The Processing

“I can’t wait till exams are over so that I can process this semester,” I repeated over and over again just a few weeks ago, when the flash cards still piled high.

Exams finally came to an end one Monday afternoon, and I threw myself into a lump for twelve straight hours. I couldn’t think, cry, or dream–just sleep.

I packed, and journeyed home, still just as tired. I packed my journal with plans to write out the feelings from these hard, long, but learning months.

The weeks of holiday time have nearly come and gone now. I’ve had more energy than expected and I’ve barely touched the journal. The time to process came, but I didn’t take it. Instead I baked cookies and volunteered, wrapped Christmas presents, and saw friends. There was hardly time to write.

But I’ve been sharing bits and pieces of my story, here and there, for those who wish to hear. Because “how was your semester?” cannot be answered completely in one or two words. Neither can, ” how was your year?”

A year, twelve months, 365 days. That is a long time. The changes one experiences in that space may not be summed up in a one sentence response. And so here I am, with no words to contain my 2014 recap. Because it’s not a recap and there are not enough words.

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I took a long walk today, the first of many, I expect. I thought about someone else–a character in a new play, the character I’m playing. I thought her thoughts and about her dreams. Failed or beginning. But they were mine as much as they were hers.

It took me a long time to get around to this walk. I was supposed to do it, but I procrastinated day after day, hour after hour. I guess deep down I knew it would be me processing about me and I wasn’t ready for that. I keep saying, “I’m not ready.” Making up excuses. But I have to start somewhere.

But if I begin, will there be an ending?

