before the fireworks, before the ball drop.

So much can happen in 365 days. Your life can turn upside down in a matter of seconds. And you might find that the person that you woke up as on January 1st 2015 is not the same as the person who bids goodbye to another year on December 31st, 2015. I’m most certainly not the same as I was 12 months ago.

2015 brought heartbreak, but it also brought healing.

At the beginning of 2015, I was drowning in my insecurities. The semester wasn’t going the way I had wanted it to, I was very ill physically, my grades were slipping, relationships were going wrong, and I was very unhappy. I just wanted to get the spring semester over with, but I wasn’t looking forward to returning to a summer job in an office for the whole summer. I was defeated, and very broken. I had put so much of my hope and expectations in people, and I thrived on affirmation of others. I had turned away from finding my identity and purpose in Christ, and I filled it with relationships, business, and feeble attempts to define myself as the “artist” the “photographer” “the girl people would want to be friends with”. I returned home for the semester defeated and depressed.

I was angry for a while. I was angry at God for taking some things away. I was angry at a boy who shattered my self-esteem. I was angry at my circumstances.  But most of all, I was angry at myself for not doing better, for not being a better person. I recognized my weakness and I knew that there had to be a drastic change. And as i looked back at the relationships I had destroyed, the choices I had made, and how far I had wandered… I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I surrendered to His will for me. And that brought healing to my heart. He helped me pick up the pieces of a messy breakup, took away the stains and “ick” i had stored up, reminded me that my identity is found in Him alone, and guided me back home – to where I needed to be. And so the spring brought healing, it brought people from home back into my life, who walked with me through this process of healing. And through the healing process, I was able to enter the summer with a new sense of purpose, a healed heart, and a humbled mindset.

And I am learning that healing is a process that takes time. God is still healing my heart, and He will continue doing so in 2016.

2015 brought loss, but it also reminded me of love.

Towards the end of this year, I had to walk through something I never would have imagined I would have to. I lost my best friend in a car accident, and honestly? It still doesn’t feel real. I remember when I found out. It was 3 AM and I was sitting by my phone hoping someone would call and say, “He’s in critical but stable condition”. I was praying for a miracle. But instead, when the phone rang I heard, “he’s with Jesus.” And my whole world seemed to come to a screeching halt. I still can’t wrap my head around it right now. I understand that it will take time. It hurts a lot, as I look back at all of the previous years that Greg stood by my side in the good times and bad, and every other in between. It makes me nostalgic for the old days mostly, and a little anxious about the days to come. But even during this trial, I have learned so much.

The most significant thing I’ve learned is that I am loved by so many people, and I have so much love to give to a hurt world. During a time of pain and grief, my friends have come together and surrounded each other with support, prayers, encouragement, tissues, laughs, and most of all, love. I have never once been alone during this time. I have some of the greatest friends by my side, even when they are hurting and feeling this pain too. We were close in high school, all of us. But college slowly made us drift apart. In light of this tragedy, we have become closer than we were before. Over this last month, I have cried with these people until I couldn’t see straight and I have laughed with them until my stomach hurt. They have reminded me that I will never have to go through life alone, and that I am always loved.

The day after Greg and Haley passed away, I was absently leaving through a book written by my biggest inspiration, Jamie Tworkowski. His book, If You Feel Too Much (which you DEFINITELY should read if you haven’t), is filled with his thoughts and reflections on life and the hurt and pain in this world. I stumbled across something he wrote when he lost a good friend to cancer. And it resonated with me and brought me comfort. I don’t know how to end this section, so I will end with these words.

“Though the price will be the heartache of loss- for we can’t control when or how an ending comes – what a privilege that God allows us to connect with other people in this life, to be known, and to be loved so we do not walk alone. Perhaps friendship – the deep kind, the best kind – perhaps it is a miracle.” – jamie tworkowski

2015 brought disappointment, but it also brought a deep sense of hope.

