A new year is always a time of reflection; a summing up of the year past, and the start of a new chapter.
I could call 2017 a lot of things. The Year of the Rollercoaster. The Year I Got The Wind Knocked Out of Me. The Year of Multiple Heartbreaks. Or maybe The Year I found My Muscle. Whatever it was, it was another year of refinement. And here's what God taught me along the way:
1. Never Settle
A finalized divorce. A job I felt loyal to, yet consumed me. A single income that wasn't always pretty. Opening my heart again to dating in my 30s which proved to be much more difficult than I ever imagined. Disappointment. Hurt. And with my life not looking anything like I wanted it to, a yearning for more.
What I knew was that none of these things defined me. My relationship status. My job. My income. None of it was my identity. God reminded me to keep my eyes fixed on Him. On being a daughter to The Most High King. It was He who taught me my value. He who taught me my worth. And He taught me to never let the aforementioned things above to strip me or deplete me. He was my answer to being whole; He alone carved my identity. With him, I was unshakeable. And so I put my confident trust in Him, even through the momentary pain. And I decided that I will never settle for less than ever again.
2. Relentless Love Regardless...
"You have heard it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also...And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles." (Matthew 5:38-41)
Let me be perfectly honest here. Last year I had moments of weakness. Moments of despair. I tripped up. And it wasn't always a perfect walk. There were times when I had to turn my other cheek. And there were moments that I had keep my head held high and walk away. But through it all, God taught me to love. Only by Him. While the former me would have been defensive, angry, tit for tat - I wasn't. Yes, I had times when I wanted to shut down, when I wanted to build a wall up around my heart - but I didn't. Transformed, He taught me to be secure in Him. And as a result, I was able to radiate love through all circumstances. And I will continue to keep my heart open. I will continue to love relentlessly. All because He first relentlessly loved me.
3. Grace, Grace, + More Grace
"Grace, Lauren. Grace. Be a woman of grace." His whisper followed me to be strong and courageous. To be a warrior. To clothe myself in strength and dignity. To know and stand for what is right and wrong. To love valiantly, yet to forgive. To extend the grace that is extended to me every single day. To stand up for myself, yet be merciful. To carry myself in a way that honors God and honors myself. And so I did just that. With no regrets. None.
4. Leaps of Faith
Sometimes God calls you to make a bold move. Sometimes you just need a shake-up. Sometimes you just have to say yes to the adventure. And so I did. Dare I say that I quit my full-time job in marketing to pursue my own business? All because I wanted to live authentically. A life of balance. A life that I preached. And dare I say that I am now working at a high-end restaurant as a server for the first time in my life to help make some extra income? Yep, it's true. And I have no shame. God has called me into unchartered waters for this season for a reason. And I am going along for the adventure, trusting His provision. Full of hope.
I leave 2017 better than when it started. Grateful for it all - the good and the bad - all of it beautiful because of who I became.
Never settle. Love relentlessly regardless. Be of grace and extend grace. Take leaps of faith. And believe in the Goodness of God.
2018 already feels promising. I will live with fire in my heart. I will seek only a relationship where I am loved and cherished. I will live a life led by my values. I will live passionately. I will follow my dreams. I will live with love. I won't back down. I will never give up. I will follow my God with intentional obedience. And I will move forward with anticipation. Trusting. With belief.
2018: The Year of The Comeback.