It's been my custom to do a year in review sort of thing, but this year, I decided to do something a little different. Instead of events, here are the learnings of 2012. After all, I would argue that what we take away from an experience is often far more important than the actual experience itself. Much of life's circumstances are out of our control, but we can always choose to learn, grow, and be better from whatever happens. So here is what I'm taking from 2012.
1. Change is so hard. And life is full of it.
I look back on this year as one of the most transition filled in my whole life. However, I look back on it and say, "I did that. I'm okay. I made it. I was brave. I had an adventure." No regrets about taking leaps, only hope and excitement for what's ahead.
2. Life is full of disappointments. Things often don't turn out how we imagine they would. You must learn to grip the rope of life loosely, so when it gets pulled out from you, your hands don't get burned. Jesus is the only thing that will not burn you. There is brokenness in the world and that's not God's fault, but we have a God who loves being creative. So creative, in fact, that He makes beautiful things out of the dust. Even out of the chaos, He makes beautiful things. Colossians tells us not to be surprised when difficult things happen to us. It's part of the fallen world and us being people marked in Christ. We have a hope, though, that He works all things for the good of those who love Him. A promise like that makes brokenness worth enduring.
3. Life is so beautiful. Don't allow experiences or circumstances to make you bitter or fearful. It's a battle. Sometimes, I want to hide under a table and let the world go by for fear of what awaits me next. Sometimes, I want to ignore everyone and be jaded about all that is wrong in the world and its residents. There are days where I could stay in that place, but I'm reminded of this:
"I have come that you may have life and have it to the full." John 10:10
Captivity to fear and captivity to bitterness is nothing resembling fullness. We have to be careful that the lessons we learn from bad experiences in the past, don't keep us from taking a risk on great experiences later. For me, it's recognizing when my heart is going there and taking steps to be free. I'm excited for some life to the full in 2013.
4. Take a risk. You only have limited opportunities to do so. If something falls through, you tried, you learn. One of my favorite quotes this year was from Helen Keller. "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."
5. Jesus is faithful. Wow...I can't say that enough. The lyric from the hymn "Abide with Me" has been a word of strength this year. "Change and decay in all around I see, oh, Thou who changest not, abide with me." He has provided in ways I can't comprehend. Through so many trials, He has prepared me and rescued me. He has spoken words of truth from His Word and through others. He has allowed me to be broken and loved me into wholeness. He's given me opportunities I couldn't have dreamed of. I would not have weathered this year (or any other for that matter) with out the wonderful grace of God in Christ. Your plans are still to prosper. You are Sovereign over us.
6. People are worth it. I've said a lot of hard goodbyes and see ya laters in 2012. I've spent a lot of time and money in the last year (and will continue to do so this year) to travel to be with friends and family who are far away. I'm rarely disappointed by that choice. Stuff, gadgets, whatever...they aren't nearly as valuable and fulfilling as people. Spending time and money to see people is always worth it. I'm grateful for getting to see my godson be baptized, my nephew as a new baby, friends here visiting me from all over, time at the Sem, last minute adventures before moving, those moments and connections are precious. Don't take time with people you love for granted. True friendship is not all lost.
7. Which leads me to..don't do this thing alone. The best times are better and the worst times aren't so bad when you've got someone in it with you. You can't do it alone and you're not supposed to. Let people in. Be messy. Be real. Be loved. Invite someone along for the ride in 2013.
8. "Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you as well." Seeking God's Kingdom and His righteousness not an easy request. It puts aside our kingdoms and our own self-righteousness and calls us to something bigger. Being part of kingdom growth in Nicaragua, Concordia, and Arizona in 2012 has been a labor of love. Often challenging, but where my heart is filled. If we're not doing something in order that God may be glorified and more people come to know Jesus, then what are we doing it for? If it is for ourselves, we need to stop and repent immediately. And His righteousness. We have been given a task that we cannot complete, but in Christ we are given robes of righteousness. We are called to walk in the light and allow God's Word to be sharper than any double-edged sword against any sin in our hearts.
Then, we don't do this so that we get things added unto us, but seeking Jesus is the goal! All else goes strangely dim and pails in comparison. It's a resolution for each new year, that we would seek you, Jesus, more than we have before.
9. Joy is both a gift and a choice. God gave us joy in Jesus when we couldn't choose joy on our own. We are gifted with joy from our Heavenly Father in nearly every moment we breathe. But when things are challenging, our hearts our breaking, the world seems dark, we can choose to see joy. So many things are beyond our control and yet, the promise of life to the full remains. Scripture talks about having joy in the presence of God. Since Jesus is Emmanuel, a very present God, we are given joy. Joy that the enemy can't touch nor take nor damage nor shake. It is hidden with Christ in God.
10. I'm way stronger than I thought. :-) I've came through a lot this year with starting a new life in a new place. I know it wasn't in my strength that I did it. God can bring you through so much more than you thought you could handle. But yeah, I'm kind of proud of that.
11. And way weaker than I thought. :-S None of us are untouchable or unstoppable. We all have weaknesses, breaking points, and vulnerabilities. This is why I can't do this thing alone. This is why I need rest. This is why I desperately need Jesus.
12. Hope. It's the word of the year. "Ponder anew what the Almighty can do."
May your 2013 be full of reminders that you are desperately loved by Jesus. Here's to a new year.