5 Things I Learned in 2011

For me, twenty-eleven was a long year that went by really fast. I feel like it was such a busy, crazy year, but I learned a lot going through it. So I decided to reflect on five things in particular that stand out to me, things I’ll be carrying into this year and allowing to influence me. :)

01 | No is a Good Word
I said yes to a lot of work related things in 2011. I was second shooting at weddings for about six different photographers who all had dates for me to photograph along side them. Between those dates, I had my day-job, family things, time with friends, church gatherings, my own photography work, a trip to Ireland, etc. It was busy. The longer I was in that world, working weekend after weekend, the more drained I became. I missed being with my church group that meets every other Saturday night. I wasn’t seeing people in general nearly as often as I wanted to, but was often too tired to make the time to hang out. I felt totally exhausted physically, spiritually and emotionally. By the end, I found myself with bronchitis for over a month before catching a sinus infection that just went away in the last week or so. Through all of that, I learned how I didn’t want to do things ever again. I learned that sometimes you have to say no, even if you don’t really want to. Sometimes something good comes up, something that you’d love to be involved in, and you have to say no. If you don’t, you run yourself ragged in the hustle and bustle of doing. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself too busy for people in your life that matter. You’ll end up wanting nothing but rest. I feel like I learned this the hard way in 2011, but guess what– in 2012, I’m already saying no and using a little more wisdom in what I do say yes to, and it feels good.

02 | The Things of Earth Will Grow Strangely Dim
I struggled with a few things this year in terms of focus, of sin vs. righteousness, of being intentional. It’s so easy for the mind to linger on those things that shouldn’t be allowed into your mind- the negative, the things that are not in line with Philippians 4:8. I finally came to the understanding this past year of what “taking every thought captive” entails. It’s hard and totally not doable by our own strength, only with the Spirit in us. I discovered that when I was actively praying, memorizing Scripture, seeking Christ, and casting away the lesser things– when my eyes were fixed on Jesus— that I was able to see those thoughts captured and replaced by other things. I became less interested in things that would have, on other days, held my attention. It was just like the song Helen Lemmel wrote: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.

03 | I like Being Single.
Oh, I just heard the gasps from here. ;)

This year I discovered that I really do enjoy where I am right now. I don’t mind being single; in fact, I’m enjoying it a lot! I hear so many people around my age who are getting discouraged or sad because they don’t have a boyfriend and “all their friends” are engaged or married or having babies. It makes me so sad for them. This is the time we’re given, a time that isn’t going to ever come again. I feel like there’s so much that can be done when you’re in the season of being single… so much to learn, to see, to do, and to become. While I have this time, I want to make it count. I want to go to the places I’m called to, grow in my faith and my very person. There’s nothing wrong with being single. Dare I say it- there’s nothing wrong with not even having a boyfriend. Your life doesn’t start when you’re rockin’ a ring and your heart doesn’t need a man in order to beat. I’ve been learning to use this time wisely, to be content in what I’m given in the present, and to be listening to the leadings of the Holy Spirit to move forward. If you’re not doing those things, you won’t ever be able to be joyful in your circumstances. I don’t want to always be looking for the next thing to make me happy. I want to live in the present joy. Someday that may include “the one,” but for now, it includes The One and for me, that’s enough.

(Please don’t think I have something against marriage or that I don’t want to be married or be introduced to my future husband. I do, somedays I want it more than I should, but I only want it when the time is right. Until then, I want to keep moving forward and be glad in the days the Lord has made. That’s all.) 

04 | God Loves a Giddy Giver?
At the end of 2010 I made some commitments in terms of money and giving. I’d come to the realization that it’s not my money to begin with and I should be spending the money I’m given on things that matter. So this past year was a year of giving beyond what was “normal.” My tithe grew, I donated to charities, and helped fund friends’ missions trips to foreign lands. Around the holidays I participated in the Salvation Army’s Adopt-A-Family program and bought a small family some Christmas gifts- things they needed and things they’d enjoy having. (I highly recommend checking into that for next year! It’s such an incredible way to help local families who can’t afford gifts.) I gave toward Living Christ Now projects via Living Church, too. I probably participated in more monetary giving this year than in any other and it made me so happy. I found myself cheerful about it, at times sliding into that state of being absolutely giddy. And guess what: I never missed that money. I had everything I needed and still enough to have dinner with friends or grab a coffee, still enough to pay my student loan installments and credit card payments each month, and enough to save for a few things.

I don’t say any of this to toot my own horn. What I am trying to say is that if you keep your hand open and watch some $20s slipping away in 2012, keep watching. You’ll see them sail on the wind and land at the feet of others. Maybe it’ll turn into a meal for a homeless man or a Bible for an inner city kid. Maybe it’ll become a Christmas gift for a single mom and her little one. Maybe it’ll be the last bit of cash that allows someone to meet needs overseas and share the gospel. Maybe it’ll change a life. And maybe in turn, it’ll change yours, too.

05 | People Have to be Priorities

I try to be a good friend and family member. This past year I failed at that in a lot of ways and I didn’t even realize it at first. I had a busy year, and because of that a lot of things fell by the way side. A lot of people fell by the way side. Then suddenly it was late fall and I was sitting in funeral homes and churches, crying over lives lost; I was talking to friends over coffee and dinner and we’re sharing life and I’m finding out how hard life has been for them lately. How they were struggling- had been for awhile- and I had no idea. And I realized that I’m not nearly as good of a friend as I like to think I am. It was incredibly sobering and humbling. There were moments I was with friends who I feel like I’m losing; and I remind myself that sometimes people are supposed to be in our lives for seasons. At the same time, I wonder if that’s just something we say when sometimes friends drift apart because you don’t make them priorities. You don’t try to make the relationship work, so it doesn’t and you part ways. That thought makes me really sad. So for 2012, I’ve been making plans to make sure I’m present in the lives of those around me this year. I want to share life, not just muddle through it.

So in a nutshell, that was what I learned in 2011. 2012, I’m looking at you differently. Let’s roll. :)

Random Highlights of 2011
-Going to Ireland with Jess
-Having a fun Panera lunch with friends of all ages for my 21st birthday
-Mini trips with friends, like Metamora, IN with Lizz and Franklin, TN with Arielle
-Being in my best friend, Blair’s wedding
-Getting my new camera, Marco Pollo, the Canon 5D Mark ii
-Seeing God’s faithfulness firsthand in big ways (more on this very soon!)