A year and half ago, life seemed hopeless to me. I knew there would be good things again, but I knew bad things would come back, too. I was beginning to realize life was a mountain-and-valley journey, and started listening to the fear that the mountains were not worth the valleys that would inevitably come back. If I would never be fully better until I was in the kingdom, what was the point of being here?
I didn’t know that the kingdom is already here. It’s in me, it’s in you.
Someone who’d had thoughts like mine, who couldn’t stand to be in the valley any longer and entered the fullness of the kingdom, left music behind. And as I listened, I could hear him. He was telling me I didn’t have to run to eternity to live in the kingdom.
That God was just as near to me on earth as He was to him in eternity.
I chose to stay on earth. And I live in the kingdom now. And no mountains or valleys can mess with the level, steady, gold-paved ground of kingdom life.
After deciding to stay, I began writing lists. Lists not of things I hoped would happen, but things I was looking forward to in faith. Because I knew, after He surprised me with a train trip, that my Father wants me to use my dreams to live. I’ve written two 100-item lists like this, and I continue writing them. I don’t think there’s a better way to look back at this year than seeing all the dreams He brought to life.
Reading more books.
I read some good books this year (although I was in college for half of it, so not as many pleasure-reads as I would have liked). Probably the best were “One Thousand Gifts” (I wrote about it) and “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.” You can check out my Goodreads for all my 2015 books if you’d like!
Going to more concerts.
I attended two little coffee shop concerts– Madison Cunningham, and the local university’s acapella groups. I hope to attend bigger, more festival-like concerts in the future.
I work in a nursery so I get to hold babies often, but it’s a huge source of joy for me every single time.
Seeing meaningful new movies. | Seeing the final Hunger Games film. | Seeing new Pixar movies.
Inside Out and Mockingjay Part II were huge for me this year. Both so well-done and thought-provoking in their own unique ways. I also got to go to those movies with people I love. Win. There were additional movies this year that I didn’t see in a theater, but that I saw for the first time and was touched by, most of all the new Cinderella movie; I wrote about it.
Getting better at painting.
I’ve practiced acrylic paints more this year, and I’m better than I was, but I’ve discovered watercolor will always be my love. My lettering skills have improved much in both mediums.
Having flowers in the house.
A few times this year, a friend would pick me a flower and I’d let it live in a little vase for a few days. Delight.
Dying my hair red.
I finally just went for it, and I might do it again soon because I ended up liking it so much. It made me think about identity and value, too, so I wrote about it.
Writing lyrics again.
I came to realize that I never stopped; I’d been writing daily poetry for over a year. It just isn’t something I can shut off. But now I’m writing words with the intention of making them lyrics once again, and it is… it’s home.
Sketching based on illustrations from the fairy books by Andrew Lang.
I finished one and hope to create many more. The name of Lang’s illustrator is H.J. Ford, in case you were curious.
Visiting a mountainous national park. | Visiting the mountains up close. | Going on a road trip.
I love everything about the mountains (even though trails with such high elevation are killer for this sea-level girl). I never expected to be able to say I’d done these things so soon, but my grandparents invited us to join their road trip to Yellowstone, so of course we said yes! The thinking and music-listening time was invaluable; I wrote about it. Grateful. He loves to surprise us with joy.
Meigan and I also took a mini road trip to visit our friend, Cooper, over the summer. We got to explore with him and his family, and it was a blast. [Photo from Cooper]
Buying scented candles and lighting them all the time.
I mooch off my mom’s candles so I didn’t really buy them, but you bet I lit them. Discovered tropical scents and clean (rain/cotton/etc.) scents are my favorite.
“Hiking” a calm little forest trail.
I got to explore trails with friends twice this year. Those memories are treasures I hold close. [Photos from Meigan and Bradley]
Sitting by the lake in the summer.
My family went camping in August, and we got to be outside at the lake often. I love the water.
Swinging at my favorite childhood park.
I got to bring friends to the park, and swing and talk with them for hours. It was wonderful. I love that little town and the warm air it always breathes on me.
Being part of more photo shoots with friends.
Sierra and I explored her college campus to make leaf crowns, and it was glorious. I felt like a woodland fairy. [Photo from Sierra]
Using a journal small enough to carry in my purse.
Being able to write in my journal wherever I am during a moment of quiet is so valuable to me. I’m very grateful to have an easy-to-carry journal, and for all it carries in it.
Going to Generation Unleashed again.
I went as a chaperone. Such a rich weekend of being able to share love with people and retreat to a spiritually-focused place for a weekend. I shared my notes from it. That weekend was actually when I finally stopped saying no to the Lord, and declared: “Okay. I will leave college to make music.” Wild. I never expected this would be my story. [Photo from Tiffany]
Wearing more pretty dresses.
I just love dresses. I actually got to wear one to a fancy dinner this year, which I didn’t expect I’d ever say because I simply don’t do fancy. But my people make everything better.
Taking a tour of the cathedral in my city. | Seeing my best friend again and going on a random little adventure with her.
Sierra and I visited the lovely Catholic church on the corner of the street in our hometown (on the hottest day of the summer, by the way; we downed an entire pint of ice cream afterwards). We vocalized our struggles, prayed for each other, and found beauty in liturgy. I wrote about it. [Photo from Sierra]
Owning a Wreck This Journal.
My mom just got me one! Now to begin destroying, creating, and discovering. I’m excited about it.
Being reunited with college family.
It helps that I live close to my college town, but I’ve been still able to spend time with people I was terrified to leave. I may have left college, but I didn’t leave the relationships. I’m so grateful I got to keep them.
Throwing darts at paint-filled balloons like in The Princess Diaries.
My parents surprised me with the supplies to do it for my birthday! I got to make art with some of my favorite people on earth. It turned out legitimately beautiful. Mom, thank you so much for reading my lists and caring about my little dreams.
Watching fireworks at our annual Fourth of July barbeques.
I’ve always loved Independence Day because of how much my dad loves our traditions. Also, please note my mom and my brother making the exact same expression in the top left photo, because I crack up every single time.