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Lessons from 2018

I'll admit it - I LOVE some self reflection. So, naturally, at this time of year, one of my favorite things to do is to evaluate what I learned over the past 365 days. I believe there is an inevitable abundance of learning in a year of life. However, it is up to us to acknowledge how we've grown and use these lessons to shape us.

God blessed me with some big lessons in 2018 - some of which were abounding in joy, others of which took oceans of tears to come to. I think it's pretty cool how God uses both the minute details and the earth-shattering changes in our lives to forever shape our hearts to look more like His. 2018 will forever change me, and I'm excited to share with you the ways in which it did.

So, without further ado, here's a bit of what I learned in 2018.

1. It is okay to be broken - oh how I struggle with this one. I strive to be seen as "having it all together" but the facade always fails me. I'm afraid that opening up, like really opening up, will cause people to think of me as weak or even abandon me. However, time after time this past year, God gave me the courage to bear my true colors (even the darkest shades) to safe people who accept me unconditionally. Every time I shared from the caverns of my soul, I was so worried that I would be met with negative responses - but that was never the case.

In fact, God went as far as to put the most gracious individuals in my life who would do the exact opposite of ridicule or leave me. In my greatest vulnerability, my people comforted me, encouraged me, and loved me so well. Life is so much sweeter in community, especially in the dark seasons. It's okay to be broken, we all are.

2. Pray expectantly and watch God show up big time - 2018 was the first year I really, truly took a leap of faith and tossed out some seemingly impossible requests in my prayers. I think until this point, I've been afraid of disappointment. However, this year, something inside me stirred up this courage that allowed me to pray some risky prayers. From asking God to free me from my suffocating homesickness, to expecting anxiety to flee, to believing He could help me run a half marathon, God showed up every time in 2018. Maybe His answer wasn't exactly what I wanted, but I felt Him with me.

Witnessing God come alongside me and answer my seemingly impossible prayers this year was exhilarating. I started believing for better things. In the course of a year, I've watched God break my negative habits, restore my confidence, and change me into someone who believes that change is indeed possible with His help. I prayed expectantly and God showed up big time in 2018.

3. God sends us people - many of those bold, risky prayers mentioned above were not answered in a flash of divine light. His solutions are usually more complex, in the most beautiful way. I've always believed this, but after this year especially, I know; God places people in our lives for a reason.

In the past year, God gave me the sweetest gifts in the form of friendship. From people to share in my struggles, to those who encourage me daily, to those who mentor me, to those who can always make me laugh - God used a handful of authentic relationships to show me more of Him in 2018.

Start by looking around at those who naturally seem to end up where you are and ask God for guidance in your relationship. Get ready for your world to change. Take a chance and pour into the people around you, and God will use the relationship to heal you both. I can't count the number of times when these individuals affirmed me where I needed without me ever expressing doubt - that right there was God speaking through them. I will be forever grateful for the real life angels God sent my way in 2018.

4. There's still so much more to learn - sometimes it feels like the longer I'm here, the less I really know. This used to scare me, but I'm choosing to lean into it. A year ago, I thought I had a pretty good grip on how to navigate this life. And while I leave 2018 with lots of new knowledge, I'm also very aware that there will always be more to learn. This fact isn't discouraging to me - instead, it's rather exciting. I'm entering 2019 expectant for everything God's going to teach me.

So, here's to another year of lessons, gifts, and surprises. I believe God wants to take each and every one of us on a joyful, wild adventure that leads us closer to Him.

Let's do this.

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