Usually I publish my “In Hindsight” series right after the first of the year, as a sort of New Year’s post, a look back over the last year and a cherishing of the memories that were created. For one reason and another, I am just now getting around to finishing this article, but I wanted to publish it in spite of how late it is. It is a time to remind myself of the ways God has been faithful to me, the ways He has blessed me and humbled me and grown me, and a way to share the joy of the last year with people who may be interested or encouraged.
Looking back over 2018 confirms in my mind that it was indeed one of the strangest and most exciting years of my entire life. It was a full year, in the best of ways. Strange twists and turns of life, opportunities that God provided which I never would have seen coming, wonderful and frequent hiking excursions and a summer spent almost entirely outdoors, an opportunity to travel to Illinois to see my sister, Jess, new and old friendships blossoming with the freer schedule I had…It was a blessedly full year.
I’m in no ways living the life I dreamed of as a girl or even as a college student. I’m sure I’m a puzzle or even a disappointment to professors who may have envisioned (reasonably so) my career continuing where I left off with my education. Occasionally I refer to my “dream come true” life, and I just want to clarify that this life was nowhere on my radar even 5 years ago. But I’m seeing how God knows my deepest desires, even the desires I don’t fully understand, and how God has given them purposely and is intentionally satisfying them OR completely and radically changing them. Yes, God can do that. He is sovereign and can change our desires to bring about His will for our lives.
As a younger individual, I idolized so many things. Success, marriage, recognition, a career in acting or music, a book published by age 25…God hasn’t given me any the success I dreamed of, the young marriage or the husband I’ve prayed for, the musical roles I craved. He hasn’t made me a published author or a celebrated actress or a fabulous singer or any of those things that my girlish heart idolized in highschool and college and which I pursued tirelessly. All of the things I imagined myself doing as a teen and a young twenty-something have not happened. Literally, none of those dreams have come true. And some of the things I swore I’d never do I am doing. I am NOT living the dream life I concocted for myself as a teenager or college student.
And that is all by God’s grace, to humble me, to bring me joy, to make me more like Christ. It is God’s grace to me that He didn’t give me worldly success, and didn’t satisfy my desire to have a book published by the age of 25, or to be competitive in the music industry. What grace. When I think of where I am now and how those dreams I had would never have allowed my life now to be possible, I’m in awe of God’s sovereignty. I could have chosen to stay in Illinois after graduating to pursue my music career. I could have chosen to pour all my effort into finishing a book and finding a publisher. I could have pursued marriage out of desperation and loneliness, and sacrificed the joy that Jesus has given me in my singleness. I could have sough high-pay employment with benefits and vacation time and status, enjoying the kinds of success I see from highschool or college classmates and family members who are working in prestigious jobs doing things for which they will probably one day be well known, maybe even famous, taking vacations and pursuing hobbies I couldn’t afford. I could have. I could be. But I know deep in my heart that I would have become entangled in a fast-paced lifestyle and in desires that wouldn’t have given the joy and contentment that my simple existence gives me now.
I’m not living my dream life. Truth be told, most of my highschool dreams have faded away, which is a bitter-sweet realization. And yet this life is more beautiful than I could ever have imagined, and it is a dream come true. In the place of the thirst for success and recognition I used to have, God has grown my heart in the desire to truly live, to feel real feelings, to be useful, to sweat, to weep, to laugh, to be sore and dead tired, to have a strong community and strong Christian relationships, to feel a deep joy that comes only from Christ.
God’s sense of humor…Once upon a time, I swore I’d never be a music teacher. In all reality, being a music teacher isn’t what I feel a strong desire to do. But I trust in God’s providence and this is what He has provided for the time being. But He also provided an opportunity (and the courage) to join our local fire department last year, a change I am endlessly thankful for, and God also provided a job at a local greenhouse and nursery this past summer, which was exceptionally refreshing after years of college and then working in an office (which also came to a close in April of last year). It clarified in my mind things I value about work – physical activity, physical challenge, fresh air, teamwork, community. And the schedule I had this summer allowed me to hike…and hike…and hike, discovering more how big my love for the outdoors actually is. And there is something blessedly and ridiculously comical as I think about having given a senior voice recital right before we moved to the Black Hills, and now I’m working for the local fire department as a stipend paid firefighter.
As wonderful as this last year was, it was definitely not without its struggles, and I absolutely do not want to fall into the social media trap of portraying myself as having the “perfect life.” Watching your grandmother die is a very sad thing. Loneliness is a very real feeling. Questions about the future lurk in the corners of my thoughts like little ugly goblins, as I begin playing the comparison game, seeing everything I don’t have and failing to see what I do have. And my struggles with depression returned pretty sharply and darkly at the end of the summer. I won’t dwell on any of these things, but those would be the prominent trials of this last year, for which God in His grace gives strength and endurance and healing and wholeness. And pain is part of the story, which God uses in amazing ways to shape us. I look back on where I was at the end of 2017, or two years ago, or four years ago as I was finishing college, or longer, before college, and I just have to chuckle. God has a sense of humor. Where I am today makes absolutely no sense. And yet I know and feel that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, and somehow where I am does make perfect sense to me. I never would have pictured myself where I am now. And yet now that I’m here, I can’t picture myself anywhere else.
2018 was a great year. And I’m excited to see what the rest of 2019 has to hold.