I hope you all had a Merry Christmas!
As the year comes to a close, I’ve been reflecting on all that 2018 held for me. It’s certainly been a season of the unexpected, and yet through all of it God has worked and moved in my heart to draw me closer to Him. One way He did that was through music. Music has always been a powerful influence on my heart, as I tend to be reminded of Truth in the lyrics. In order to tell the story of my 2018, I’d like to share each month’s “song” with you. My hope and prayer is that you may also be encouraged by my story and by my songs of 2018.
January: “24/7” by Stars Go Dim – The New Year found me heading back to Baylor’s campus to partake in CL (Baylor’s version of a Resident Assistant) training and begin my final semester of senior year. I wanted to make the most of my time remaining to me at Baylor and prepare myself for my intended future ahead. “24/7” reminds me of my hopes for the beginning months of 2018, as the lyrics speak to an urgency to declare the Gospel and God’s glory to the world. I wanted to use my final semester at Baylor to glorify God by loving classmates, staff, residents, church, and friends well. This song helped me remember that since my remaining time as an undergrad and CL was short, I shouldn’t hesitate or put off things until tomorrow, especially when it came to ministering to others. Admittedly, I failed at this many times during the Spring semester, perhaps more than I succeeded. But nonetheless, January was a positive, upbeat month with very little for me to complain about and in which I felt I had done my work well for Him.
February: “Keeping Me Guessing” by Francesca Battistelli – February was a month marked by busy-ness and traveling as I began my graduate school interviews abroad while balancing school midterms and my duties at work. I dreamed big about the future and let myself picture what it would be like to be at a non-Baylor school. “Keeping Me Guessing,” one of my all-time favorite songs, speaks to more than just that, though. It’s a song that deals with the all-too-human (and, for me, all-too-familiar) cycle of impatience and remembering to trust in the sovereignty of God. February was one of those months for me: eager to begin the next stage of life, assuming what would come in the near future (aka trying to read God’s mind, which isn’t a smart idea), and realizing I needed to just rest and trust more in Him.
March: “You Make Me Brave” by Bethel Music – March brought a shift in trajectory (both in my path toward the future as well as emotionally). A series of events occurred that accumulated into a wave of low-grade depression, and my final graduate school interview (at Baylor) added major anxiety about the future to my daily thoughts. I faced a lot of fear: fear of being wrong, of utterly failing, of doors not opening the way I wanted them to—and the list goes on. That’s why “You Make Me Brave” preached such a powerful message to me. Despite all my worries and all the sorrow I felt during the month, as Easter rolled around I sought to lean into God and recall His infinite and greater love, marked by His death on the Cross for our sins. That’s love. If He did that for us, surely that meant I could trust Him and believe the Truth of His Unfailing Love for me, regardless of my trivial, temporary dilemmas like the ones I was facing at that time.
April: “Just Be Held” by Casting Crowns – Easter was celebrated to start off April with a bang, but my struggle to believe that God’s love for me was True and Perfect had only just begun. My depression worsened as more and more days passed without a word from any graduate schools. Baylor’s silence was especially painful. But I tried to keep all my hurt inside, not wanting anyone to know that I felt like a miserable, broken failure struggling with doubt and anxiety. I was trying to maintain this façade when I heard “Just Be Held” for the first time. That song wrecked me. I cried multiple times while listening to it. It speaks a powerful message of God’s presence in the midst of life’s trials, a Truth I leaned into during April and for months after.
May: “This Isn’t the End” by Colton Dixon – I graduated from Baylor and collapsed from burnout, feeling weary and uncertain but kind of okay. The pressures of my personal life, figuring out my future, and trying to pour myself out to others drove me into the ground. I had tried to do it all without really relying on Christ, something I was only able to recognize after a lot of reflection (which I had tons of time for over the summer). However, I did leave Baylor with some joy. Refreshed by being able to recognize God’s unending, unconditional love, I managed to enjoy the final weeks with residents, friends, classes, and my staff. Yes, there were many moments where I would walk away from a place and realize I may never be there again. When I drove away from Baylor after graduation, I had no clue when I’d be back, too. They’re strange feelings, ones that I’m acquainted with after my childhood as a military brat. But those moments are why “This Isn’t the End” is a powerful song for the month of May. It was a month of reminding myself that even though little had gone the way I’d expected that semester and my future was still very undecided, undergrad at Baylor was only a sliver of my life. A single chapter, not a whole novel with an unresolved ending. I kept trying, applying and interviewing for jobs, and praying for the graduate school door to miraculously open itself to me. I started to recover from my weariness and explore who I was apart from Baylor University, something I needed to do in order to move forward with my life.
June: “You’ll Find Your Way” by Andrew Peterson – June was a month of adventure. I flew to North Carolina for a friend’s wedding, then ten days later returned to the One Year Adventure Novel Summer Workshop (OYAN SW) for the first time since 2015. It was a strange, spontaneous decision that I made last minute in an attempt to reconnect with my writing, and it formed an interesting and unexpected “full circle” to my college days. OYAN SW bookends my Baylor experience and was something I had to give up during my summers in order to pursue opportunities at Baylor. If my plan for graduate school had gone as I had intended, I wouldn’t have gone to SW this year. However, my heart was heavier going into this SW than in previous years. I craved hope. I felt alone. God met me at OYAN SW right on that first day. The theme of that workshop was “From the Ashes,” a visible picture of rising out of the sorrows of life and becoming new. I also met Andrew Peterson and heard him speak. “You’ll Find Your Way” was one of the songs he performed and it brought me to tears (as did a few of his other songs). His performance encouraged me to hold onto hope, especially “You’ll Find Your Way.” Lastly, and most importantly, OYAN SW allowed me to connect with a dear friend of mine. We shared many late night conversations and walks, meeting each other in our individual brokenness and worries for the future. And, of course, sharing more than a few laughs. I left that week feeling refreshed and connected with others.
June is a great stopping point, as it ends on a lighter note and conveniently marks the middle of the year. However, 2018 was far from over, and changes of the heart don’t occur overnight. I would still (and perhaps still do, to a certain degree) struggle to maintain hope in God, which marks the second half of this past year’s journey.
The Second Half will be posted next week!