You see, we don’t want to remember, and we don’t want to forget.

~~~

I’m not going to recap because there aren’t enough words, but if I were to summarize 2014, this is what I’d say:

It began quietly for me, wrapped in warm blackents on someone else’s couch. I’d spent the night with my friend, Sarah and her family, watching a bunch of movies–North Anger Abbey, August Rush, and My Fair Lady. The New Year came and we acknowledged it. On our sixth cup of tea, and too much chocolate.

I came home, and began a new semester. Classes, and two great parts in a Shakespeare play. And that was the semester I wrote my own play about a girl and a garden and a man who became her mentor.

Summer. I got my first car and a new job. Then, with a few stories piled behind me, I went back to my old job, and learned more heartbreak and more joy, from other people and myself. I turned twenty, and moved into my first apartment. I took more classes, and stage managed a show, even though I didn’t want to. My favourite classes became New Testament Studies and Directing–the two I didn’t want to take.

Now the year is ending, cuddled up in a warm sweater, and writing on my laptop. Festivities are coming shortly to ring this old year out, but for now I’m making an attempt to process it all.

As I write about last year, I’m reminded of all the things I didn’t know. All the discoveries. The joys and the griefs. I’m only learning now that I got really scared for that Shakespeare play and that fear was what held me back in rehearsals. In these past few months, I’ve learned that I’m that girl in that garden I wrote about, though I naively fought it in the writing process. This summer I learned to have more grace as I saw people as people, more and more. And while I never asked to be a stage manager, it was exactly what I needed when I needed it.

This year, there was so much growth. So much grace. So much love.

I still can’t recap it all.

I visited my old Facebook profile picture from a few hours after midnight on January 1st, 2014. It was a picture my friend, Sarah had taken last year, this time, as we were ringing in the new year together then.

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” – Carl Sagan… 

was the quote beside it because I thought it sounded nice and fit with the whole “new years theme.” Little did I know how true it was.

Something–many somethings and many someones, too–was were waiting to be known. And I got to know them only on the adventures of 2014. But the processing isn’t over yet.

Tonight, I say good-bye to 2014, but the reaping from it’s harvest, I’ll continue to remember, to cherish, and process.

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Somewhere near, something beautiful is almost ready to be known.

Cultivate 2014

My New Year’s resolutions. 14 aims for living wholly in 2014:

1. Love people well and be intentional in friendship.

2. Work hard, but rest harder.

3. Write something everyday. Doesn’t matter what. Just has to be something.

4. Dialogue with my Father and listen to Him more.

5. Learn to let go and relax.

6. Continue to get to know myself better.

7. Develop patience.

8. Take care of myself, body and soul.

9. Invest myself freely in my art, whatever it happens to be.

10. Remember joy and find it in life’s blessings, both big and small.

11. Make specific goals for acting, follow them and fly with others, and most of all: just dive right in.

12. Cultivate my own character.

13. Drink more tea, read more books, bake more cookies.

14. Live missionally, wherever I am. Seek justice. Be merciful and humble.

These 14 goals are brief and somewhat vague. They may change and I’m not holding myself to the originals, if they do. I’m also not giving up on them, even if I find myself letting go. In a nutshell, I’m an imperfect person learning to be whole. Every step, every day, every year in my life is part of my journey to that wholeness. And this list is made up of things that I believe make a person whole.

2014 will not be a perfect year. It may not even be the best year yet, either. But I’m going to do everything I can to make it a year in which I stepped a little closer that wholeness I seek.

This is a new year. This is 2014 and my theme word is cultivate. Cultivate joy, hope, love. Freedom. Passion. Salvation. Forgiveness. Productivity. Rest. Healing, justice, and beauty. Everything good. Cultivate Life.

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Here’s to 2014!

What are your resolutions and hopes for the new year?

PS If you haven’t done so yet, please take my short survey here and help me improve The Journey Home in the new year!

Recap & Dreams

2013 was a roller-coaster.

First year second semester didn’t pull me by the ear lobes like my first had done. It was stagnant at first; difficult, strange. I had to grab it by the neck and make it what I wanted and needed. I did just that. In the words of my professors and friends, I transformed in my art and I think also, in myself.

Summer came much too quickly. I put acting aside for a while, on a shelf though, to be found again, come September, no doubt. Core requirement books piled on my desk and for six weeks I devoted my time to completing courses in Old Testament, Self-Defense, and Human Kinetics.

June brought my first article to publication. One I’d worked at since January. It began as a tiny proposal forced from my hands. I never thought my first attempt at a magazine submission would lead to publication, but it did, somehow, beautifully.

My first real job, as a cashier at a Thrift Store, came and went. July and August were filled with long days and hard work, dust, unfriendly voices, interesting objects, and weird comments. But there was love and joy and peace and satisfaction there, too. And for those things and the lessons learned, I miss it every day.

