Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Year Can Change a Lot of Things...

"Alicia, a year can change a lot of things..."

I remember my friend "A" saying this to me in college. It was the end of our senior year, and she was about to graduate. (I however would be taking another year to finish, earning status as a member of the oh so cool "Five Year" Club.) We were talking about the upcoming year and the many things God might have in store for me as I stayed behind while she and many of my friends graduated and moved forward in life. And we were talking about the ways God had changed her life in the past year - going on a mission trip, growing in her walk with Christ and her desire for serving through ministry and missions.....and the boy she had gotten to know on that trip. The boy she had kind of known the year before the trip who was finishing up his education, graduating, and moving on before her senior year. This was the boy she was now preparing to marry just a couple months after graduation - to begin a life of service and ministry together, attending seminary, and seeking where God would lead from there. I remember wondering if God would allow me to meet someone that fifth year of college, someone I would one day marry and serve alongside. God had taken that "year" and brought the two of them together after becoming friends on the mission trip as they served together.

A year is a long time. And I think if you reflect on every year - things always change. Growth happens. Joy is abundant. Times are challenging. Questions arise. Goals are made. Work is done. And many other things that also apply to a year. God didn't have in store for me to meet someone and marry them in that year. He did, however, continue to grow and change my heart. He deepened my passion for kids as I observed, student-taught, tutored, served in church nursery and children's choir, and spent the following summer with a wonderful kiddo. He allowed me to learn more about internationals, their time here in America, their thoughts, desires, fears, and personalities. To teach ESL in a community program and build relationships. He grew my heart and passion for international missions, particularly for Africa, where I'd had the opportunity to go on a mission trip two summers before. He allowed me to graduate, finishing the music education degree I so intently felt like giving up on throughout my five years. He provided a job close to home and friends and family there to love, support, and encourage me as I began "life."

You could say that my friend A's quote has applied to every year of life since then. After all, a year is just a measurement of time. Even a month, a week, a day, or an hour can change a lot of things. But, a year also provides a bigger picture.

Over the past six years, I've remembered what A said. I've prayed that God would allow me to experience the "changes" He desires. I've been through ups and downs and growth and frustration and goals and loneliness and joy and friendships. The one thing that hasn't changed is his faithfulness and presence. He has remained at my side, even at the times I forget to walk next to Him.

I've grown as a teacher, as an individual, as a single person, as a friend. I've applied to pursue my heart for international missions full-time, had that dream put on hold, learned about life with lupus which thankfully hasn't been a hindrance, seen friends meet their best friends and be married, celebrated births,  been encouraged by prayer warriors, past professors, and new friends. I've started my masters in ESL with no idea where/how God will use that one day but knowing He will, and I've learned to like myself.  (This was a big deal for me!)

So, while I think back to the original meaning of that quote - the context for my friend's life in which she was referring to big life changes like college graduation and marriage...I realize I always thought that was what it would mean for me. And I waited for that "year" to come. But I also see that I was missing something. I was failing to look at the hours, days, weeks, months, and years that God was working in other ways. How different my life might be now if He had allowed me to have "my" idea of the year that "changes a lot of things..." at that time and not His.

I guess in a round about way, I'm trying to say that I am so thankful for this last year He has provided me and the best friend He saw fit to bring into my life that I will soon share the rest of my life with. But I also see now the many ways God was growing me, changing me, using me, and directing me in His will and timing...not simply to lead to a marriage. That is not the capstone to this crazy life of mine. It is merely the beginning of many more "years that will change a lot of things." It is God's way of continuing to carry me into new ways of growing in Him, finding joy, facing challenges, having questions, setting goals, working, and serving Him wholeheartedly just as I have done in singleness. And, just as I said earlier, even with all life brings, the consistent and wonderful Hope I have comes in the fact that my heart belongs first to Christ. To the God who created it. He is the One who will walk beside me no matter what the circumstances of life are.

Last time I wrote, God had allowed me to meet a friend I had been waiting for my whole life. Someone I had been praying for, even before I met him. And sometimes knowing who he is now seems surreal. So, I know it's been a long time since I've written, and if you don't know me, you might not know yet that I am engaged to this best friend now. And I love this picture, because it reminds me that true love must be a three-way bond. Each of us must first rely on Christ, and He will bring us together and unite our hearts as one in Him. I look forward to the many more "years that will change a lot of things..."