As the sun sets on this year and we begin a new decade, I wanted to take some inventory of the experiences of this year and what I've learned and why. Zora Neale Hurston said, "there are years that ask questions, and years that answer." In looking at 2019, I honestly feel like the year started with questions (and lots of them I didn't even know I had yet), and the year has ended with answers. And in the questions that were not answered, there is either potential for an answer or an area where my faith must grow. Both of those options are beautiful, I think, and I am excited for the future.
I'm going to try to break down this year into certain categories that I feel that I have seen the biggest difference in, or things/discoveries that have made the biggest waves in my life this year.
-Reading the Bible every day (at least one chapter daily) has changed my life this year. This experience has been so much better than I thought it would be, honestly. I have retained more scripture and general references (randomly hearing a verse referenced and thinking, "oh, that's in 2 Corinthians chapter 4," etc.).
Of all the Bible studies and my short 30 years studying the Bible, I've always been amazed and attuned to God's love (especially since the year 2012, which is another story entirely), but this year what has really struck me repeatedly is the absolute power and holiness. It seems as though every day I read this year, I was brought back to this: the utter otherness and wholeness of God that is incomprehensible. It has changed my faith. I pray with more confidence in His almighty holiness. In looking back at how I have prayed in the past, they were mostly very unexpectant prayers. The subconscious prayer was "I'm making this request from You but I'm not going to get my hopes up because of the whole 'Your will be done' thing, and I don't want to be too disappointed if You don't say yes to this request." But in the self-deception of seeing my prayers as saying, "Your will be done, not mine," they were actually faithless prayers. Faith is expectancy. It is having trust in God that He cares enough about what you're praying about that you know that He wants to see the right and best thing happen, too. So now when I pray, I'm still remembering "Thy will be done," but I'm also praying with confidence in Him knowing that He is all powerful and nothing is beyond His ability. In reading Luke, there are so many places where Jesus heals, and the repeated words are "your faith has healed you." When I come to Jesus with a half-baked request and just kind of hand it to Him, mutter something, and walk away, how is that having faith that He is willing and able to do something utterly miraculous and amazing? I'm learning how to forget my self-guarded worry that I will somehow be disappointed if His will isn't mine. If I am faithful and tuck myself completely under His wing, letting my soul be rested completely at home in His heart, His will is all that I will want anyway. To hell with my "disappointment" if my request isn't granted exactly the way I wanted it to be. That's not the point. To be centered in Him is to rely upon His power and all-knowing goodness. That is His will.
Okay, that was a lot longer than I expected that paragraph to be, but you get the idea.
-Better management of handling negative emotions of people around me. I'm starting to get better at this! No seriously, I think I am!
Working a job where I am in a customer service-type of position, thankfully I don't get too many phone calls with irate clients (because I work for an amazing business and the team I work with totally rocks so hard), but every so often, you just get a person who is not nice and has no qualms hiding the fact from you. I'm learning that people who are around me who are in a terrible mood and who are rude and not thinking of the other people around them behave that way simply because they choose to. It's not my responsibility that they're acting that way. This is how I'm learning not to take undue guilt onto myself. My husband has a policy that he sticks to like stink on a warthog, and that is: "don't apologize for something you know you did not do or when you know that you did no wrong." He lives by that so diligently that sometimes I've been irritated, but he's right. When you're an empathetic, caring person, that is a simple way not to mentally and emotionally put on blame that is not yours to carry. I have enough real blame to put on myself for the many things that I do do wrong than to take on something I didn't do wrong.
-Podcasts! I've had a really fun time this year going through different podcasts and finding which ones are good and which ones are great and that I come back to repeatedly and consistently. So here is the list:
1. Living Proof with Beth Moore (gimme some more of her scripture-delving sermons any day, dude).
2. Live Free Creative with Miranda Anderson (time/life management, minimalism, adventurous-yet-disciplined lifestyle, healthy habits, etc.).
3. Let My People Think with Ravi Zacharias (scripture, apologetics, philosophy, and critical thinking).
4. The Brant and Sheri Oddcast (humor with depth and thoughts on Christianity. Episode "Special Oddcast! Would Dietrich Bonhoeffer Do That?" from July 3, 2019 had me ROLLING. I laughed so hard I was crying).
