Tuesday, January 5, 2016

thirty three.

Sunday was my birthday (hooray, cake!).

I thought it would be fitting to share a little insight. A little encouragement for a weary soul that's tired of holding onto hope that feels like the things you desire most will never come to pass.

A year ago I really didn't want to be alive anymore. I couldn't see how things would get better. I knew I needed to trust God but it was so incredibly hard to trust the One I believed had the power to have changed things, but didn't do it. I couldn't imagine my life being so radically changed as it would be and I couldn't imagine how any of that would be good. Better yet, fulfilling.

Nothing really ever happens overnight. If it does, I'd challenge that it's slowly been coming to pass for a while, but to the naked eye it looks instantaneous.

In God's beautiful timing He has revealed a new greater plan and purpose to me. It's not anything that sends me overseas on mission fields. It's nothing that has me selling all my possessions and moving into a tiny home. It's nothing that would seem to be life changing at all. But it is.

To anyone who is struggling, I just want to say to keep holding onto hope. To believe in the unbelievable and to expect the unexpected (in a good way, don't be a narcissist like I was with this saying ;) ). God is always in the impossible. I could give you examples from the bible, the Holy Word of God and I could give you real life examples as well. If you're desperate and searching for encouragement in seeing God's greater plan I suggest reading Laurie Shorts, Finding Faith in the Dark. I loved it so much and found so much of God in the way she weaves all these real life stories of struggle together and always for a better and greater purpose. Don't we always wish it was that easy to see God at work?

But life isn't that way. We don't get the manuscript before we live it and so we have to walk by faith and not by sight. We have to set our eyes on Jesus and trust that we can step into the uncharted waters and be held up safe in Him.

This past year my life has changed so much. I've begun to make new friends and become a part of a local community of beautiful people. I've begun to believe in myself and find so much greatness in the others around me as well. I can say that God has healed my heart, not because of any great revelation and certainly not because of anything I did on my own. But because I woke up a few days ago and didn't think about it anymore. The day that held so many memories for me, and I woke up and did my thing, thinking about my future and my hopes and goals and never once did I think about "what I would have been doing" until almost lunch time. And even then it was more just a "hmm, that's funny I didn't even think about that" versus an "I'm so sad that I'm missing that" way.

In the past year God has shown me more of who I am. My identity that is rooted in Christ and not in man. I would have never truly learned this, if I had not been separated from the one I loved the most. After I wrote these words I came across this quote by Elisabeth Elliot in "The Path to Loneliness"
"I began to go deeper into the lesson of college days - that of finding satisfaction in Christ, apart from the man I hungered for. That was a gift I could not have received in any context other than the loneliness of being single. Now that Jim was dead, I had to repeat the lesson. It was more difficult this time, for there was no hope of my having him."
As I read these words I shook my head in total agreement of what Elisabeth says. Like her, I never would have find myself outside of simply being alone. Since God is always after what is absolute best for us, I have no doubt that these growing pains and the glory thereafter outweigh that joy of granting my prayers.

So instead I've learned that there's so much more to life. So many dreams to dream and so many good moments ahead. I've experienced true joy while standing in the middle of grief. I've been able to not only return to the girl I used to be, but also become a much better version of myself than I ever was before. No longer do I allow myself to get tossed around by other peoples plans. Now I have my own! I make decisions, I set goals, I work hard to make my dreams come to life. Life is much deeper and more beautiful than ever before.

So I say, keep trusting God. A year ago today my world was absolutely crushed. I was a hot mess express on the fast track to doom and gloom. I didn't change by any power or strength on my own. But slowly, day by day, God encouraged me and showed me glimpses of His love. I wasn't always aware of it. I didn't always press in to Him. I still have so far to go to continue becoming an amazing version of the Sheri Hooton I know God intends me to be. But I feel so radically different. I feel so changed. Full of hope and joy and great love that I want to share and pour out to others.

I'm not focusing on the number or the fact that I'm still single and now at an embarrassingly old age for marriage. Instead, I'm focusing on God. That He loves me and has a perfect plan for me. I don't feel whatever "33" is supposed to feel like anyways. When I look back now I simply can't imagine how ridiculous it would have been to have been married to the guy I loved. Just because I so wasn't me and apparently, he wasn't himself either. Yeah, it still upsets me but God's grace is so powerful that it can even wash this messy past clean. I'm made new, I have a new heart, a new perspective and 2016 is going to be a year unlike any others. I'm sure of it. I know it'll have it's hard times, absolutely no doubt about that - but I know God is working in my life. I will sing Mary's song and say "For the Mighty One has done great things for me. Holy is His name." Join in singing with me!

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