Last semester boomed along. I played a small role in my first university play. I took hard classes. My professors pushed me and I pushed myself. And I forged friendships like never before. There was beauty and life, but at the end, I was burnt to the core.

More. There was always more. More to do, more to be, more to learn. It was exhausting.

My holidays have been quite the reverse. School flew away and I nearly forgot the little homework I did have.

I spent a lovely four days with a friend and her family, relaxing and celebrating the new year. I had a beautiful Christmas, filled with Christ, family, and sweet things. I’ve had a wonderful holiday, seeing fabulous people and creating to my heart’s desire. In everything, I’ve learned more about myself and the person I want to become.

And now, as I sit and think on January 3rd, I am hopeful. All of what happened, both the good and the bad, makes 2014, a new year, brighter to my eyes. Because we learned and we finished and came to believe in 2013, through every blot and beauty.

And this — why this is only the beginning. We’ve barely breathed on the new year yet. Hardly made mistakes. The days ahead are still coming and we don’t know what will fill them. And while unknowns can be scary, adventure lies in what we do not know or even understand.

It snowed this December. It rained a lot, too. And in it all, it “sunned” as well.

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2014 should bring similar weather, I believe. But who knows what the colour of the rain will be?

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New Years Every Day

A few days ago we welcomed 2013 in, with shouts and tambourines.

As much as I liked last year, its good to start a new one. There is something so refreshing about leaving the old behind and running towards something new and different. Somehow, I’ve always felt that a new year buries the old wounds and scars, at least a little bit and offers room for greater change, growth, and joy. I see each January as a new beginning of sorts.

But what does that new beginning mean?

For some people it means gym memberships and diets as they endeavour to shed the holiday pounds. Many have goals for work or school — a promotion or better grades. Still others nobly strive to improve their relationships with their spouses, children, and God. My own goals or “resolutions” are to be more organized, do my very best in school, rekindle my trust in God, and to develop an attitude of joy. Every year, we make promises to work harder, love others, and live better.

But are these resolutions realistic? Will we actually lose the weight and gain the love? Or are these just the same empty promises that we make every January 1st? A hope to be better, a dream of a fuller life… but is it real? Because I’m tired of scams and shallow decisions. I want something real; I desire to do something worth doing.

We all have good intentions when it comes to new years, but the truth of the matter is, that by January 5th we’re all worn out at the treadmill. Distraction overtakes us, relationships are harder than we think, our joy is quickly lost. And so we go back to the way that we were and decide we’ll do it all “next year.”

But what if we didn’t give up? What would happen if we erased the list of goals and started from scratch? What would happen if we resolved that every day is new years day. What if we gave ourselves a chance to mess up and start fresh every morning?

I have a list of things that I want this year, saved in my head — I may even write them down when I have the chance. I’ll come back to this list throughout the year. I will endeavour to live out my goals and accomplish great things; I will also act upon new discoveries and ideas, as I meet them. But most of all, I won’t let one slip-up ruin my path. I want to live as if every day is a new year, full of hope, forgiveness, and new beginnings; that is my resolution this year.

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What are your resolutions for 2013?

Dear 2012

Dear 2012,

Tonight, we’re leaving each other behind. Tomorrow you’ll be back in the archives of my mind, referred to as “last year.” It’ll sound weird at first–as always, I’ll have to get used to writing a different numeral.

You’ve been a good year, I have to admit. You had your down moments; life wasn’t always pleasant. But then, what year is ever perfect? You weren’t, but I certainly learned a lot during our time together.

I learned that even when we’ve come out of pain and we think its all fixed, life can still be shattered again. I learned that brokeness is part of life. I broke not once but many times with you.

I tasted sweet love, waited a lot, and wondered when it would all make sense. It never really did.

I tearfully put one dream aside and chased after another, hoping that I was right.

I pondered over university and finally decided to go. I graduated from high school and marched through the doors of university soon after.

I’ve found a whole new world in the last few months of you. I feel like I have completely changed. I have new goals, dreams, fears, and prayers. I don’t know how to leave the old ones behind or if I should or what any of this is at all. I’m not show how to grow up and I wish that maybe we could go back a few months to when we first met and I was just seventeen.

As a sentimental child, I often felt sad over the ends of years. I have to say that I’ve abandoned that practice since “growing up.” You were a good year, yes, but I’m happy to leave the pain and bad memories behind. I want to move on and keep on learning. But don’t worry—I’ll always remember you, 2012, as the beginning of the rest of my life.

Love,

Elizabeth

