Monday, January 06, 2014

Relentless // 2013 in Words

Sometimes it takes me a long time to figure out what I want to say. So just know, this post has been a long time coming.

On this day a year ago, I was sitting across the table from Trinity at a tea room in St. Louis.
Today, I am again sitting at a table across from Trinity in Starbucks. My year has come full circle and I'd like to share with you a little part of my life.

We'll start from the beginning and just jump right in, shall we? Honest and true, remembering back a year ago, the Lord broke me down in January. This was new to me, being broken. And I'm sorry to start off on such a sad note, but it is a genuine note. I believe in the first two months of this past year, I've never felt more reliant on God.  It was a hard lesson in selfishness and loving people and not taking people for granted. It's almost hard to look back and say that was a year ago, because it seems so far away from right now and so much has changed. But always for the better. Always. In addition to learning more about myself and the Lord, in January I started a job as a part of the University Activities Council that I've grown to love and I've learned more than I can imagine. It has stretched me to become a better leader, stand up for myself, have my own opinions and get things done. It has broadened my love and appreciation for art, music and culture. I've gotten to work with artists like John Mark McMillan and All Sons & Daughters, just to name a few. This opportunity has been an absolute blessing to me and continues to be.

The next big milestone I recall was in April, when I 'made something cool everyday' and that might have been one of the best decisions I've made all year. It was a month long project in art and graphic design and the experience challenged me artistically and creatively. The positive feedback I got from friends and family was overwhelming and extremely encouraging every day of that month and even in the months after. Some of my best work came out of that project, and I am hoping to do something similar again this year.

In May, my best friend and I made a funny finals video and got over 80 likes. She wore a clown suit. People were reeling for days. (Trin, we need to do that again.) And when I think about the first part of this year, I'm reminded of really happy times. A dear friend of mine wrote a phenomenal play and got to have it performed at our school, and I'll never forget the trip to iHop we made after the last show, debriefing on the meaning of it all and how wonderful everything was. Zach McCoy's wisdom and encouragement will never cease to amaze me. He understands people and has taught me so much; for that I am grateful. I'm also reminded of so many more adventures with such great people I can't even begin to explain. All of the concerts (Nashville to see Local Natives front row? Yes.), late night McDonald's runs, sentimental conversations, all-nighters and never ending laughs are bits and pieces of who I am today. It's you, my friends, who fill my life with joy and there are no words for the amount of thanks in my heart. I won Mozarkian queen unexpectedly at the end of spring semester, surrounded by friends again and my heart was full.

May evolved into June and June to July. I saw many friends get married. I saw some not get married, and breathe a small sigh of relief when they didn't, for they had much to learn. Some friends stayed and some friends went and in turn, the summer came and went. I got to work with kids of all kinds and show them Christ's love daily, which is one of my favorite things to do. Especially since kids are way better than adults. Kids say what they want to say and don't have filters and are really real with you, whether you want to hear it or not. And that's why I love them so much. I went to Disneyworld and the beach for my 21st birthday in July and when they say it's the happiest place on earth, they aren't joking. They gave me and my friend birthday pins to wear around and literally everyone tells you happy birthday. Even if they were required to, it was an extremely happy day. All I know is, that day was the most joyful day I've experienced in a while.

I remember feeling so weird about coming back to school in August. I was extremely stoked for new adventures, and the Lord certainly threw me for a new season of my life. Even now August seems so long ago. So many new friends and experiences. I got an apartment with some of my favorite people and that's been a huge blessing. You can see in the post before this (here) about what I was doing and learning in September, I encourage you to read that. I think the best way to describe this past semester is to say it was a roller coaster. Cliche, I know, and I'm sorry, but that's all I've got. A roller coaster in the best way possible though. I was taught to pause and enjoy moments as they happened. And the Lord was with my every step of the way, even though most times I told myself I couldn't feel it. The Sunday when I felt like I couldn't see any silver lining, and the Lord spoke words of encouragement through someone who I would least expect him to. That night that I spent reading old blog posts, listening to the rain at 2am and thanking God for his provision over my life. The Friday where Trinity and I sat and cried in a coffee shop with because we both had no idea what in the world was going on in our lives. The afternoon I spent at Barnes & Noble, listening to a dad and 5 year old daughter have a conversation about how much they loved each other. And all of the other things, which I shall not mention here, that have brought me at one time or another, grief and joy and sadness and contentment--

He was there.
And He gave me some wonderful people in my life who I've gotten the privilege of growing closer to and doing life with. Beka Todd, my heart, my other half, and now a dear friend of mine who I can call a kindred spirit. Jessica Palen, who is the epitome of wonderful, encouraging and has been there for me since the beginning. Tessa Hull, who is the sweetest soul and will forever be a friend of mine. The "Freshmen", you know who you are, who bring joy to my life day in and day out. My IFC Committee, for without them I could do nothing. The Becker family, who I one day hope to model my own family after. Numerous others; if you were a part of my year at all, know I am extremely thankful for you. And lastly but certainly not least, Davis Finley, who encourages me, has seen me at my worst and best, and likes me for who I am.

People say that their past year was "the best year ever." Well this time, I truly mean it. I'm immensely thankful for this year. Especially the sad times, for without them, the happy times would have no value. As I mentioned in one of my recent instagram posts, in this part of life, I am slowly learning. Learning patience, and understanding, and selflessness, and Christ-likeness. I'm thankful for a relentless God who's love remains and always will. But in regards to this past year, I don't really want to use the word 'learned,' I feel it's a bit cliche. Everybody has their lists of what they've learned the past year. That's wonderful, but I want to hear about what you experienced. What broke you? What mended you together? What's still mending you together? What did you encounter? I think I'd like to use the word "encountered." The ultimate thing I encountered this year is that the Lord is profoundly relentless. Most of the things I'd say that I "learned" about life, and love and belonging, I already knew. I just encountered them in a new way.

A constant reminder to me this year was Psalm 73:26. "My heart and flesh may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." I had this set as a reminder on my phone everyday. And let us not forget Lamentations 3:24, "the Lord is my portion, therefore I will hope in Him."

Friends, this year was hard. This year was easy. This year was full of change. This year was beautiful. Thank you for reading. I appreciate you, reader, and thank you for doing life with me.

1 comment:

  1. These words are so encouraging! Most people say they had the best year and it is always because of the good. You acknowledged the tough things that broke your heart but in the end brought you to the One who is still madly loving you. That is something that I struggle with daily, bringing all the pain and questions and placing them at His feet. I love you dearly Ashley, and I am so proud and happy for all you've accomplished and experienced this year.<3