For me, the dreaded year looked like graduating from college. It looked like turning 21 and spending my birthday in California at the Coachella music festival. It looked like figuring out that if I eat too much gluten, my entire body breaks out and that maybe my hair isn’t meant for bleach. It looked like recuperating from 2014 and 2015 and falling in love. It looked like my first mission trip overseas. It looked like waiting and starting; it looked like going back to school for a Masters in Biblical Studies when I had worked so hard to be done with that season of life. It looked like being hard-headedly determined to grow my hair out just to cut it all off by the end of the year. It looked like a change of diet, falling in love with paleo recipes, and moving out of my home for the first time. It looked like a 8-4 full time cubicle job an hour away from home and getting engaged to the love of my life. It looked like the immeasurably more and how that doesn’t always fit our vision.
It’s just that it also looked like a new sort of loneliness. It looked like learning the difference between the labels “best friend” and “dear friend” and revisiting a season of my life where the importance of clapping for people who show up took the driver’s seat. It looked like calling my demons by their real names so that I could face them in the dark. It looked like battling anxiety in the midst of an exciting season. It looked like tuning and pruning and having to endure the qualification process of being called into ministry. It looked like learning what the hustle really means and having to hustle against the odds of being a “millennial.” It looked like unbelievable unexpected ache and facing the fact that settling down doesn’t settle our worries or insecurities– that you don’t just grow up and finally find your people and have to stop fearing losing the ones you thanked God for. It looked like gaining weight and losing weight and feeling like the freak who chose the big-kid job over Atlanta adventures. It looked like figuring out how to step forward when the people you pulled close just didn’t show up. It looked like having to balance the excitement with the bittersweet ache of leaving what I’ve always known for something I’ve always reached for. It looked like writing words I couldn’t take back that burned bridges. It looked a lot like facing my mess and my ugly and my own brokenness.
So maybe my 2016 wasn’t that awful. It was actually very kind to me. But in its kindness, as I hit all of these milestones of life, there were lessons it seemed to drown me in:
– Consistency is key. I think I heard the word “consistency” so many times at the beginning of this year that I thought God was playing a joke on me. Like “Okay, I get it God- You want me to be consistent.” It’s just that the rest of the year looked like learning what consistency dresses up as in the morning. Maybe it was being consistent in friendships; Jordan Randall taught me that being consistent in a friendship doesn’t always look like a consistent physical presence (seeing how he lives 1,000 miles away), but that consistency in friendship can mean phone calls for life updates, rooting for each other in the wins and the quick “I’m sick, pray for me” texts, or the iMessage check-ins. Or maybe consistency was washing my face every night to prevent future break outs instead of just washing it to get rid of any present bumps, or having a consistent diet that I didn’t break. Maybe consistency was learning what it would take to grow a movement like If You Find This Email– realizing its bigness and my smallness and failing epically at planning routine posts. If anything, 2016 beat me over the head with lessons in consistency and the fact that consistency births thankfulness; or cultivates exponential growth when people can depend on a text or a post or a response; it prevents and solves problems; it calls for routines and planning and those things are what call for grit and determination and self-control and pushing yourself.
– You’ve gotta choose to give grace, even in the moments before you make that choice when you realize that you won’t get it back. 2016 was humbling; it bent and broke me, grinding me down just to rebuild me into someone that can be the first to apologize even in the instances of misunderstanding and good intentions and having been the one who was wronged. It slapped me in the face with the realization that if I’m going to stand next to Greg at the altar in January between two olive branches of peace, then I better be quick to extend olive branches to the hearts that break mine.
– Again I found myself falling at the feet of this lesson: show up for people. When you’re tired, when it’s awkward, when it’s been so long since you’ve seen them. Show up for people. And clap loudly for the people that show up for you. Changing seasons can either be dressed up in glittering golden hope or deflating obstacles to overcome, but most of the time they’re probably both. And it’s important to notice the people who show up, who stick around on the sidelines rooting for you, who get down in the dirt to help you dig everything up, and who march with you for the victory lap. I think that at the brink of the loss in 2016, I was hyper focused on the empty seats and too intent on making my points and arguments and pain known and understood that I didn’t even notice the people standing up in the rafters cheering for me.
– Stop fighting so hard to be heard and understood. Just give ’em grace and preach Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.
– This year, I wrote a letter to my little sister that I shared with the world where I asked her to keep holding out for the people she’s been praying for, a first kiss, a hand to hold, Friday night plans. That was in January, and I think now I’d probably tell her something different: I had it all wrong. Make it about Jesus, little sister. Hold out for Him to come in and sweep you off your feet, because I didn’t know He was such a great romancer. Let Him into the lonely and the quiet, let Him fill those spaces up. Quit bending over backwards and stretching your neck to try and find all the things I’ve discovered to be empty and broken, and just look at Him.
– Society says “You can do and become anything you want,” rather than “You can do and become anything you want, it just takes hard work.” The road to “anything you want” is scattered with check points of the nitty-gritty, not-so-sexy daily grind.
