2016 was a challenging year... Let's recap.
I began the year as a high school junior in a fairly new relationship with J (my first relationship, mind you). I was convinced that I was going to marry this boy. I was content with my life and over the moon at how well J treated me.
As March and April rolled around, my body started to ache in ways it hadn't before. I consistently had stomach pain, my migraines were at an all-time high, and I was hit with crippling fatigue. Being a private school student with a devoted work ethic, I HATE missing school, but I ended up going half days to manage my health and my studies. I was in and out of the doctor, but we never could pinpoint what was causing me to feel so shut down. I scheduled an appointment with one neurologist and got on the waiting list for a different neurologist. Went ahead and had an MRI (clear, btw) and waited to see more doctors. All the while, J stayed by me, helping where he could.
May came and I saw one neurologist -- long story short, didn't return back to that one. Suffered through the end of school... Looking back, I had a fantastic group of friends and people that loved me enough to invite me to things that distracted me from the health issues.
In June, I cut out caffeine from my diet. Withdrawal was rough, but the migraines eased up a smidge. I also stopped taking any kind of over-the-counter pain killer (they didn't do much anyway). J was still there.
July came and I finally got to see the neurologist that everyone recommended. She ran a slew of tests on me to try and find the root of the problems, rather than just treat the symptoms. Turns out, I have 7 food allergies, am deficient in various vitamins, and I have a high gluten intolerance. Massive diet change meant massive body change. The first couple of weeks were rough and I even ended up in the ER with what we thought was early appendicitis, but it ended up just being my stomach in shock from the diet changes. Understandable.
As my body slowed down, though, I mentally slowed down. I truly believe that God sent me my sicknesses to cause me to slow down emotionally and evaluate what I was doing in my friendships and relationships. Psalm 46:10 was my battle-cry from April-July. "Be still and know that I am God." I remember in late April/early May feeling uneasy about my relationship with J. As I brought my concerns to God, he showed me that my concerns were legitimate, but I made the sinful decision to push these red flags under the rug. I didn't want to admit that I was wrong.
When my health started to show signs of improving late summer, I began to seriously pay attention to what the Holy Spirit was showing me about my relationship with J. He told me to watch our conversations. I realized that we didn't have many serious conversations... I didn't feel like I could open up to him about things. It was awkward and weird. When we did have a conversation that was more serious minded, it was always centered around the topic of marriage. God showed me that this was not okay, but I, again, didn't want to admit it.
One Friday in August, I was meeting a friend at Starbucks, and we started talking about J. Out of habit, I said, "Yeah, I think I'm going to marry him." My friend, who I consider to be very in touch with the Spirit and attentive to His leadings, immediately said, "Sarah, that's not something you should be dwelling on." He continued to speak to me about how I was putting J on a pedestal, making him an idol in my life, rather than focusing on He who actually deserves that position. The words my friend spoke to me that rainy Friday afternoon were the exact words that the Holy Spirit had impressed on me (totally went to the bathroom and cried in the middle of Starbucks. Casual.).
The following Tuesday, I shared this with J and broke up with him. I had such a sense of peace about it that it felt so right that it almost seemed wrong... if that makes any sense at all... Divine Peace is a funny thing like that.
At this time, God put the words "Trust" and "Go" on my heart. He told me to trust that He was going to take care of every worry I had and to go where He would lead. Our theme verse at school became a very important verse in my life... "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9.
After this, Jesus began to put each friendship I had on display and question just how important it was to me. It was a moment of fear and nervousness, but he reminded me to trust and go and to be strong and courageous, for He is with me. I metaphorically threw my friendships in the air and let him carry the chaff away.
The Lord blessed me with new friends and renewed relationships that I could invest myself in, and I am still learning how to serve Him through these friendships.
In late October, I met a guy, C, and we began to get to know each other to see if there could be a relationship... We began dating in mid-November, and dated up until Christmas. C was my best friend. He was an amazing guy that God sent to teach me more about myself than I ever thought there was to learn. C knew a lot about life and about not being afraid to be who you are, but there was one thing that we never really lined up on. C and I stood for different things when it came to our faith. C claimed Christianity, but he was honest enough to admit that it simply wasn't something that he saw as important in his life as I did. While I strive to make my decisions based on my faith, he doesn't. God used another incredibly Godly friend of mine to speak assurance to me that this was not my future husband. It was a continued moment of "trust and go and do not be afraid", and I've never felt closer to Christ than I do at the end of 2016. The day after this relationship came to an end, my pastor preached about how it's not always easy to live for Christ, but it is always worth it. I am so grateful that He has purpose in everything.
I thought I knew what God had in store for my year, but as soon as I felt comfortable, He shook my world. I wouldn't want it any other way. I saw something on Twitter that said, "No mater what has happened in your past, you're not disqualified. Jesus isn't shocked by your past. He loves you just as you are." (@judwilhite) Oh, how grateful I am for this truth!!! I am so incredibly glad that when Jesus looks at me He is not caught off guard that I screwed up again, but He has it already written into His plan for my life. What a mighty God we serve.
I want to close this out with some lyrics and verses and quotes that have been on my heart recently. I hope these serve as encouragement for you in 2017.
Michael W. Smith --> "Sovereign Over Us"
"Even what the enemy means for evil You turn it for our good and for Your glory. Even in the valley You are faithful. You're working for our good and for Your glory. Your plans are still to prosper. You have not forgotten us. You're with us in the fire and the flood. You're faithful forever; You're perfect in love. You are sovereign over us."
@lukelezon "messy hand make beautiful pottery. as God molds and shapes you, it may look messy, but there is beauty in it. there is purpose."
2 Timothy 1:8-9 "Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began..."
J. S. Park "I just think that sometimes we dress up Jesus as a doe-eyed haloed white American surfer holding dry-cleaned sheep and he said things like 'I love you no matter what' all the time. And while it's absolutely true that he loves us no matter what, the love of Jesus was absolutely ferocious, life-changing, and heart-rending. Anyone who met Jesus would never, ever be the same. There's no neutral reaction to him, or else we haven't met him."
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
Isaiah 43:2 "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you."
I love you all. He loves you all. Stay Salty and stay Light. Matthew 5:13-16.