Monday, January 8, 2018

Top 17 of 2017

1. I built a life in a new town, a new house and with a new job.
This year has been full! I’ve officially lived in my house for one entire year and it has been everything I could have ever dreamt of. I’m wildly grateful, and even though I’ll begin packing boxes just a couple months after I’ve finally hung all my pictures, it has been such a sweet season of independence, strength, and resilience. I still love my precious little town and I can’t imagine working anywhere else. Teaching is every bit as exhausting and rewarding as expected, but I survived the hardest year of teaching I could have imagined. I’m learning to find my groove. I don’t leave at dark anymore and more often than not, I’m able to step back and truly enjoy watching the magic that takes place each day! I was made for this.

2. I did spoken word to share my story.
About two years ago, I shared my story online for the first time. It ended up being a contributor post for Huffington Post and got a good bit of traction. It was terrifying. And yet somehow, while I knew everyone close to me could read it, it was easier knowing that I didn’t have to look them in the eyes while they read it. And then, in April, the nonprofit ministry I help run hosted a talk on sexual abuse. I knew from the moment I saw it on the list of topics that God was calling me to share my story publicly for the first time, but it took me a few more weeks to admit it. Most people don’t know this, but I have a minor lisp. I can assure you that nothing about it felt minor as I prepared to do spoken word about my story in front of the people I see every day. The month leading up to sharing my story was wildly hard. I noticed my lisp everyday. A few weeks prior, a relationship came to an end. I considered backing out. The week of, I wrote scriptures all over my hands to remind myself of the truth. And the night of, I showed up and did it. While I felt completely drained afterwards, the conversations that followed brought freedom and I’m so glad I did it. As Oprah said last night at the Golden Globes "What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have."

3. I launched a book and explored Texas with my favorite friends a second time.
Two years ago, in a late night email, I found out I was chosen to be on the launch team for Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love. Then, a few months later, I found out my endorsement was published in the front of her now New York Times bestseller. The season of excitement culminated in a huge party where Jen invited her 500 internet friends to her backyard. We all credited it to an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience. And then she did it again- she wrote another book and threw another party in her backyard. But this time #the500 had walked through nearly 2 years of life together and we were ready.  We filled three plus days with backyard barbecues, food, and fun. These women love Jesus and love each other well. So many of them have become real-life friends and I’m so grateful for this tribe. The Texas trip was a highlight of my summer, especially since one of my very best friends Jenn came along and we made it an adventure through Waco, San Antonio and Austin. The trip was so good for my soul.

4. We closed our church doors.
This is a tough one. I wrote about it a bit this year, you can read my words here or the lovely guest post from a dear friend here. I’ll tell you this. I’m still grieving. I’m not always sure when or how, grief is tricky like that. Like this morning for instance, when a pastor’s wife asked me “So what brought you here? Do you have a background in church?” and I burst into tears as I tried to answer. Oh yes, I have a background in church….
For now, I’ll leave you with the words I spoke on our last Sunday.
Anchor Baptist church has raised me. I've spent more hours collectively within church walls than nearly anywhere else in my life. I've been here for birthdays and Christmas and nearly every season of my life has been marked by this church. I can't look back on memories or pictures without finding your faces. You've taught me to love Jesus well. I've learned to love people well by watching you love each other, by watching you love your spouses and your kids. You made space for me in the years where I wasn't chasing Jesus and you cheered me on when I was. There are no words for the roots this church has given me. I found Jesus here. Not within these four physical walls, but within the loving arms of fellow believers. For that, I will be forever changed and forever grateful.

5. I visited churches for the first time ever.
Oddly enough, though I’ve been in church my entire life, most of my experience has been in two churches. So, when we felt God calling us to walk away from the life we knew, I did the only thing I knew how- I kept going to church. In fact, over the last 6 months, I’ve been to a lot of churches. Getting to see how God is at work all over our city has been an incredible gift. I needed time to sit and show up where no one knew my name. I’ve been able to do that. I needed to fill my journals with sermon notes and scripture and truth that would remind me that God is good and His promises are true. And I did.
I recently wrote this about what I’ve realized these last several months.
“You’re never gonna let,
Never gonna let me down.
You are good, good, oh”

These are the words I stood and sang in church this morning with tears in my eyes. You see, over the course of the last year, I’ve battled with words like these. I so often wondered if I even theologically agree with them. Can I honestly proclaim that God will never let me down? Do I truly believe that
I sat down a few weeks ago and looked over this journal. It’s tear-stained and falling apart. I’ve written desperate, breathless prayers on my bathroom floor on its tattered pages. And I’ve prayed for good and holy things through these pages. I’ve begged God to do gospel work in relationships that ended up dying. I’ve longed for and dreamt of revival and interceded for a church that closed its doors. And if I’m honest, I’ve harbored some anger, some bitterness over what felt like silence from God. Then I turned to this page. Nearly a year ago, I began praying this prayer. All of you Jesus. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. It may be the only answered prayer in this journal. But it’s enough. If the only answer I ever get from my prayers is more of Jesus, it will be worth wearing out my knees and warring for that truth day and night. Because today, today I could sing with joy that the God who felt silent never truly lets me down.

