Arguably, the worst part of turning 23 is that Taylor Swift’s “22” no longer feels like my personal anthem. Is tonight the perfect night to dress up like hipsters? Can life still feel miserable and magical at the same time? Guess I’m about to find out…
Looking back on all that the past year held for me, it’s hard to imagine this next year even coming close in terms of significance. I graduated college, I had a surgery I’ve been putting off for years, I moved to the other side of the world. Actually, all those things happened within a month and a half, so my 22nd year really held so much more: a TEDx talk, fundraising $12,000, getting to help baptize some students. It was a year of risk, a year of discovering joy, and a year of growing up…
I still remember finally making my dream of a road trip to the Grand Canyon a reality over spring break – and the awe I felt when I watched the snowy sun rise. I still remember my apprehension the night I told my parents I was planning on moving to Malawi. I remember too many hospital visits – a night in the ER with Chey, visiting Kiara after her appendix was removed, my thyroid surgery, and my five-day stint as Marco’s nurse the week before I left the country. I remember being amazed at the work God did in our students at winter camp – and my bitter, honest conversation I had with Him on the mountain, upset He was asking me to leave. I remember the New Year’s Day hike we took in SLO, as we overlooked the ocean and shared what 2013 meant for us, and what we hoped 2014 would hold. I remember the pain of Kayla’s phone call when she called me about Chloe, the confusion I felt when I heard about three friends of mine in Malawi passing away in a car accident, and the numbness I experienced after my Grandma died. I remember so many great Tuesday nights with my Flood Ladies – so much laughter, so much vulnerability, and so much good dessert. I remember feeling so honored to be a part of Cheyenne and Sierra’s baptism, and even more honored to be a part of their story. I remember thinking I was going to throw up before walking on stage to give my TEDx talk, and I remember feeling so blown away by my community that night. I remember countless trips to McDonalds with my girls for ice cream, but even more I remember honest questions and conversations about faith that seemed far too mature for high schoolers to be asking – and how proud I was of how far they have come. I remember messing up the time for a final in December and having a mental breakdown in my professor’s office; I also remember the worst finals week of my life in March – 4 finals in 24 hours. And as soon as I got home from the last one, grabbing a granola bar and leaving to pick up a car full of my girls to drive to Melody’s house and surprise her with cupcakes for her birthday. I remember feeling so excited and so accomplished to finally graduate from college and earn a degree… and how underwhelmed I felt after that long awaited day was over. I remember watching so many of my friends fall in love and discover they finally found the person they want to spend the rest of their lives with. I remember getting to watch (sometimes from overseas) friends take that next step into marriage, or get engaged – and the joy you experience when you know your best friend has found their life long partner. I remember the drive home from summer camp, when I had a mini van full of high school girls who voluntarily shared their testimonies with each other. I remember being homeless the whole month of July, and yet being taken care of every single day thanks to my amazing Flood family. I remember Marco’s and my first week together in Malawi, simultaneously falling in love with the country and wondering what in the world we agreed to. I remember so many good times with friends – long road trips, short coffee dates, dinner shared at various apartments, and phone calls made to span the distance. I also remember a lot of difficulty – hard conversations, painful seasons, and tough decisions. I remember more awkward moments than I care to admit, that I (luckily) survived. And I remember time and time again witnessing God follow through on His promises.
I celebrated my 22nd birthday with a group of my closest girlfriends wine tasting and line dancing in Temecula. Nothing seemed better than celebrating with the people who knew me the longest and knew me the deepest. I spent my 23rd eating Ethiopian food with completely new faces around the table – my oldest friend there I’ve only known since January. A year later, and an entirely opposite situation. Yet each were so perfect for the season I was in.
Last year I needed help discovering who I am; I needed reminders that I have worth. I needed people who have seen my worst and love me regardless, as well as who have seen my best and remind me of all I have to offer. I needed people who encouraged me to dream – because it was a year of dreaming big. I needed people who would cheer me on – because it was a year of taking leaps of faith. And I needed people who saw the work God was doing in me and through me – when it felt like I was in over my head and I just wanted to give up all together.
This year I needed people who would celebrate me, even when they still barely know me. I needed new friends who are caring and passionate and wonderful enough to quickly – over a few months – become old friends. I needed people who are totally different from me, to show me to embrace my strengths and weaknesses alike. And that’s exactly what I got. God knew what I needed, He always does.
I have a lot to look forward to in this next year, I also have a lot to be apprehensive about; I know that 23 will be equally full of the bitter and the sweet. But that’s part of what I’m excited about, the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. God is present in all of it, He is with us in all of it, and is He continually writing the redemptive story of our lives it all of it – every day, every year. It’s time to see what my chapter twenty three holds.