This is the fourth time I’ve sat behind a computer screen on my birthday, struggling to put into words the things that the last year has taught me. I always felt a deep sense of disappointment when I recalled to mind the hard days and the tough lessons that took place within the last year. Well, its time to admit its taken me 19 years to finally figure out what most of you already know, and that is this fact that after you turn like, 4, life ceases to always be so…sunny. I’m beginning to accept this newly discovered truth that for the rest of my years on this earth, each will hold its own set of really really good and really really hard moments and memories, and that is what makes life the beautiful disaster that it is.

This year I took some trips. To Cincy and Indy for birthday celebrations, to Orlando with the LaForests, and to Panama City with 1000 of my best friends for Bible and Beach. I joined a C-group of freshmen that I love so much I let them eat ice cream on my bed. I worked out more than twice. I hugged some college bound friends goodbye and made some new ones on the carpeted floors of Boyce College and Lincoln University’s financial aid office. I traded my full time office job for a part-time nannying one. Spent a lot of summer nights in the backyard around the volleyball net and a lot of winter ones in the warm homes of new friends. I took a few classes and passed a few CLEP tests. I took less pictures and enjoyed more moments. That has been the really, really good.

This year also held some defining moments. Lots of tears. Lots of angry car chats with God begging Him for answers, and waiting through long seasons when they didn’t come. We walked through the valley of the shadow of death; we established some new traditions in the wake of divorce. I’ve lifted the covers from my face day after day and wondered why this mediocre life is mine to live. Then there’s this whole phase of life we call college which I find to be an extremely awkward time of life. Because here I am with these wild dreams in my heart and this bold sense of independence in my soul, but I still need someone to pay my cell phone bill and I prefer a hand to hold at the doctor’s office. I’ve struggled with that a lot this year; I’ve doubted a lot this year. I have made decisions that scream of my distrust that God could actually have any idea what He’s doing with my life. As a result, I’ve chosen disobedience a lot this year; I’ve chosen me a lot this year. I look back and see moments of shortcuts, abused grace, and my constant dethroning of the King for cheap imitations of objects that promise to satisfy but cannot deliver. And the truth not so easily admitted, yet so glaringly obvious is this: I have been so unfaithful this year. And that is the really, really hard.

I’ve been sitting here in my floor for hours, staring out my window with tears falling from my face, reminded of the way I love the spring. The world glistens with hope for dry grass and bare trees, with promises of joy just around the corner. And as the rain prepares the earth for new life, so the storms in mine have prepared my heart to weather them with confidence that the hope of newness isn’t so far away for me either.

I am so undone by the unfathomable grace He has lavished all over this undeserving girl. How do I even begin to thank Him for the people, the places, and the persistent hope he’s placed in my life this last year? I can’t do it. I cannot make the words. Instead, I sit and linger just a little longer, as He reminds me of His faithfulness to me that has been constant as the sun’s rays that peek through my blinds each morning. Faithful. He is to me when I am not to Him. Sometimes it feels like an ordinary gift, one I expect and so easily take for granted. But today, it’s new. A huge thing age and time have taught me is the rarity and importance of a faithful, steady love. It’s a gift we don’t usually find in people here, because we change our minds and redirect our affections daily. But Jesus looks on us with love. He looks on me with love. The girl whose sin sent Him to the cross, the girl who is so unfaithful, He pursues and loves with unfailing faithfulness.

He’s given me this arsenal of truth in my heart and His promises at my side, yet some days I have still questioned if there’s hope beyond the things I feel today. When I think of the new mercy He gives in all my tomorrows, I beg forgiveness for ever settling for anything other than His plan.

Today, I thank Him. Not with a half-hearted, retrospective kind of thanks, but with a deep gratitude for the fires He’s walked me through and for the way He’s allowed me to emerge refined. He’s teaching me that hurt and suffering is a launchpad into His best for me, and for that, I praise Him for entrusting me with such big things.

My thoughts today echo a familiar tune, the one of grace that has sustained me thus far and continues to carry me. With each passing year, His grace feels sweeter, because I continue to need it more and more.

Today, that grace is enough. It covers. It satisfies. It heals.

So I press in just a little bit deeper into His love; I draw just a little bit closer to His side, and I fall in love all over again. That’s the Jesus that I know. That’s the Prince that captivates my soul.

My prayer for this year ahead is that it would be a year of yes; a year of uninhibited bravery in pursuit of nothing short of God’s best. I look forward to the joy and journey ahead, and the moments of growth that are covered in grace.

I pray today, no matter where find yourself in life’s journey, that you would be reminded of His faithfulness to you, too.

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