– Lately I’ve been thinking and learning more and more that self-control is a hefty fruit of the Spirit that becomes more relevant in our daily lives the more we grow. Maybe that’s why “adulting” is so intimidating: our lives lack regimen until it happens. Now I find myself cyclically having to choose between two desires of my heart; I could go to Atlanta and sit on the Crown Plaza roof all day drinking a London Fog, OR I could work 9-5 every single day of the week so that I can afford the sweet apartment in Lawrenceville and a life with Greg. Life is choice. It is choosing, choosing, and more choosing, and usually looks more like dying to self daily. Because there’s a girl in me who still wishes she had some blue tipped hair and a cozy seat in a white coffee shop tucked away in Kirkwood where she could write her poems. And I see pieces of her die every day when I choose Greg or groceries or saving money on gas. At first, it felt unnatural and terrifying. Now? Now I have this purposed-filled life where there is satisfaction in finding new recipes to learn on Pinterest when I get home from work. There’s satisfaction in the fact that my cubicle doesn’t have the kind of Instagram-worthy lighting. Because at the end of the day, it means Greg; at the end of the day it means lifting up priorities and letting people and things know that they’re worth it because in choosing this or that, it means pieces of my former self are dying. And that’s coming from the girl who just wanted to know she could change and be better and more hopeful and less of a runner. New is good. Self-control births new life.
– In the ache, there is a conditioning to remember: He is saving you from something and for something.
– We are a generation that overthinks, is way too in tune with how we feel and let’s our goals and dreams and calling in life get bulldozed by those feelings. We idolize self-discovery, except our core exists apart from Christ. All of our soul searching and self-expression is a downward spiral of fumbling across our sin, when our eyes should be higher; we should be searching His word, discovering who He is, walking His path, and listening to His calling. Preach Him. Encourage head-dives into who He is and who He calls us to be.
– At the end of the day, you gotta fight your own dark, first. Call yourself out. Pluck the plank out of your own eye. Less them, less here-and-now, more Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.
– 2016 sat down with the girl who thought she’d always be second choice. The girl who thought she had no value to add to someone’s life, that people’s lives were better without her in them. The girl who tried for years to pin point what was wrong with her that made leaving easy. The girl that made lists of what to say and asked too many questions to seem interesting and wore red lip stick with all black attire like she lived a life more intriguing than everyone else. 2016 sat down with that version of myself– with that blame and those doubts and pointed fingers– and made me sit in the realization that my insecurities became heavier the more I focused on them. 2016 had the hard conversation with me about how maybe all of the moments that I got left behind or disregarded or left unchosen– maybe those weren’t moments where I could’ve been more or been cleverer or funnier or prettier or wittier or quicker or better– but those were moments left undone by God’s will for the immeasurably more. For all the moments where my heart broke and left me feeling disposable– 2016 looked like giving God’s will for the immeasurably more all of the credit instead of putting the brunt of the blame on myself.
– In this season of engagement, 2016 has spoken this: I find that I am in the process of taking off my old self to become this new thing in oneness with Him, and I’m falling more in love with Jesus for giving me this example of how He restores me into something that can one day stand before Him a new creation. I’m thankful Greg and I got it right the first time. Thankful there haven’t been any doubts. Thankful for the pruning process and restoration of our hearts and beings as we step into this new life, new creations, restoring one another to our fullest.
– 2016 began with a quote from Louie Giglio at Passion Conference: “We are a generation of people playing the victim while Jesus is still walking around with scars in His hands. He does not live in what happened to Him. We have to get low, be willing to risk walking without our limp that we’ve come to depend on as a coping mechanism for life, come down to Jesus’ level and walk out of the grave with Him.” The 11 months that followed were stepping stones along the way to realizing that– we have to stop telling sad stories. We have to give up the ghosts and stop over-romanticizing the past and the people we couldn’t keep. We have to stop sugar-coating the truth to make it readable. It has to be about more than just having a good story to tell. Because 2016 took my story out of the picture and made me face the stories I should be telling– and they’re not about me. I don’t want to tell sad stories anymore. I don’t want to give heart breakers blue eyes and dress up the loneliness in a pretty poem. I want to stop clapping for the darkness. I want to tell stories marked by what God has done.
2016 was full of fulfilled promises, whether those answered prayers looked like a love story and healing that was immeasurably more than what I had in mind or tough lessons that grew me up and restored me back to Him.
January 2016 met me in a place of desperation and trying to play catch-up to get back to the girl I was.
January 2017 will meet me at the altar between two olive branches promising all of who I have been and all of who I will be to the man who has my heart forever.
And that’s a good story. That’s a better story than I could’ve told a year ago. A story filled with character development and second chances and opened eyes and ripping off the rose-colored glasses. An immeasurably more. A story worth telling.
I can’t wait to see what sort of story God lets me tell in 2017.