2016 was a great year. While I could reminisce for paragraphs about the many highs and lows of the past 12 months, I thought instead to reminisce about all that the Lord taught me this year.

  1. Things are never as bad as they seem.

“For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime!

Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

Psalm 30:5

      After my family went on a trip to NYC in January, I drove from Austin-Bergstrom to Baylor in tears. I wouldn’t see my family again for what felt like ages, my fiancé was in another country on a mission trip, I was going back to a school where I felt out of place, and I had no idea what to expect in the new semester. I sobbed as I drove away from my family and one of the best vacations ever because I was terrified of the unfamiliar. There was no way I could have known that I would meet half of my bride tribe that semester in a Bible Study I forced myself to go to. There was no way I could have known that I would solidify friendships that were barely formed when I left for Christmas break. There was no way I could have known how much I would grieve the loss of Baylor just three months after transferring out. My perspective at the beginning of that season was dim and bleak because I was allowing myself to be guided by my own doubt and fear rather than my God’s hope and joy.

  1. Rest is good.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7

      This lesson came hard at the beginning of the school year, when nearly all of my friends at Baylor joined sororities and couldn’t spend as much time with me as they had before. I was crushed. Just as I had settled into freshman year, everything changed all over again. It was a miracle if I could find someone to eat dinner with on a Monday night. My days were long and empty, while everyone around me was spinning in a thousand directions. I beat myself up because everyone seemed to be busier than me, had more tasks to accomplish and more friends to meet up with. I grew weary with the ample free time my days held. Eventually, I realized that there was no point in feeling guilty for having free time. I can confidently say that those days of emptiness brought me closer to the Lord and enabled me to discover myself in a way that many of my peers didn’t have the time to do. I had so much free time, in fact, that I was able to take hour-long walks every Sunday night around campus. As the sun set, I would listen to podcasts and decompress from whatever stress had accumulated the week before. My life was beautifully slow that semester, and I wouldn’t sacrifice a single moment of peace for an enhanced resume.

  1. Comparison is the thief of joy.

“Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, ‘I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,’ that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, ‘I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,’ would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it.”

1 Corinthians 12:14-18

      This is a lesson that everyone, especially women, struggle with throughout their life, and the Lord truly hammered this truth to my soul this summer serving as a camp counselor. I was a seasoned expert when it came to comparing myself to other women physically, but was entirely unprepared for comparing myself to other women’s inward beauty. At camp, I was surrounded by women who were strikingly different from me in the best way; women who were more mature, friendlier, more responsible, more flexible, more humble, more artistic, and more social than me. If you’ve ever felt like everyone has a clique or a best friend except for you, then you can imagine how I felt. My personal insecurities caused me to believe that those who were different from me were somehow better than me. Other counselors seemed to be so much more popular with campers, befriended more counselors, or created more beautiful signs and decor than I ever could. I failed to see that I brought gifts and opinions to the table that others could not, and I separated myself from others because of it. My pride got in the way of sacrificing my own comforts to alleviate other people’s burdens, which was practically the mission statement of camp. Christ did not compare himself to other figures and teachers, he just did what the Father told him to do. Jesus may have been the center of attention during his three years of ministry, but that attention didn’t stop his crucifixion.

  1. Expectations are the root of disappointment.

“It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.”

Psalm 118:8

      This statement has been repeated by my best friends for the majority of the year, as we’ve lamented the conflicts that arise after an expectation goes unmet. Every relationship, even your relationship with yourself, suffers conflict after one party fails to meet another’s assumptions. I’ve learned that the best way to walk into each day is one step at a time, not checking the map for what’s ahead, but just matching my pace to my breath. As someone who LOVES to plan ahead, this has been a major challenge, but I have never been disappointed less than when I capture my expectations. I look to the Lord to satisfy me, and try to love those who cross my path. When you trust God above anyone else, you’ll be less affected by other people’s selfishness and thoughtlessness. In relationships, you have to realize that no human is perfect, and no human can read minds. If you haven’t communicated your expectations with someone, you have little right to get mad when things don’t work out. Even when they fail you though, and they will, give grace. Jesus has certainly given us ample grace for the many times we’ve failed to meet his expectations.

  1. Grace, grace, grace.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

Matthew 5:7

“Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

1 Peter 5:5

“For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

James 2:13

“But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Matthew 6:15

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…”

Colossians 3:12

      Clearly, I’m passionate about this subject. This last semester has presented more opportunities than I’ve ever known to give grace to others and myself. Getting engaged has forced me to grow up more quickly than my peers, and I’ve failed myself too many times to count as I’ve struggled to understand living expenses, insurance, career paths, and the adult world. I’ve learned that shame is not from the Lord, but from the enemy. If the enemy can cause us to feel guilty and ashamed, then we consequently will cover ourselves and hide from God, as Adam and Eve did in the Garden. We must give grace to ourselves when we try and fail, or when we don’t try at all and knew we should have. Repentance and shame are entirely different; repentance is an action, shame is a cycle. Giving grace to others, depending on the person, is infinitely more difficult or easier than giving grace to yourself. This semester has been filled with transition, for myself and everyone around me. I’ve disappointed others and have been disappointed by others more than any other season in my life. The Bible tells us that those who forgive will be forgiven, and that those who hold grudges will not be. Remember the story of the servant who owed his master a debt? The master forgave his servant, and moments after expressing his gratefulness, the servant encountered a man who owed him debts. Rather than forgiving the man as his master had forgiven him, the servant persecuted and prosecuted the man, completely ignoring the forgiveness he’d been shown. I’ve learned this year that grace is instant forgiveness. Giving grace is the only way you can go through life without pessimism. It’s not easy to instantly forgive, but it is freeing. After giving grace as much as possible for the past few months, the forgiveness has turned into straight up forgetting. I can’t even remember what people have done to hurt me, intentionally or accidentally, because I’m no longer allowing myself to focus on others’ faults. When you shift your focus from the sins of others to the perfection of Christ, it’s impossible to hold grudges. This is easily the most life-changing lesson I’ve learned this year, because healing comes from the divine grace of God. If we have the Spirit of God within us, we have every ability to forgive sins as He does. When Christ died on the cross, God forgave every sin for all of mankind. He’s never looked back on our sins, but has separated our imperfection from His righteousness as far as the east is from the west. Shouldn’t we practice the same grace to others?

Photo Courtesy of Apricity Photography

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