My first year in college wasn’t exactly how I planned. And I’m halfway through the second one and it’s still not exactly going how I planned. By the halfway mark of 2015, I was stressing about how I was going to keep my scholarships and stay in school, diagnosed with a chronic illness, about to start a job I wasn’t sure I would enjoy, and stuck in licking county for the whole summer.

But by God’s grace, I managed to keep my scholarships and return to Cedarville this fall and get the chance to room with my beautiful and wonderful best friend. I have began treatment for my illness, and I am doing better than I was. I ended up absolutely loving my summer job, even though it wasn’t the one I had planned on getting. And being stuck in licking county brought some incredible things into my life; one being a group of wonderful 8th grade girls that I got to minister to and mentor over the summer. and another being my boyfriend, who I wouldn’t have began to get to know had I worked at a summer camp like I planned.

All of that taught me that sometimes (well… sometimes it feels like most of the time) life doesn’t exactly work out how we want it to. And that’s because God’s plan is so much bigger and more incredible than we could even imagine! I’m learning that I have to remind myself often that God is in control, not me. So often, I decide what my life is going to look like and tell God that’s how things are going to be. But by His grace, He doesn’t allow all of my plans to work out…instead, He replaces them with something much better. This has brought me such a deep sense of hope for 2016. I have an idea of how I want things to go, but who knows what can happen in a year! All I know is that God will lead me to where He wants me to be, when He wants me to be there.

2015 brought pain, but it also brought purpose.

I watched two sweet women girls in my life lose their fathers, one to a heart attack, and one to cancer. I saw the eyes of the hurting and broken in downtown Columbus, void of hope. I felt the pain and burdens that the young girls i mentored carry, I felt it deeply. I felt the loneliness and longing in the eyes of the underprivileged kids I worked with. I walked through the nightmare of losing my closest friend.

I questioned the purpose for all of these things. I cried and screamed at God to fix it, because it wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair at all. But in the midst of the pain, i was reminded that there is purpose even if we can’t see it at first. And more importantly, we have a purpose to love. My eyes were opened to the pain that surrounds me every day, and I realized that I am called to live a life that brings hope and joy to people’s lives. Our greatest commandment is to love. Our greatest purpose is to love, even (maybe especially) those we find it hardest to love. This realization brought change to my life and it brought a passionate feeling of purpose. I used to hate the fact that I felt things so deeply, so much. But now I realize it is a gift to feel things so clearly. It may be painful, but it reminds me of my purpose.

2016, I don’t know what you will bring. But…

All I know is that I am ready for you. I am grateful for everything I have learned in 2015, the opportunities I’ve been given, the friendships I have been blessed with, the memories I have gathered. But I am anxious to see what a new year brings me. I am anxious to see what God will do in my life and in the lives of those I love. I am anxious and expectant.

But perhaps most of all, i am ready for the memories I will make and the time I have been given. If 2015 taught me one thing, it taught me to never take the time we’ve been given for granted. It taught me to hold those I love close, to chase after my passions and ambitions, to love without stopping to deem the person worthy of it or not, to make memories I will treasure, to make this world a better place day by day.

2015, you taught me how to live. And for that, I am forever grateful for this year i’ve lived through, these 12 months I’ve grown, and these 365 days of learning and becoming the person I am today – the person that enters 2016 without fear. Thank you for that.

January, February, March
The days are marching forward
April, May, June and July
They fly like a hummingbird

August, September, October
The year is almost over
November, December arrive
Now the year is gone

Time is illusion
Time is a curse
Time is all these things and worse
But our time is now
Our time is now
Our time is now
Let us sing before our time runs out.

– before our time by Jon Foreman


Purpose for the pain

Scrolling through my Instagram/Twitter/Facebook/etc I see one recurring them amidst all the stories and statuses and posts I read. And that one thing is pain.

I find my heart breaking reading the heavy words of friends, and sometimes I’m brought to tears when I read about the burdens that some are chosen to bear. Daughters who have lost their father, sons who’ve never know their father, husbands who are losing their wife to cancer, wives being left to raise their children on the own, married couples struggling to make ends meet, children who are facing so many injustices… I could go on with all of the heartbreaking things going on around me.

