Another Year Gone, Another Year Coming

At this time last year I wrote a similar post. May is a significant month for me as it marks two anniversaries: graduating from college and starting my dream job. Though they both occurred on the same day (May 2) there was an entire year that lapsed between the two.

I’m a sentimental person at heart, and I intentionally take note of important dates in my life; it helps me keep track of what’s transpired in the year prior. So every year on May 2, just like I would on a holiday or my birthday, I take stock of what the previous year taught me, and how it has changed me and deepened my walk with Christ.

A couple weeks ago, I closed another year with this conclusion: my job saved my life. Or more accurately, God used this job, this place, the people here to reach in and save me. It was my stability, the very stability I needed, when life was chaotic.

That sounds dramatic, but it’s true. To look at my life and who I was on May 2, 2015, then 2016, then 2017, and finally 2018…the growth, the ups, the downs, the hills, the valleys, the brokenness, the redemption…none of it could have happened without God orchestrating the entire timeline.

On May 2, 2015, I sat in a cushioned chair at Citizen’s Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California, waiting for my row to be led to the stage. Walking across that stage, getting my diploma and shaking my school’s president’s hand was an odd feeling of stillness. I can’t even remember hearing my name announced. It felt as if my brain was on autopilot.

My educational career spanning 16 years had just concluded. I had been in a mode of formal learning for almost as long as I’d been breathing and suddenly that comfort zone was gone. I was sad to be leaving the environment I knew so well. And I knew the steps before me wouldn’t be easy to take. Finding a job, paying off student loans, harboring a desire and a passion to go to the mission field…all of it joyfully swelled in my heart and confused me at the same time. I was anxious to simply see where God would lead me, and how He would somehow reconcile all these passions He put in my heart.

On May 2, 2016, I walked through the doors of Turning Point, ready to begin my new journey. I had formally accepted a position as a copy editor for this ministry. I saw it as my dream job because here was this opportunity to combine my love for writing and copy editing with my love for and desire to share the Gospel. For the first time in a year, I felt this sector of my life get a solid footing, as if the previous 365 days had felt like floating adrift on a raft before finally stepping onto solid ground again. But all the while, other parts of my life were in chaos, roiling with turmoil on a minute-by-minute basis.

Even on my first day at this new job, this opportunity to start my career, gain a new community, find new footing, I knew the coming year would be difficult.

On May 2, 2017, I celebrated by going on a hike with friends. Then I stopped. I took stock. I looked back, and I could clearly see God’s handprint on every part of my life. My predominant feeling for the year had been that of being stuck, misunderstood, mistreated, unappreciated, unworthy of equal effort, yet I was still somehow growing. But I wouldn’t see the full bloom of that growth for quite a few more months. I had to hold on, hoping and praying God was holding me, keeping His promises as He said He would in Hebrews 10:23.

My 2017 anniversary was a pivotal moment for me. I wanted the next year to be about setting myself up for whatever the future held. Because you can pray and hope for opportunities or blessings all you want, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to handle them when they come. I wanted to be prepared. I wanted to handle everything life brought me with faith, confidence, steadfast trust. I didn’t want to let my Savior down anymore; I didn’t want to grieve Him. I wanted Him to look at me and have joy on His face.

So changes needed to be made. And He saw me through each change when the pain nearly consumed me.

May 2, 2018. It was a day that passed with little fanfare (I was swamped at work). But it was a moment in time that marked another year (obviously). One of those holy-crap-it’s-been-a-long-four-years-of-growth moments. So I’ve been looking behind me for the last few weeks, replaying memories in my head, letting long-ago-learned lessons come to the surface in my heart. The conclusion I’ve reached is: wow, I’m different.

When I was 20, I honestly thought I had stuff figured out. How could I not? I had an awesome and active family, I had a growing relationship with Jesus, I was at school which was my comfort zone (anywhere I can learn is comfortable for me), I had a few close friends, my future was totally figured out (lol), and I felt blessed to have that life. But God was stretching me. And now, I look back and almost cringe…no, I do cringe…at how naïve and young and idealistic I was. Deep on the inside I’m just as idealistic now as I’ve always been, but boy have I gained, and lost, and grown, and shriveled away. Boy, have I been confused and felt dumb, then felt redeemed and back on my feet again. Boy, have I felt so far away from Christ and alone, then felt His arms come around me right when I needed it.

But here’s the main takeaway for me from this past year. Redemption is painful at times but it’s a beautiful process. Relationships are difficult and sometimes you find yourself making too many sacrifices, and you have to make a tough decision for distance. Community is invaluable because that’s where Jesus will meet you when the silence of loneliness is too much to bear. Self-care can only come in handy when you know yourself well enough; knowing yourself can also be the difference between a wise decision and a not-so-wise decision.

The world has touched me in ways I never anticipated. It gave me experiences I now wouldn’t trade because it led to many amazing things. Going forward, all I want is for more and more people to join me here and experience redemption of their own. Because God is capable.

With each passing year He reminds anew that He is my steady ground and my solid foundation. When everything else is chaotic, He is not. And though I only have a feeling that big things are coming this year, I will continue to hold fast to Him and the confession of my hope without wavering, because I know He is faithful no matter what.

Reassurance

Reassurance feels like this.

God, your unfailing Father, stands before you with your heart in His huge hands. You are almost shocked. Why would anyone, least of all the most perfect person in the world, want to hold that old thing with all its bandages and bruises and scars? Yet there it is in His hands. And He cradles it as close to His chest as He can. Then He tenderly holds it out in front of Himself, between the two of you. Where you are on your knees in front of Him, it is cold, and the cold runs deep. He reaches out His hand and lifts your chin. On His face you see a bright yet soft smile, like a sunset coming through the clouds to soften the harsh light, but somehow it still retains its power and beauty. His warm smile makes you wonder if the warmth you suddenly feel is emanating from it. He draws you to your feet and He says the words you need to hear.

“You are My child. Look at this,” He says in reference to Your heart He still holds in His hand. “I made this. Look at this beautiful, soft, sometimes-hard-to-understand-by-man, beating mass of cells and ventricles and blood and systems working together to be something uniquely you.”

He wipes away the stray tears streaking a path down your cheeks then continues.

“When I look at this heart, I see everything. Look at it yourself.”

You look down, hesitant. You do not want to see the ugliness.

“Look at your pain, and look at your sadness and sorrow, look at your mistakes. But look at your joy—even if it only lasted for a moment—and look at your growth, and look at all the mountaintops you’ve been on, and all the hurdles you’ve jumped over. You may see only all of the difficulties sometimes, but here’s what I see: My child who conquered, My child who won every single one of her battles, My child who was in the trenches of her own life and is now on the other side of pain, regardless of how brief the resting periods last. You, My precious child, are strong and beautiful no matter what. Do you want to know why?”

You do not even have the power to nod your head. You are too focused on His words, spoken so gently to you, like being wrapped in a warm blanket after wandering around in the freezing cold for a day.

“It’s because that’s how I made you, and you’re beautiful just like that. I’m proud of you. And I love you. I’m going to give this back to you now, and I will always be here to pick it, and you, back up again.”

He gently takes your heart and cleans it once more before placing it back inside of your chest, His creation.

He knows you well, and He knows what you need right when you need it.

Oh, Mom…

There is a song I like to listen to. It is called “Love Remains.”

If you listen to country music, you know who Lady Antebellum is. And if you know the names of the members, you know that Hilary Scott released a worship album with her family, and it is composed of old and new hymns and worship songs. And, you guessed it, “Love Remains” is on this album.

It makes me think of my family, the love my parents show me every day. But it also makes me think of my mom. The song begins by talking about how we are all born, and our parents react to seeing us for the first time: “Momma smiles, and Daddy cries.” The song goes on and talks about how a boy will grow up and take a bride: “She stands faithful, by his side.”

