God’s gifts: Reflecting on 2021

Today’s guest post comes to us courtesy of my little sister Alexis whom I love to pieces.

During the past year I have been humbled by a few of the ‘good’ problems God has allowed me to experience and am grateful for the journey. 

Although problems are inevitable in life, some problems are better than others.  For example, being laid off during a pandemic was a bad problem. However, that negative experience sparked my decision to return to college, which resulted in some ‘good’ problems. Making ends meet while attending college full-time was challenging, but my budgeting skills improved, and I learned pretty quickly how to navigate the financial aid process. Also, in the last year, choosing to end a few toxic relationships (not romantic ones) meant spending more time alone, which turned out to be another ‘good’ problem. For years I hated being alone, knowing the restlessness I typically found in solitude.  However, I have realized over the past year that all the fun I have with my friends is still there when I am flying solo.  In fact, I can be spontaneous, tired, or even grumpy without bothering anyone else. I can run late or take the long way to wherever I decide to go without opposition.  Also, during that free time spent alone, I focused on my studies, hobbies, and interests and even made some new friends along the way. 

I am so thankful for those new, healthy friendships and for ALL my friends who share the journey with me. In no particular order, to name a few, I am thankful for my parents who encourage me when I am down and push me when I want to give up. They are truly my biggest cheerleaders and are also willing guinea pigs for any speech I practice or paper I write. I am grateful for early morning phone calls with Mom that remind me where I come from, who I am, and about God’s love for us. I am also thankful for my yoga students who keep me honest (without them I might never workout). I am thankful for my relationship with God, family, and friends (you know who you are) who love me so well that I feel compelled to share that love with others. I am thankful for professors like Dr. Jeanna Mason who valued the effort I put into my work, overlooked my tardiness, and even seemed to enjoy my playful excuses for running behind like, “I hit a deerbra on the way to class.” I am thankful too for the poetry and writing she inspired, which have provided me with a healthy outlet for my thoughts and feelings and a safe place to drop my baggage.

At the beginning of the semester, Smock (as my Oral Comm. professor likes to be called) asked what I wanted to get out of his course. I answered, “confidence.” My wish was granted and through the next 12 weeks I realized some of my strengths, found my voice, and became comfortable with myself again.  I have learned so much about myself and have noticed how when there is nothing to do, I am great at finding something purposeful to occupy my time. I often study or work ahead on assignments, resulting in better grades and great relationships with my professors. Through that effort, I earned the respect of some teachers and even a few of my peers. More importantly, I earned respect for myself and even like myself most of the time. I now even enjoy some time alone knowing the peace I find in being contently present.

Undoubtedly, I am thankful for God’s gift of presence this year too. My challenging course schedule forced me to learn quickly how to ‘take down large trees using a small axe’…….one assignment at a time, one class at a time, and one day at a time.  As I focus my attention more directly on the task at hand, I become more present. A 20-page paper is, after all, written one word at a time, and a lifetime is lived one minute at a time. By focusing on words or sentences individually, I produced ‘A’ papers and delivered flawless speeches (according to Smock). I hope in the same way that by focusing on each day, hour, and, at my best, each minute, I am truly living my best life.

I am still nowhere close to finishing college and still working toward my first degree. I still have hang ups and bad habits that no longer serve me well in life. I have bad days, bad moods, and a bad attitude at times. I make mistakes every day, at least, and trip myself up sometimes too. I am still not in a committed relationship and still have no kids or pets either. In that sense, not much has really changed in the last year.  However, the acceptance I feel towards myself has definitely changed and improved. I finally feel at peace and content being with me in this big world. I do feel now that I am enough, and with God’s love I will always have and be enough.

“Therefore, the Master lets things take their course and thus never fails….”- Lao Tzu

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