As the year comes to a close today, instead of my monthly blog of what I learned this month, I want to share what I learned this year. That's no small task, considering this year has taught me more lessons than I ever would have imagined. This year, I let go of some friends and welcomed some new ones. Amanda and Sharon have become beautiful jewels to me in the minefield of life. I have gone to new places, and experienced new atmospheres and adventures. But if I had to sum of the year in one word, that word would be "Growth". I have experienced phenomenal growth this year. Maybe not everyone around me can see it, but I know it transpired, and that is what counts the most. Let me share how this has unfolded for me this year, and what the biggest lessons of the year were for me.
I started out the year claiming my word for the year to be "different." ( You can read what I wrote here in January about the word.) I had no idea what that would entail, but I could not get over the word at the beginning of the year. I wanted to make better decisions, which would lead to me being different. I wanted to learn and grow, stepping out of my box, my comfort zone, in uncomfortable ways. I wanted to embrace being different, because what makes a person different is what makes a person beautiful. I wanted to take those aspects of being different to make a difference. I thought about the word all year long, but I have dwelt on it the last few days, pondering if i really applied that word to my life.
Whether or not those around me would agree, I believe I embraced becoming different this year. I'm still me, but I found deeper roots this year, in essence producing growth and becoming different. Without it intentionally becoming so, the phrase "Let Go" became a huge part of my year, and in letting go, I believe I became different. I didn't put those two together until I began reflecting on the 2015 year. Letting go isn't quitting. Letting go, for me, became Letting God. and when I "let God", He began reshaping my life, from the inside out, making me different. Letting go and becoming different is not an easy journey. I have shed many tears over lost friendships. I wrestled with God over the fact that I am such a goal setter, and He was teaching me to be content in some ways I never had. In letting go of some career goals, at least for now, my heart took on a different shape. I have grieved losses as I have let go of some things and people. However, in letting go, I also have found new freedom. Freedom to be me, and not apologize for it. Freedom to share my heart more openly. Freedom to love deeper. Freedom to be who God has designed me to be, not who or what others have always been wanting or asking me to be.
I stepped out of my comfort zone and began to pursue a mission trip to Colombia. That trip, which is only 5 weeks away now, began transforming me and making me different from the get-go. I grew in my faith, watching God's leading and provision. And I am stepping out of my comfort zone to use gifts that have sat on the shelf for a while now. Fear is not always a bad emotion; fear is quite humbling and growth-provoking in the right scenarios.
I have read a few books this year that have absolutely changed my perspective on a few aspects of my life, and in essence, have helped me grow and become different. Sight Shift, which helped me recognize my struggle with self-control. Unbroken, which is an incredible true story about faith and forgiveness and perseverance. Unbroken, the story of Louis Zamerini, was what initially prompted my journey of letting go, only I had no idea what was in store with those words. Boundaries is a book I should have read years ago. Then again, all things come at the appropriate time. From this book, I learned much about my people-pleasing ways and I learned the ever important value of saying No, which is a word I have not adequately executed over the years.
Over the course of the last year, I processed events and words deeply. I always do this, but this year's journey was different. Some days I privately grieved in my heart. Some days the anxiety plagued me. However, this time I wasn't listening to the voices of others telling me about me; I was listening to what God tells me about me. And as I walked this journey quietly, and often times alone, I found confidence I have been lacking for many years. I found the truths that have often been whispered about me, but I never believed. So, when asked what I learned in 2015, I learned how to be a better me. I Learned what being different means for Rachael. I learned to let go and let God. I said goodbye to some old friends, but welcomed some new. I learned how to say No. I have not perfected these new differences by any means, but I have made significant progress, and I cannot wait to see what 2016 will bring. One day at a time!