2016.

It’s that time of the year–the annual December “End of the Year” blog post. So crazy. Time is a funny thing.

I started this blog seven years ago–it had a different name. I actually don’t remember it. Seven years ago in December, I was unaware that everything in my life was about to change. That it was about to be “ruined.” And that I would begin to chronicle my ruined life. Six years ago, in the ‘end of the year’ post for 2010, I wrote,

Farewell 2010. This year God ruined my life…and I am forever thankful.

I am so thankful for 2010. And for the six years that have followed. They have, by far, been the most difficult years of my life. But there is beauty in the ashes.

2016. What a strange year. It has ended rather painfully, so my brain is having trouble processing through much of the rest. But there was a lot of good this year. The Lord is always good. Even in the hard.

I think pictures will help as I gather my thoughts.

As always, in no particular order…

 

In January, I decided to get another job. I was working on campus, but felt that my health had improved enough to allow me to get a job off campus. I didn’t think I would ever return to the barista life (I should really learn to “never say never”), but I applied and started working again at the Bucks. I was nervous. I was afraid that I would get too sick to work, but the Lord sustained me. Even on the bad days. He graciously helped me feel well enough to get through every long day for the 7 months I worked there.

Working two jobs while being a full time grad student was not easy. And the long mundane work days of the (ridiculously hot) summer taught me a lot about trusting God with the mundane. Rejoicing in the Extraordinary Ordinary Life . 

I visited my beloved Birmingham. I saw an amazing production of “The Little Mermaid” and grinned from ear to ear. I grabbed the final copy of Cursed Child in Barnes & Noble and gleefully read through the long awaited play while dreaming of seeing it performed live one day. I laughed and caught up with dear friends. Visited my church. Had lunch with my voice professor from Samford. And, of course, ate a Popsicle from Steel City Pops.

I began my final year at CIU. A year prior, I didn’t think I would make it to my final year. My health was greatly deteriorating and the prospects of becoming a teacher were grim. But I’m still here. I’m about to begin my final semester. And I am so thankful.

 

In April, I turned 27. I wore a dress with ice cream cones on it, got a pedicure, ate Ethiopian food, and my friends and I played several rounds of “Pie Face” (That game literally never stops being funny to me). My life is not what I imagined it would be like at 27 (nearing 28…yikes). But I am learning to rejoice in what has been given to me, not pining after that which has not. I told my friend the other day, “We need to learn how to let go of what we thought our lives would look like and be thankful for the life we’ve been given.” Easier said than done.

I went to the beach by myself for the first time. That probably sounds like a nightmare to most people, but this introvert was so happy. I drove to Charleston one day that I wasn’t working and spent the day soaking up the sun, reading, and walking in the waves.

 

I got my second tattoo. “But if not, He is still good”

I’ve realized that Christian suffering places you within the Biblical tension of Luke 22:42. Jesus, on the Mount of Olives, prays, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Christian suffering places you in the tension of that prayer–the tension between “Remove this cup from me” and “not my will, but yours be done”. This is the tension I am desperately trying to live in. Trying desperately to breathe in. It’s suffocating sometimes. The “But if not” of Daniel 3. God is more than able to save–to heal. We worship a God we cannot exaggerate. He is able to do immeasurably more than all that we ask or think. I believe with all my heart that God is able to heal my broken body. But if not. God’s character would not change. He wouldn’t become less good, less able, or less powerful. In all things, He has never and will never become less “for me”.Relearning to Breathe

I discovered (What I already knew) that I couldn’t paint 😉 But still super fun. Also thankful for my friend, Marshall. Barista friendships are some of the best ones.

I discovered an incredible dance studio that only offers adult classes. I was so excited to put my tap shoes on again. It is incredibly fun. I truly love to tap.

I met this girl this year. She’s crazy. And loud. And “everything I’m not” (hahaha). I’m really thankful for her. And her amazing dance skills.

Danielle moved home to New York in January, and Anna moved back home to Kentucky after she graduated in May. I lost my two best friends. But in August, the “321” came to Louisville and stayed with my family. It was so much fun. I miss these two with all my heart. I am forever thankful to the Lord for placing me in the same apartment as them two years ago. We prayed together and wept when we said goodbye. Forever 321.

I fully began the MA Bible Teaching program this fall. I taught 5th graders once a week (and seriously reconsidered my decision to become a teacher at least 10 times a week 😉 ). Life went from theology books, research papers, and exegetical papers to lesson plans and teaching, and it was scary and hard and fun and overwhelming and exciting all at once. I will be student teaching in the spring and, Lord willing, I will graduate in April. What comes after that, only the Lord knows. But He is already there. I rest in that.

I WENT TO THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER!!!! Y’all don’t even know. To say I was on cloud nine would be a vast understatement. My sister had park-to-park tickets. She’s not a Harry Potter fan, but she said watching me experience it was worth it. It was the most perfect day.

I ran a few races. Before I got sick, I was working my way up to a half marathon. A year prior to the first 5K, I could barely walk and I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to run again. The Lord is gracious.

Weddings, weddings, weddings!! (NOT enough! I love going to weddings 🙂 )

Who me? I don’t like Harry Potter…

Winter Formal with the baes.

