With tomorrow being my 31st birthday I wanted to write a reflective post on the past year. It's been a big one for us - a year of growth for me. The first year in my 30's - a year that brought many changes, challenges, blessings, surprises - and yes, a few disappointments.
And yet that same month that we took this house off the market and tried to make peace with waiting for God's plans to unfold for us, I was offered an unexpected job promotion. A big disappointment - and a big reason to give thanks - all in the same month. He has impeccable timing. And this began what I continue to see as a season of God showing us that we need to trust in Him, wait on Him, and let our story unfold the way He has always intended for it to be written. There are reasons He has us wait - and there are seasons for everything. I've always believed this. Now I'm living it.
And as I look back on this year - the year of 30, the year of 2015 - I see a general theme. One that I've written about here on this blog before and one that Pastor Dave teaches on frequently in church. The two rails of life that travel along simultaneously. Joy and sadness. Gratitude and disappointment. Happiness and frustration. Peace and stress. We've experienced those two rails more than ever this past year. And while traveling these rails, I've seen God's hand at work more than ever, too. I've come to terms even more with the fact that he sees the big picture of our future much better than we can. And that His hopes and dreams for us are far greater than our own. That we have to learn to enjoy the ride we're on and live with gratitude every day. And that's easy to do when I put things in perspective. I might be waiting a little longer on a new house, but I didn't have to wait at all for my family. A marriage at 23, a baby at 23, and another baby two years later. My biggest life's wish and prayer - granted for me without any struggle. Almost effortlessly, it seems. I am so grateful for that.
I've seen evidence of life's two rails in so many ways this year...
I've seen it... when our house didn't sell but my job took off at the same time. When we said goodbye to the hope of moving on to something a little bit bigger but also started creating new friendships and relationships in our own neighborhood that will be tough to leave behind when we do.
I've seen it... when we said a hard goodbye to our beloved daycare and watched our baby graduate preschool and worried about how he would transition into kindergarten, but then watched as he didn't miss a beat starting school, making new friends, becoming a leader in his classroom and making his teacher fall in love with him from that first day. I miss those baby years and those years of having really young ones in the home. But I am finding so much joy in watching our kids grow up - developing into they are meant to be and living life's adventures with them.
I've seen it with Jaden, as he hoped to be going to school this year with some of his old daycare buddies - but now he is the best in our family at going with the flow, adjusting to new surroundings and new experiences, making friends with each new sports team he's on, each new classroom he's in, and still maintaining those solid friendships he developed three to four years ago in preschool, while making more and more friends in the school that he's in.
I've seen it - this summer when we spent cherished time with a friend that we ended up having to say a final goodbye to in the Fall. As we cried through the loss but felt so grateful we were given the opportunity to make those last and forever memories.
I've seen it - as God has granted me new opportunities to pursue a passion of mine outside of my job. I may not have a career in athletics like I once pictured for myself, but in the past year, he's opened doors for me to get involved. I was asked to be a volunteer fundraiser for the UNI athletic department last winter, got voted on to the board of directors this summer, and just accepted a position as a fund drive team captain this winter - giving me a platform to make a difference in something that I care about. He knew the desires of my heart, and He filled it in an unexpected way.
I've seen our church family rally around tragic loss, while being reminded through it all - more than ever - that we picked the right home for our family's faith to grow.
What a year it's been. And now I'm ready for what's next. I'm going into 2016 and my year of 31 with a completely different outlook and perspective than I did coming into this year. I have no big set expectations or plans. My only goal is to continue to make memories - as we do every year. And to let God's will be done. We have decisions to make but no idea when we're going to make them and feel no real urgency to make them. And leaving our lives in His hands gives me a feeling of freedom that I didn't have at this time last year. Gone is my anxiousness, nervousness, restlessness I felt at the end of 2015. I feel at peace to let it be. And let Him lead. And it's a really good feeling. I have no idea what 2016 is going to look like, and I'm kind of excited to let Him surprise me. I have felt His whispers the last month or two. "Let it go. Give it to me."
**Pictures taken on an unseasonably warm November Sunday - November 1st to be exact. I set out to take our family Christmas card pictures. Just the four of us, my trusty tripod, and no plans of where to go. We ended up in the woods near Alice Wyth Lake - a ways off the trail where the sunlight and shadows blended just right. The boys were angels, my husband was extra helpful, and I just love how they all turned out. We celebrated afterwards with piles of Halloween candy on the living room floor, and beautiful Christmas cards to show for it.**
Looking forward to sending 2015 off in style. We have some pretty sweet plans for the next two weeks. Hello, 31. I'm ready for ya.