The ball fell, and everyone kissed. We had missed midnight by a few minutes because the television had buffered. Somewhere in my head, I had the thought for only a second—the fear—that 2018 was going to look like that: missing it. Coming up short. Trying to celebrate even though the time for celebration had passed and we were left with the echoes.
Yes, there I was: it seemed impossible to see the year ahead of me. Sure, I knew what was supposed to happen: my one year wedding anniversary, my twenty-third birthday, graduating with my Master’s. There were things on the calendar, and I could see them like a silhouette in a dream. But everyone was pouring champagne, and I was straining to see anything past January. It wasn’t even an excited sense of the unexpected and endless opportunities laid out in front of me; no, nothing felt like an adventure.
I looked at my husband who was laughing at something Blake said—my stomach dropped at the words we had said to each other, and I wished so fiercely that one midnight could fix everything; I wished recovery was that easy.
What’s more, I still felt the thickness of the air I had breathed only a month before when I asked my family and friends for help; the way the sun felt on my lap when I finally admitted what sort of thoughts I was having to my mom; how I don’t think my dad and I have ever had such a good conversation like the one we had that same night when he came to help me after the car accident.
Recovery. I wanted 2018 to be recovery, and I just couldn’t see it.
January came and went, and it was all out of body for me.
February was some sweet relief for a moment. I was able to say some things to an old friend that I had wanted to say for a while, and I don’t think that’s ever happened to me before: I got to be in charge of my own pain.
March was spent on my knees in gratitude: it had taken three years of feeling forgotten by God, but at last, He had come through on His promise. You see, my calling to a new life in ministry came after the heaviest heartbreak, guilt and shame, and believing I shouldn’t be alive anymore. My calling was all I could hold on to in order to make sense of everything that happened. So to turn around only to be led through the desert when you thought God had invited you to a prodigal feast—three years is hard. Yet, there I was in March, taking a leap, signing up to serve as a Content Coordinator and Blog Editor with a ministry for high school girls.
Hope grew in April. In April, I could finally see a way out of the life I had been stuck in for a year and a half. The year finally had a face. What had been such a season of uncertainty—where would we end up, when we would find out what was coming next—it was all finally a little more certain. April was for making plans. I was finally starting to see everything that 2018 was going to be. I could see past April. I had plans. My days were spent daydreaming. Everyone was excited. We were excited.
And then the phone call came in May. I had daydreamed about our weekends, days by the lake, coffee shop evenings, cooking more and falling into a routine. There was a whole world I had built in my head, and I was already letting it shape and change who I was.
But then the phone rang. And meetings were scheduled.
When we should have been popping champagne, I was just angry.
Again, I found myself praying for sleep at night, staring at the ceiling, trying to count the arms of my fan as it spun.
I should have been on my knees with gratitude, but I was too busy still fighting to get back what I believed I had been robbed of.
You would think I would have learned to not think about my tomorrows by now. I’m sure God must have laughed to Himself and said, “Little one, you think you can speak things into existence, but you still need to learn that I’m the only breath-giver.”
June looked like me facing myself in the mirror, clenching my fists and gritting my teeth, having to make a decision about what kind of wife I was going to be. When I felt like I was alone and on my own team, pointing fingers at God, I had to learn how to look for Him in spite of the fact that I had lost everything I had wanted. I had to recover from thinking I had heard God clearly only to learn that I was wrong.
Do you ever do that? Make all of these plans, draw up the itinerary, check the weather and pack accordingly, and then realize that you forgot to wait on God before you started pulling out of the driveway? I left God behind. And somehow, in June, with my May hangover, I blamed God for not accepting an invitation that I never took the time to send.
June made me define myself; I had to figure out if I was going to be bitter towards the life choices that had been made or if, in the midst of feeling like I was playing on a team all by myself, I was going to come alongside my husband and be the best teammate he needed.
July was kind. I fell in love with Greg all over again. I heard my dad laugh like I have never heard him laugh before in an old Whataburger in Birmingham. I became an expert at building something from the pieces; I showed up, and said, “Yes,” to God without following it up with a “I’m not happy about this, but, yes.” July was a season of reaping from open hands and willingness to follow even when following meant being deterred from where we had our eyes set. Some of the most selfish parts of me died in July. I got to have new dreams in July.
August breezed by: I remember the ocean and concerts with my sister; there was Nashville and tacos, and getting back into coffee again. There was a sudden understanding that, maybe recovery was never meant for one midnight; maybe part of recovery was the slow time it took to ride the rollercoaster up.
September was all over the place. I remember driving in my car, talking to God, thinking, “I’ve never fasted about anything before,” only to hear, “You’re about to.”
There is something sacred about the way our prayers sounded that next week in our little 1323 apartment; we were honest with each other and God, and Greg and I learned about what it could look like for God to show up in our living room: sometimes the most ground shaking thing He can do is change our hearts.
And one thing was certain that week in September: God had definitely done a number on our hearts to cultivate the desire—the desperate yearning—to move back to my home town for what we could only be a God-sized dream.
But what I couldn’t have dreamt was the way that God would push us. You know what I mean? Not very often does God invite us into something without first wanting to make us into something.
September taught me about guts; about going toe-to-toe with people I had once called family and calling them out for the horrifying things they were saying in the name of Jesus; September looked like breathing, “finally,” only to have my confidence crushed by someone I had once called my hero; it was hard conversations with friends who didn’t agree with me and couldn’t bravely stand by me, but it was also hearing from people in the shadows who cheered me on and said, “me, too.” It was red-taped meetings in church buildings and crying in Greg’s arms in the same living room we’d heard God in only weeks before.
September taught me this: God is not just a crown-giver, He is a Knight-maker. And most of the time, He wants to do both in you.
October never stops happening.
November looked like moving back to my home town. It looked like staring my demons in the face. It looked like getting more time in my childhood home and finally learning how to sit in it without wishing for other things. And more than anything, it looked like having to face the worst version of myself. It looked like the same bends in the road, gas stations, and coffee shops that had broken my heart. In a season that is usually marked by thankfulness, I was learning how to be thankful for what God had built in me. I was learning to embrace October’s and midnights that didn’t fix everything all at once. I was learning that self-preservation loves to dress up like fear, and that being brave actually looks like saying, “Okay. God can have this darkness that I said He could never touch, and He can make it beautiful even if I can’t see how.” Being brave looks like following God back into the shame and fear and uncomfortable so that He can claim victory in those places.
The ball fell and everyone kissed, and I couldn’t see past that.
My hopes rose and fell a lot. I was afraid to dream, and I learned how to hold God-dreams instead of my own.
But most of all? 2018 was about people. It was about learning how to be a good loser.
And at the end of the day if I learned one thing about myself it’s that—
I love the character of God more than I love God Himself, most of the time. I put His qualities on a pedestal, loyalty most of all, and when I can’t find God in the people He loves, I hold it against everyone.
2018 was a realignment. It was God bringing me back to Himself at all costs. It was Him giving me immeasurably more. It was painful and I scraped my knees a lot.
Sometimes, recovery has to happen a lot before we’ve reached the final destination of “recovered.” Sometimes, recovery looks like being built into something entirely different than before when we’re just hoping God—or midnight—fixes us.
So it’s only fitting that, in December, I found a verse in Genesis that I’m carrying into 2019 with me. Because 2019 looks like something I can see, like digging my way out of the desert. Even in the uncertainty and the wondering—I’ve got my eyes set.
2019, this is my prayer, now: God is here. “For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”” (Genesis 28:15). So God, keep me close. Don’t leave me finished. 2018 is not where I get left.
This rollercoaster is going up.