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This semester I got two new roommates. They are both wonderful. One of them has become my person. She hails from the great state of Bama, has a strong accent, adds “the” onto places (“We going to the Walmart?”), is obsessed with chili cheese dogs, and is a die hard Alabama fan (Roll Tide). Let me tell you, this girl makes me laugh. She is the most selfless person I know–always giving and giving. Always serving. She has been an incredible friend to me this semester. I honestly don’t know what I would have done this fall without her. I don’t think I would have made it. Love my Jessica. (That’s our tree, Charles Frederick Williamson, III)

Also, check out our cover of Shane and Shane’s “Though You Slay Me”: https://youtu.be/QtC3hs1XhkQ

Still rocking various shades of red lips. I think it has become part of my personality.

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Still trying to become a viral meme 😉

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Oh yeah…I read all the Harry Potter books again. (I promise I read a lot of other books too)

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I met a boy.

That might be old hat to most people. But it wasn’t for me.

I was single for over 27 years before I met a boy.

I honestly didn’t think it would ever happen for me. I wanted it to. I wrestled with my singleness. I struggled with living in the tension of desiring marriage, but not making that desire ultimate. As my twenties neared their end, the wrestling continued.

Then I met a boy.

He was unexpected. Very. For the first time in my life, I was pursued. Passionately. I didn’t know what to think of it. I was hesitant and cautious. But, oh, how he made me laugh. I was always ‘me’ with him. I felt beautiful. I’d never really felt beautiful. I felt special. And deeply cared for. I felt safe. I felt at home. We spent a lot of time getting to know each other (again, I was cautious)—and I loved every minute. He very nervously asked me to be his girlfriend one day, and after 27 years of singleness, I entrusted my heart to him and I said ‘yes.’

Then it ended.

And most days I struggle to breathe. The ache in my heart is unbearable. I don’t want to feel anymore. I have been on a roller coaster of endless feelings and I want off. I want to trade my heart in for a new one—one that couldn’t feel—one that isn’t broken. I wept deleting the photos and the videos.

Immediately, my mind was enveloped in lies. For weeks, I couldn’t shake them. Why would you think you were worth wanting? No one wants you. No one ever has. The only one who did changed his mind. You never mattered and you never will. You were just another girl. Another disposable girl. One he could just throw away. He doesn’t miss you. He never even liked you. I crawled back into bed one afternoon and I stayed there. For hours. Tears emptying onto my pillow as the ache in my chest deepened, widened, and consumed. Why did God allow this to happen? Why did He dangle this in front of me then rip it away? Why does He want me to be miserable?  The lies were endless and they were deafening.

I wanted there to be a knock on the door. And I would open it and he would be standing there. Like he used to. I wanted to text him and tell him about everything that had been happening. I wanted to listen to him tell me everything that was going on in his life. I wanted him to make fun of me for being old. I wanted him to be next to me when I was watching a movie. It was so strange how empty the couch felt. I wanted to send him a picture of the pie cutter I finally found in Walmart one day. The one I had given him such a hard time about. I wanted to tell him my placement for student teaching in the spring. I wanted him to look at me and to tell me I was going to be okay and that he believed in me. I wanted to know his opinion of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I wanted to dance with him in my living room. I wanted to be with him.

Then I found out that he had been lying. He had deceived me. Tremendously. He lied to me for five months. I, honestly, don’t know what to believe. It was all a lie. And I feel like a fool. A used. Broken. Fool. He threw me away like I was nothing. And the pain is unimaginable. Read more here: To the girl who was thrown away.

The pain is agonizing. It hurts like hell. I greatly understand being in physical pain. But heartache is a different pain. Almost more unbearable than the pain that left me bedridden for nearly a year. But it’s getting better. Slowly. Very slowly. I am fighting depression. It’s a good day if I don’t feel permanently nauseated. I am struggling to get out of bed. But, I am trying to trust. I am learning to truly release my future into the Lord’s hands. I desperately want control. 

He has hurt me so much. So much. And, from the deepest part of my heart, I honestly desire and pray for the best for him. I told him that I forgave him. But the grief is real. It is excruciatingly real. 

So I have returned to the single life. And honestly, it’s hard. I don’t want to be single. I fear my age sometimes—fearing I have missed my chance. That my window of opportunity has passed. I really loved being someone’s girlfriend. I got a picture of a possibility that I loved. I want to be married. I want to have a family. I want to be a wife. I want to be a mom. But I also don’t want to be angry if it never happens again—if I’m never again someone’s girlfriend. I am also terrified of ever being in another relationship. I don’t know how I could ever go through this again. I honestly don’t think I ever could. And I don’t know how to trust a guy again. The Lord will have to work mightily on this shattered heart.

Oh so much fear. The Lord has commanded me not to fear. But I confess I am afraid.

I also don’t want to be bitter with God if I never get married. And I don’t want to be bitter that this happened. That I wasn’t spared this pain. That the Lord allowed me to be thrown away. And that somehow that is love.

But He gives more grace.

 

More grace and more beauty in the ashes. Honestly, I am finishing up this year very sad. My heart has been ripped to shreds. I feel like I am crawling through these last days of 2016. And I think that’s okay. It’s okay to be sad. God isn’t angered by our tears. He keeps them. Grieving is part of life. But there is hope. Because of the cross, I have been given an imperishable hope. Knowing the past of what God has done, I can hope in the future—not in wishful thinking, but in certainty of the promises of God. He has not abandoned me. I may be crawling, but He is with me down there, helping me along.

And my prayer for 2017 is that I will hope in God. No matter what happens. No matter what doesn’t happen that I wish would. No matter how scary. No matter how hard. No matter how disappointing. No matter how good. That I will hope in God. That I will hope in God in my ruined life.

I wish you all the best as you bid farewell to 2016 and welcome 2017.

 “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”

Psalm 43:5

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