This simple word holds a lot of meaning. It’s definition is “the date on which an event took place in a previous year.” It doesn’t say that this event was particularly good, bad or otherwise, but it often represents something significant; something that is seared in your memory and that has long reaching effects on life going forward. Marriage is one of the first events that typically comes to mind, along with birthdates, first day of school, graduation, first job, death of a loved one.

For me, this time of year is the anniversary of an event that was completely unwelcome, blindsiding, shocking and heartbreaking. Nine years ago, on November 23rd, 2010 my Doctor told my husband and I that I had breast cancer. It was the day before Thanksgiving. I find that ironic. Thanksgiving, when we are supposed to count our blessings, be grateful, go around the beautifully decorated table and list 3 things and people we are thankful for that year. It is supposed to be happy, full of laughs, calm, restful; full of blessings and appreciation. That is not at all how I felt nor did my family.  It was a time of sadness, fear, helplessness, not knowing if I would be alive the following year, deep anger and many emotions that I still, to this day, do not have adequate words to describe. I was not thankful.

The next several years were full of chemo, radiation, Herceptin, anti nausea and various other meds pumped into me 24/7. There were prods, pokes, surgeries and so many scans and tests, blood work and scares and triumphs. And every year, the anniversary of one of the worst days of my life.

Yet…now that there is some distance from that first anniversary, now that the scares come less often as well as the blood work and tests, I find I am thankful. The scares and fears are still there on some level and will always be with me and I’m ok with that. What I learned through this experience and living through these anniversaries has taught me more about life and God’s love, compassion and mercy than anything else could have. I’m not in control of everything and it’s not my job to be.

There are those who say forget the past and all that it brings up, focus only on the good and positive. I agree on a certain level, however, I don’t believe in erasing those things God allowed into our lives for a specific season and purpose, because nothing touches us that He doesn’t first filter through His hands. Nothing. Life, death, pain, heartbreak, joy, triumph and victory. It all serves a purpose and will be used for good. I can’t say I know how it will all be used, and I won’t say it might not break our hearts, but I 100% believe it is and it will be used for good. The imagery of God’s hands filtering and sifting events, people and circumstances that enter my life makes me feel safe and valuable and protected.

This anniversary is one I will not forget. I will not try to stuff it all down or put it away. I let it come each year and I let the emotions that are attached to it flow. It isn’t easy and parts of it still hurt, but there are many parts of the memories that don’t hurt anymore, because I see clearly how close Jesus was to me. For that I can say that I’m thankful. He had and still does, have a divine purpose in all of this. This trauma brought me close to Jesus. It had to, because I had nothing else to cling to and no other hope but in Him.

So this Thanksgiving and the anniversary of my cancer diagnosis is a reminder to me that there is hope in Jesus for every single circumstance that is allowed my way. I don’t know what your anniversaries are and I don’t know the impact they have had on your life and the lives of those you love, but I do know that God was there on that first anniversary and He is here right now. He saw you then and He sees you now. You are not alone and He is working it all out. It may be hard, frightening, a wild ride full of joy and victory, love and loss and new seasons, but in the midst of it all there is hope, extravagant hope!

Psalm 119:114 NLT

You are my refuge and my shield; your word is my source of hope.

Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”