There is so much pain that I wish I could take away, so many burdens I wish I could bear for those I love. This world is not fair, life is unfair. The most incredible people are challenged to go through terrible trials, and the worst people get through life untouched by the troubles. 
My heart grieves for those struggling. I want to wrap the young girls I’ve met who struggle with their self image up in my arms and tell them they’re worth it. I want to hold the daughters who’ve lost their father and tell them they are loved and not alone. I want to be there for the wife who was left, I want to encourage the husband who is standing by his dying wife’s side. I want to keep all the unprotected children safe from all the evils of the world. I want to love those who are seemingly unlovable. 
But I can’t. I can’t do that for everyone. And that breaks my heart more than anything, and angers me all at once. I know I’m not the only who feels this way, but at the same time I feel as though I’m the only one who feels the pain and the brokenness. 
Oh, how I pray that God uses this life of mine to bring hope. This world needs it. My community needs it. I pray that he sends the unloved my way as well as the forgotten and hopeless. No, actually I pray that He sends me to them. I pray that He guides me to those who need to hear the words of love and of hope. I pray that He puts me exactly where He needs me. I pray that I will live in such a way that radiates love and hope and peace. I pray that the broken people I see around me will sonehow, someway be made whole again. 
Oh, how I year for the day where He will wipe every tear and take away all of the pain.

simplicity in the complexity of it all

Life is not as not as complicated as we make it out to be.

I read these words on a kind soul’s caption of a photo of her father on instagram. She captured a simple, sweet moment with her dad and compared the simplicity of this moment to life.

And I think she’s right,

Perhaps life isn’t as complicated as we make it seem. Perhaps life is all about the simple things. Perhaps it’s about walks to class on a beautiful day, with the sun shining and everyone smiling. Perhaps it’s about the smiles exchanged with the barista at the coffee shop, or the joyous greeting when you run into a friend. Perhaps it’s about the quiet, simple moments spent with your closest friends, with laptops and homework in front of you, and laughter around you. Perhaps it’s the great cup of coffee you got for $1. Perhaps it’s the handmade christmas mug you clutch in your cold hands on a brisk fall day. Perhaps it’s the simple moments we take for granted and let pass by all too quickly;

It is easy to feel stuck. I feel that too often. I feel as though my life is going nowhere, but it is passing me by so fast. It’s hard for me to believe that I’m nearly halfway done with my second year of college. I feel as though I just began my freshman year. The thought of graduating often terrifies me, as I think of all the things I’ve yet to do before that. In just over two years, I might have a career ahead of me. I might be moving halfway across the world. I might return back home. I might be somewhere completely unexpected. There are endless possibilities in front of me, and I find myself anxiously awaiting for my future to unfold.

It seems complicated when I think about things in a completely future state of mind. There are so many things I have to do to get where I want to be. There are so many unknown obstacles I will have to climb. The variables are endless.

But when I take things with the present in mind, it is all so very simple. Life is simple. Going throughout my day is simple. Loving my friends and family and those around me is sweet and simple. Living life well is not as complicated as I so often tell myself. Enjoying every breath I’m given is simple.

So, here’s to the sweet and simple moments of life. Here’s to that perfect cup of coffee on a busy morning. Here’s to your favorite song coming on the radio. Here’s to falling in love, finding love, feeling in love, learning how to love – here’s to love. Here’s to the sunsets and the sunrises we’ve yet to see. Here’s to people who make you grateful that you’re alive and on this earth. Here’s to the moments that make you feel alive. Here’s to life, in all of its chaotic, beautiful, confusing, but simultaneously simple glory.

I hope you take life in. I don’t know what you are going through right now, or what you are dealing life. Life might feel the very opposite of simple for you right now. You might be in pain, you might be lost, you might be confused. I don’t know. But what I do know is that life has its simple, beautiful moments even when it doesn’t seem like it. So watch the sunset over the trees. Listen to songs that make you feel something. Read words that comfort you. Enjoy the simple moments as much as you can. Perhaps life will begin to feel a little less complicated.