6. I went to some amazing concerts.
James Arthur, OneRepublic, Johnnyswim, and getting to see my best friend in her element was icing on the cake!

7. I started writing a book.
I feel crazy even saying this out loud. I have no idea where this will go, but I’m writing. I’m prioritizing and writing and praying.

8. I got certified as a foster parent.
One of the more difficult parts of my job involves handling cases of students who are, for one reason or another, not safe or cared for at home. The issue is complex and there are no easy answers, but one solution on a larger scale is quality foster homes. The statistics on foster care are staggering. I can’t help believe that Jesus actually meant it when he told us to care for the orphan. That’s why I spent 3 hours every Sunday for ten weeks learning about the system, kids in trauma, and parenting. I had an amazing instructor and I just found out last week that I’m officially certified. I’ve got a crib, an open home, and an open heart.

Interested in foster care? Check out HopeTree Family Services.

9. I found forgiveness.
Last year, I wrote the word forgiveness on this stone. It was a tangible reminder of a spiritual goal for the year. Forgiveness is still a daily choice, but it’s one I’m committed to making over and over again.

10. I made it on the video board in Times Square.
I’m not sure that this was on my bucket list, but it totally should have been!

11. I started CrossFit.
Y’all. CrossFit is hard. I’ll never forget my first night. I ate leftover pizza 10 minutes beforehand (because obviously I was very dedicated) and I thought I might vomit on the mat all night. Earlier this week we were doing one of the workouts that I could barely even complete the first night and I realized how much stronger I am after 2 months. That’s my goal- stronger. I’ll never be a size 2 but I want to be healthy and strong and CrossFit pushes me to do that!

12. I chopped off all my hair
New cut, new color, same me. I LOVED the short hair life. I’m growing it out for the wedding but I’ll probably do another big chop right after!

13. I set healthy boundaries.
In theory, I’m amazing with boundaries. I’ve read all the books. I could coach people on healthy boundaries. In practice? My palms get sweaty when I think of hurting someone’s feelings. But this year I started. I chose healthy, even when it didn’t make everyone happy. I stood my ground and I didn’t run when things got uncomfortable. Just a few weeks ago I was having a conversation with someone close to me and they said I just feel like I let you down. A year ago, the news they’d just shared would have put me in a full-on panic attack, but this year I simply said this You can’t let me down when you’re not the thing holding me up. I want more for you than this, but you have to want it too. The best part? I meant it.

14. I chased a whole lot of sunsets.
I’m not 100% sure on this but I think Jesus put something in me that enjoys sunsets, sunrises, and starry nights a little bit more than the average human. And y’all… we chased them all this year. So good for my soul.

15. I dated (for good and for bad).
I went on more first dates this year than I have in any other year of my life. In fact, I went on some second dates. Not every relationship had a perfect ending, but I learned so much about myself in the process. Also, if you check out #16 and 17 on my list here, you’ll see that I’m finally taking the advice every youth group kid got in the 90’s and I’m “kissing dating goodbye” because……..

16. I met the one.
Last week, my future sister-in-law asked when I knew her brother was “the one”.  I think it’s a tricky concept really. I don’t believe there is one person for each of us. I don’t believe that one wrong misstep could have my “one” married off to the wrong person and me left single forever. But I do believe God puts certain things in us that mesh well with certain other people. I do believe marriage is easier when we prioritize certain attributes and character traits in our dating. And just like I believe we choose to love rather than fall in love, I believe we choose to make someone our “one” rather than finding “the one”.

For me, I got to see so many of those attributes I’d prioritized and prayed for come to life in Will as we dated. On our second date in particular, we accidentally ended up in an eerily similar situation to a previous date with a previous guy that had ended in mounting frustration and yelling. When Will handled the same situation with patience and grace, I teared up in his pickup truck. God gave me eyes to see so many of those moments that were literal answers to prayer over these last seven months and I am so grateful.
17. I got engaged.

You could say my year ended on a pretty high note. Will’s proposal was magical, thoughtful, and special. I’ll share the full story in the next couple of weeks, but for now, here’s to changing my name in 2018!

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