Tomorrow is my 25th birthday, and truthfully I have struggled with the direction that I would take my “birthday post”. This past year of my life has been so full. Full of life, full of laughter, and full of loss. There was one concept, or idea, that I kept coming back to over and over again and that was what have I learned during my twenty fourth year of life?
I’m sure if I thought long enough about it, I probably could have come up with some life lessons that I learned for each year of my life, but twenty-four felt different. It was messy and it was by the far the most transformative year of my life. I felt the pain of loss and the peace of our Savior simultaneously and I am beginning my twenty fifth year of life with a heart and soul very different than the one I had a year ago. There’s a few things I’ve learned this past year and I wanted to share them with you.
Get Out and See the World, Even if It’s Just Your Backyard
Okay, so my love of traveling didn’t just pop up in the last year, but I was able to do a little traveling and it always has an impact on me. Anytime I travel, I always feel as though I leave little bits of my heart in each place. God planted wonder and curiosity in my heart and I yearn to see more of this beautiful land that He created. In June 2015, I traveled up North to Detroit to visit my dear friend, Sarah, and her sweet little family. I got to meet my nephew Elijah for the first time and Sarah was pregnant with baby Ellie, who was born in December. Sarah and I met almost six years ago on Twitter, back when I first began blogging and she quickly became one of my closest friends, despite this trip being only the second time we have hung out in person! I had never been to Detroit or Michigan before so I was able to cross that and Ohio off of my list of states visited.
In August 2015, I traveled to Austin, Texas completely solo (as in, I didn’t really know anyone in Austin at all) for three days. My mom still says she wonders how I was able to do that. It was probably her protective mom-mode talking, but I actually wonder that too. I’ve had the opportunity to travel by myself a couple of times now and I definitely think that affected my maturity in some ways. I traveled to Austin to meet with the owner of a successful PR firm, who I had come in contact with back when I blogged about the Divergent series and his firm was handling PR for it. At the time, I was in the midst of taking graduates courses online to get a Master’s degree in Social Media so I took a chance and asked if I could hang out in his office for a day. It was probably the most adult I had ever felt and I walked away with an awesome inside look at the field.
Savor the Smallest Moments
During the course of my twenty-fourth year alone, I have said goodbye to four close family members in a four month time frame. It’s cliche, but one of the biggest things that I’ve learned was the importance of not letting any moments pass you by. Little things like celebrating the seasons or taking a walk with your parents are meaningful because it means that you are not allowing the days to pass you by. For so long, I lived this way. Three of the four deaths this past year were somewhat expected, simply due to older age, but losing my aunt at the age of 57 to a massive heart attack was anything but expected. When someone is ripped from your life in such an unexpected way, you become that much more grateful for the little things with that person. Only five or six hours before her death, we had been together and were laughing as we always did and it is something that I will treasure forever. One of my favorite authors, Emily Freeman, touched on this in a recent blog post about Will Smith’s response to Prince’s unexpected death, and she describes it so perfectly.
“The first thing we try to piece together when someone dies is the last interaction we had with him, the last time we saw her face, the last words we exchanged. It seems the more recently you’ve seen a person alive, the more difficult it is to believe they are gone.
And the first thing we often say is, but I just saw her. Will Smith’s response rings so familiar. But I just spoke with him last night.
It’s like our brain is trying to reason with reality. This person can’t be gone because they were just talking to me yesterday.
We aren’t accustomed to not being able to trust our eyes and our ears. And our eyes and ears say they were just right there.”
It is Possible to Worship Through the Heartbreak
In tragic circumstances, it can sometimes seem like the natural inclination of some is to question where God is in all of it. For me, I knew that if I took that position, it wouldn’t be long before I drowned in the sea of despair that would come along with it. I know that God had absolutely brought me the trials of the year before, led me to my church home, and done His the work in my heart that He had as “preparation” for this season of profound loss. Without going through what I had already, I don’t know that I would so instinctively sought out Christ’s strength the way I did.
When I would be at my lowest points, the only thing I could ever think to do would be to put on my Christian music playlist and just simply worship and praise God. The title of my playlist is “I Can Do All Things” and it was a beautiful reminder for me that no matter how sad I was feeling, I could do anything with God. Including getting through this heartbreak.
Community Means Leaving Your Comfort Zone
Ever since I began attending my church in November 2014, finding a community was always my goal. This transitional period in my life at the time came because I had realized that there were two things I was lacking; a deeper relationship with Christ and a community. I needed a community of like-minded peers to do life with me, challenge me, and inspire me. Even though I joined a small group shortly after coming to my church, engaging this new group of people did not come natural to me. For so long, I kept to myself in the church setting. I’d go, listen to the message, and go home. Sometimes I might not have even spoken with anyone other than my family. So when I actually found a new community for myself, I felt like a fish out of water. I didn’t know what to do, what to say, or even how to act. I’d speak up every so often during small group, but outside of that I still kept to myself. Other girls in the group would hang out both in and out of the church environment and I wished that it came that easy to me.
Over the course of this past year in particular I have found that it has gotten easier to live outside my comfort zone. We are called to live in community with other Christians and for me, this means having to prayerfully consider the reality of community not being something that comes naturally to me. It takes work and it’s not comfortable, but if we can get to the other side of that we can find ourselves with something beautiful and life-giving.
What Life Lessons Have You Learned Lately?