The other day I was out running with my sister Natalie when I asked her the question,
"When you look back on the year, what stands out to you?"
She answered by listing out some of the significant things that happened in her life this past year. Side note, most were things I had forgotten about because, you know, I'm such a great sister like that.
So after I apologized over forgetting big things like "Oh yeah - your bike accident!!" and what not, she returned the question.
My list took a long time.
And we both came to the conclusion the year has been a little bit dramatic. Breakups, contests, career changes. Making new friends and watching old ones fall away. Graduation and moving and saying goodbye to the occupation I've carried as long as I can remember - transitioning from student to intern to full time. I interviewed and I prayed and I moved. I chased my dream and cried when it wasn't at all like I had imagined. I worked and I rested, I took some leaps of faith but I also got stuck in fearful corners. I had moments when I never felt more alive, followed by a darkness that I thought would never lift. I giggled and laughed harder than ever before in my life, but then there were weeks (read: months) when I had never felt more alone. I found hope in unexpected places, met some new people, packed my life into my backseat in each of the four seasons. I walked around Target on Friday nights when I had nothing else to do, but other nights I walked into rooms where everyone called out my name.
I was up and I was down and I was here and I was there, and now December has closed out and I'm trying to make sense of it all. The analyst in me wants a clean answer for all the "Why"s I asked in 2013.
And then, of course, there are questions that don't even fit into the "Why" box. They're broader - deeper - heavier.
Did I fail? Did I make the wrong decision? Am I in the right place now? What's my next dream? Where do I go from here? If God is here, why does it still feel dark?
To sum it up, 2013 put my faith to the test - which ultimately is putting God to the test. 2013 questioned Him objectively, generally, and directly. It was the year of "WHY" and "HOW" and "SO WHAT" and "WHAT NOW."
2013 shook me.
"Is God good?" it asked.
"Does God see you? Is he still there?"
"Can you even trust him?"
2013 got all up in my business and dug straight to the heart of the issue. And all that picking and digging and breaking of the ground hurt. Hurt a lot, actually. Working through the answers got messy. 2013 took dynamite to my supposedly-sure-foundation to test the true strength. My foundation looked nice on the outside, but was there any substance to it? My heart became a destruction zone and I wondered if anything would be left standing by the time the blasting stopped.
But as the smoke starts to clear and the dust is settling, there is some good news to report. The foundation built apart from me is still standing. My feet have found a rock and even though my legs are pretty shaky, the ground is solid.
And at the end of this transitional year, this year of giving up, I'm walking into 2014 with many of the same things I've had all along. But better. There are generic concepts that have taken on REAL meaning: hope, peace, love, joy. They weren't taken from me when everything was shaken up, but instead, they were intensified as I became more aware of the presence of God in my life, and only because he was tested. As I watched so many pieces of my heart and my life come to an end, mostly peacefully but occasionally with a little bit of a fight as I tried to cling and fight and hold on, I realized that rock on which I stand goes deeper and wider than anything I could ever build for myself. So I learned to let the other stuff go.
And there's a bonus, something I've picked up along the way to fill that now-empty-space in my hands, where I was once grasping things so tightly, things I thought couldn't be replaced... I've picked up faith. Sometimes it doesn't feel like I'm holding on to anything at all. Sometimes I feel duped or gypped. But in that still small voice speaking to me in the quietness, when I'm sitting in the darkness asking, "Now What?" I hear an answer. I know that by letting go, I've gained more. By turning those empty hands to the Lord, I am filled. By ditching the things I thought I needed, I find wholeness.
One of the hardest things about 2013 was that it put God to the test.
But one of the best things about my God was that He can handle it. He revels in it. And at the end of the year, I can look back on all that testing and trying and asking and hoping and doubting and say thank you.
"But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold." Job 23:10
PS. I'm super excited about 2014 and a new season... One filled with laughing, loving, living. Cheers! :)
PPS. Wanted to give a little shout out to the sweet, sweet friends who walked through 2013 with me. Thank you for modeling God's love and grace to me so well. Thanks for helping me walk through winter without demanding I turn into spring. I'm better for you.