I spent the afternoon reflecting on all that did and didn't happen in 2016, writing out my thoughts and answering probing questions. It was a painful year, no doubt.
From 2016's start to finish, I was undergoing treatment, unemployed, and living under my parents' roof. Any precious energy I had was on sleep mode, saved for necessary things like: showering, driving 45 minutes to see my counselor, and maybe going to church. I learned that chronic pain doesn't take a vacation—not even if you get away to Hawaii. (which happened.) I went to the Big Island to gain closure from my time in YWAM and move my belongings back home. My treatment leaked on the flights there, emptying not only the bottles but my finances and hopes for better health. The doctor said not to worry. He didn't know worry and I were close friends. After that trip, I didn't step outside for 7 days. I later learned "I haven't seen the sun" is a cause for concern.
A friend encouraged me to fill my days with creativity, so I made a few attempts. First, I conversed with artists and entrepreneurs and podcasters on Anchor, learning from strangers. I then tried sending weekly newsletters which I fondly called Offstage Notes. It was a short-lived but fun endeavor. Moving on, I taught myself embroidery and hoped (for two weeks) to start a business named ThreadRest. I quickly learned these projects were either not for me or were pursued at the wrong time. In the end, I kept up with one creative attempt: my reading challenge. This proved to be life-giving, educational, and a way to pass the time. Some weeks, my only visit outside the house was to pick up my books on hold. Our librarians brought me smile after smile as they commented on my latest read. Literacy is a gift I hold dear.
My parents continued to house me rent-free, helping me in ways that are immeasurable. I prematurely took a job delivering groceries and resigned before my first day. I was weak not only physically but spiritually. Our family visited churches. My mom and I talked theology late into the night. I stopped going to church regularly due to severe disappointments, forgetting humans are imperfect and I, too, am one of them. I grappled with my faith, clinging to hopes of healing or marriage or ministry more than my hope in Christ. It's shocking to see how I'd plastered my heart in selfishness and pride for much of the year. I cannot believe how merciful, forgiving, and loving the Father is to His children.
If you know me well, you're aware counseling was the best present of 2016. In every session with my counselor, I experienced God's grace and truth. She gave me the permission to grieve losses, and I did. I grieved all things big and small in categories of relationships, ministry, health, and opportunities. Shame would lessen and anxiety would disappear. Asking for help was never so beautiful. Together, we created goals for myself. The largest goal written on her whiteboard was learn to live with Lyme Disease. The daily goals? Look presentable, step outside, get in the Word.
Some reprieve came in the fall. I spent almost a month away in California and Georgia thanks to kind friends and the kindest God. These three weeks were like a soul retreat—nourishing, affirming, and comforting. I began to dream again. I was ready for anything. The anything which followed in those weeks was a whole lot of no's from jobs I'd applied to, people I cared deeply for, and a body which acted up whenever it so pleased. It was a wild election season, several of my friends were in the midst of intense suffering, the online world was clogged with negativity, and devastation in countries and neighborhoods and homes would not cease.
I wondered why I wasn't given a heart of steel—wouldn't that have protected it from breaking over and over? What about those hurting in my home, city, the world? But if heartache and rejection brought me anything these final months, it was clarity.
The epilogue for year 2016 reads:
Darkness could not win me over, for I belong and will always belong to God. All 366 days, He carried me. He has been strengthening me for the journey, beginning with the restoration of my mind and emotions. He gave me the space to cry out, to ask questions, to stay put. He helped establish healthier routines. He confirmed my call to missions. He held me and my tears day by day by day.
Calvinism or Arminianism? Japan or California? Homeopathic or antibiotic? I sought and fought hard for my solutions this year. I don't have all my answers, but I have the Lord, and He is what I need. The failures and sins of my past, present, and future cannot remove me from His love.
It's a time of new beginnings—to allow God's Spirit to soften me, revive me, and empower me to not just live with something like illness but to love Him and others well in the midst of it.
Although this was a very hard year, it would be ignorant to look only at mine. I cannot pretend to know where you're at, just a few days out from 2016. I don't know what big regrets or big hurts you hold inside. I've told you my answers are few, so I will not try and give you something I don't fully believe.
But this I am sure of: God will weep with you and heal you and answer you.
Come on home.