My family’s favourite song is “Secret Of Life” by James Taylor. Trust me when I say that song has brought us all to tears on multiple occasions and holds what feels like a million moments within its chords. The lyrics say that the secret of life is enjoying the passage of time – “try not to try too hard,” he sings, “it’s just a lovely ride.” In another verse he says that opening your heart is the secret. It’s okay to be afraid, but don’t let fear keep you from loving, because “love is the only road.” My personal favourite song is “Stop This Train,” which – shocking, I know – is one of John Mayer’s best. In the chorus he sings “stop this train, I want to get off and go home again, can’t take the speed its moving in.” The turning point of the song is a conversation he has with his father, who tells him to embrace the time he is in, because no one will ever stop the train.
This has been a big year for me, and while I’ve grown up listening and loving those songs, this is the first year where I’ve really heard them, I think. Looking back at this year, I feel like I grew ten inches in about ten minutes. In many ways it seemed like I was just along for the ride – rolling with punches and riding mountain-top highs in rapid succession and earnestly seeking to find my constant in Christ. Seeing as it’s my birthday and this is my blog and all.. I wanted to take a minute to record my favourite memories from the year, because I truly just lived and loved without holding anything back, and dang. It was a heckuva year. So here are the best twenty-one moments of my twenty-first year, and some of the stuff I learned along the way.
One) Spent an entire week in Kananaskis, hiding away in the mountains with my family. We laughed. We swam in freezing cold lakes. We star gazed. It was an incredible week.
Two) Became the RA of Houghton 4 West. I fell in love with the women on my floor; no part of my heart was left unaffected by these women.
Three) Celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving with my brosis.
Four) Went to NYC ‘cause why the heck not? I had a free bed to sleep in and found a cheap ticket. It was unexpectedly quite the weekend of self-discovery, lol.
Five) Shared Chicago with Molly. It was so special to have some one on one time and to have her see and love Chicago as much as I do!
Six) Had a ridiculous snowball fight in Lincoln Park Zoo with my brosis. Not a single regret.
Seven) Celebrated Christmas at homeeeee & watched my big brother propose!! Just a lot of love in those two weeks all around 🙂
Eight) Completed another Dressember challenge!!
Nine) Shared my testimony with my brother floor – nerve wracking at the time, precious to recall.
Ten) Four of my friends from Nairobi moved to London and I had the incredible, unbelievable opportunity to visit them. As an added bonus, our friend from Germany, Vela, came to town as well! It was a gift to reconnect with them all. (I also loved London!)
Eleven) Met up with my occasional friend Meg Steffen for a day in Paris.
Twelve) Fulfilled a lifelong dream and finally made it to Venice!
Thirteen) Spent a dreamlike week in Naples with Camryn, a sweet young woman with an affinity for dogs and French fries, her parents who continue to so graciously care for me, and the Caras, who have been such an encouragement to me.
Fourteen) Escaped reality and got to bring all my best friends with me for the weekend.
Fifteen) Celebrated Easter with my family. There aren’t words for this weekend – it was just too good.
Sixteen) Saw John Mayer in concert. Needless to say, seeing him in concert was a dream come true. Seeing him with my family made it even sweeter. (Best birthday gift EVER.)
Seventeen) Brosis breakfast picnic on the beach, including: singing together, kites, bubbles, sand castles, chalk, and a lot of laughter. I had been up late the whole week scrambling to prepare for that event and finals (woof), and I remember that morning was like I didn’t have a care in the world. It was perfect. Annnnd it was followed by my body actually collapsing in exhaustion against my own volition, so I also learned an important physical limit to how long I can survive without sleep (which is approximately 15 days on an average of 4 hours a night, if you were wondering). Good mems.
Eighteen) Emma came to visit me and it was pretty much the best – we laughed so hard, so many times… It was good for my soul.
Nineteen) Went on a sunset boat cruise while Em was here. It was beautiful – Chicago, I love thee.
Twenty) Visited Riles in her hometown. It was such a peaceful and refreshing weekend. A definite highlight was sitting on her patio, watching the sun drop behind a completely uninterrupted horizon as fireflies winked at us from the fields.
Twenty-One) Celebrated Independence Day for the first time post-Texas! I got to picnic with some of my favourite Americans, feasting on fresh fruit and pop-rock Oreos, line dancing, and blowing bubbles. That night Riley, Emily, and myself found ourselves driving down the highway with the windows down, screaming angsty lyrics at the Chicago skyline as fireworks exploded on either side of us as we drove back to school.
When I was a girl we had this dog named Charlie, and on walks he would nearly choke himself, straining against the leash. I’ve lived the majority of my life like Charlie – wanting to escape, constantly overreaching, desperate for what comes next, longing for adventure. Reminiscing about the best moments of the year is wonderful salute to 21… but what I don’t want to forget are all the in-between moments from this past year where I began to learn how to actually walk with Jesus without running ten steps ahead like Charlie (or digging my heels in and refusing to follow). “Walking with Jesus” is one of those phrases we all throw around, but something I only truly began to live this past year.
Trust me, I still have my moments, but overall this has been a year of submission and surrender and subsequent joy. It delights me to see how much work the Lord has done in my life over the past year. He continues to heal some of my oldest and deepest wounds, to teach and grow me, and he has given me such a beautiful community – a place to belong and flourish for this part of my life… During which I have taken some hard knocks and eaten a lot of humble pie. I’ve learned the perseverance of just putting one foot in front of another in the face of discouragement or sheer exhaustion (or both). I’ve been learning to live worshipfully. I think something I’m currently being taught is patience, which, ugh, am I right? Ya this was a big learning year (hopefully they all are) and the best thing I learned (am I allowed to rank them..?) was love. Ultimately, when I look back at this year, I see a lot of faces I loved recklessly and with radical abandon and why did it take me so long to do that???? It’s the best? I have never lived a year so overwhelmed by such amazing people – who came in all shapes and sizes, mind you. My family, women on my floor, men on Culby 16, professors, mentors, supervisors, members of my church, coworkers, and the list goes on and on.. I am so incredibly thankful for each of you.
I live a full life that is brimming with opportunity: I am rich beyond reason with people to love, ways to grow, things to learn, places to explore, chances to serve and work, reasons to laugh, and just the gift of being. I’m learning the secret of life – enjoying time, loving, and learning to just get on the train instead of trying to control life haha. Best of all, I am learning to love the Lord my God with all that I am. I praise God for this year and all of you. How good he is!!