Looking back on this year, I have realized that my ambitions these past twelve months have not necessarily been something I am proud of; as I learned more about God’s character and how He revealed Himself to me, it occurred to me that nothing more than evanescent intentions and circumstances clouded my judgement many times during trials and seasons of testing. It frustrates me as I flip through the pages of these last chapters of my life, I see things like obsessions over the idea of marriage, the self-centered hurt as many of my younger friends find their perfect match, and the constant gazing towards the future instead of joyfully and thankfully experiencing the present.
While I have taken these notes with a grain of salt, I also want to pay attention to the lessons I am being taught. Nothing satisfies our Lord more than to see His children learn from Him. Even though 2016 has partnered with countless emotional battles, it also is rated in my books as quite possibly the best year of my life.
Knowing that this year was going to warrant the beginning of my final year at OSU, I knew I had to start living like I could make a difference in the lives of those around me. For the past four years I have been coasting through college, trying to make friends only to have those relationships slip out of my grasp. I quickly found out that not trying hard enough and not investing in people can lead to these things.
However, I also discovered that the more I invested in the Lord, the easier it was to develop lasting friendships and cultivate new ones. To me, it’s all about the environment you choose to seek out that determines the strength of those ties in your life. I remember making the decision to surround myself with only those that deeply cared about me and who were a good influence over me. Although I haven’t made perfect choices, that decision has changed my moods, influenced my viewpoints, and have caused me to love with a more humble heart. Three people stick out to me in this that I can’t help but mention: Sam Jones, Caitlyn Baird, and Joe Johnson.
Sam Jones is my small group bible study leader this year at H2O, the campus church I attend at OSU. Her love for the Lord has inspired me to bring this love to those I would otherwise not interact with, and spending time with her (almost constantly) has taught me what investing in relationships actually means. I remember a time before finals when we hung out and studied every day for a week, totaling over forty hours together! If that’s not patience, I don’t know what is!
Sam also motivated me to run my first race, the Beat Michigan 5K. I was really nervous about it because I hadn’t trained in a while, and the race was in a week. I remember running with her and a bunch of other friends from our small group, and it was the most enjoyable experience I had in a long time. Even though we were basically dead after each workout, it was still awesome. Truly, I couldn’t do life without her.
Caitlyn Baird has been in my life since the beginning of 2016. She was in my small group during the spring semester of 2016, and we partnered up for the fall semester as well. Her love and compassion for me and others is so pure that I really don’t know how she does it. Her love for God radiates from her in every circumstance I witness with her. The advice she gives in trials she has never experienced shows just how often God uses her to encourage friends and family. Spending time with her gives me a wonderful example on how to love unconditionally and how to be patient when others aren’t exactly treating you fairly. Without Caitlyn in my life, I wouldn’t have an accountability partner, nor an amazing best friend who I can lean on any time, day or night.
Joe Johnson is, of course, my boyfriend, but he is SO much more than just that. He is patient, loving, kind, and open to literally anything I have to say. I have never met someone who listens so intently and actually responds to my blabber intelligently and full of charisma. His advice is phenomenally Godly and he leads me in remarkable ways. This past year we decided to attend church together instead of apart, and I can’t even begin to explain to you the wonders that this has done for our relationship. Whenever I am stressed out, or down in the dumps, or simply frustrated at the world because I feel like everything is stupid and there is no point, he is always there, willing to listen. His representation of how Jesus listens to us and forgives us for every trespass and sin is displayed (no matter how imperfectly) in Joe.
Obviously there have been innumerable others who have made astounding impacts on me and my walk with God, but these three stand out the most to me as I write. Reflecting on this year, they rise to the top in the order of shutting me up when I’m acting stupid, calming me down when my stress levels reach ten-thousand percent, and encouraging me when my self-esteem drops to zero kelvin.
Friends, community is so good. But God is even better.
“And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 HCSB)