Oh boy, where to begin...More has happened in this calendar year than I ever thought was possible. I got to live out so many of my dreams. It almost brings me to my knees thinking on how God gave me so many huge blessings in such a short amount of time.
I spent eight weeks in DC. I spent my 20th birthday touring one of the most beautiful cities in the country.
I held my first job.
I checked a huge thing off my bucket list when I got to tour the White House
I spent the 4th of July sitting by the Washington Monument.
I learned so much in those eight weeks, in my classes, at my job, at TFAS events, from strangers I met in the most random ways, I could never fully detail it all here. It was just one major step in me working my way towards the dreams I've had since I was 15.
At Campbell, I found something I was passionate about in the College Democrats.
I got to spend time with local politicians.
I got to go to my first political convention and met people like Duke Mason
and Zach Wahls.
I worked the polls on Election Day and went to an election party that was a total blast.
And through all of that, along with the Comparative Foreign Government class I took in the fall, I became 100% certain that I was in the right field.
Outside of that club, I made new friendships and strengthened old ones.
Ryann and I became more like sisters than ever. This year was so much more fun having her around to experience it with. I can't imagine not being friends with this girl. I've said it before, but for every way that we are different, there are 5 ways that we are alike. We balance each other. It just works. It's such a blessing when neither of you has to try.
Alex. Man, this kid became one of my best friends faster than just about anyone I've ever known. We connected over politics, bonded over TFAS, and in between started sharing way more personal things with each other. He's been here for me through everything and never once wavered. I am so thankful for the heart he has for people, and that he knows that I would do absolutely anything for him in return.
Matt and I are better than ever. We barely ever get to see each other anymore, but when we do, it's as "us" as ever. We've found our place, and the dynamic of best friends and big brother/little sister is just right. I honestly can't imagine him being anything else at this point.
One of the coolest things that happened to me this year on the friends front was finally getting to hug the neck of my sweet sister-friend, JD. It's hard to imagine that after everything we've witnessed in each other's lives since we found each other online in April 2009, that this was the first time we met. I thank God often for her presence in my life, and that He brought her to North Carolina so that I could hug her.
Also pretty high on the list of epic things that happened? When Paddy came to visit. Getting reunited with one of my favorite Brits after 4+ years was ridiculously awesome.
Hands down the best week of the year was the week I got to spend in Nashville with The Vespers. They were already my dear friends by this time, but after those four days, I admired and appreciated them on a completely new level. They made me feel special in a week that was (rightfully!) all about them. They, along with their incredible crew of friends, made me feel right at home from the second I arrived. I hope and pray I get to go back to that city one day.
This week was also incredibly special to me because of April 5th, the night at Sanctuary, the night I got baptized. One night I will certainly never be forgetting. It was a monumental step forward in my walk with Christ.
Despite everything, I'm still thankful for this kid. He played a big role in that night and encouraged me in the weeks after even when I didn't want to hear him. He made me promise I'd never forget how I felt that night, and that was one promise that wasn't difficult in the least for me to keep. I remember everything about it.
And to have two of my best friends there to witness it and celebrate it with me made it even more special. That night was the first night I looked at these two and realized they aren't just my friends, they're my brothers.
I'm still feeling the effects of that night, to be quite honest. That night and the many talks we had after that night bonded Taylor and I together, and I am so thankful for how close we are now. I can go to that guy with absolutely anything and know he'll help me as best as he knows how, and vice versa. The best part of it, though, is that this doesn't end here. He texted me on Thanksgiving that he "prays to stand by me in faith for many years to come," and I truly pray the same.
Also because of that night at Sanctuary (and Taylor), I got connected with this beautiful girl right here, Kyla. I've never actually met her, but I feel like I've known her my entire life. I am so honored to be her friend. One of my top goals now is to find a way to meet her! Preferably soon. :) She, along with the other lovely girl below her, feels like my big sister. She is such a blessing to me every single day.
Caitie. Just like Kyla, this girl is my big sister. I met her at the Vespers show in August, and everything just sort of fell into place from there. I don't know what else to say that I haven't already said. These two have helped me through more than I can explain. I am continuously blown away by the fact that God chose to bless me with girls like this. They taught me a love I didn't know I was missing - the love of reliable, open, honest, Christian girlfriends. Like Caitie has told me, "it is such a blessing to like someone and have them like you back." Yep. :)
The last highlight I'd like to mark of this year was how God finally convinced me to go home. I found a church family for the first time in more than 6 years. I felt like I was home from the second I walked in the doors. Sanctuary was the first night I'd felt like I could maybe open myself up to a church family again, but I still struggled with the fear. It took time, but through the encouragement of Taylor, Kyla, Caitie, and Brennan, and mostly the power of God never giving up on breaking down my walls, I went and am so glad I did. The crowd at this church made me feel as at home as I did at Sanctuary from the very beginning.
Last year, I ended my 2011 Year in Review post with this: "Here's to the crazy, God-breathed roller coaster ride that awaits us in 2012." Did that come true or what? This year of my life has been full of harsh lows, but also the most exhilarating, breathtaking, joyous highs. And I couldn't be more thankful for every bit of it because every tear shed both in joy and in pain has brought me to where I am now.
A year ago, I never could've imagined or predicted I'd be so filled with joy. If you had told me that I'd be this crazy about Jesus, that I'd go to Nashville to see friends and end up getting baptized, that I'd start reading my Bible again, that I'd become the girl who gets giddy with excitement about going to church, that I'd have as many Godly, beautiful, loving friends as I do now, I wouldn't have believed you. But I think it just makes it that much more special.
God has become more real to me this year than ever before. I have felt His presence in places that used to make me feel like I was drowning. I have been shown glimpses of His love to me through the ever-present support of so many wonderful friends. I have had my eyes opened to the grace that constantly surrounds me, even in my pain. His unending grace and mercy has filled me with a passion to become more of a warrior for His kingdom every single day.
My biggest prayer going into 2013 is that He takes everything I have learned in my walk with Him this year and multiplies it. I pray that He overwhelms me with the desire to shout His glory to everyone I meet, no matter what. I pray that I may die to self again and again every single day so that I may shine the light and love of Jesus Christ to my loved ones and my enemies alike. I pray that He takes the gifts He put in my character and directs me to use them to the fullest possible extent for His kingdom. I love people, and I want to show the world how much more God loves them, because without Him, none of my dreams or passions or goals or loves mean anything.
Here's to the beauty that awaits us, my friends. May we all have eyes that are always open to recognize His grace, hearts that are overflowing with His love, hands that are constantly working for His purpose, and spirits humble enough to boast in our weakness, because in our weakness, there we find His strength.
This is just the beginning.