I will be a Father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to Me, says the Lord Almighty.
- 2 Corinthians 6:18

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Looking Back: 2015

 Every once in a while, I'll share a "what I learned" post. Typically these posts relate to what I learned during a certain month, but with a new year in full swing, I wanted to share what I've learned over the past year. This is a post for me to really just reflect on the complete sovereignty of our Lord; it's a post for me to look back on and say, "God was there every step of the way."

 If I accomplished one thing in 2015, it would have been learning to cling to the complete goodness of God. 2015 was hard, y'all. Yes, it was a year filled with some wonderful mountain-top experiences, but alongside those came times in the valleys. If you care to read the long, long journey that was 2015, feel free to do so. If you don't have that much patience {because let's be honest, I wouldn't either}, go ahead and skip to the last couple paragraphs. This post is really just to be a visual reminder of the work Christ has done in me this past year.

January // The year started off pretty simply- watched the ball drop from the comfort of my own couch due to a case of the flu. Signed up to take a week-long mission trip to the Dominican Republic with Compassion International. Started raising money/preparing for said trip. Spent a weekend at the Student Life youth conference. Got wrecked all over again for the world & ate the absolute best cupcake in the world {no lie}. Read through the book of Ruth which revived a passion for His word.

February // A whole lot of the same old. Except Georgia got some snow {!!!!} so that was fun. Also ended up in the ER with {another round of} the flu. Probably not worth noting but it was one of the few things that stood out in February so you're welcome. Spent the whole month really studying the book of Exodus {now one of my all-time favorite books in the Bible}.

March // March brought my favorite youth event of the year {aka Disciple Now}. It was a weekend full of God stories and deep prayers and eating donuts and having girl talk at 2 in the morning. Learned again how earnest prayers strengthen faith and how having people pray over you connects your heart to the heart of Christ like few other things can. Finished reading Exodus and went on to read Hebrews.

April/May // Easter weekend. My absolute favorite of the year. Also starting running again so that was fun. Learned that sometimes the things we think are good aren't truly good and from God. Ran my second 5k. Got to go shopping for the sweet girl I would meet just one short month later. Read through Proverbs and Matthew. Witnessed 90+ people go public in baptism. These two months were ones of learning to rely wholly on Christ & His faithfulness.

June // Got some sweet letters and pictures from my parent's trip to my heart's home {Ethiopia} and spent three whole days away from my sister {the longest we've ever gone without seeing each other}. Had to cut ties in an area of my life and in doing so, opened my heart to receive more of my sweet Lord. Learned that we can allow the hard times to either drive us deeper into God or push us away from Him. Saw God's love displayed in the most beautiful way as I wrapped my arms around my Compassion International sponsor child, Mari Leiny, during the week I spent in the Dominican Republic. Embraced the nations with Him. Never have I laughed more, loved harder, and smiled wider in my life. Also formed unbreakable bonds with five lovely young adults whom I know are going to just set this world on fire for Him. Missing my Dominican translators more every day. Also spent a week at one of my favorite places on earth {also known as the beach}. Bought a cookie straw from Starbucks that was worth every penny. Yum.

July // Finished up a Bible study on defending my faith, led by two wonderful mentors in my life. Spent a week at Student Life Camps in Texas. Got to draw closer to the Lord while providing a VBS event to some children who might not have gotten one otherwise. Played games and did crafts and learned stories with a group of precious hearts whom I will never forget.

August // Worshiped with a couple thousand people at the Outcry Tour. Truly one of my favorite moments of the month. Was finally thrown a surprise party and I may or may not have cried.. Celebrated my 16th birthday with cookie cake and Chick-fil-a. Began one of the most difficult seasons I've ever walked through {more on that in the coming months}. Started off the school year with high hopes and major perfectionist tendencies. Went to my first ever Atlanta Braves game and even though they lost it was still fun.

September/October // My oh my. Easily the two most difficult months of my life. A handful of things caused me to slowly drift. It felt as though everything precious was being ripped away from me as the God I'd always known felt so very far. There were some bright spots- such as homecoming with the beautiful souls I get to call friends and my youth group's Fall Retreat. Unknowingly taking control from the only One who is truly in control threw me into some deep waves and I struggled to keep my head above it all. There were many nights of broken cries for God to restore my heart to Him. Stepped out in faith, even though I could not see Him, and led large group for my church's children's program and it ended up being one of the most rewarding experiences.

November // God slowly but surely started to draw me back to His heart. I began again to hold my heart and my life in open hands up to Him. Learned to accept imperfection. Started praying about & seriously considering a two-week mission trip to Guatemala. Spent time with family for the holidays & said goodbye to my parents as they left for a week in Haiti. Took finals. Signed up to go to Ethiopia for a week with my church & began the application process to go to Guatemala with Adventures in Missions. Also splatter-painted for the first time ever and had a blast.

December // Finished off the year by just simply "being". Spent more time with family & celebrated my sweet sister's 17th birthday. Visited a bunch of pet stores with my cousin. Oh happy day. Also took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Florida with my daddy & spent NYE on the beach. Bought Adele's new album and made him listen to the whole thing on the way home.

January 2016 // Including this as well since the month is already finished. Was officially accepted to go on the Guatemala trip and have seen God's hand in the whole entire application process. Enjoyed several girls' days with some sweet friends. Invested in my first pair of chacos {because they were on sale and all I wear in summer is sandals}. Spent time catching up with my Dominican translators via Skype. Nearly broke down during worship one Sunday night because for the first time in months I felt as if the words I was singing were an overflow from my heart. Thanking God for drawing this heart back to Him. Spent a weekend at the Lift Tour growing closer to a group of people that I will forever call family. Forever thankful to have a small group that I can laugh with and be open and vulnerable with. These people are such a blessing in my life. Got to go back to Steel City Pops which was a definite highlight. Started this blog back up with a new vision.

 And there you have it. My year in review. If you made it this far, all I want you to leave with is a remembrance of our Lord's faithfulness. He is always faithful. And He is always good. If this past year had not played out the way it did, I would have never seen such a perfect example of how completely Christ pursues us when we are lost. Looking back, I am thankful for the struggles. I am thankful for the valleys. They have brought me deeper into Him than I ever imagined possible. He is relentlessly, passionately in love with you, friend. Let's hold tightly to that today.

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