I’ve struggled to write this post for many weeks now for several reasons. Many of the lessons I’ve “learned” over the last year, I’m still in the process of learning. I by no means want to share about them as if I’m an expert on the subject, but also feel like I’ve learned some really valuable things to carry forward with me into the next year.
I’ve had so many thoughts and revelations swimming around in my brain this past month as I’ve thought about what I’ve learned over the past year. It seems like I’ve learned a lifetime’s worth of lessons in 12 months, but I know there is still more to learn. Although I know I can’t document every single lesson in this blog post because it would be too long, I did a brain dump and got it all out on paper so I could see it for myself. After reflecting on the list, I realized there are so many aspects of what I am learning that are still coming into focus for me. I’m still sifting through my thoughts and trying to parse out what God has to teach me through them. It was hard for me to narrow down the list too – there’s just so much I learned. Maybe I’ll do a part 2 if you all are interested.
All that to say, I’m still in process, but I wanted to share some of it with you in hopes that it will be something that resonates with you and encourages you!
You might have seen my 2023 recap reel I posted on Instagram. This was my caption, which I feel really summarizes my year as well:
2023 ✨ the year my world turned upside down. I found beauty in my brokenness and met Jesus in my pain and grief ❤️ I’m not the same person I was 365 days ago. I have experienced (the beginnings of a) transformation I believe is only possible through suffering. And although I would not wish it upon anyone, I can confidently say that I am deeply thankful for my journey and for how God is using my experience to prune and refine me. My heart is more tender. My compassion is greater. My mothering is more intentional. And my priorities are entirely different (thank goodness – I needed it!). I’m still very much in the middle, but instead of despair (what I felt at first), I now have a hope that transcends all circumstances – a living hope in Jesus. It sounds cliché and like empty words until it is made real to you. 2023 did that for me. I now know that no matter what happens, I will be okay. I am so much stronger than I ever thought possible, and I have 2023 to thank for instilling this confidence in me.
I’ll forever remember 2023. I’ll remember it as one of the hardest years of my life. The year everything changed…the year I changed. And while change can be a painful process, it has been the beginning of a beautiful process of *becoming*.
Here are some of the lessons I learned in that process…
God speaks and I can hear His voice
I feel like I have had a relationship with God for quite some time, and anyone that’s been in my life would confirm that. But nobody ever emphasized to me how much He desires intimacy with ME…and to be honest I didn’t know how much I needed intimacy with him. I did not even realize what I was missing out on.
It makes sense that a relationship, being a two-way street, would flourish with participation from both parties, but I think I just wasn’t confident that God desired to connect and speak specifically to me.
In some difficult moments over the last year, I’ve had many voices speaking into my life about circumstances, decisions, etc. Many of them seem right and very reasonable, but with many voices seem to come many options and directions I could follow.
How do you know what voice to listen to or which direction to head? The verse, “My sheep hear his voice, and I know them, and they follow me” became real to me this year as I started on a journey of discerning His voice.
I knew I needed to hear from God. I needed him to speak into my circumstances and give me my next steps. After all, He is the author of my life and knows what is best for me. Plus, I’m going to have to live with consequences of my choices, so I wanted to put my faith in Him and Him alone. If I’m honest, this is the first time I’ve done this wholeheartedly without any sort of backup plan. It was terrifying. And I’m still not on the otherwise, but somehow, I know and have peace that He is with me.
Seeking to hear his voice and listening for Him created intimacy I had never experienced. For the first time I realized, God *wants* to talk to me!
Time Tells the truth
There is a latin phrase, ‘Temporis filia Veritas’, that basically means truth reveals itself with the passage of time.
Over the last year, I have found myself in many moments where I have felt misunderstood and have wanted to defend myself and give my perspective. The urge to defend myself against lies and accusations felt excruciating.
But, what would that produce?
In doing that (defending myself), I could easily find myself becoming a person that does not align with the values of who I desire to be and who I feel like God has called me to be.
And also, in those moments, I’ve had to challenge myself with this question: is it enough for me to only be understood by God? If Im being honest, the answer is NO (ha!). But even though I wanted to defend myself, I resisted the urge. And although I’m still on a journey, He has shown me that He is my defender and vindicator – that I can trust Him.
I’m not saying there’s not a time and place to share my perspective, but for much of this year, I’ve learned that it’s better for me to let time reveal what’s true and walk forward in faith and trust that God will get me to exactly where I need to be.
You are shaped by what you value
What we choose to find important in our lives heavily shapes our identity. I find it interesting though, how we operate out of our values on a daily basis, but we don’t always realize what they are. Some values have been shaped by the environment we grew up in and some we have formed on our own.
