Highlight Reel

Can you believe 2015 is over?! It certainly seems like it flew by. As I create goals for the new year, I want to take a moment to reflect upon 2015 and share some of the highlights.

January– My extended family took a trip to Walt Disney World in Florida. I hadn’t been there in almost ten years, so it was a completely different experience than when I was a kid. I loved the nostalgia of visiting old places and the chance to try new things that hadn’t interested me when I was younger.

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February– My best friend and I hosted a fancy dinner party. Each course represented a different country, and I think we had just as much fun making all the food as we did eating it with our friends.

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May– I went on a mini roadtrip with a couple of my friends to Madison, WI, to meet up with more friends and see our favorite band, Needtobreathe. The whole experience was straight out of a movie.

On the way to the concert- "Tour de Compadres with my compadres" -Katie

June– I went to Joyful Noise Family Fest with my family once again, and we had a great time! It was so fun to listen to bands I loved and hear music from artists I wasn’t familiar with, all the while bonding with my family.

July– One of my college roommates got married, and it was such a sweet reunion of all the girls I had lived with as we gathered together to celebrate this milestone in her life.

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August– I ran my first half-marathon. Man, that was definitely a big challenge, especially since I had never done a real trail run before. It was long and muddy, but I was able to push myself to new limits, and it felt really good to achieve my goal.

September– My cousin got married, and I was blessed with the opportunity to be a part of the celebration. The whole family came together to make everything run smoothly, and the entire day was spent together, cherishing one another’s company and conversation.

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My sister and I also moved into an apartment of our own in September, which was a big change from living with a few of our closest friends. It has given us the opportunity to spend more time together and become closer, which I’m really grateful for.

November– amidst the celebrating of Thanksgiving, my family participated in the Walk to End Hunger at MOA, which was a sweet time of walking together around the mall to support efforts to feed those who are food insecure while we think about how grateful we are for all that we have. I also got to celebrate Thanksgiving with my community, and it was so touching to hear how everyone in the group truly was thankful for the friendships that have been forged in that group and the support they have felt over the last year.

December– all the Christmas things. I hosted a party themed after How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which was a blast. I also spent time with my family, watching episodes 4, 5, and 6 of Star Wars in preparation for episode 7. It was good to spend so much concentrated time with those closest to me, especially during the holiday season, which is my favorite time of year. My cousin and I got to plan games for Christmas day with the extended family once again, and it was a lot of fun to get together for such a happy occasion.

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As I begin a new year, I can’t wait to see what joyful memories it will be filled with. May it be a very happy new year for you all!

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Fall

Pumpkin spice tea, cozy scarf, jeans weather, fall colors, what more could a girl ask for?

Pumpkin spice tea, cozy scarf, jeans weather, fall colors, what more could a girl ask for?

Fall. It’s a time of new beginnings as kids head back to school after summer break. It still stands out to me as a turning point, even though I’m no longer numbered among those who are returning to their backpacks and pencils, school buses and cafeteria lines. I think I will always consider this time of year to be one of new starts, even if I’m not moving on to another year of school. I’ve left behind the days of shopping for school supplies and new school clothes, but I’ve hung onto the feeling of wanting to begin again.

I adore fall—the beautiful, rich colors, the warm drinks, the leaves crunching beneath my boots, cozy sweaters and scarves—I love it all. Okay, I may resent the colder weather a little bit, but bonfires and hayrides and trips to the apple orchard make it well worth it. And the fact that the cooler temperatures come around whether I want them to or not reminds me that I’m not in control, that I have to choose to make the most of what I’m given and be grateful for each season (of the year and of life) as it comes, because no matter how endless it seems, it won’t last long.

Life would seem too monotonous and mundane without having anything to strive for, without any signposts to break up the year and remind us to set a new round of goals and ambitions. Many people think of resolutions as only an annual event, a New Year’s tradition. But why limit our reflections upon the past year and hopes for the next one to a single occurrence every twelve months? As the leaves begin to change color and the air grows crisper, I find myself considering once again what kinds of change and growth, what new starts, are needed in my life.

