So, I know I didn't do a New Year's or "year in review" post or anything...so here goes!
For me, 2018 summed up in one word would be courage. 2018 was the year I stepped out of my fears and anxiety and into faith and trust and courage. I joined my youth's worship team - which was, not gonna lie, really scary at first. But I have been crazy blessed by that and by joining amazing brothers and sisters in Christ as student leaders and worship leaders. This year, our new church became my home, and I have grown so much through it. I started speaking up more and prayed for someone for the first time this year - a super nerve wracking experience, but totally worth it! I shared my testimony with some families and teenagers, led a Bible study, and met a ton of new friends and teens. The Lord has sent so many amazing brothers and sisters to me and mentors and mentees (yes, that's a word now, haha) and I am so grateful for every beautiful soul I saw and/or talked with! I got a spot on our varsity B volleyball team as a setter and I have been SO blessed by the ladies on my team, and I learned so much through that season. Ooh, and we got the opportunity to travel to Cuba in the summer and see some pretttty cool cars, too...
But I won't say that 2018 was perfect. It's the roughest year yet - and there's more to come, I'm sure! Each year will have its own unique challenges and trials - but also joys. I've felt more alone, insecure and hopeless last year than before and there were times when I wanted to quit - but it was in those moments where I felt God the MOST! When I lost two best friends, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace that I've never felt before so strongly, despite the tears and the pain and heartache. I grew stronger through the pain, and from the pain. I'm stronger today because of what I've been through!
I've felt His comfort as I mourned over the life I lost. He gave me His strength to get through the days when I got less than 5 hours of sleep, waking up at 4 in the morning to be with Him before my class! He showed me His grace and faithfulness as I ran from Him, sinned, and went the opposite way countless times. I left Him; He never left me. I felt Him speak and lead me when I had no words to say. He was there for me on those dark, lonely nights, when I silently cried myself to sleep. He was there when I was laughed at, when my insecurity and fears were so strong I gave in and stopped fighting. He was there when I was weakest - and in my weakness, His power was made strong, and IS strong. He was there when I was so angry, angry at my parents, my siblings, my friends - my life - and even Him, and still He loved me. Y'all, I don't get it - but even though I don't understand the why behind it, I have no doubt that it's true. I've felt Him and I know Him and I've heard Him and I know that my God is real.
I've had a rough year, and the attacks from Satan almost never cease. I was hurt by many people and lost sight of who I was supposed to be many times. I fell into comparison, and jealousy, and fear.
But would I have it any other way? Would I change the way 2018 happened and swap it for a picture perfect year? A year with no pain?
To be honest, I would definitely be tempted to. But in the end, my answer would have to be no. Without the trials, without the pain, the helplessness - how would I ever grow? NO PAIN = NO GAIN. And if I had a perfect year, how much would I have missed out on? I would not be anywhere as close to the Lord as I am now had I not gone through all of that. I would have missed out on the joy and the peace and comfort that comes from the Lord. We need pain and trials to help us grow - James 1:2-4 says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." Trials are important - and through trials, through the testing of your faith, it will not only produce perseverance and be made mature, without lack, but it will draw you closer to our Savior.
And when we get closer to our Savior, do you know what happens? As we align ourselves with God's will and with Him, our life starts falling into place; it will be the life He wants us to lead. And get this - the God of the Universe wants what's BEST for you. Not simple what's "okay" - as AT&T would say, "Okay is NOT okay" - but what's BEST for you (those commercials crack me up - that and Farmer's Insurance, bahaha!). And oftentimes, what's best for you must be obtained through trials and suffering. If what you're striving for isn't worth suffering for, what is it worth?
I'm looking forward to this next year. I praise God because I know that He's going to move in amaaazing ways and shape me and grow me and bring me places I didn't think I could go. I praise God for the trials that are going to come, because I know I'll be stronger in the end because of Him. I praise God for the healing, the discovery, and the leadership that He's going to help me with this year. I praise God because He's not going to leave me, not even for a moment, and that He will always be there when I need Him - and when I don't think I need Him. I praise God because He's not going to stop loving me anytime soon or ever. I praise God because I know that all things work together for His good - and everything that's going to happen is part of His perfect and beautiful plan.
Take heart. Take courage.
"I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart;
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"I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all of my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds."