Last week I made a post on Instagram that reflected on the beginning of 2017 as being difficult for me. The more I thought on the last 18 months of my life, the clearer things became as I pieced together the timeline and seasons that led to a what was probably the most testing time of my life to date.
Up until the end of 2016, most of the painful and difficult situations I’d experienced up until that point were due to outside circumstances (mostly) beyond my control. Loss, illness, an uncertainty of the future, etc. In those situations, it’s easy to cry out to God because he’s the only option you’ve got. It’s also easy to pin the blame on someone or something besides yourself when things are outside of your control.
Through a series of circumstances in the fall of 2016, I came to a hard realization that I did not fully trust God with my life. His will was good as long as it was in line with mine. Obviously, most people, myself included, would not willingly admit to having this thought, but my actions spoke that even when my words didn’t.
It was probably the most emotionally turbulent I’d ever been, including my emo kid stage in high school (which should tell you a lot ha). Looking back, I realized it was because I had all this pent-up frustration and nowhere to put the blame except myself. My life was good. God was good. But I had to face myself and admit that there were areas in my life that weren’t surrendered to God. I had to lay them down of my own accord, with a willing and obedient heart. Which sounds a lot more clean cut than it actually is sometimes.
At the end of the year, as I was praying through my “word of the year” for 2017, God spoke these two words to me: build and nurture. I prayed through what that meant and realized that God was calling me to cherish the season I’m in and to invest in the present. To build a foundation for my life not as one who is working for the sake of busy-work, but to build with love and care. To not be afraid to lay my heart on the line, allow myself to get invested heart and soul with where I’m planted.
So, as 2017 arrived and began to pass by, that was my challenge. Work hard and work well – full of love. The first few months were challenging. I wish I could say it was easy for me to take God at His word and accept that His ways were best. But it was a little-by-little process. It looked like making a cognitive choice every day to lay down my will, my agenda, and my own strength in order that I could pick up His.
I thank God for His grace that always met me in those moments. The more I realized that there was peace and grace with each surrender, the more trusting I became.
After a few months of taking what seemed like the same test over and over again, I one day stopped and realized that I had never been more full of gratitude in all my life. It wasn’t that I woke up one morning and my life was perfect. It was that I chose to stop and reflect and realize the goodness of God and the life He’d blessed me with.
Throughout the rest of 2017, there were so many experiences that I look back at with such fondness that I wouldn’t have gotten to experience at all if I had chosen my own will over His at the end of 2016.
To name a few of my favorites: I walked through the homes Shakespeare grew up in alongside my best friend. I was able to finally visit Canada and see Orca whales up close. I got to have my own bathroom in my house after 20 years (small but significant). I told every riddle I knew as we traveled around London sharing the gospel. I was able to be a part of an incredible writing trip to Colorado. I broke my first bone (not necessarily exciting, but definitely memorable). I spent Thanksgiving on the beach getting a tan and feeding the cute animals that inhabited our resort. I got to serve on a criminal jury (briefly – they reached a plea agreement). And so many more memories in between.
And through all of those things, my friendships with the amazing people God has blessed my life with were strengthened. With each of these adventures, I was able to learn something new about myself and God that has brought so much development to me this year.
2017 was a year of God redeeming all my “no’s” and restoring my “yes”. It was a year of God removing things from my life that I thought I needed and replacing them with things I didn’t even know I wanted. In His typical fashion, every single one of them was better than I could have imagined.
And when I thought that things couldn’t get any better, He restored and fulfilled a dream in my life that I thought had died four years ago. Completely unexpected, of no merit of my own, and at the perfect timing. “Kind” is the word that comes to mind when I think of His heart for me in that moment.
Right before Christmas, I was reflecting on all of this and heard God so clearly tell me “when you thought I was keeping you “from”, I was actually keeping you “for”.
I had felt like God was withholding, but He really was just waiting for me to look up so He could show and give me the best things I was neglecting for good things.
In the midst of all of these highlight reel moments of my year, there was still pain. There was still frustration. There will still moments when I doubted. It wasn’t the lack of hardship that made my year what it was, but an intentional choice of having a perspective of gratitude and pursuing the presence of God.
I’ve made a resolution of sorts to write more. So my goal with this post was not a well-constructed, well-articulated blog but an honest reflection of a year that took me off guard in the best way possible.
To anyone who might be reading this and to the future version of myself that will inevitably come back to this post – He’s big, He’s good, and He’s faithful.
Every sacrifice, surrender, and struggle is worth it. He’s not keeping you from, He’s keeping you FOR.