Feelin' 22

If there ever has been a year of my life that radically changed me, this year would be it. Every year has changed me, but looking at the girl I was a year ago compared to the girl (woman?) I am today is remarkable.

I turn 22 tomorrow. In these past few weeks leading up to the best day of the whole year (also known as my birthday), I've been reflecting a lot on the years behind me and the future ahead. I wrote about how I've seen Jesus in this past year. I wrote to the high school version of myself, sharing perspective I only have now looking back.

My life today is both everything I hoped it be and nothing like I imagined. As I start on a new year, I'm celebrating grace and God's goodness, I'm remembering and reminiscing, I'm rejoicing in His faithfulness. My heart is full, and words are spilling out of it, so here they are. 

In the past year, I've come to see God as such a generous, gracious, giving God. I've seen Him be such a perfect Provider of purpose and passion and peace. I've seen Him open doors, open hearts, open opportunities.

A year ago, I was still a college student, living in an old house with 7 other girls, co-leading a small group of the most incredible freshman women I've ever met (shout out to BTB!), part of a small group that had been such a tight knit group since we came to JMU, a SMAD major, an intern, an employee at a local church daycare, about to walk across a stage set up on the Quad to get my diploma.

Today, I'm a Richmonder again, a full-time, salaried Communications Coordinator of a nonprofit that I absolutely love, a member of the Rethink Creative Group, a writer, a freelancer, a leader of both a co-ed young adult small group and a womens young adult small group through HOPE, a member of the HOPE kids team, living in my own apartment, a real, working adult.

It's been a year since I turned 21, almost a year since I graduated. That is insane to think about! That seriously was a year ago now?! It feels just like yesterday.

At the core, so much of me is the same as in my youngest years. I'm stubborn, I'm strong-willed, I have a killer "green-eyed glare", I'm introverted, I'm creative, I write all the time (don't even ask me how many "stories" I used to write in my early elementary school days...), I'm a reader, I'm a devoted Jesus-follower, I love my family dearly, I love adventure and exploring new places but not really taking big risks.

In everything that has changed and in everything that has stayed the same, I'm grateful for how the Lord has been constantly growing me. I'm thankful that the things that make me me are still the same, but that they're being refined and molded. I'm blessed to be surrounded by encouragement and affirmation from people I respect and love immensely in every single aspect of life-- church, family, work, my writing, everything. 

A year ago, I was stressed out about what life after college would look like. I was frantically hunting for jobs, always feeling inadequate and unqualified to do what I felt like I wanted to do with my life. I was pulling away from relationships on my own accord because I wanted the breaks to be easier and less painful when I graduated but all my friends stayed for one more year. I was dreading returning to Richmond, yearning for new places and new people and new chances to start over.

Now, I'm laughing looking back on all those fears and insecurities and desires of my heart. I'm celebrating where I am, even though it's not the place I ever wanted to be, because this place is beautiful and it's a place I now truly love. I've grown in this year, in this place and in these roles in ways I never thought possible.

While college, for me, was a time of opening up, finding hope and healing in community, putting down roots, having accountability, learning, seeking and being challenged, this past year has felt like a year of finally blossoming, finally coming alive into the things I'm passionate about and feel called to do. I feel like the truest, most ME version of me there has been yet. Every night, I go to sleep feeling fulfilled, satisfied, content at what I've accomplished, confident that my work mattered and God was glorified through it. I start each day excited about what the hours ahead hold, eager to start creating and making progress and making an impact.

I'm so thankful. I'm so very thankful for the people who have poured into my life since it started. I could spend hours naming and thanking you all and I would still never come close to expressing how much my life and my heart have been changed and touched because you loved me and invested in me. So much of who I am is because of who you were to me, and I'm forever grateful for how the Lord worked through your hands and hugs and hearts and words in my life.

Another year of my life is about to begin, and I'm praying big, bold prayers for it. I can't even imagine how the Lord will blow my mind in the next 365 days. I can't imagine how much I'll grow, what I'll learn, how I'll be challenged, but I know it will be beautiful and glorious and all so very worth it.

Because this birthday can't go by without saying it...I don't know about you, but I'm feelin' 22.