This year I learned through experience that it’s important to realize that everyone is operating out of a unique value system, and it’s not necessarily the same as mine.
Some of my values may overlap and align with others, but I have to remember that just as my values shape my perspectives and decisions, this is also true for everyone else. A conflict in values is often what is underneath difficulty in our relationships and it’s helpful to be able to accept that other people might be coming from a different angle than myself.
I have found it helpful to reflect on and identify what I value so I have an awareness of those values when it comes to relating to others. It doesn’t mean people should bend to my values or mine to theirs, but it is helpful for me to be aware that others are making choices shaped by their value system and it doesn’t always align with mine. This awareness helps me approach the situation with more curiosity and a desire to understand versus judgment. But hear me say this – this is very HARD.
Spiritual Warfare is real
Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
I’ve read this in scripture before, but this year I’ve experienced how there is so much more at play than what we see with our eyes.
Just like there are natural laws like gravity that govern the natural world around us, there are spiritual laws as well that are in play. My words and my actions matter in regards to spiritual powers I’m putting myself in alignment with.
Am I aligning with God or those that oppose him? It matters!
I know this is a huge topic and I am not an expert on it, but it has been a huge learning curve for me and so helpful in influencing the ways that I pray! If you’d like to hear more about what I’ve learned, I’d love to share. But I will say that this topic can be a bit intimidating. However, I think now is a better time than ever to educate yourself on it.
Forgiveness is necessary for freedom
You may have heard the phrase “Forgive and forget”. I think it’s an unhelpful phrase because a lot of people end up staying in a state of unforgiveness towards someone because they haven’t forgotten about it yet.
Forgiveness is a choice. Not just a choice we make one time and *poof* it’s done. It’s a choice we have to make over and over sometimes depending on the relationship and circumstances. I’ve learned though that it’s worth it!
I walk in so much more freedom when I choose forgiveness and hand it over to God. You aren’t “letting anyone off the hook” when you forgive them, but you’re trusting God to be the judge and not yourself.
I don’t always feel like choosing forgiveness, but I think that is why reminding myself of the gospel message is helpful. We were rebellious against God and he chose to extend forgiveness and grace through the death and resurrection of Jesus, knowing we would rebel against him again.
The alternative only hurts us. Unforgiveness grows deep roots of bitterness in us. It is rooted in pride and can be blinding and stunt our emotional and spiritual growth. God has so much more for us!
Sidenote, sometimes the reality is the person we are withholding forgiveness from is ourselves. This is tricky because we don’t always realize we are not willing to extend forgiveness and grace to ourselves regarding certain choices or circumstances, but there is so much freedom we can have when we do!
There’s always another perspective
I struggled with what to name this “lesson” but basically, this year I learned that there is great power in learning how to reframe your thoughts and take charge of your mind. I learned that challenging myself to gain perspective – to consider my setbacks as opportunities – is a skill I never want to not be cultivating. It’s incredibly powerful, and I saw this firsthand this year.
So often I’ve let my mind take charge over me, instead of me taking charge of my mind and the thoughts in it. Letting my mind be the boss has led to self-pity, anxiety, and doubt. Where does that get me? Nowhere.
One of the most important things I’ve done this year is learn how to identify my thoughts and align them with the truth of God as well as learning to reframe my circumstances and make a shift.
Reframing is something I learned from my mentor that has helped me identify a thought, be curious about the thought and what it makes me feel, and shift my mindset to a thought pattern that is healthier. It teaches my mind to consider another way to look at the situation so that my mind and actions can move forward in a positive way, giving me a perspective of opportunity versus limitation.
The mind is powerful and our thoughts can steer our behavior. This is why scripture tells us to capture our thoughts and make them obedient to Christ.
What are my thoughts saying about my identity versus what Christ says about my identity? Identifying them and aligning them to truth will shift your perspective into a different place!
This is not to say there is not space to lament or grieve hard things. We don’t want to just gloss over difficulties and try to put a positive spin on everything because LIFE IS HARD! Plus, that’s toxically positive and will keep us stuck. We should lament and grieve difficult moments, but we can’t let them overcome us. We have to fight to move forward!
Like I said, I feel like these just scratch the surface of what I have learned in 2023. I could say way more about each of these topics and maybe I will in the future! Even though so many of these lessons are the fruit of a really challenging year, I’m so grateful for all of it. I’ve felt more connected to God and more connected to who I am than I ever have. This year has taught me I can find joy in trials and even though there are hard days, I’m still standing!
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