though, going through a desert isn’t an event we get to check off once and call it done. It’s most
likely that we as believers will visit there many, many times. It teaches us every time and
matures us in ways that would never happen elsewhere. This isn’t a bad thing though…in my
mind I keep thinking about how beautiful a life is that has a heart full of monuments to God’s
faithfulness. These are eternal gardens that commemorate the love of the Father, the grace of
Jesus, and the tenderness of the Holy Spirit.

So, as I asked myself and reflected on what the best gift God gave me in 2021 was, I realized it
was simple. He gave me the gift of a stone. And actually, not just one stone but several. What
more could I ever ask for? These are the best gifts I could receive because they are eternal;
they point directly to my God, and He receives ALL the glory for them!

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