my life in two thousand twelve.

Every January I write a blog post reviewing what I learned, experienced, loved, hated, etc about the previous year. I’ve done this for quite a few years now and those blogs can be found on my old wordpress site….. which I cannot remember the link to at this moment.

New-Year-2012-Wallpapers[1]

Now that we’re already 13 days into this new year, I’m already late. And truthfully, if I keep delaying anymore then it’s not going to happen. I’ve never felt a hesitancy to write my yearly review until this year, because giving you (whoever you are) an inside look at my 2012 journey this past year seems so much more personal and intimate than any other year. The older I’m getting the more and more exclusive I seem to be getting about my life. I’m not sure, but it’s possible this is one of the first signs of getting older..ha.

Let that be the precursor that this past year was a new and different one for me. The older I’m getting the less I feel prepared for the uncharted territories each year brings me. My life, although super fun, doesn’t exactly fit the mold of what’s modeled the most around me. Ever feel like your life just doesn’t fit the standard human being life mold? Mine really never has though and up until this point it’s what has made my life somewhat enticing from the outside looking in. I’ve always loved and cherished this aspect of how my life story has evolved. But like all stories and uncharted territories there comes chapters in the journey that are not blissful and/or easy. It’s the moment in between the mountain tops…when your standing in the deepest part of the valley looking up and you really can’t see anything. I hate camping, so my “forest” analogies might not be 100% accurate, but it’s at least how I imagine a mountain/forest to be.  I’m sure the words to follow are going to be lengthy and I’m positive they are going to be showered with a lot of real and raw emotions as I review this year with you. 2012 was quite a ride for me- kinda like the Tower of Terror…going up, going up & then BAM not so much.

At this age, the ever-so-young age of 26, I have a lot of control over my life. I make all the decisions and plans by myself. Being single at this age means I do not have to consult anyone about how I spend my money, time, emotions, or energy. In essence, I get to do what I want with the things/elements I can control. I’ve never had a shortage of opportunity, so I’ve always had a lot of lovely options to pick from to define what each new season will look like. I have worked hard to balance all the above in a healthy, yet adventurous juggle, so that I can look back each year and see despite the things I was unable to control there would always be certain number of fun memories I made sure happened.

The older I’m getting, the shorter my list of priorities is becoming and my expectations for each thing on my list is also continuously evolving as the life roller coaster is constantly forcing me to face different realities and deal with so many NEW things. I don’t really know how to be fabulously single in a world of all married or seriously dating people at this age. Girl needs a book or something.

Honest moment #1 I did N-O-T want to get married young. Like REALLY didn’t want too. I’m thrilled with my decision. I still get a bit confused when babes get married, but to each his own. I, however, did not anticipate how the flip side of not being promised I’d be married by 26ish or at least in a serious relationship by then would feel and filter into my life as a whole. In college your life is compartmentalized very well…in adulthood it gets all tossed together like spaghetti. This year the lack of compartmentalization of my life made it very hard to be single and not a bit confused as to why.

No worries this yearly review is not going to be about my relational status. Although elements of it will shine through because as I just mentioned at this point in my life it has greatly slipped into all arena’s of my life. I did go on some fun dates in 2012- if it needs be noted.

Back to my list- here’s how the cards fell in 2012.

2012 Priority List

  1. God
  2. My People (This include my family and bestfriends)
  3. Ministry
  4. Being Healthy (physically, mentally & emotionally) & educating myself about health related things
  5. Vacation/Adventure/Memories
  6. Career

Although my life is not at all compartmentalized like this list, it seems to be the easiest way to explain my 2012 journey. Grab a cup of coffee….or maybe even dinner too and let’s begin.

6. Career

This was quite a year in this area. Lots of unexpected shifts, changes, and frustrations with so many things outside of my control. I’m not going into details here other than that I’m thankful 2012 is over and that 2013 will not be the same- that we can all be sure of. It’s either going to be better (which is the preferred option) or it’s all going to change! Either way I’m REALLY excited about 2013.

5. Vacation/Adventure/Memories

I love life experiences. I’ve never been a girl with a big saving’s account nor has that ever been super important to me. My parents always raised us to be smart with money but at the same time to really value today. The reason vacations/adventures is a top priority to me is because I want to look back and know I’ve really experienced and indulged in life. I’m sure a part of this is due to being single still. Because I am single it means that if I want to do fun things I have to plan it. I don’t have a husband to plan vacations or fun dates with/for me, and I’m not really promised that’s coming tomorrow. I don’t want to wait around for adventure or fun in my next season, I want to get the most out of today. No worries I’m not complaining, but in order to understand my effort to plan fun things for myself, it’s impossible to not acknowledge if I don’t plan then I’ll be home being lame all the time <insert gagging noises here>. (side note: I do acknowledge just because you’re married it doesn’t mean you go on fun vacations or dates all the time. I, however, will be doing that when I’m married.)

Luckily making this a priority is just a way of life for me at this point and this year was full of a lot of well-planned fun moments. I went to a few concerts (Lady Antebellum being my favorite), saw the Lion King with the Fab 4, Andrea and I took our annual vacation and indulged in everything NYC could offer us, I took a lil trip with my mom for a weekend, flew up to Velocity’s high school camp for a few days this summer, was in two of my sweet friend’s weddings, attended OVER 20 baby showers, threw two of those baby showers, threw a couple bridal showers, attended even more wedding showers & weddings, went to the movies a few times by myself and even made it a priority in 2012 to take weekends and/or getaways alone to write (and think). Of course, intermingled in there were normal and consistent hangouts, shopping trips, and other friend parties, but those are the high points worth mentioning. Looks pretty fun when I type it all out, ha!

