- Nelson Mandela
I don’t know what it is exactly that makes me so reflective this time of year. Maybe it’s the cold weather that gives me an excuse to curl up by the space heater inside, or the often overcast sky making me turn my thoughts inward, or even the knowledge that another year of life and opportunity is about to draw to a close. Anywho, regardless of what it is that makes it happen, I find myself in a deep state of introspection.
2013 has been a huge deviation from what used to be my normal. I can honestly say I made my own decisions for the first time in my life this year. I moved from Virginia to Oregon. I spent the year without any form of reliable transportation other than my feet. I found a church and became involved in learning more about God and myself and then serving others out of the overflow. I reached out to others and tried to form relationships with the people around me. I failed in many cases. But the handful of relationships that developed have grown, flourished, and been such an encouragement to me in these 12 months of uncertainty. Upheaval is a good word for what happened this year. Everything has changed, including me. I think back to the scared girl who was letting herself be manipulated by every force outside of herself that I was last December, and still see small parts of me that would rather be in that situation because it was easier to let someone else make my decisions and direct my life. But as a whole, I have come to terms with the fact that I am strong, I am smart, and I am capable of handling myself and making my own choices. I do not need every person I currently know or will ever meet to approve of my decisions or life course any longer. I do not need to please every single person that misplaces their expectations or demands something of me. Figuring that out has been one of the most freeing realizations thus far in my 23 years. I’m still learning to apply that knowledge on a case by case basis. Celebrate Recovery has been pivotal in getting to the bottom of some of my habits and has been helping me sort through the way I have used past hurts and others opinions of me to wrongly define myself or justify my shortcomings. Being able to join the worship team and give back through singing and testifying to the goodness of God in every situation of my life has been such a blessing and a joy. I learned how to stand-up paddle board. I got out into nature and breathed in the mountain air. I got lost. I spent time in cities like Phoenix, Seattle, and Portland. I was able to explore the Coast of Oregon three times: once each with my mom, my dear friend Jacque, and my now boyfriend Jakob. I went to new restaurants and tried new things. I fell in love with my new little town, especially with the coffee shops. I will never consider Starbucks my local coffee shop again, although I can’t resist going there for my pumpkin spice chai fix- which I did numerous times this year as well. I ranged from unemployed, to employed part-time, to full time, to accepting a career as a 911 dispatcher I will start in January 2014 in the course of a year. I met some awesome people in each place, and boy do I have some stories to tell now from some of the crazy days spent as a hotel front desk person!
2013 has been a year of opposites. I’ve had some days where I felt I must be on top of the world, and others in which I genuinely struggled to maintain a positive outlook and good attitude, but I’m beginning to see both types as inestimably valuable in the grand scheme of developing who I truly am. I’ve encouraged others, I’ve struggled to speak kindly of others, and sadly I’ve torn others down either while they were in my presence or behind their back. I have discovered that I am undoubtably human, and proven time and time again that I am not perfect. I have been so impressed by the kindness of the people around me, and I have occasionally been caught off guard by unkindness displayed toward me. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve laughed til I cried. It’s been a good year. I am thankful for the situations in which I find myself at the end of it.
I think more than anything 2013 has been very humbling for me. Being without a job for a few months in the beginning of the year was difficult; as an independent person I like to provide for myself financially. Leaving my dearest friends on the other side of the country meant I had no one there to let me verbally process and made every little or large relational setback seem like that much more of an issue. But the distance definitely did define who the people that wanted to be in my life enough to make an effort to be in it are. Not having my car was almost always extremely frustrating, especially when I had to be somewhere like work, Bible study, coffee meetings, etc. I learned persistence through it, though, and also more how to be a person of my word regardless of my circumstances. I learned how to better ask for what I needed. I’m often too proud to do that, but I’m getting better. Looking back, it seems like a lot of the situations I encountered this year were engineered to make me more willing to openly admit my need and that I am unable to do life on my own. I’m still coming to terms with that. Seeing my own need has made me want to learn how to be more sensitive to the needs of others as well.
I am so thankful for all that has transpired this year. I am thankful for every single person that has helped me, that has been Jesus to me this year. I am thankful for the people who haven’t, because it’s teaching me how to love others well now and serve them by meeting the needs I have the ability to meet in Jesus’ name. I am thankful for the opportunity to start my job in January and see it as a really tangible confirmation of the calling I feel God has placed on my life to speak hope and life into the darkest and most hopeless situations. I am thankful that my car will soon be on its way. I am thankful for friends and my boyfriend who put up with me and my socially awkward ways. I am thankful for everything that has served to bring me closer to Jesus this year, and for the knowledge that I am never overlooked or forgotten, no matter how much I might feel the opposite.
"I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining. I believe in love even when I don’t feel it. I believe in God even when He is silent."