God, what is in store for 2013? Thank you for the road I’m leaving behind. Thank you for the joy. Thank you for teaching me through the struggles. Most of all, thank you for being here with me.

Adieu Twenty-Eleven

2011 is coming to an end in just a matter of hours. It seems strange to me that this year is already over when the memories from this time last year are ever-present in my mind. Sometimes it feels like just yesterday that my grandma’s death was fresh and new, a friend had just hurt me, I started this blog, and I was looking forward to 2011. Time has really, really flown.

At the same time though, it is unreal that all of these things happened only a year ago. God has blessed me with an amazing memory and so I can watch a lot of these experiences in my mind like an old video. But looking back now, I realize how very long ago that was. Things have changed. I have changed. Although I can remember what happened like it was yesterday, I don’t feel the feelings like I used to at all. Even the pain is gone. It’s like it was a dream and I am awake now.

The road behind me is fun to look back on though. After all, it is the path that led me to who I am today. Every sorrow and every joy alike has shaped the person who is writing these words now.

2011, you were a good year. You started with so much promise. I was sad back then. Really sad. But on New Year’s Eve I realized that you were coming and that you were new and not at all connected to the griefs of 2010.

Back in January 2011, I made resolutions that I half-kept (whoops!). One was to eat healthier. Another was to finish my book. Maturity was on the list as well. I don’t even care about the ones I slipped up on though for God gave me everything that I truly needed for 2011.

I gained friends and grew in my old relationships, too. Where I used to feel lonely, I now enjoy love, comradory, and joy.

I became beautiful this year. Well, actually I just realized what it means to be truly beautiful and learned to accept it.

I got to act way more times than I could have imagined. I was blessed with some very nice roles and wonderful coaches and directors who taught me tons about acting. I grew as a singer, too. Basically I came out as a confident performer.

I got back on track with school after a rough start and ended up doing very well. I received scholarships and opportunities. I decided on university for next year and began the process of post-secondary education.

And I learned a lot through it all. I found that God is good and merciful and cares for His children. I learned how to trust Him more and realized that He will always see me through. I was freed from lies I believed. It was a year of healing, of happiness, and love. I discovered, delighted, and learned about friendship and love. God became my even better best friend.

Today, I say adieu to 2011 and all of what it held and brought to me. It’s been a good year and I enjoyed looking back on it. I am thankful to God for the amazing mercy that He has shown. I am glad that I have changed and am happy to change once more. God, thank you so much for 2011. Please be my guide even more in 2012.

How was your year? What did you learn, do, and become in 2011?

Looking Forward

10…9…8…7…6…5…4…3…2…1….it’s 2011!

Horns were sounding, people were shouting, and pots were clanging together. Smiling faces were seen everywhere. For everyone likes to welcome a new year in–perhaps because of the sorrows they are leaving behind in the old year or the potential that they believe the new year has, in any event, a new year is generally celebrated by all in their own way.

In the past, I haven’t thought too much about the new year but this time things were different. As I stood there, amongst my friends, counting down the last seconds of 2010 and ringing in the first moments of 2011, I began to realize that every sorrow and every joy, each disappointment and each excitement alike was forever being engrained in the past. They no longer fit under the category of “this year” because they were in 2010 and I wasn’t in that year anymore. I felt as if, even though I still felt pain over some things, that I could really, finally move on from my burdens and live in happiness.

Now, I’m not going to contradict my last post by saying that 2010 was all bad. I didn’t believe that on December 31st, 2010 and I don’t believe it today, January 5th, 2011 either. It’s just that 2010 had it’s hardships, as every year does, and they were hard to get rid of. Now though, I am encompassed by the beautiful feeling of a new beginning to life and a fresh, redeeming start to things that I thought were ruined. And no matter what other new year’s resolutions, dreams, or hopes that I may have for this year, I am going to start by turning my eyes from the past and focusing them on the prize up ahead, so that I may live in the fullness of Christ instead of in the despair of my old self.

No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.

Philippians 3:13-14

While I don’t think that Paul was talking about facing a new year in that passage, I still think that it applies to this and I believe it to be a good theme verse for my life at this moment. For this is a new year and although I am still the same sinner I was before, haunted by my own sins and the sorrowful consequences of a fallen world, I will not look to the past but instead, I shall turn my eyes to what lies ahead, and focus on continuing my journey to the eternal home with a full heart for Christ. I will remember that my citizenship is in Heaven and that I need to reflect that in my current life here on earth. And I have confidence that I can do this for I know that God will give me the strength and energy that I need to not look back but move forward and live my life the way that it was ordained by Him to be lived…hey, I think that’s worth celebrating too!

Elizabeth