Happy New Year, dear reader!
I know many of you have been anxiously awaiting this time of year. As the old year begins to turn to new, I’ve taken time to watch my friends and family and notice just how taxing this past year has been. Our 2016 was a banner year for anxiety, stress, and all-around burnout. It’s no surprise to me that many want to see the sun set on this past year and just forget about it. The elections, the harsh lens of the media, the wars, and hateful mindsets caused a great deal of heartache this year. Throughout the year, I started a nasty habit of running. (No, I don’t mean the “nasty” habit of being healthy by physically running. I’m honestly expressing this essence inside of me to run away from conflict, internal and external.) This year, I found myself turning away from hard conversations instead of leaning in, in order to save what I thought was my own sanity. The more I think about my past year, the more it is plain to see that I should have been turning in, not turning away, appreciating the gifts in my life and precious time I had been given.
But, despite my own personal struggles, I think 2016 gained a bit of a faulty reputation. With all the hardships, good did come from this year. It was a year of learning, growing, and changing. The beginning of January always makes me think of the start of a new day—a sun rising up over a pale, blue horizon, shifting a world of darkness to one of golden light, and brightly illuminating the path ahead. My birthday falls only 3 days into January, and with the ending of a year of my life, I always think of the beginning of one ahead. This year, I’m entering my quarter-century mark. 25. On my birthday, I didn’t feel a slight bit of panic when thinking of the laugh-lines I recently discovered on my face or the fact that I can barely start a morning without coffee. Instead, I felt relaxed and took a little time to turn inward, thinking more importantly about the changes of my own past year. Reflecting on former experiences is necessary to have progress in the future.
My 2016 was a whirlwind. Even at the first of the year, it became apparent that this was the year for changes. I committed to leave a job that I was passionate about without plans for the future. Throughout the year, I felt frantic while trying to balance my career, my friendships, and my personal life. More space in my heart was taken up by a boy who lived over 500 miles away, which felt like a world of distance at the time. Suddenly, in a flash of time, summer came and I was in a relationship head first, leaving a job, and traveling to Europe without any upcoming career plans in the span of two months.
And then Autumn came. Just like the leaves change, I made changes too. I made a move and settled into a life I wanted to savor. I was fortunate to find a position that captured my interest and let me dive deeper into my strengths. My setting shifted and I headed west for the Rocky Mountains, which I am fortunate to see every day. As time passed, I began to establish roots by connecting to my church, exploring and hiking, and making more friends. Not to mentioned I began life-lessons in budgeting, paying bills, and “adulting”. But I learned that changes can strike even when you least expect it. I lost a dear friend to me, one whom I didn’t have time to say goodbye to or remind him of how much I respected him.
I met Kyle at the beginning of 2015, and though I didn’t know him long, he left a legacy on my soul. While meeting him, I knew I wasn’t at my best. My heart was overwrought, and I often felt off-balance and overwhelmed. I spent more time on myself instead of being a good friend to others. But in spite of all of this, Kyle was my friend. He invested in me simply by including me and listening to what was on my mind. In the two short years I knew him, Kyle was a blessing. He was truly one of the first Godly men I had ever encountered. His fierce love for Christ, passion for civic engagement, and genuine laughter impacted so many. He simply radiated enthusiasm when sharing about his love for Christ, from spending time in China on a missionary trip to being at the center of a college campus. In addition to all of this, what truly made Kyle unique, was his genuine ability to just be. His laughter lit up a room and he always gave you his full attention. During any task for work at K-State’s Department of New Student Services, be it welcoming new students on to campus or fixing a schedule for day, he was fully engaged. I admire Kyle so much because in every moment I watched him soaking up his precious gifts of life and time, cultivating an atmosphere that glorified Christ. He knew what God had intended for his life and he utilized every moment to be a reflection of that plan. A few months before he died, Kyle marked his earthly body with a tattoo as a reminder of God’s hopes for him. The word GO painted his side was for Matthew 28:19 – “Therefore GO and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” In his time and his life, you knew Kyle’s call to action was for Christ, and I know he was welcomed back with opened arms the day he returned to Heaven.
After saying goodbye to my friend Kyle, I’m not ready to let go of the legacy he left behind. I want to live a life more like Kyle. While 2016 was full of changes, I’m ready for this new beginning to take place in my heart. Here’s my 2017 and 25th year manifesto:
I want to be braver. I want to handle the messes with grace instead of panic. I want to learn that it’s okay to lean on others, have the hard conversations, and grow closer. I want to savor time and open my life to change.
This year, I’ve learned that life and time are precious gifts. They aren’t always wrapped up in beautiful layers for you to unfold, tied up with a neat ribbon, organized in a precious pile that’s Instagram-worthy. Sometimes they can appear ugly. Maybe they look like time you don’t really have, money you can’t spend, or resources that feel wasteful. Recycled wrapping paper, crumpled bags, or simple brown paper packages tied up with string. But let me just declare this – I can’t wait to unwrap these presents. I will make them my favorites, carry them in my pockets, pull them out every single day and look upon in wonder. Life and Time are to be savored.