the [year] where it happens {cheers to 24}.

my inaugural post of my wordpress site last year was a post the night before my 23rd birthday. It’s funny going back and reading that post night, 365(or 366?) days later.

23 didn’t go exactly as I had planned. That might be the understatement of the century, in my book.

I didn’t become a teacher. I didn’t graduate in December (an extra semester never hurt anyone, right?). I didn’t find a teaching job and begin my lucrative adulthood job and life. The year was full of new, scary things, just like I’d written there would be. But they weren’t the things I’d thought were going to happen.

Actually, none of the things I had planned to happen worked out.

But you know what? I’m glad they didn’t.

This year was hard. Harder than I’d imagined it was going to be, for different reasons than I thought it’d be.

But I loved it. After I dealt with the aftermath of quitting student teaching, I loved a lot of this year.

I wouldn’t have had an extra semester at Lipscomb– or a semester on-campus again. I needed that (both to be around Lipscomb and to have a break from living at home), so it was one of the biggest blessings to have that bonus semester.  I wouldn’t have had the chance to get to know the people I did or take the classes I took (well, I wouldn’t be mad about that one, sorry Lipscomb EML department!).

I learned a lot about myself this year. I learned how much I can handle, how to give myself grace and a break when I need it. I learned what I’m capable of and what I need to say no to. I learned a lot more about myself via therapy (thank you Jesus for counseling) that helped me connect a lot of dots between my life and my mental illness. I learned what it takes to grow up in different ways and different areas in my life (and not in others–I will forever be emotionally a toddler and that’s just who I am, whoops).

That said, I struggled a lot. With doubt and frustration and second thoughts, with uncertainty and the future and dealing with the “what’s next?” question without pulling my hair out. I was in autopilot the last 4 weeks of classes, just trying to get by. Then I struggled with leaving Lipscomb after the fact. Struggle was a big part of this year, at just about every turn and corner. Anxiety and depression still overwhelmed me at times, and I struggled to get out of the depths.

Some things might have been better if I had stayed the course (more predictability and stability, perhaps, and less future stress).  I wouldn’t have struggled as much, wouldn’t have as much pressure to figure out what I want to do with my life– I already had it figured out, I thought. But I didn’t. And it took a lot of strength to admit that to myself. (I’m glad I did, but it sure made my life hell).

 I wouldn’t be the same me if life had turned out how I had it planned last year.

I had to learn even more to trust Jesus, and to press into who He is and what He promises me. Even when I don’t feel it or understand it, He’s always come through. He hasn’t disappointed yet, but it’s still so daggone hard for me to let go and let someone else plan my way. But when I do? His plans always turn up infinitely sweeter than my own.

He got me through this year. He taught me how to lean–on Him, and other people. Community has been a big theme for me this year– my need for it, and my finding it through online channels (my online communities have been a lifeline while I’ve lived at home, away from most of my friends). He helped me understand who I am, and how who I am and who I’ve been all make me who I’m supposed to be. He reminded me how much he knows me and what I need, and loves me exactly how I need to be loved. He helped me understand joy as something I am, not something I get. He helped me find peace greater than myself.

He taught me what it truly means to be a beloved mess, even when I didn’t think those two things went together. 

I look back and see all the good things that came from the hard things— from trips and random adventures, to getting a college diploma (late is better than never) and finding an internship that fits me perfectly a week before graduation. I met new people and made new friends and got to know the ones I have better (and let them get to know me). I chose the brave things. I did the brave things, the bold things. I chose the things I wouldn’t typically choose for myself.

I learned to cook (still learning) and became a dog mom to a puppy that was as close to a newborn as I want to be for a lonnnng time. I discovered new hobbies and passions and new ways to worship and love the Lord a little better.  I discovered netflix and learned when to watch and when to go socialize (praise the Lord I didn’t know about netflix when I started college). I laughed a lot. I cried, sobbed a lot– both at my own plight and the crazy world we’re living in. I learned how to lean on people and tell them when I’m actually okay or not, and when to ask- and accept- help. I took risks when I needed and stood back when I needed to do that, too.

I listened to Hamilton nonstop like every other Broadway nerd, read good books that changed my life, and saw one of my favorite singers perform live less than 24 hours after buying a ticket. I saw friends get engaged and married and have babies and love me and each other so well. I had to grow up and deal with my problems head-on instead of cowering behind being a kid. I had to learn how to fight my own battles– because this year was my battle, all on my own.

So yeah, it was hard. But God worked through the hard and brought me out a lot happier, a lot more grateful, and a lot more excited about the future instead of fearing it.

I wasn’t quite ready to grow up and be an adult last year. 22 was so unbelievably hard, and in a lot of ways, 23 was a year to recover (and deal with its own drama). I wasn’t quite ready to face adulthood when I was still mentally in a hole that I  couldn’t see out of.

But now, here’s 24. And while I still don’t always feel quite ready to be an adult (i laughed at camp when i was called an authority figure), I’m ready to face adulthood now. I’m ready for the next new thing, the new chapter.

source: jmunsta.com

While I logistically know what’s in store (I’ll be interning at a local non-profit for the next year), I know now how God can change things and mess up my plans in an instant. And if he does change the plans or creates new ones– I trust Him with them more than I trust myself with my own plans. That’s the difference going in to this year for me– last year I was so certain my plans were laid out and perfect, only to have to wave the white flag and surrender myself to Him after I had it all figured out. This year, I’m waving the white flag first-– knowing that I cannot plan this thing on my own, and that He will direct the path and the plans in front of me infinitely better than me doing it on my own.

I know whatever happens, 24 is going to be a good year– because it’s going to be full of Him, community, new experiences–and full of growing up.

So, this is the year where it happens. The year I finally start doing the adult things and stop being a student (that is so weird oh my gosh). This is the year I take a bigger step towards the future and what God has in store. This is the year I’ll take into my hands, hand them over to His hands, and step back and watch Him do what He wants with me.

I’m a lot better me when I’m in it with Him.

23, you taught me a lot. You were not the easiest year, but that may make you one of the better ones I’ve had. Cheers to 24, growing up, and surrendering this year to whatever God has in store. It’s going to be great because it’s going to be full of Him. 

Jesus, I surrender it all. All of my 24th year is yours to do what you want– I can’t wait to see where You lead me.

**if you’ve been under a rock and don’t know where my title came from… listen and educate yourself, please:

Thanks Natalie for forcing me to listen to Hamilton. And thanks to all the people that walked with me through this crazy year.

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