This year has been filled with the highest of highs and lowest of lows. A few days ago I sat down to write down the major events of the year and think about the lessons I’ve personally learned over the past 12 months. I decided I wanted to share them here because it’s been such a huge year and a little reflection is good for everyone, right?
Lesson #1: Change is a good thing.
Dare I say a great thing? I think most everyone (including myself) is absolutely terrified of change. We get comfortable and stable in a situation and that’s how we want it to be forever. Something my dad has always said is, “Things that don’t change are dead.” It’s a pretty simple principle that can be applied to most everything. I want my life to feel alive and exciting. While not all change is exciting, some of it is, and we have to take the good with the bad.
That being said, this year has held a lot of changes for me personally. I graduated high school and started college. I even picked a major and then changed it to another (typical, I know). I can look back at the beginning of the year and see how much I personally have changed in the way I think and even look. I wasn’t in the best headspace to start the year and God had to help adjust my focus. He’s usually pretty good at that right?
Lesson #2: Actions speak louder than words.
This is something I guess I have always known but it was magnified over the course of this year. Like I mentioned before, God needed me to readjust my focus on Him at the start of the year. It was honestly something I wrestled with Him for a few months over. I verbally was saying that my relationship with Him was the most important relationship I had, but my actions were telling a different story. My actions were louder than what I was saying and everyone around me could see it. Finally I gave in and can honestly say that I feel like I understand God’s heart and my own heart better because of it.
In late August of this year we lost my Papaw Ralph to cancer. My papaw was a man of few words. He illustrated his love for people through his actions and the way he lived his life. He fell in love with my grandma at sixteen and never left her side. He worked harder than anyone I’ve ever met and was a witness for Jesus to so many. I made some sweet memories with my family while we were preparing for his memorial service. We took out all the boxes and albums of pictures to use, which led to some great stories that I had never known. We looked back on some of our best times with him, but I feel like when we see him again our time together will be much sweeter.
Lesson #3: We are so blessed.
Again, this lesson wasn’t revolutionary to me or anything. Obviously we all know that we’re blessed, but I sometimes let myself start to feel sorry for myself over silly things. (I’m sure I’m the only one here.) I can let myself get upset about how my life should have been if this or that would or wouldn’t have happened. It’s something that I’m not proud of but it happens. In June I was able to go back to Kenya for a second time. My parents and I went with a team from our church and OBC in Orlando. Our time there is something that I’d like to share more about with you later but this lesson was so huge that I can’t leave it out.
On this trip you meet lots of people. The people at the Hope Center in Nairobi are so beautiful and loving. They constantly said to us how thankful they were that we had come to help and how much of a blessing we were to them. The thing that I don’t think they will ever fully understand is that they are more of a blessing to us. It changes my heart and wrecks my world every time I’m there. The way they love and worship Jesus is something I strive for.
Lesson #4: Home isn’t a set place.
This lesson is something I’ve been learning for the past two years. As most all of you would know my family moved to Ohio about a year and a half ago. This was no small thing for me and if I’m being honest this place didn’t feel like home at all until this year. At times I’ve still felt homesick for my life back in Georgia but over the summer something very interesting happened. I was in Georgia visiting my sister and some friends and having a really great time, but when it was time to come home I was so ready. I missed this gray Ohio sky, my Grace family, and if I’m being even more honest I REALLY wanted a burrito bowl (with cheese dip) from Hot Heads (which my hometown in GA does not have.) So now you know.
The concept of home is something I have thought a lot about from the moment I knew we were moving away. Some people say that your home is wherever you grew up or wherever you have the most memories. Some people say it’s wherever your mom or your dog is. I’ve decided that all those theories are wrong. I like how Sarah Dessen put it in her book What Happened to Goodbye, “Home wasn’t a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.” I’ve found this statement to be true. I feel at home in a handful of places, but it has more to do with the people in those places or the memories made there. After being here in Trumbull County for a while the people here have made it a home to me. So thank you to all of you lovelies. And a special thanks to Hot Heads for burrito bowls with cheese dip for only a dollar extra.
Lesson #5: Our dreams should be big.
When you start college you’re supposedly supposed to know what you want to do with your whole life. That was really terrifying for me at first. Can I get an amen? I felt all of this pressure to decide on an occupation/major that utilized my talents and would glorify God. He wasn’t giving the clearest instructions either. (Shocking, I know.) While I can say that I’m still not a hundred percent sure what I want to do with my WHOLE LIFE, I do have some good ideas. My parents and sisters have always challenged me to think and dream bigger for myself. I am excited about the plans I’ve made for the near future and for later on in my life. It’s good for us girls to have bigger dreams than just a nice husband and some cute babies. While I do still want both of those things, it’s definitely not my main concern right now. I want to do big things for Christ, and see all over the world that He created.
Lesson #6: Babies change everything.
So while my family lost one member this year, we also gained two. In February Ashle’ and Zack had this adorable baby named Titus. Exactly 3 months and 1 day later Alison and Josh had a little princess named Juliette. So I became an aunt and it is the coolest thing ever. These two babies are the most fun little human beings and they literally have changed everything. (If you refer back to Lesson #1 you’ll see that change is good.) The dynamics of our family has changed. When we are all together our schedule is often revolving around napping and feeding schedules, and there is always little baby toys sitting out all over our living room. (Neither of these babies actually live at my house but this still happens.) If I’m having a bad day just seeing one of them can instantly make it better. The baby giggles are the sweetest sound I’ve ever heard. They have made everything we do more precious. Summer vacation, Thanksgiving, and Christmas were instantly more fun this year because it was Titus and Juliette’s first one. I will forever thank God for allowing me to be their Auntie Mils. It’s my favorite thing to be.
Last weekend in church my sister sang a beautiful song that is also the backbone of this lesson. “A Baby Changes Everything” is something you should definitely take a minute to listen to if you’ve never heard it. When Jesus came as a baby that first Christmas, it literally changed the rest of human history. While Titus and Juliette were the most precious gifts I received this particular year, Jesus is the most precious gift any of us will ever get. He has changed my world and I am so grateful.