When I think about my 23 years on this earth and the constant presence of my mom, I can say I saw her do primarily two things: She smiled (at us and because of us) and she stood faithful (by my dad’s side and by our side).

Over the last couple of months, I thought of my dad a lot. He has so many characteristics and traits (hard working, loyal, sacrificial, consistent, loving, respectable, etc.) and he works hard to make sure his children possess those traits as well. But my mom…I cannot begin to tell you how many of her traits are amazing and precious, and how I desire to have those same traits.

If I could use only one adjective to describe both of my parents, I would say this:

Dad is consistent, but Mom is steady.

I can honestly say that she has been a steady and faithful foundation my entire life. While Dad had to go make sacrifices and take care of the family outside of the home, Mom was with us, providing everything we needed. She is the picture of steady love.

At this point, I just want to write something personal to my mom so I am going to change up this post a little bit, but keep reading.

Mom, I am thankful for our relationship. I remember being a teenager, and if there was ever something bothering me it was rare that I talked to you about it. I was Dad’s girl no matter what. I remember you asked me about it one Sunday on our way home from church. I remember where we were on the freeway (driving under the Nuevo Rd. overpass). I remember what car we were in (the truck). I remember where we were going (Sam’s Club). I had a bad day at church, and I was beyond frustrated, and instead of talking to you about it I chose to sit in the passenger seat and cry. I stared straight ahead and refused to be talked to. You got frustrated because I think I told you I only wanted to talk to Dad about what was bothering me. You were quiet after that. It occurred to me that it did not make much sense that I was not taking advantage of your listening ears or your heart of love, and it hurt you every time I preferred Dad over you. Somewhere in my heart that day I made a commitment to start talking to you more. Our relationship grew from that point forward, and now I am just as close to you as I am to Dad.

And now that I live on my own, the lessons you poured into me have taken root in whole new ways. Dad worked tirelessly (and still works tirelessly) to teach me and Matthew and Chelsea how to work hard and respect people and earn respect in return and defend ourselves and fight for what is right and prioritize others over ourselves and how to make sacrifices and be smart and be wise. He always taught with the right amount of love and strength so we would get it. But your lessons were so soft and subtle that I did not really put much thought to them until recently.

You taught me how to use my time wisely. If there is something that needs to be done and you have a few minutes to do it, get it done. You always told me, “The things you love, you will make time for them.”

You taught me how to plan and how to be wise with the gifts I have been given. Whether that gift is financial stability or time spent with people, it takes a certain amount of organization and wisdom to use them.

You taught me how to be faithful. You have never let me question how much you love me and how deep your love for me runs. And even in those moments when I think I might have reached the bottom of the deep love you possess, you always assure me that there is more to be found.

You taught me how to be quiet and let things play out. I bet if anyone who does not know you could use one word to describe you, it would be “quiet.” You are quiet by choice. You choose the right moment to speak and the right moment to keep your words to yourself, and so much of that wisdom comes from how well you know me.

You taught me how to fight (in all aspects where a fight is needed or required). I still think of how hard you had to fight for me against insurance companies and doctor’s offices, and if you had not fought who knows what my life would have turned out to be.

You taught me how to love in small and detailed ways. Everything you have ever done for me, it has stemmed from the detailed love you show me. You know me well and you taught me to show that same love to others.

You taught me how to cling to the Lord every day of my life, and you taught me that He will communicate with me in a personal way, a way He does not use with anyone else. I am special to Him, and that will show in every part of my relationship with Him.

Most of all, you taught me how to put my characteristics into action. You taught me how to get to know myself, and surrender my gifts to God so He could use them the best way He sees fit.

Mom, the song “Love Remains” makes me think of our family. If there is anything more difficult than being a parent to a toddler, I would think it is being a parent to an adult child. But I think you and Dad have done a good job always showing us that love remains. So for that and so much more, thank you.