Today on Facebook I asked all of my friends, "If you year of 2011 had a theme, what would it be?" So far I've gotten about 11 responses from friends located all around the country. Many were different, some were the same, and some were rather similar. Answers (so far) have ranged from:
- A Circus
- Is it over yet?
- Foreign Exchange
- Full of Excitement
- Roller Coaster
Many people couldn't list just one theme.
As I started to think about the responses and about what my own response to would be to my own question, what I found interesting is that while we have all lived a completely different year...Leaving 2011 we all have different stories to tell. Our themes are similar. Our emotions, levels of fear, joy, excitement - for some of us, they again, were similar to one another.
What is my own life theme to 2011? I, like many of you, can't list just one theme. If you've been following my blog or Facebook page you can tell my themes very well vary from one another. When watching a 2 hour movie, even in just two hours of one story, the producers and filmmakers don't usually keep it to one theme either. In a two hour movie you see action. You see drama, humor, and often you see a love story playing out in the mix. The actor's also go through a wide variety of "emotions". They play the part of anger, happiness, joy, sorrow, and fear. All of this is in just a two hour film. Two hours verse a whole year filled with 365 days, 24 hours in each.
Thinking about my own list of 2011 themes, and recalling many memories of the year, I think I would have to say that most of my themes consists of:
- Sickness, cancer, infections, illness
- Hopeless to hopeful
- Anger, Depression, to Bitterness
- Strong to Weak
- Weak to being Stronger
- Shattered to Fragile
- Following God
- Operation Mobilization
- Helping Others
Even in my different list of themes many of them mingle together.
Trials, Challenges, Sickness, Cancer, Infections, Illness, Death...
There were a lot of trials and challenges. There were many (and I mean many) sickness and trips to hospitals as loved ones were in the ER or being admitted. Death took my niece. Death tried to take my dad - three times. Three times in one year. Three times with different illnesses. (To read the summary of my story, check out: My Cardboard Testimony.)
I have a friend who often states that they have never been through am major trial. They've never lost a loved one, been sick, or had an ill family member. In a way that is a blessings for that friend and their family. However, until this year I never actually thought about how unfortunate that would be. I never realized what a blessing trials bring to your life and the perks of going through them. Yes, they are hard. Yes, they take you to the dark places of being lonely, depressed, anger, and bitter. But they also make you stronger. They can make you trust in God more than you had before the trial (this, although, is only if you do so on your own free will. It can make you run closer or father away.) You also realize what is truly important in your life.
The way my mom said it to me one time earlier in the year, "Throughout the last few years the life that you have known has been completely turned up-side-down." For a brief summary just going back only to 2009: Throughout the last few years I finished high school through home schooling. I went away to college in TN. In TN I thought I found where I belonged. I had wanted to attend there to Study missions. While there I did just that as well as making loads of precious treasures of friends. I went from having my own room to having a roommate. Things were different going there. God took me there for a reason and I thought He was guiding me to stay. Instead, after my first year at FWBBC, I turned back around to head back to California. I went from a Bible College filled with friends, encouragement, and love, to my home state where friends my age are very few, back to my own room, and I went to a secular City College. (There is nothing wrong with secular schools at all. They are just extremely different than Bible colleges. The atmosphere and make up is just very different. Both schools have their perks.)
This year My sister, brother-in-law, and there fury little animals moved into our small little house with us. There was less space in the house, more people, more animals, it became a crowd at times. Within the last few years dad's health has declined. Now I'm preparing to live out of the country for 4-5 months. The life as I know it has been "turned up-side-down". Although, I think my life is meant to have one change after another. It makes life more of an adventure and change isn't always bad. In the last few years change has brought me a precious baby cousin, a brother-in-law I enjoy pestering, golden opportunities, friends I'll always cherish, love, and enjoy, as well as many enjoyable and unforgettable moments. Change can be scary. But some changes can be good.
