More than anything, I love the reflection piece of a new year as I am a person who loves to reflect about anything and everything. The past couple of years I've adopted my own new year traditions. I like to sleep in from the night before, wake up refreshed, read my goals from the year before, set some new goals, and spend some time journalling and just generally reflecting on the past year.
It's the one time in the year I feel I gain perspective. I am able to step out of my life and see the whole year in a lump, with all it's ups and downs, questions and confusion, joys and tribulations. My feelings of inadequacy stand alongside God's adequacy when I look at the year as a whole.
As somebody who is still learning what it means to be an adult, I've figured out that almost every adult feels like they are faking it to some extent--that everybody has questions about what they're doing, where they're going, if they are doing enough, if they are doing things that truly align with their passions and goals. It is this profound wisdom that has followed me around this year as I go about faking my own adult-hood. Often I feel I just have no idea what I'm doing, what path I am on, or if I am even on a path at all. I try to make plans to control the things I feel I should have a hold on, but abandon those plans when I realize that the motivation of those plans is not a pure motivation.
With that thought in my mind, I followed through with my favorite new year traditions of reflecting and relaxing yesterday. Between coffee and cleaning my room I found my favorite box. It's a simple orange box that sits largely unopened, except to deposit scraps of paper that are meaningful to me: cards, wedding invites, programs, ticket stubs, and the like. This box has years of friendship contained within it, some friends with whom I keep in touch, some friends with whom I haven't talked to in years.
Between unpacking from a 3 week trip this summer and desperately trying gain some semblance of organization in my small room, I deposited a handful of unread papers. These papers were from that trip, a 2 week mission trip with high schoolers to Kentucky. The paper themselves are in the shape of a kiss, and the instructions are to keep them unopened until you feel you need some encouragement. Yesterday, I didn't feel I needed the encouragement, but I opened them because I thought it would be a nice way to start the new year, feeling confident and sure.
The anticipation of reminiscing, of remembering a time that was simply and uncomplicatedly good was in my heart. What I didn't anticipate was the need I actually had for encouragement and affirmation, and the sweet, beautiful truth that I would find in the words of 7 high schoolers.
At many points during those two weeks, and the weeks leading up to it, and in the weeks following, I had thought to myself countless times--what am I doing here? How have I become entrusted with the care of these kids? What can I possibly teach them about following the Lord in faith and repentance? I felt the great plans and goals I had of being a great leader and inspiration to these kids prior to the trip were way-laid when I met them and things got busy. I felt so inadequate as a leader. I doubted that my time spent on that trip had any sort of impact. I feared I had followed my own plans in this trip and hadn't followed the Lord's leading. I compared myself to the leader I had, and I fell short.
The words that found me on that "kiss" said things like inspiring, leader, amazing, encouraging and grateful. In the midst of my inadequacy, God had remained adequate. My own doubts and fears were way-laid by God's great power and grace.
This isn't to pat myself on the back. My feeble attempts at being an inspirational leader were met by God's own faithfulness in this trip. I am reminded, by reading these sweet, honest, encouraging words of some truths that I hope will guide me in the new year:
1. I am deeply inadequate. But my inadequacy, my weakness, is where Christ shines.
2. In the midst of my own questioning and wanderings, I am able to be something to others--whether that is hope, encouragement, a leader, an inspiration. I am always placed exactly where God would have me, and always for the purpose of sharing his love with others. The fact that this is all about high school students' words speaks to that--they are so young, but their passion for the Lord and their pursuit of him was so evident in those two weeks. They were shining where they were placed.
3. Others speak truth, and that truth is there for a reason. Who knew that the one liner sentences from 15 year olds could bring me to tears? But it wasn't flattery or false words. They were words I knew to be true and reflective and that is what caused me to tear up. I need to listen more often, and be okay accepting those words.
4. Faithfulness is rewarded. Not in a jewels-in-your-crown sort of way. But in ways I could never anticipate, like my feeling fulfilled in this role, six months later, even though I felt like a huge failure at the time. Keep the faith.
All this to say: 2013, you blessed me with some incredible people, young and old alike. 2014: may you find me following God as passionately as these young people, taking the turns, curves, ups, and downs in the road called life as a lesson in faithfulness.