i’m not normally one to write an obligatory “it’s a new year!” reflection piece. but since i’m back in the writing game, and because i have had ample time and space for reflection on the absurdities of the last few years of my life, i’ve gathered some words to share.
about a year ago i had just lost my new job. in fact, on new years day last year my sister and i opened up our “jar of blessings” from the year and the irony of seeing a card that read “grace got the job!” gave us a pretty hearty laugh. i had spent time last december feeling lost, confused, misguided, hurt and angry. but that only lasted a few days. i remember very clearly the peace that came over me a few days after i got the news. i had no idea what i was going to do in the coming weeks, but i wasn’t worried. not even one bit. which is a far cry to how i would have felt even 3 years ago. i just praise God for what He had done in my life those 3 years to show me how to trust Him, because if i hadn’t lived those years of heartbreak, loss, surrender, change and uneasiness, i know this speed bump could have caused a wreck in me.
but instead, this speed bump started me off on a different road. and as i look back at the road i’ve traveled this year, i can’t help but feel joyful, thankful, refreshed, renewed and blessed. it was one of the toughest years as far as personal growth, and i’m so thankful for that! but what i am most grateful for are the people God brought into and out of my life this year. He never ceased to amaze me with the love and guidance He gave me every step i took this year.
those steps took me into schools all over frederick county where i taught elementary, middle and high school students of various backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, economic status and aptitude. i opened up more juice boxes, applesauce and gogurt pouches (which i have an extreme aversion to) than i can count or even care to remember. i had chalk, crayons, toys, pencils and various small items thrown at me and successfully fooled middle schoolers into thinking i knew exactly what i was teaching them by memorizing lesson plans and speaking with authority. i traveled around the county teaching primarily special needs students and learning so much about people, humanity, and family along the way.
for a month, those steps took me into a classroom of 7 boys with autism who i loved immediately, who challenged everything i knew about education, and whose names are now written on my heart.
those steps took me to an inner-city high school with the challenge to get a suspended liberian-american senior with failing grades caught up in 3 weeks so he could get his diploma.
those steps took me into public classrooms where students, natively from all over africa, asked me about Jesus.
if God had just brought those people into my life this year, dayenu (it would have been sufficient.) but He didn’t stop there.
His steps led me around the corner from my house to spend 8 weeks teaching, disciplining, loving, feeding, hugging, bandaging, encouraging and caring for 35 precious children, each with a strong personality, separate life struggle and a distinct need to feel loved. and it was the most draining, most rewarding 8 weeks my little heart has ever lived through.
if God had stopped there, dayenu.
but those steps also led me to months of spending time with my tiny best friend, watching her grow and learn how to use utensils, how to play with other kids, how to fall, cry and get back up, how to pronounce letters correctly and how to tumble around a gym, how to make believe and how to pick up her toys. i am sure she taught me more in 2 months than i taught her.
if God had stopped there, dayenu.
but His steps also led me to months of quality time with my youth students, filled with challenges, celebrations, tough truths, sadness, joy, laughter, learning and more hugs and love than i deserve.
a year ago God gave me a journey to africa. He called, He paved the way, He supplied my every need, He blessed my journey.
and He allowed me to come back.
and i spent the last half of 2014 being taught and re-taught how to love like God loves. how to rest and be still in Him. i’ve spent my time learning how to do bush medicine, how to speak 3 new languages, how to ride a bicycle in a skirt, how to make nigerien kids warm up to a strange white lady, how to discipline kids with limited vocabulary, how to make nigerien food, how to make art and create using trash and used cans. i’ve spent my time with kids, snuggling, dancing, listening to and getting peed on. i’ve spent my time surrendering and sacrificing and wondering if i’m doing enough.
in this season where God could have just brought me to another country for a “missions trip,” He instead gave me a fresh start, new eyes and new understanding and appreciation. He instead warmed up my icy heart and reminded me of who i am and what He made me to do. He has reminded me of how He asks me to love others- the way Christ loves me. He has reminded me that i don’t get to use heartbreak or fear or bitterness as an excuse to be a shut-in. He has reminded me that my joy comes from Him, and His joy is complete. He has reminded me that His faithfulness is never changing, never wavering, and that i can trust it always.
and looking back at this year, i don’t know how i could convince myself otherwise. He has given abundantly to me.
a year ago i wouldn’t have said i was thankful for losing my job, but i would have said (and did), “i trust the plan God has for me.”
today, i am so grateful for God’s providence, His sovereignty, His knowledge of me and love for me that far surpasses any of my understanding.
today i am thankful for what God did in my life and what He continues to do, even if i don’t know my next steps. looking back, i see where following his leading has taken me, and i am ready to keep walking.