Anger, Depression, to Bitterness, Fear, and Loneliness
With all the trials and challenges I became angry. I went through my weeks of bitterness and depression. There were many countless sleepless nights filled with enough tears to fill a river. I went through a dark journey, feeling all alone. I had the realistic part my mind telling me, "God is with you! You are never alone! You have those that love you, who are praying for you and your family. Just looking at Facebook you can see a glimpse of just a few who are praying. You're not alone. You're family is also going through all the same things - just through different perspectives and different ways."...Regardless of my realistic mind telling me what I should of listened to, I still went through the dark tunnel of negative feelings and emotions. My emotions took over my usual mellow, calm, and realistic mind. I was overwhelmed with these emotions and with fear. Fear had me asking, "What's going to happen next?"
Strong to Weak, Weak to being Stronger
I thought I was strong. I was wrong. When the waves of life hit I broke. I emotionally shattered. I became weak, and even on this New Year's Eve I still feel weak from this year. I'm still working on getting back on my feet and regaining certain levels of confidence. However, in my weakness I became stronger. I've started to regain some of my levels of confidence. I still live on edge, fearing our year of "2011" isn't over yet. However - in a way I am stronger than when it all began, even in my weakness. I'm stronger in the fact that I know my family can make it through anything together. I'm stronger in my relationship and trust in the Lord. My testimony is stronger, because, while I am weak and it will take time to be able to get back on my feet a little more and gain the ability to fully tell my story, my story has grown. I can now help others that I was never able to help in the past. In the past I couldn't relate to those who lost a baby niece. I wasn't able to reach and help those who went through trial after trial.
Hopeless to Hopeful, Comfort
In my dark moments of depression, anger, fear, sadness, bitterness, and times of feeling completely alone I became hopeless. I literally hit rock bottom. At times I thought, "I don't even remember what it's like to be happy anymore." Then there were thoughts of, "Where are you in all of this, God? Why have you left us?" I never lost my belief in God. Let me just clarify this fact right away. I did, however, question Him. (But if you recall back to Matthew 27:46 you see that even though Jesus still knew God was there and that God had a plan, Jesus questioned why God had forsaken Him - His own Son - as He hung on the cross.) I questioned his plan for our lives. I questioned where He was in this story-line. There were many nights where I thought, "God, the Bible says you can do anything...You have the Almighty power! You could of saved my niece. She could still be alive today. Why didn't you save her?? Why won't you stop these storms?" I was hopeless in my deep dark pit thinking thing wouldn't be the same. Ever. Storm after storm would just keep coming our way.
The storms haven't completely stopped but they have calmed down. Even when the storms kept raging through my life there were times when instead of calming the storm, God calmed me. (Check out the song, "Sometimes He Calms the Storm".) God brought me comfort. Through His comfort I began to feel hopeful once again. I became hopeful for a better future. A future with less trials, sorrow, pain, and traded in with more joy, happiness, and blessings. I became excited for 2012 as it became a symbol of hope of a better year.
Shattered to Fragile
Throughout the time of trials I became emotionally and spiritually broken. Then I would put myself together again, re-breaking at each new trial. Eventually instead of just breaking - I completely shattered. Now as we enter 2012 I am no longer shattered. I'm no longer shattered but I am fragile. I'm tender. I'm still in a process of healing. And the thing about being fragile? That's not always such a bad thing. Becoming shattered and broken has opened my eyes. It's one thing to hear about an event or experience. It's another to go through the experience. When you hear about the experience you can feel sympathetic. You feel emotions for those who have gone through the trial or time of joy. However, once you go through it yourself? You relate. You put yourself in their shoes. The story might be different and you may not know 100% about how they feel or felt, but you understand the general concept of the situation and emotions as a whole. Being fragile and tender isn't always bad. It helps you feel deeper than ever before for something. It keeps you aware to those around you in similar story-lines.
