I've put off writing this reflection for ages because I wasn't sure how to accurately and succinctly reflect on this year. You may be thinking that succinctness isn't my strong suit and you would be right which should emphasize the power of this year in the fact that even I feel my words might be too much! Truthfully, this year has been one filled with growth, wonder, joy, tears and preparation. A bit of a rollercoaster at times and certainly not what I expected when the clock struck midnight on January 1st. I think the words growth and preparation came up the most in my year which isn't unusual but the joy and expectation that accompanied this season was quite different for me. I don't always handle change or disappointments well but this year I saw my life decorated by the hand of God and I can't help but marvel at all that has transpired. For example...
I have met so many new people this year that came in very unexpected ways. I've also had the privilege of growing relationships with people that I've known as acquaintances but now know as friends. Adult relationships can be difficult but also somewhat stagnant. Not in a bad way but think about it, every new school year opened the door for you to meet a new best friend. Pledging a sorority gave you dozens of women to call your sister. Playing a sport was a great way to find a teammate and companion. As adults, however, we don't meet a ton of new people and those we do meet often are in environments where we are working or volunteering, not just having fun. Also, adult lives are busy and the intentionality required to help a new relationship flourish can be exhausting or easily missed. So, the fact that I've had the opportunity to meet so many people and develop close relationships with two very kindred spirits this year is so unexpected but such an obvious gift from God.
I've also spent this year, often against my will, facing comfort zone shifting, fear inducing situations. If you know me, you know I'm not a risk taker by nature. I'll stick my neck out if someone I love needs me but I'm not one to barge in to a situation. I want a plan or roadmap and preferably an itinerary with specific times listed. I want to be prepared because that's how I feel safe. This is an area of life I have been growing in over the last few years and apparently in 2022 the Lord saw fit to test me in all I've learned. Early in the year, I had to make a decision concerning a kindred spirit I'd met. To grow in that relationship, I'd have to let go of my need to control. I would have to risk vulnerability with no guarantee of a safety net. I'd have to face some of my biggest fears, physically and emotionally. I had been here before and I chose the safety of the known but this time was different. This person was worth the risk. Has it all been marshmallows and gumdrops? Definitely not but my life perspective has grown by leaps and bounds because of this person and I have no doubt that they are in my life with a purpose and I am in theirs for one as well. I hold to the truth of John 13:7, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand."
I wish I could tell you that everything about this year has been wonderful but that would be a lie and wouldn't be life. This year had some tough moments harshly woven through the beautiful. I've also learned to grow through the loss of friendships, family and other relationships. I want my world to be logical and clean. Orderly in a way that makes sense, mentally and emotionally, to me. However, because I have to deal with other people and their personalities in my world, it doesn't always work out that way. I venture to guess that many feel the same way about me. It's hard to love people who are hard to love but those people are in our lives. Sometimes they are hard to love for a season and sometimes they are just hard to love in general. Mental illness, pride, addiction, jealousy and a million other broken things can make relationships difficult. The big truth I have learned this year is that often the most loving thing I can do is not react. My feelings are hurt by unkind words so I want to lash out. My pride is dented by lies and I want to defend myself. Satan is poking and prodding my emotions through comments, questions, social media posts and more. The world says we deserve to throw people under the bus if that helps us "win". I say that no one wins in that scenario. This year has included a lot of prayers for peace, discernment and healing concerning relationships. Sometimes the best I can pray is "Father please keep my mouth shut... you might also want to control my facial expressions cause they're struggling, too." He has definitely heard me.
Ultimately, the overarching theme through the good and bad has been preparation. We all go through seasons of preparation. Sometimes we recognize that we are in them and sometimes we don't but they are always necessary if we want to be fruitful in our next season. This year I have had some of the most "Wow! I get why that happened back then" moments. I have come to realize that the last four or five years were preparation for what's to come very soon. It's kind of like putting together a puzzle without the box to guide you. I've been looking at disconnected pieces trying to figure out how on earth they are related. Now, I'm getting to the stage in the process where a picture is forming. I'm still not completely sure what it will be but I definitely can see the pieces connecting. I've always related to Anne Shirley's optimism with "bends in the road" and there have been times that have just felt like change was coming. Some of those times were obvious... high school graduation, a new job, selling a house. However, sometimes I just feel like I'm on the cusp of change and I don't know what lies around that bend but I trust the One who set my feet on that path.
I know there are new and exciting things coming in 2023 that 2022 has been preparing me for in ways I can only guess at. I know it will hold creative projects and loving relationships and new adventures. I'm also aware that it will have its fair share of tears and heartbreak and disappointments. The bend isn't here quite yet so I can only dream but as Anne so characteristically said, "I don't know what lies around the bend, but I'm going to believe that the best does."