2016; noun// a 365 day cycle of change

I’ve never had a year so defined by the intensity of emotion. I’ve never found myself so at a loss for words to simply describe an experience. 2016, you packed quite the punch. Now, for better & worse, you have run your course. I have some thoughts.

Start. End. Like the year, so much within its boundaries fit into my story with a start or an end or both. 2016, in the simplest description, was a change. I think about the 365 days that fit into twelve months, & I carry the weight of sadness and heartbreak of loss but I also hold tight to the passion and whir of gain. I found love; I lost love. I pursued change; I ran from it. 2016 & it’s persistent passing of time was met by a God who asked a lot of my heart and blessed it all the same.

I remember January & February & March slipping through my mind like water through open fingertips. I’m sure that I took a significant number of exams and worked a completely reasonable number of hours. I know that I poured into certain friendships, trying (& failing) to ignore the fear of losing them after graduation. I guarantee I drank an unreasonable amount of coffee. In terms of specifics, I remember the year opened at Passion Conference- in every way, an absolutely eye-opening perspective shift in my relationship with the Trinity. I saw my mom graduate with a doctorate- the first in our family. We went to bible study every other week & cried (long & hard) over the pain of hardship within friendship. I prayed on the ground in the snow of Virginia. Some of my best friends and I finished our last publication together- a major undertaking and accomplishment. It was cold, & I became dependent on this one green sweater.

April was bright. I spent some time with family on the ocean. I spent some time with one (a very good one) listening to music that has (unbeknownst to me then) incredibly significant value in my heart. We saw our last yearbook, held our work, cried happy & sad tears over that last passion project for our high school careers. We danced- in the hallways, at prom. It was warm, & I remember feeling happy.

Oh, May. You were the hardest month of my life. So many goodbyes. So. Many. From a bonfire goodbye of our staff that became family, to the loss of love, no goodbye was as hard as the goodbye to a best friend whose story concluded earlier than I would have wanted. I said my goodbyes to high school. To classmates. To familiarity. I chose what I’d hold on to. I’ll never say goodbye to Trent or the rest of my forever friends. It was hard, & I cried under the challenge of it all.

June opened with an entire ceremony dedicated to goodbye. Graduation was hard for reasons that did not have to do with leaving high school behind but rather those who couldn’t do so with us. There was a lot of togetherness. A lot of late nights spent in conversations by the lake or in coffee houses or in basements of our childhood homes. I took some road trips. I tried to prepare my weakened heart for exposure before my next journey, and I tried to tell my heart it would make it through all those goodbyes. It was busy, & I genuinely questioned the ability of my heart to handle much more.

So, July came, & I moved to Africa. I had a panic attack at the airport just thinking about the distance from my people who had said so many goodbyes already. But I went to Swaziland with twelve other women who have beautiful, rare hearts to serve & intimate, passionate insights into the creator of the universe. It was challenging because God asked me to be vulnerable. I fought, gave in, & met transformation within weeks. It was adventurous, & my heart would have broken had I not gone.

August & September & October group together in the storyline of my mind (Sorry it’s a mess of thoughts in here.). Everything changed. All of it. I had to create a new home. I had to shake hands with the pain of loneliness. I said hello to 18. I discovered how difficult and worthwhile long distance loves (of any kind) can be. I wrote so much, & I started a website so it would have one more place to go. I traveled, & found that my heart pumped differently when I was constantly moving. I stumbled across an opportunity that parallels with a dream job. I asked God, “Why?” over & over & did the same to myself. It was heavy, & I spent a lot of time in my own mind.

November & December were busy. I felt the heavy strain of total lack of rest. I also felt the replenishing goodness of a heart in the presence of the people it truly loves. I decided to reassess my relationship with the Trinity and get to know the three better. Finals were stressful & hard, & I, like so many others, met the question of “How did your finals go?” with, “Well, they’re over.” Thanksgiving was simple and fast, & Christmas didn’t truly feel like Christmas. It went fast, like the start, & now it’s January 1.

I cannot simply write what I will take from 2016. I think I’m still deciding. I think I’m still processing. What I do know is this: 2016 was the year where God asked me to change. Some change I gladly wrote into my story, other I put off until I couldn’t any longer. It is impossible to make a blanket statement about any one year because, in that span of time, it is possible to lose best friends, gain new ones, & change location, direction, and philosophy. I can say that 2016 is a year that will come up in my writing for years to come. I can say that the idea of 2017 is exciting to me. I can say that I truly, genuinely do hope for a year that is drastically different from the one I just lived. After all, change really does land you somewhere better (even if you don’t see it, even now.).

Goodbye, 2016. My heart is changed from the story you held. So, if nothing else, thank you, for being a messy, God-designed, challenge of a change.

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