Family and Bonding
My family went though a lot together. What most people go through in a life-time, we went through in a year. Things we went through together can either pull family together or pull them apart. Our family got closer. We bonded more. Our love for one another grew deeper. We spend more and more time together each week. Instead of seeing each other every Sunday at church with the occasional lunch or dinner throughout the week, there are some weeks and months where we easily see each other 2-4 times a week. One of my biggest blessings of 2011 was hearing many people say, "You have the most unique family. You guy are so close. Your family is special." Being in the storms and trials I saw pain and brokenness. Others on the outside saw our reactions. They saw how we responded. They paid attention to what we said and what we did. Other's saw our family stick together through it all pushing through the storms hand-in-hand.
A close friend once told me, "I don't know how you do it. I don't know how you've managed to make it through all of this still standing." There are the obvious reasons how my family and I made it through standing. We have one another, we have friends, prayers coming from around the world, God, and God's comfort. We had hope of a future. At the same time, humor was my cooping mechanism. When dad was in the hospital I would crack as many jokes as I possibly could to keep myself smiling and laughing, but also to keep my mom with a slight smile her face. Nothing feels better during a hard time than laughter . After all, laughter is the best medicine, right??
Travel, Missions, Helping Others, and Adventure
Boy, was my year filled with adventure! I was blessed this year to travel. I've done a bit of traveling in my 20 years, but never this much within a set of 365 days. In January I was able to visit friends in Nashville, TN. In May I started my traveling to Seattle to board a ship going to Canada and Alaska. From there I went back to Nashville to help my sister and brother-in-law move to California. I then had 26 hours at home before heading to Mexico to help build a home for a family living with a dirt floor and a leaking tarp above their heads (read: Carmen's New Home). After two weeks of resting, I went to Japan to help with Disaster Relief Work from the tsunami. I had to return home early, but had about two weeks off again before heading to youth camp to be with our church's girls for a week. Throughout the year I've also been able to go to the coast a couple of times and our family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc) took a weekend to go to the lake after my niece died. Traveling is always an adventure. I'm honored that I was able to hear the stories of the Japanese tsunami survivors...What stories they have to tell!! Fact is, I'm honored anytime I get to travel and experience another person's culture and the willingness they have to embrace foreign travelers from another land. While traveling I was able to meet other's of whom I will never forget. They've impacted my life more then they will ever know. I'm thankful for Facebook and email, as they help connect some of us over the miles.
Following God and Operation Mobilization
Throughout the year of 2011 I've been working on going with Operation Mobilization (OM) to Germany and London in 2012. I applied, I was accepted, and I've been working on fundraising. We purchased my ticket to leave for Germany the morning of the 16th of January. I will arrive in London about 10 days later after being at the "GO Conference" that OM holds every year. The trip is right around the corner! I am excited. I am nervous, and I am scared. I'll be gone for several months overseas. This will be an adventure that is sure to be life changing and a growing experience. Often I wonder what God has in store for my time in Europe. Soon I will be finding out!! (As an update, I have about $1,000 more to raise. If interested in learning about my trip, or how to donate, check out the pages listed at the top of this blog!) No matter what He has in store I am doing my best to follow where He has been guiding me. I only pray that I will be willing to be used in any way He can use me in this world. (Why do I do what I do? Because God's guidence and His calling on my life. Read: How Great is Our God (World Edition) for more detail.)
What will 2012 hold? I can't help but wonder. Many themes of the upcoming year are a mystery. While many of the themes will be a mystery, there are a few that I know of in advance:
- Following God
- Trusting God more and more Everyday
No matter the themes, I'm going to live my life to the fullest this year and for the years to come. Above I posted a video. Wherever my adventure of 2012 guides I am going to carry my candle with me. It will be one of my theme songs. I'm going to do my best to embrace what comes my way through my adventure with my candle's flames brightly glowing. This little light of mine? I'm going to let it shine!
The thought of 2012 truly does excite me. This is a year my whole family has been looking forward to as we leave 2011 with dreaded remembered memories. It is a year of hope of many blessings, moments of laughter, smiles, and good memories.
What are you looking forward to leaving behind in 2011? What are you looking forward to in 2012? What did you learn this last year and what were your life themes?
The Travelin' Chick,