January 1, 2017. There is something so surreal about it being the first day of a new year. I am thankful. Thankful I got to see another year end and one begin. Like most people at this time of the year, I reflect on the happenings of the last year and my hopes for the present one. To do that I need to reach back a little further still. So here we go.
I graduated from Physical Therapy school one and a half years ago and it was one of the biggest milestones of my life. Seven years prior to that date I had moved half way across the world, by myself, to pursue this career. It took everything in me and then some, to qualify to stand and walk across that stage. Those 7 years were full of growth, dreams, friendships, hardships, discoveries, and changes. It always seemed like they were intended as an investment in the person I hoped to become. My prayer was that I would be a woman of good character, that my heart would love and value Jesus above even my own life, that I would love missions and live missionally wherever I am. I prayed that I would be excellent at what I do and a good steward of opportunity. That I would love the people in my life well for however long they were a part of it. The reality is, I had no idea what that would look like but I was hopeful.
In the last year and a half since I graduated, I have seen God lead me on a path to the answers of my prayers, but it was nothing like I anticipated! Standing on the other side of my time in school, I find myself in a beautiful struggle. There were big chunks of time when I felt like I was at the wrong place, at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing but God has been faithful to reassure me often, that I am exactly where he wants me to be. So here is what I am determined to do in this season of my life as He enables me:
This should be easier than it really is but I don’t always realize I am fighting God! The more I live the more I realize that God’s ways really are higher than mine and his thoughts higher than my thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). I need to continually choose to trust His plan is the best plan even when it is hard; and from that truth, draw strength and rest. Right now this means being diligent to spend time reading/listening to my bible and letting His truth engage my heart. Refusing to put up walls which hide my heart from God instead regularly opening up my heart to Him in worship. Refusing to fight God even when it is as simple as a word of complaint, rather choosing to lean into what He allows in my life.
Growth is hard. I often want it to come as a silent strength in the middle of a circumstance that I feel completely in control of, but it never happens that way! Most of the time it comes when I am uncomfortable and completely at the end of myself. It makes sense that this would be the environment that fosters growth but it is a hard thing to accept and embrace. Embracing growth for me means refusing to complain, choosing to see the opportunities for growth as good things and taking them on. Courageously taking the next step even though things may not go as I would like.
Embracing thankfulness everyday has been one of the most incredible journeys of my life. It is something I chose to do in a difficult season and 13 months later I know it has changed my life. You see, silent strength within the realm of my control would have been wonderful but what I have now is even more precious. A heart at rest in the middle of a storm. I recognize the storms in my life but I also see my God clearly. Thankfulness gives me the opportunity to glance up at him multiple times a day and see his hand holding mine, hear his voice speaking into the depths of my heart, and see his heart so full of love for me. It gives me strength, hope and purpose.This year in addition to identifying and sharing one thing I am thankful for daily, I have taken on the 1000 gifts challenge in which I keep a journal of things I am thankful for. The goal is to see if I can count 1000 things. I started on December 3rd 2016 and my current count is 328. I am excited to see what God does with this!
As I have said here and in many of my other pieces, I am still a work in progress. I am often tempted to be discouraged by this instead of staying the course to become the best version of myself. Perseverance is a difficult thing to embrace.Perseverance requires that one gets to the point where one is sick of trying, and then at this point, when will power and strength are failing, one must take on that familiar challenge again. I am determined to embrace the path of perseverance. Perseverance in upholding truth, doing good, loving well, being excellent, choosing thankfulness, and keeping my eyes on Jesus because He is worth it.
Embrace this present moment
One of the scariest things for me about this season of my life is its open-ended nature. In my seemingly never-ending school years, one of the things I really enjoyed was knowing that there was always a next step and a goal to be attained. Right out of school I was determined to have a plan ( and I have one), the only problem is that I keep trying to live out my future plan so much that sometimes it paralyzes me in the present moment. Lately, I have been learning what it means to grow where I have been planted instead of looking ahead to the day I will be transplanted. I am learning that it is easy to be so focused on what comes next I miss the beauty of what is happening now and the opportunity to grow through my present circumstances. So instead of running to my goals and dreams of the future to escape the present realities, I am bringing my mind and heart back to the present and choosing to maximize the opportunities this season affords. Some of the things I really want to do as a result are: dig deeper in my relationships, create opportunities to gather, and choose to celebrate the small and large happenings of life daily.
I don’t know where this reflection finds you. I hope 2016 has been kind to you, but I suspect like me, you may have had some difficult things happen in the last year. As you look ahead into this present year, I hope you too will choose to embrace God, embrace growth, embrace thankfulness, embrace perseverance, and embrace this present moment.