So we near the New Year, and 2011 will be officially over.
It was a great year for me, with living in a beautiful country for the spring semester, good experiences in school and getting to bid "Good Journey" to my brother and sister-in-law as they traveled to do God's will in the Middle East. After a painful 2009 and 2010, I'd say 2011 is one of the best years I've been able to spend.
What am I thankful for in this year of 2011?
My financial troubles
An odd one, and one that required a ton of time and a day-to-day renewal of gratitude. The fact that I am working a lot less than I used to and have had monstrous car problems made my bank account practically negative and my wallet empty. Because of that, however, I've learned the necessity of complete trust in God, the importance of financial responsibility, and a thankfulness for parents who allow me to live at home with free room/board.
This should come as no surprise. Those who have spent any time with me this summer, fall, and winter have heard countless stories about my time in Cape Town, South Africa and how it has changed my life. Simply studying abroad was amazing, yes. To be able to step dramatically out of your comfort zone and to live in a different environment for half a year is life-changing in and of itself. While I sure didn't plan it this way, I had just come out of a tumultuous on-again-off-again 2 year relationship before I left for Africa. While I left America with spiritual depression, emotional and physical hurt, and a heaping desire for something new, I came back to Georgia with a realization of God's infinite and all-encompassing grace, healing from my physical and emotional scars, and even more of a thirst for new things. It all couldn't have happened in a better place than South Africa. I could go on and on and on but for the sake of this list I will keep it short!
Three Rivers Community Church
Being able to have an anchor like Three Rivers has been so encouraging. Hearing a lesson every week not doused with politics and opinion makes me so excited to be able to engage in God's word. My small group is the same- fellowshipping with down-to-earth families in prayer, food (!), laughter, and bible study has been real spiritual nourishment. It's so awesome to be able to watch these families, as well, because it really sets a good model for how I want my future family to walk in the light of Christ. I love how each one of us is so human yet we all are connected by a desire to know the being of Christ and what he wants for each of us. I consider myself to be very "human" and have huge weaknesses for certain things and the stubborness to go after them, but this group keeps me in check and in focus on the things that really matter.
To challenge myself in the way of running has been super hard this year. I didn't run a lick while in South Africa, but once I returned 15 lbs heavier and eating Butterfingers all the time, I figured it was time to take up running again. I picked it up pretty quickly and began training for the St. Jude Half Marathon, which I nicely completed at the beginning of this month. I have a great running partner who challenges and encourages me, so I'm lucky to be able to glean from his wisdom every long run! Running has been a huge help with my anxiety, and I welcome the life-style change.
I've brought this up before, but I need to say it again. Thank God for friends! They are like beautiful, beautiful cupcakes. Delicious and rewarding. My friends are like mocha cupcakes with rich, dark chocolate frosting swirled into perfect peaks. Mmmmmm...
Back to friends. New friends from South Africa. New friends from Germany. New friends I met in South Africa but who live "far away" in Maine, Minnesota, etc. The arrival of the new ceramics professor at school brought a new friend for me. My internship brought a whole family of new friends. The new addition to my small group at church brought a new, and fun!, friend. It's the little things in life that matter, and new friends are one of those little joys.
Ok, my entries are getting longer. I promise I'll keep the rest shorter:
It's a beautiful thing. Hard cider was aplenty in South Africa, equally popular as beer. I miss Hunter's Dry like I miss Josh Groban on a world tour.
While we're on the topic of beautiful things, Stoney Ginger Beer in ZA was one great drink.
Where 99% of my dresses come from, and at least 75% of the rest of my clothes and shoes.
Ok, knowing all of that, how do I wish to apply my gratitude to 2012?
1. Be responsible with my money
2. Be fearless
3. Be involved in my church's Young Moms Ministry
4. Run harder
5. Be a good friend
6. Drink more hard cider (maybe there is a better way to apply that. Like...drink responsibly! that's a good one.)
6 (edited). Drink responsibly
7. Remember good times and create new ones
8. Be humble
I figure if I can make those happen, 2012 will be just as chock-full of learning experiences as 2011 was. I encourage each and everyone of you out there to do the same. Reflect on the things you've done and learned this year and meditate on them. God used the incidents in my life, both good and bad, and even the stupid ones that were results of my stupid decisions (boy are there plenty of those) to teach me something and to sharpen me. Like ultra-sharp cheddar cheese....mmmmmmm
Happy New Year!