It’s that time of year once again where we can all agree on one thing: that none of us seem to know where the heck our year went! I know I surely don’t. 2019 was such a whirlwind for me, full of ups and downs; low points I didn’t think I’d ever bounce back from and highs that made me forget that the bad things ever happened. Overall, 2019 was a year for me to marvel at how God can use our pain, use confusion and hurt to show us something He wants us to turn to, and to give us the strength to make the changes He has planned for us.
Looking back, if you’d asked me if 2019 was going to be a year that God would write into my testimony, I would’ve thought you were crazy. I was so far from God, how could He possibly want me back? And how could He want me to actually talk to Him and those who follow Him about all of my shortcomings? But here’s one thing I learned in the past few months about God: Though I was far from Him, He was never far from me, and He was never out of my reach. God was not creating my pain, but He never left me alone in it. Did it feel like He did at times? Yeah, it did. I’m not pretending that it was easy to get through the major heartbreak I experienced, the stresses of daily life and work and school, but there was one way that God was going to call me back to Him, and that was by switching up the environment I was in.
When I heard that we weren’t able to live in the dorms of my school, I was extremely stressed about how our situation was going to change and what our next step was going to be. Luckily, God knew. He put Riverwatch in our path and gave us a safe place to live, full of extremely friendly staff who have been beyond helpful for both my sister and me; they’ve put in accessible washers for us, completed maintenance in our apartment in a very timely manner and in general treated us almost like we were their daughters. On top of that, our best friend also lives in Riverwatch, and some of my other lessons I’ve learned have come from his guidance…
I do believe this friend was placed in Riverwatch to be with me to teach me more about being a good friend, as well as how to be better to myself. I think this year above everything else, taught me the most about change and how it can be a good thing. In the past I’ve never been good at dealing with loss or taking steps back from people, even if I knew it was what I needed. When I saw situations around me taking a sour turn for my mental health, I didn’t want to admit it. I wanted to continue to hold onto the things I’d built up around me because I’d become comfortable in them, even when I wasn’t okay with it. I thought I had everything that was ever going to come to me, and I thought I could learn to be okay with what was in front of me, that I’d get over the things that were hurting me and still be able to be around them, but God showed me that I was hurting myself by invalidating my own feelings to protect someone else’s, and He gave me the chance to remove myself from a situation and helped me realize that needing distance does not make me a bad friend. You can still be there for others, but another thing I realized: Self care and learning how to love and be with yourself can be so beneficial. The first person you owe anything to is yourself, and you cannot be everything for everyone, but you should be as much as you can be for yourself.
I previously talked about my “lonely” season, and I remember thinking it was a very hard thing to get through, but I’ve since been able to realize that the biggest challenges give God the greatest victories and lead us to the greatest comebacks. From my lonely season I was able to rejoin a small group on my campus and really reconnect with God and my faith and it’s been a wild ride to see God take all of these loose and broken ends and begin to tie them into His perfect vision. I’ve been so blessed in the past few months and it’s been crazy to see the redemption God has worked in me and my life and how sharing my broken story has been such an encouragement to those around me. I’ve really learned that God can use the smallest things for great encouragement. The words He shares and puts in us are good, and meant for good and will lead us to good. I encourage anyone reading this to share their story, about where they are in life whether it’s where they feel like they want to be or not, because I’d bet that someone around you can benefit from the things in your life that you view as blemishes, and if no one else can, God surely can use them for your benefit and His glory. I still have so much to learn and so many opportunities to grow, and I look forward to getting the chance to do that in 2020.