It’s a lagging afternoon in the dregs of December, the remnants of the year. I have chai tea to hand, but no sweet things (I’ve already had plenty of those). I’ve been listening to a playlist I just made. “Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord God my Father. / There is no shadow of turning with Thee.”
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking more and more about 2017. I knew from the start that it was going to be a big year–I remember telling my friend so in a letter back in January. Well, it certainly lived up to expectations.
I don’t do posts about my life very often anymore. But I wanted to do this one, as a sort of monument–like when the Israelites set up a stone named Ebenezer, to remind them what the Lord had done. It might be a little long; I’ll try and keep it a decent, readable length, and there will be pictures.
Things That Happened
First off, I spent January-April looking for a job. I did finally get one, and it was a huge blessing.
I joined the Young Writers Workshop. This has been an incredible resource for me. It’s a program run by Brett Harris and Jaquelle Crowe of TheRebelution, designed to give young writers the tools they need. I’m so thankful for it.
I became an editor at TheRebelution.com. This was completely unexpected. It was a sort of first step toward realizing this dream I have of getting a book published. Thank you, Jaquelle, for sending me that first email. =)
The same day I got aforementioned job, I had an article published on DesiringGod. This was another step on that writing journey, and it was a funny twist of God’s providence that, after so much disappointment, I got published and got a job on the same day.
I graduated. And, true to homeschooling form, I was finishing up some last school the morning of the ceremony. We had some quite unexpected excitement, too (you can read about it here).
For one of my three weeks of summer break, I visited a friend in Texas. It was such a lovely, relaxing few days spent with a lovely individual.
Irma visited, although she did far less damage to my area than we expected. (I do, however, now have a plant of the same name. I bought it the morning before the storm hit.)
Brett Harris became my agent and gave me a lot of direction toward getting my book published. I’m so thankful that he believed in this project.
My mom and I went to Virginia to visit my future school (Patrick Henry College, if you were wondering). It’s pretty great.
Bible Bee happened. It was… crazy. A lot of stress. A lot of struggles. A lot of really wonderful times spent reciting to my mom. And it all culminated in one week that was simultaneously very difficult and also one of the best weeks of my life.
The holiday season also happened. I guess that’s hardly unique, though. And we’re still here, so here’s where I’ll stop.
I tend to think in terms of stories and themes. Here are some of the themes of this year, some things that I learned, some ways that God worked in my life.
One thing I wasn’t expecting this year was the amount of disappointment; the number of “No” answers to my prayers. There were all the disappointments when looking for a job. The disappointment of not making semifinals, the one thing I really wanted to do at Bible Bee this year. The disappointment of having to miss an event in December that I’d been looking forward to for months. And of course there were a lot of smaller things, too.
I’m not going to pretend I ever really know what God is doing. I know that He knows. And I know that some of these disappointments forced me to take my focus off of things that don’t really matter so much and put it on Him. They forced me to realize I can’t find satisfaction in those things.
They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house; And You give them to drink of the river of Your delights. For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light. (Psalm 36:8-9)
This was mostly in one area: college. More specifically, it was the question of whether the opportunity of getting a book published outweighs going to college right away. I had to rethink priorities–and also my view of writing.
The Young Writers Workshop has helped me see that my writing could actually be a career. It’s not just a hobby, a passion that I tack onto the side of more important stuff. It’s important in itself, and if I want to get published I should put in the requisite time and energy. And sometimes that’ll mean setting other things aside.
I’ve been particularly encouraged by James 1:5 this year:
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
This was a year of endings and beginnings. There were a lot of goodbyes (not just the ones associated with growing up, although most of them were). I wrote this in March:
But the thing about going so fast is that people and places fall behind us. We both discover and forget – we meet and we part – we find some beautiful new treasure, and we leave something else behind.
I’ve been learning to trust in a God who always stays the same, despite everything else that changes. I’ve realized I need to cling to the living hope we have in Christ (1 Peter 1:3), not the things of this world.
This was probably the toughest one. During the past couple months, I experienced a lot of doubts–particularly in the weeks right before and after Bible Bee. I’m still convinced it was at least partly spiritual attack, although of course I can’t know that for sure.
One thing I learned (am learning) from this is that God is faithful. He is incredibly, mercifully faithful to us–He doesn’t leave us, doesn’t forget about us, even when we doubt Him. He will carry us all the way home.
I would never have chosen this season of doubt. In fact, I prayed against it. But it seems that sometimes, paradoxically, doubt is the door to a deeper faith. When you wrestle with what you believe, when you ask the hard questions and you have to find the answers for yourself, your faith actually grows. You see for yourself that God’s word can be trusted, and it’s the only thing worth founding your life and faith on.
I sought the LORD, and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces will never be ashamed. (Psalm 34:4-5)
Here are a few of the best posts from here or elsewhere over this year.
- To See Your Face (a reflection on long-distance friendships)
- Great Is Thy Faithfulness
- Shout Out To the Artists
- Highways Aren’t My Home
- Future Hope In the Midst of Life’s Changes (TheRebelution)
- We Need More Bible In Youth Ministry (DesiringGod)
- 5 Things I Learned From the National Bible Bee (TheRebelution)
- Don’t Leave the Moments Behind
- 4 Ways Teens Can Keep Learning (TheRebelution)
- Learning To Trust Beyond Graduation (TheRebelution)
- My Busyness and God’s Bigness This Summer
- Seeing God’s Mercy In a Paradise Lost
- Every Breath As a Gift | Every Breath Is a Battle | Every Breath Is Fading
- Newness of Heart
- O Come, Emmanuel: The Breathtaking Hope of Advent
I also did a good bit of poetry and one story.
- Midnight Cry | NaPoWriMo Week One
- fire and water
- Where Did the Moon Go? | A Story
- blood on our hands | a poem
There was so much good music this year–new releases, stuff that I discovered for the first time, and music I’ve known for a long time that continues to bless and encourage. I got into Christian hip-hop and really enjoyed Worthy, the new album by Beautiful Eulogy. And of course the Gray Havens came out with a couple of excellent new songs (“High Enough” and “City of David“).
I actually made a full playlist of songs I enjoyed or was encouraged by this year. You can see it below, and let me know what songs you discovered in 2017!
I have no idea what’s going to happen next year. I have plans of course, but I’m learning not to make too big a deal out of those. He has brought us this far; He will keep us and carry us until we reach eternity.
What was this year like for you? How have you seen God working and showing Himself faithful? What are your goals–if any–for 2018?