5. The Jordan Peterson Podcast (critical thinking / psychology / philosophy).
6. The Savvy Painter Podcast (art and deep understanding/thoughts on art).
7. Creative Pep Talk with Andy J. Pizza (pretty much what it says: pep talks for artists).
8. Awesome with Alison Podcast (healthy thought work, self-esteem/confidence help)
-7 Minute Workout App. I hate exercise for the purpose of simply exercising and getting into shape. I really do. I don't enjoy it and I had absolutely no motivation to pursue it until I found out that it's good for your brain.
Sigh. Okay. I give. I like my brain more than my body. I'll do it for my brain.
Matt and I have been doing the 7-Minute Workout app almost every weekday for the past several months first thing in the morning, and as much as I hate doing it, after I'm done, I'm so glad we did. And I'm getting to the point where I can kind of do a push-up! I would do cardio all day, but that strength stuff is awful. But I'm not giving up! You're welcome, brain (by way of biceps)!
-My anger issues. This is awkward and uncomfortable to talk about but honesty is how I want to always roll, so here's this.
I learned this year that I have had some majorly unresolved issues that I have never let heal. I found out by way of anger; like a family member that you didn't know you had and they suddenly show up on your doorstep and say they're gonna crash on your couch for a month or two, and proceed to demolish your house.
March, May, and October were rough months. Not just rough. Just plain ugly. I'm so ashamed of some of the things I said and did in those three months. I've never thought of myself as an angry person at all, and that's part of the problem, maybe. So rare is it that I feel much anger at all, that when I do, I have no experience as to how to handle it (or at least that's what I've been trying to tell myself to help myself feel better...?). I had read that as an Enneagram type 9, I am like an elephant in that they are caring and compassionate, and everyone sees them as one of the most peaceful animals on the planet, but when they're angry, they turn into a beast of destruction. I had always sort of brushed that off, and then I experienced it. And it terrified me.
But despite how ugly and awfully I behaved, I'm more awakened to issues that were not healed in me that I thought were perfectly fine and they were not. Now that I know, I can open myself up to healing. When I start to feel that anger bubbling up, I can say to myself, "how would I want to have handled this in retrospect?" and use that as my guideline. Doing that and taking some deep breaths seems to work pretty well.
Also, my husband is amazingly patient and forgiving. I don't know what I ever did to deserve him.
-Practical Minimalism! ...And not just with stuff / possessions. We have sought practical minimalism in terms of "stuff" since we've been married, but in the past several months, we started purposefully working on minimalism as a lifestyle. This means with our schedule, clothes, time management, and meal planning. We try not to over-schedule with plans or nights or weekends out. We've also made a weekly meal plan that saves us time and money, and we eat healthier foods.
Having grown up in a pastor's household where we were involved in so much (probably too much) community activity and had very busy schedules, I've experienced somewhat of an involvement-whiplash since being married to a man who was a monk for 3.5 years, and who lives by that commitment to simplicity. The lifestyle differences from then to now and feeling caught in between them could be another big writing project in itself, but I must admit, life is more enjoyable and rest more easily attained with the simpler lifestyle. For instance, I have enjoyed this Christmas season more than any other I have experienced in my adult life. In the same way that simplifying your home from clutter helps you to better appreciate the things you do have, simplifying your schedule helps you to appreciate time in a more beautiful way.
-Lastly, pursuing a heart of gratitude. I read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp this year, and I was blown away by her honesty and her pursuit of having a heart of eucharisteo. I'm not writing a physical list of 1,000 things I'm thankful for, but let me tell you, making a point to be thankful to God for every little thing that you see, and really mean it, that practice changes your life. Gratitude is the catalyst for joy and wonder. What sets apart children from adults in that they have so much more capability for wonder and joy? It is because things are new and fresh to them. When we are adults, we lose that newness to life, the freshness. How do we get it back? Gratitude. That's it. That's the simplest and most profound answer. And praise God, I'm getting it back.