2015. What a year. A year of growth—painful growth. A year of learning, of slowing down, of resting and trusting. A year of change and transition. A year of beauty from ashes.
When this year began, life felt heavy. I had worked and stressed myself to the point of breaking, and suddenly every little thing felt daunting and dark—and the weeks-on-end with no direct sunlight didn't really help matters. But in those dark days, I learned to love myself better. I learned to admit that I don't have everything together. I learned to rest. I started a temporary communications job and spent all winter and spring surrounded by some of the best people I've ever met—people that, yes, cared about how I was doing at my job, but who also really cared about how I was doing as a person. They showed me grace in ways they didn't know I needed and they brought so much joy to a season of breaking down and rebuilding.
And then the sun came out and the lilacs bloomed and breathing no longer felt as difficult. I went on a week-long road trip to the Carolinas. I slept under the stars and swam in the ocean and got so stinkin' sunburnt. I spent time with dear friends and just sat in the beauty of creation. I fell in love with palm trees.
As summer rolled around, I got my first full-time job, and with that a great deal of stability. I found a beautiful public garden a mile from my office where I went on lunch breaks all summer long to eat, read or just sit by the fountain and look at the flowers. I chopped my hair off.
This fall I introduced my sister to one of my great loves, New York City. We traipsed around Brooklyn and Manhattan, eating at the most charming cafes, going to the top of the Empire State Building, and successfully not getting lost once on the subway. I joined a soccer team, and it's so good to play again. We had a glorious, long fall in Minnesota, and it really wasn't until a couple of weeks ago that the weather actually got puffy-winter-coat-level cold.
And, in all of this, I started to learn to trust God more fully, to truly look to Him for peace, for joy, for hope. I finally realized how little I bring to the table in terms of salvation and grace—I can't save myself or make myself whole. Only God can do that in His miraculous mercy. I am broken and hopeless and scared on my own. And He showed me what gentleness and hope and peace look like more fully, how He provides generously for those who trust Him.
This was a year of pruning, refining, rebuilding, growth. As a result, I feel like I learned (or re-learned) a lot of things. Since I like lists and I'm feeling introspective today, here are my top 20 take-aways from 2015:
- Say yes to the things that bring you joy and make you excited about life—even if it means getting a little less sleep, spending a little extra money or changing a few plans.
- Say no to people, work or events that suck the life out of you. It's your life and there's no need to pile on stress and anxiety where it's not needed.
- Even though running sucks, it will make you feel better—maybe not physically, since you're so out of shape, but it will help your mind stop racing.
- Make dinner for yourself. It tastes good, is less expensive, and will give you a great sense of accomplishment. But also, don't feel guilty about picking up Thai take-out once in a while.
- Make time for yourself, whether that's reading, binge-watching a TV show or going on a walk.
- Stop going to the Mall of America. Anxiety + Stress Central.
- Go outside during your lunch break. It will make your afternoon so much better.
- Stop at two cups of coffee.
- Ask for help. Admit your weaknesses and fears. It will give them less power over you.
- Fresh air and sunlight are game-changers.
- So are cuticle clippers.
- You don't actually have control over the situation. So stop grasping and striving and just live.
- Dance it out.
- You can do things you didn't think you were capable of doing.
- Sometimes consistency is more important than exciting. Sometimes.
- Put your phone away when people are talking to you.
- Sometimes people just need a listening, sympathetic ear, not feedback or advice.
- Tell the truth, with kindness and graciousness.
- After 25 years, I don't like bananas.
- But I love ginger.
And with that, I'm going to go pour myself a glass of champagne and spend some time with friends. Happy New Year, folks. May 2016 bring you joy, bravery, new adventures and happy surprises.