By the time December arrives, I'm usually trudging through the year like a road-weary traveler. When December 31st finally gets here, I'm just plain over it - I'm limping toward the finish line. I'm lethargic and bleary-eyed and tired of being confined in what feels like the smallest of spaces. I'm straining my eyes to look for any kind of oasis I can spot ahead - a beacon of hope that promises me a chance for something better than where I am currently.
The past few years have been good... but good doesn't necessarily remove the hard. Every December 31st for the past four years, I've practically catapulted myself into January, breathing a deep sigh of relief when the clock struck 12:01 a.m. I've looked to the new year as the only hope for redemption for the less than stellar year before - a year full of unmet expectations and unanswered prayers. I'd hope for a year of better and newer and brighter and deeper. An unparalleled year of peace and joy and happiness. I'd say to myself "Maybe this will be the year my prayers are finally answered."
This New Year's Eve finds me still a little road-weary but in a completely new territory begging to be explored. I'm not looking to 2016 to bring me hope or joy because I've finally figured out what it means to look to Christ to meet those needs. He alone is my hope and my deep well of joy. Not what did or didn't happen this past year. Not what might possibly happen in the upcoming year. Christ alone is my hope and joy.
This year I've decided to stop looking to the new year to provide the things I thought I wanted most in life, the things that I thought might make life a littler shinier, a little better. I'm looking at this new year as an oasis - a spacious place that provides rest for my soul and room to stretch my legs.
365 more days to draw closer to Christ. 365 more days to be creative. 365 more days to feed my soul. 365 more days to rest in who He is and who He says I am in Him. 365 more days to learn and laugh and love and live. That's what the new year's about. It's about growing. Blooming. Twisting and twirling and soaking up every bit of sunlight I can possibly absorb.
I can't move into 2016 without acknowledging how good 2015's been to me. I've learned more about myself this year than ever before. I've deepened my walk with Christ and found new joy in my relationship with Him. I'm so very thankful for all that 2015 taught me. Here's a few of the biggest lessons I learned this year:
2015 taught me that you absolutely can not keep your fists clenched when the Lord commands you to open them and let go of something. Obedience means letting go - not just holding on and praying for the Lord's will to match your own. He cannot place His good gifts in tightly fisted hands. Letting go is one of the most deeply satisfying places of soul rest I've ever encountered.
2015 taught me that you should never have to convince someone that they need you in their life. You shouldn't have to sell yourself or the love and friendship you offer. People either want you in their life or they don't. They either respect and value your friendship or they don't. Good, true friendship is mutual and healthy. It's life-breathing instead of soul-crushing.
2015 taught me that people can misconstrue your intentions - no matter how pure your heart may be. You can't control the heart posture of others, so you can't control how people will view you or your words and actions - even when you know your intentions were pure.
2015 taught me that intimacy comes in many forms in many different relationships. It's your friend bringing you a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios - dry with no milk and in a Tupperware bowl and not one of her "real" cereal bowls - because she knows and loves your quirky preferences. It's a friend realizing you're a little down and inviting you to come to dinner with her family. It's a friend stopping whatever she's doing to pray for you and let you talk through whatever's on your heart. It's opening up to your community group about the dark places of doubt and uncertainty in your life. It's having someone in your life who is the iron that sharpens your iron, someone who makes you think deeply and wrestle with the hard things in life. Intimacy is the thread that stitches together the deep connections of community.
2015 taught me that there's a very real difference in knowing you need to find rest in Christ and actually allowing yourself to rest in Christ. Saying you're going to clear space for yourself and for God is one thing. Actually doing it is something else entirely.
2015 taught me that sometimes the Lord chooses to answer your prayers in the most unconventional of ways. Be open to it. Accept His good gifts no matter what shape they come in.
2015 taught me the importance of speaking God's promises over yourself. Death and life are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). What we speak over ourselves is as powerful as life or death. I'm finding it more and more important to surround myself with scripture in my home and on my desk at school so that I'm staring His promises in the face daily. I'm learning how important scripture memory is for times when I need to drench myself in His love for me.
2015 taught me that it's ok to doubt yourself and not have everything figured out - even when you're thirty-two and have been *mostly* successful at adulting for a good ten years or so.
2015 taught me that the 18-inch journey from your head to your heart is one of the most rewarding journeys you'll ever take. The road may be bumpy and long and winding, but it's one of the best trips you'll ever take. The shift from knowing something to truly believing something will be a catalyst for all sorts of change in your life. Knowing He's my Father and that I'm His daughter is one thing. Believing it allows me to stop doubting my identity and step into the plans He has for me.
2015 taught me that dreams and passions and giftings can shift according to His purpose and intent. Just because he's igniting something new in you doesn't mean that you're forever leaving behind the other gifts He's so graciously given.
2015 taught me that saying yes to too many good things can mean saying no to myself and risking burnout. Sometimes my yeses to good things have even meant saying no to God in other areas. I've had a really hard time trying to figure out how to step back from an overcrowded, overcommitted schedule of really good things. But as a wise friend once told me, "Just because it's good doesn't mean it's God." I'm still working through this one. I'm still learning balance. I'm still learning to discern the good from the God.
2015 taught me to look to Christ alone for my identity. I often find myself living in the land of Not Enough. You know the one - I'm not good enough, I'm not thin enough, I'm not Godly enough, I'm not smart enough, etc. Not Enough often disguises itself in comparison. Comparison leads to jealousy, discontent, and ungratefulness in my life. Comparison threatens to destroy all I have. Lara Casey says "Comparison isn't only the thief of joy; it's the thief of everything." I refuse to dwell in the land of Not Enough when the land of the living, the land of God's fullness is where I belong.
Wherever this December finds you - even if you feel like a road-weary traveler - don't rush into the new year like I used to do. Take a few moments to think though all the good and bad of 2015 and what it taught you.
What did 2015 teach you this year?