I am grateful for this season and the way it reminds me each year that I can have the opportunity to start again, to turn over a new leaf, to begin a new chapter. I choose to continually challenge myself, not with the mentality of never being good enough, but knowing that there is always some room for improvement in becoming the best version of myself.

As I break out my jacket and boots, I’m reminded once again that this season is a fleeting one– it seems it’s halfway gone almost as soon as I realize it began. All too soon, frost will be forming on the grass and stores will be filled with Christmas music, luring people into the mistaken notion that they need more stuff in their lives to be happy. Instead of falling prey to that way of thinking, I will pause to reflect upon everything I am already blessed with, knowing it’s more than enough. I’m choosing to take this opportunity to recognize the brevity of fall and life as a whole, to see the need to cherish every moment, knowing each one is precious.

As the hours of daylight grow shorter, my time becomes an even more valuable commodity to me. But in preparation for the holiday season that will all too quickly be upon us, I will choose to slow down and savor the sights, sounds, and smells of fall while it’s here, and I encourage you to do the same. May this be a time filled with the aroma of apple and cinnamon, the crunching of leaves and crackling of fires, and the beautiful reds, oranges, and yellows of fall foliage as you take a moment to ponder the greatness of life in all its changing seasons.

Pursuing Passion

We agonize over figuring out what God’s seemingly elusive will is for our lives, neglecting the fact that what He really wants is us. He wants us to be fully committed to Him in everything we do, not just in our decisions about what school to go to, what company to work for, what city to live in, or who to marry.

He cares more about how we live our lives than which way we turn at each fork in the road. Aside from making decisions that would directly go against His word and His character, we are free to tap into the way He hardwired us, doing what we feel most excited about, what we see the greatest amount of good resulting from, and what we feel deep down we were made and called to do.

He orchestrates the details of our lives, giving us deep-rooted desires for certain things, skills in particular areas, and opportunities to apply them to roles that can point people around us to our Maker. He wants us to pursue our passions and use our gifts to glorify Him, regardless of whether we pursue it in the “secular” workplace or in vocational ministry. There is nothing less Christian or less obedient about following your passions and using them to help others and make the world a better, more beautiful, more loving place in roles outside of the church. Other realms of work need more of Jesus brought into them, too.

That’s all well and fine, you might be thinking, but what if I don’t feel particularly gifted or passionate about anything specific? I want to encourage you to set aside some time to dig a bit deeper. You may not get a crystal-clear vision of what you should spend the next fifty years of your life doing, but you can gain some insight into how God made you.

Think about how the events of your past have shaped you, both the good ones and the bad ones. What might God be teaching you through those events? What about them made you who you are today? How have they shaped your personality, your passions, your dreams, your fears, your strengths and weaknesses, and your interactions with others?

Think about the things that make you happiest. What could you talk about for hours on end? What makes you smile from ear to ear so hard that you couldn’t stop even if you wanted to? What makes you squeal with joy and jump up and down, regardless of whether anyone might be watching? What hobbies, talents, or skills do you have that make you feel special, capable, gifted, in the zone, or proud? What causes or injustices are you the most passionate about?

Now look back upon what you’ve uncovered, and begin to put the pieces of the puzzle together. How can you combine what your past has formed in you, what you love to do, and loving God through it all? Maybe you don’t see anything concrete. That’s okay. But hopefully you see ways in which you can begin to impact your world, even in seemingly small ways, that would bring a little more light, a little more love to those around you.

Maybe you are good at baking, and you can share that gift by making cookies for lonely neighbors, forging relationships with them. Or maybe you can help tutor kids after school, showing them that someone cares enough to invest in their future. Maybe you can help a coworker with a project, even if it means you’ll have to stay late to complete your own work. God is glorified in small acts of kindness just as much as in big gestures, if not more so, as our daily acts show a consistent presence of His grace in our lives. He ultimately wants us to know Him and make Him known. That’s His will for our lives. How are you going to live that out today?

Interested in reading more? Check out Jennie Allen’s book Restless: Because You Were Made for More.