I could sit here and try to find one word that adequately sums up this past year, but I think that in and of itself would take a whole year. 2018 was full. It was full of so many moments that made me sit back and think to myself, “I can’t believe this is really my life” in the best possible way. It was filled with many trips to the mountains to hike and forget about reality for a while. Many evenings were spent watching the sunset with friends, many deep & meaningful conversations were had over coffee, many football games were attended, and many trips to Klines for ice cream were taken. 2018 entailed many runs around downtown Hburg and also entailed running my very first ‘official’ 5k (hopefully next year will be my very first half marathon). I turned 21 in 2018 which was exciting, & while I do enjoy an occasional glass of wine or a bold rock cider, I discovered I find little to no enjoyment in drinking & just recently also discovered that red wine makes my chest break out in hives (lol). This past year my love for studying psychology grew and a desire to do more with psych began stirring up within me – I realized that undergrad will probably not be the last time I study or pursue psychology, and while I am still discerning how that will fit into my call to ministry, it’s exciting. This year I fell deeper in love with my university, more than I ever thought would be possible, and while I am not at all ready to graduate from there, I rest and find joy in knowing I’ll always be a duke! This year I got to live / am still living with the greatest group of gals who are the absolute sweetest and so wonderful to me – I do not know what I’ve done to deserve the light that they bring into my life each day. This year I preached only eight Sunday’s, but every single one was a joy. I took a bit of a break from preaching to be able to fully entrench myself in being a student. I also pursued ministry opportunities that I had never pursued before, including being a minister in residence at a summer camp for a week and going on my very first international mission trip. This year I visited seminaries, applied to seminaries, was accepted to seminaries, and am currently discerning where God wants me attending seminary in the fall of 2019.
If I had to choose my favorite part of 2018, I would without hesitation choose getting to go to Cuba & serve with the greatest team members on my very first international mission trip. If you had told me a year ago that I would not only be going out of the country on a mission trip but would also preach a sermon in another country, I would have (without a doubt) laughed right in your face. I never imagined myself doing that. But it happened in 2018, and I’ll treasure it forever. I met the most beautiful people in Cuba, whose friendships I’ll cherish always, and built relationships with our team members that I will always be grateful for. I definitely want to go back (I was ready to go back the moment I stepped foot in the Atlanta airport) and I am convinced I will go back one day. Until then, I’ll never quit reflecting on how beautiful of a trip it was.
2018 was definitely not free of trials. Ruth, AKA, my adopted grandma from church passed away after a slow process of health deterioration following a stroke she had a while way. She is with Jesus now, and seeing as she spent her whole life serving him, preaching of him, and loving like him, it brings me and everyone who loved her great comfort knowing she’s in his arms now & forever. This year I watched my grandpa suffer from dementia, his mental and physical state decline, along with his ability to speak & communicate effectively. This year for a period of time, for the first time in my life, my love for ministry seemed to be overshadowed by hurt and frustration that I faced within the church. This happened for a variety of reasons & I’m not going to write about at this time but if you ask me I’ll tell you. It was all just lessons learned, and truthfully I love the church even more now and believe I needed/need to see the ugly sides of ministry, from all angles, in order to appreciate to the fullest the beauty of & ministry in the Church. 2018 entailed some personal challenges as well, which I’m sure many of you can relate to. I am open about being in recovery, but not as open during the rocky parts of it – this year recovery was rocky, but I am okay & fighting, and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. To all people in recovery from anything right now, I am rooting for you as we enter into a brand new year! We got this!
I learned so many valuable lessons throughout 2018 – too many to write about in this post today. I learned a lot in the classroom, but outside of the classroom, wow, I learned even more. One of the biggest lessons I have been learning is how much beauty there is in being vulnerable, both before God and before other people. This year I learned more about how to love and be loved by other people, and I learned the power of being present with somebody in their joys and in their sorrows, because I had people who were willing to be present with me in mine.
And God – God was with me every step of the way, his hand interlocked with mine the whole entire year, and I never needed to doubt that. I just knew – it didn’t matter if I felt like he was present with me or not, I knew he was because his presence does not change and it is not dependent on my feelings. Our awareness of God changes, but he does not. That’s one truth I have clung to this year, and one I’m not letting go of anytime soon, because it has saved me.
I don’t yet have a word or phrase for 2019, but I know I’ll think of one eventually. Last year, it was “here I am.” I still have that bracelet around my wrist with those three words on it, and it’s not going anywhere (though I may make one with my new phrase on it). I’ll be sure to write about my word/phrase for 2019 when I decide on one – I do want to intentionally carve out time to write this upcoming year, because that’s something I neglected a lot this past year but something that is such a beautiful outlet for me. Going into this new year, I encourage you, too, to be intentional about carving out time for reflection, for self-care, and for all the things that bring you joy. Life is busy & stressful, & your responsibilities are important, but they are not as important as taking care of your health. That’s something else I learned this past year. Take care of you. No matter what.
2019, I can’t wait for you! which is funny because the thought of entering into 2019 terrifies me. 2019 will include my last semester of my undergraduate career, my graduation from college, my first semester of seminary, and so much more that I don’t even know yet. But God is going to be with me, holding my hand, and that makes it all a lot less scary and a lot more exciting. I choose to see it as an adventure, full of unknowns, but full of God, his voice, his presence, his will.
Thank you, 2018, for everything. And to the people who lived 2018 alongside me, thank you. To my friends – you make me laugh so hard my stomach hurts, you point me to Jesus on the good days & on the bad days, you love me so well, you intentionally make time for me in your life which is so rare to find in friends these days. You freely offer to me your advice, your hugs, your humor, your ridiculous jokes, & your shoulder to cry on. You are the most genuine and loving and intentional and gifted individuals & I love you so much. To my family – you are my whole world and my heart and you keep my head above water every single day. You give me a new perspective when I am in need of one, you love and encourage me constantly, you pick me up when I am down, confused, anxious, or afraid. You love me even when I screw up, even when I speak out of anger or frustration rather than love. You forgive me, you’re there for me, you console me, you are heroes in my eyes. Nothing I ever type or say could ever amount to how grateful I am for you – the greatest family in the whole entire world. To my mentors & my pastors – you have been there to answer my questions and you have sat with me in all different seasons – the good, bad, ugly, and really ugly. When I let my fear of being vulnerable keep me from turning anywhere else, you are a safe place for me, and always welcome me with an open door & open arms. You direct me to God constantly, you teach me what I don’t know and you never judge me, you listen to me, & you challenge me to be better. I put a lot of thought into wisely choosing the people I consider my mentors – people I choose to let speak into my life – they’re people who have shown they genuinely care about me and believe in me as an individual, as a woman, as a student, & as an aspiring pastor. Thank you for being those people – the people I can confidently look up to and trust as I make this journey through life. To God – well, you’re my World. May I live my whole life, 2019 and on, for you.
To everyone reading this post, have a happy, safe, & healthy new year! You are so loved!
2019, whether I am ready for you or not, you are here, so let’s do this thing.