What a year 2016 has been! It has been filled with many joys and many tears, as I most definitely exceeded my once-a-year allotment of crying. But when I look back on this year, the word that continually comes to mind is: Grateful. I am so grateful for what God has done this year. A lot has happened. And a lot of changes have taken place. For those of you who have done Missions Training International, you know the phrase, “pair of ducks”, or paradox – seemingly contradictory statements that are both true. I think this pretty accurately describes my year. I have seen and done incredible things this year (going to Israel, turning 30, seeing the growth of ministries, seeing the “Poster Child of Greece”: Santorini, being with family) AND it has been an incredibly hard year (leaving Slovenia, turning 30, returning to America with unknown plans, loss of close community). The first half of the year was filled with trips, ministry, camp planning and packing to move continents. The second half has been almost the complete opposite, having time to rest, process and transition. I am so grateful for the way that the Lord has provided during both of these times.
Even before returning to the States, the question of what was next in life has been looming over me. Since late last winter, when I made the decision to leave Slovenia, I have worried about what is next. While I did not think I would be in Slovenia for more than a couple years, I definitely anticipated and hoped to live in Europe much longer. But God made it clear, that I am supposed to be in America, at least for now. Since being back in the States I have been desperately seeking God, trying to figure out what is next for my life. I started making plans, looking and praying about different career options.
But by November, any thought of decision-making turned into a physical tightening in my chest. Then I began to realize that gripping inside me was not only fear and anxiety, but also grief. In his book A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis writes, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” Both are a part of my life at the moment. Not only is this a time of looking forward to the next chapter in life, it is also the closing of the previous one. This is the first time in 7 years that, as I look forward to the next year, living in Europe is not my goal. I no longer need to pray if this is the right decision to go, no longer need to support raise and no longer have to figure out life in another culture. Europe is no longer the goal. And now, God has something different for this next season. This is hard, especially to someone so adverse to change. (For example, I hate updating my phone because I like everything on it to look and stay the same). I know that life is full of transitions, and there will be times like this repeatedly throughout life. And I am trying to figure out how to do this one well, leaning on Christ and what He has to teach me through this.
I had the opportunity this fall to join BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) again. This year we are studying the Gospel of John. A few weeks ago we were in John 7, where Jesus’ brothers tell Him to go down to Jerusalem, to the Feast of Booths, to do more miracles for all the people. But Jesus responds by saying, “My time is not yet here.” But then Jesus heads down to Jerusalem and teaches at the feast. What struck me as I read this chapter is Jesus’ intentional listening and obedience to the Father’s timing. It was not based on others’ opinions and expectations, but on the Father. How often I am in a rush for God to show up and show me what is next, to have some sort of security of a plan and not patiently waiting for His timing. Throughout Scripture we see that God’s timing is not usually conducive to our timing. It often seems that He shows up much later than expected. But the truth is that He does show up. And it is always perfect. I pray that I wait for God’s leading and timing, and then go forward in full obedience.
As I step forward into this next page of life, I am still a little anxious, but confident in what God is doing. I pray that in the upcoming year, I am able to make decisions based on hope, and not fear. I’m excited to look back at the end of 2017 and marvel at what the Lord has done, how He has provided and how He has changed me and others to be more like Christ. I am under no assumption that this is going to be an easy process. It never is. But Oh! It will be worth it. And I feel something about the upcoming year that I have not felt for a very long time, and that is hopeful.
Cheers to you all and a very happiest of New Years to you. Here’s to page 29.
For the Lord IS good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations.
-Psalm One Hundred-