2017 was a bit of whirlwind for me. I’m sitting here on the first day of 2018 and wondering how the past year went by so fast.
2017 started with me living in a small, poorly constructed one bedroom house that didn’t have enough heat to allow me to survive the winter without shivering constantly. Aside from gifting me with an ice cold body, this place featured a large hole in the porch directly outside the front door, pipes that would freeze for days and therefore not drain water or allow me to flush the toilet, and a small furry friend that I discovered in my dog’s bag of food.
But at the time, it was all I could afford.
It’s not a secret that I have struggled to find my place since returning to Essex County nearly 5 years ago. I moved from job to job, some good, some not, trying to find a good fit, and never getting paid enough to really survive on my own.
In January, I was working at a job that was unable to follow through on things that had been promised to me, such as a raise, benefits and full time hours.
However, less than a month into 2017, things started to change, and now 2017 has turned out to be one of my best, most memorable years yet.
It was not a perfect year, but we all know that perfect doesn’t exist. The year included some disappointments (mainly, the difficult choice of re-homing my dog, who I loved deeply), but it also included the learning (in some cases re-learning) of important life lessons, and the re-discovery of my biggest passions.
First, I learned never to say ‘never’.
The initial good thing that happened in 2017 was that I got a new job. It was unexpected, and not something I had sought out. They approached me and asked me to apply. The position was for an Office Administrator. The role was perfect for me – I love admin and I’m good at it. It was precisely the type of position I had been seeking since I left Toronto.
But there was a massive red flag waving in my face. The job was at a church…
I had nothing against this church – it’s a fantastic church that I had attended as a teenager and continued to attend when I was visiting from Toronto. I already knew some of the staff well, and all are fantastic people. My faith was stronger than ever and my desire was to serve God in all ways.
But after my last experience working for a church, I swore I would never work for a church again. It’s not that it was a completely horrific experience, but it was a difficult experience that left me with some deep wounds; wounds that were still healing.
So I hesitated.
After talks with my parents and lots of prayer, I felt God telling me to apply. So I did.
Which leads me to the next thing I [re]learned in 2017 – letting go and listening.
I was reminded to let go of control and listen to God. I surrendered all my anxieties and concerns to Him, and promised that where He led, I would follow.
So, I was offered the job and I took it. And it was the right choice.
Shortly into the job, I was asked if I would consider joining the mission team that was heading to the Czech Republic in July.
Again, I hesitated. I wanted to go, but I was worried about the timing of it, the financial burden of fundraising, and the amount of vacation time it would eat up for me. I swam in the pool of indecision for weeks before deciding that I would wait for the next mission trip.
Then I began to really listen to what God was saying to me. He told me to go, so I went. Everything fell into place with the team and the trip – we managed to raise almost double what we needed, and the experience was incredible.
The trip re-ignited my passion for missions, and started me on a path to fulfill a dream of doing more mission work in the future.
This year I also re-learned the importance of patience and grace.
I have a tendency to place high expectations on the people around me, especially Christians. And when they don’t behave as I feel they should, my reactions can sometimes be quite harsh.
I am someone who feels things very deeply. I’m sensitive, often over-sensitive, as a result of some things I have experienced. Like many people, I have been deeply hurt over the years and the pain of betrayal has led to trust issues, as well as a thick defensive wall that shoots up the moment I feel someone has not acted in a way that I deem “acceptable”.
However, I was reminded again and again that we are not a perfect people. I’m not and neither are you. And I truly believe that most people in this world are good. When people do or say things that are insensitive or hurtful, most often they are not doing it on purpose. Frequently they do not even realize they may have hurt or angered you, and when they find out they are devastated and deeply sorry.
We are all human, full of flaws and imperfections. But we are also loving, caring, kind and generous. We make mistakes. We don’t always think things through. And we need to show each other grace in times of mishaps.
Finally, I was reminded not to let the negativity of others affect me.
I have worked for years to be a positive person. It does not come naturally to me. In my early twenties, I decided that only I could change my negative perspective of the world to a positive one. So I worked at it. I woke up each day and made a choice to be positive until I started to wake up feeling positive.
My downfall is that I can still easily get sucked into the negativity. If I am around it too much, it creeps onto my body and I wear it like clothes. If I allow it to linger for too long, it seeps beneath my skin, and I start to become the person I don’t want to be.
There were a few times this year where I allowed the negativity of others to dig deep into my being. In some cases, I was trying to help someone, but their negativity was overpowering what I was attempting to do.
These times reminded me that it was ok to extract myself from the situation when it was doing me more harm than good. I felt guilty for removing myself, but I also knew that I was not going to help anyone if I became increasingly negative.
It was a good lesson (again) for me. It made me stronger, and it reminded me of why I am here. I am here to bring light and joy to others, to serve God and pour out His love. I can’t do that under mounds of negativity.
I could go on about things I’ve learned and re-learned this year – the importance of family, being able to stand up for myself, taking chances and being bold, and embracing the good. But this post is probably long enough.
I will say that I am excited for 2018. I look forward to pursuing my passions in mission work, as well as with writing. I am thrilled to embrace new adventures and challenges. And I pray that I can do it with grace and love.
I feel like I woke up in 2017.
Now I’m ready to face 2018 with an open heart and an open mind.
Happy New Year.
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