I'm a massive fan of nostalgia, which makes me just as eager a recipient for new beginnings (i.e. a new year). As expected as this sort of post is on the first of the year, a huge piece of me feels that the words I want to write aren't so expected given how I've allowed my heart to be lately. 2017 was a blessed year. It was another year full of opportunity and provision. God has met my needs, both small and large -- and especially the needs I tried so desperately to control through worry and excess. He has brought people into my life for the better, and as resources. He has also removed them out of protection for me. He has shown me unrelenting mercy throughout my internal battles, and there have been plenty of those.
2017, as with any year, was definitely marked by difficult times. Heartache, loss, stress, failure, insecurity, anxiety, uncertainty, conflict and mistakes were inevitables. As I reflect, I'm disappointed to say that there were too many times when I failed to be the woman I desire to be. Mostly with my words. I tend to say what I want without apology, and usually packed with curse words. I can be harsh, and hold tight to bitterness out of defensiveness. I can be quick to shut people out, and claim to know their worth. I've let a lot of bad come out of me this year, and while it breaks my heart, I mostly feel an overwhelming sense of grace and correction that leaves me wanting to be more. I tend to speak to the fear within my heart, rather than speaking the truth placed deep within me -- a gift of speaking life and hope.
If anything, going into this new year, God is asking me to speak up and to speak differently. He's given me such a passion for words and story, and I have not lived up to that calling by any means, especially this year. I have wallowed in heartache and succumbed to decisions that do not reflect my values. I have made idols out of anxiety and status and superficiality. With my words, I have degraded and demeaned pieces of my life that are sacred. And so He is calling me back to a place of humility, to declare once more what is sacred, and to speak life instead of fear and anger and bitterness.
I think it's important to point out that I don't write these words with shame, nor do I wish to suggest that God has in any way made me feel unworthy or bad. Quite the opposite, actually. As a matter of fact, these past days have been filled with a joy I cannot put my finger on, and a sense of peace that I can rest within. I have found Him in the midst of last year's chaos -- right in the middle of it, in the place He is most eager to meet me in. He's asked nothing of me beyond a relationship that allows Him to infiltrate my life so that I can live the best possible version of it. He is, however, also asking that with this new year I become more honest about Him, rather than just with Him. Which means discussing Him on here without worry of how my words will be received by others, beginning today. I have been honest about faith on here, but that honesty has been scarce. The hesitation was born from a place of fear that my readers, and especially my friends and peers, might judge me, feel a disconnect from me, or (sadly) think my words and ideas are crazy. And trust me, I get it. In spite of my upbringing, I still battle my perception of the church, and of its members. From a secular worldview, Christianity looks crazy, judgmental, exclusive, and comes with a plethora of cliches that do not define its truth in any way. It doesn't help that major influences like Hollywood have painted God in the most negative and humiliating lie. I've also feared causing confusion about faith, which I now realize is more of an excuse to avoid accountability than anything else.
And yet. I'm here to say that I get it. To admit to the flaws of the church. To remind you of what we all know: that mankind is imperfect, and therefore so are God's people. Yet, without our imperfections, mercy and grace cannot thrive. I'm also here to say that God is not synonymous with the shortcomings of His people. He is wholly and holy His own, and therefore a relationship with Him is the greatest and most important gift that can ever be received. I'm here to speak to my own struggles and imperfections, and to simultaneously speak to the hope I find in spite of them.
For years, I've openly summed up my relationship with God as so: Kicking and screaming. This is not just figurative, and more so literal. I hope the relationship continues in this way...it makes life interesting and it maintains a level of sober faith that He knows I need. A faith that is not afraid of discomfort or of questions. A faith marked by gardens and valleys. One that breathes, so that error is not an end all. Because I will mess up in this new year, and I might even end up experiencing great loss and grave failure. However, God is speaking loudly still. Speaking words of life and of hope over me, and He wants me to do the same.
I spent New Years Eve at church -- which I now highly recommend, actually. It was unconventional and wonderful, and I know it sounds crazy. And maybe it is ;) But it filled me up to the point of overflowing. The pastor spoke about reclaiming what is sacred in life, about pushing toward the greatness that God wants to share with us. And this morning I read about the hope that comes with the words thus far.
Thus far, my life has been paved with miracles and with challenges. The list could go on, and so I will spare you the details. My thus far, however, is filled with hope. The future is full of hope. Always and most especially this year.
In my life, I feel God wanting to do big things this year. I can feel His excitement. Something people fail to realize is that life is packed with gifts that He eagerly and ridiculously yearns to give to us. This year, I want to lay down the control I have held tight to, and begin reaching out to claim the sacred gifts He has for me.
I am believing in life, and have the goal of speaking more life, more grace, and more hope. I believe in the goodness of this city and of this industry. I believe in the success of my peers. I believe in the possibility of original and captivating storytelling. I believe in community, in granting forgiveness and in seeing the potential in others. I believe in freedom from anxiety and stress. I believe in a joy that overflows. I believe that failure isn't as powerful or defining as fear makes it out to be. I believe in unrelenting faith. I believe in a life built by love. I believe in thinking critically about the words I'm about to say. I believe in sacrifice and in service. In treating others as I wish to be treated. I believe in taking time for rest. In taking the time to let gratitude saturate my mentality. I believe in receiving the forgiveness I have already been granted. I believe in holding tight to what is sacred in my life. I believe in returning to the values I know to be universally true. I am expecting the best while knowing that I must hold tight to God when the worst does have its season. I am placing my hope in the absolutely unexpected. Because I truly believe that this is a year when my life is going to be changed in the most significant way yet.
There is so much unknown, and I want to revel in it -- to put my trust in God and in the gift of what He longs to show me. Last night, while at church, we sang the words:
My forever in Your heart
Your steps I will follow
I put my trust in who You are
Your voice is my arow
And I will walk into the dark
To see how light breaks through
I will run into Your arms
I will hold on to you
I will lift my eyes to things unseen
To the promise in your victory
And I will build my life on the mystery
Of where You call me, and I will go
Into the unknown
As we sang, I couldn't help but come back to the word unknown. It goes so well with the idea of thus far. Because every thus far in my life has been preceded by what is unknown. I also found so much anticipation in the image of watching light break through the darkness.
And so, in short, that's what I am most looking forward to this year: watching light infiltrate everything around me.
Here's to you and to this year -- to hope and to joy and to the unknown.