And it was. There were some really fun celebrations and milestone moments trickled throughout the months. And many days my heart felt full and thankful that in a season of new territory for me, I was surrounded by some of the best (and funniest) people on the planet who are excellent at providing me with endless bridal and baby related parties and activities. From March-September I had at least one shower a weekend…sometimes 3.

Honest Moment #2: On the other side of the some of these “suppose to be fun” seasons, I struggled being frustrated that I had to devote so much of my life, money and time to celebrate people that had no idea what was going on in my own life. In those moments it was both fun to celebrate them but also hard for me at the same time because it was a reminder of what was not going on in my own life. Depth in relationships has always been what I’ve wanted in my life, not quick access to 20+ people. I’ve ALWAYS wanted to be a great cheerleader for my friends and I do think most of the time that I am, but this year was my hardest year to celebrate so many sweet girls whose life was moving on and in directions that I knew would create more distance than closeness between us. It’s not always easy celebrating something new in someone’s life when you’re aware that there is a personal price tag you’re going to have to pay. Remember, I’m 26. It’s not my first rodeo. I understand that dating, engagement, wedding planning, marriage and babies reshapes a friendship and priorities – most of the time making others blissfully unaware of the real things going on in people’s lives around them. Surface friendships become more common and acceptable. This has been one my hardest things to adjust to since I’m not home busy with a husband and making or raising babies.

This year had some really fun instagram worthy celebrations! I’m so thankful for them too. The sweet moments and memories have become a powerful soothing refreshment on the days my heart hurts. Life is truly as fun or lame as we allow it to be. I have full confidence that this will forever remain on my priority list! I’m also pretty excited about the things already on 2013’s agenda.

4. Being Healthy (physically, mentally & emotionally) & educating myself about health related things

This was actually a huge part of my year. Since summer of 2009 I have really become very aware of my body and the things around me that I ingest or inject into it. This year things went to a whole new level of research. I read a list of medical books, pubmed trials/studies, and countless other documents about the immune system and the power the things we eat and inject have to heal us or destroy us. This year, much like last, I heard countless stories of kids within my reach getting sicker and sicker and people of all ages getting cancer and dying. When I was growing up I did not know one kid that was chronically ill or had cancer. Not even 1. Today my children are pretty much promised they will bury a friend or watch multiple friends chronically struggle on a day to day basis. I’m so thankful for the chance to research, study and apply these learned things prior to having a family and children because it has taken the emotion out of my research. My life and habits are evolving quite a bit…and I’m looking forward to 2013 and making some even bigger adjustments. I’m currently working on a medicine journal for homeopathic ways to treat all illnesses for kids and adults. Knowledge is so empowering! Thank God for grad school and the research skills I acquired those years.

3. Ministry & God

I’m combining #3 & #1 because they are too closely related to separate.

As long as I’ve loved Jesus I’ve loved people and his church. Being an active part of ministry has never NOT been a staple part of my life, I honestly can’t ever imagine a season in life where it wouldn’t be. In the last few years, the way I’ve been operated in ministry has really evolved based on the season of life I was in. From students ministries, worship leading, small group leader, ministry team leader, etc I’ve been a part of a lot of aspects and sides of ministry. I started the year off primarily in the college & young adults ministry, but after the first few months of the year I needed some time to myself.

Honest Moment #3- Sometimes we need to take seasons where we simplify our involvement in places and make sure we’re cultivating depth in our walk with the Lord and creating small, quiet moments for the Lord to speak and move in our heart. Even in ministry it’s not about quantity but quality.

Life..and the enemy has a really great way of shaking our hearts. I wrote a few weeks ago about Tragedy and the enemies strategic pursuit of our heart to destroy and hinder God’s purposes for us. Funny how I wrote that before I really began putting all the pieces of 2012 together. The enemies pursuit of my heart was a very active part of what I now see in the beginning of 2012. In retrospect I’m really quite taken back when I look back over the months and see how he used life moments to claim stake in me. There were more than a few moments earlier this year where I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I was more unqualified than ever to be in ministry at any level. This was a very new feeling for me. I’ve encountered plenty of moments where I felt unqualified for what I was doing, but the feeling I was unqualified at any level wasn’t something I was familiar with at all. Especially at a level that made me genuinely contemplate walking away.

Looking back it was a pretty internally chaotic and mentally draining season to not accept my feelings or thoughts as reality. I made the very smart decision to take a season at the beginning of the year and step out of college ministry, so I had more time to spend with Jesus to get myself back in some kind of order. I really didn’t want to stop leading worship though, so it was the one ministry I decided to remain a part of.

Honest Moment #4: Being a part of church/ministry is about people, but it’s also about us. The Lord uses us where we are, loves us enough to change us while simultaneously working through us to change others too.

I love that even in our own chaos, Jesus is orchestrating our path for our freedom moments. Little decisions we make here and there, he uses to position us for his purposes.

From early in the year to the beginning of summertime, I fought a real spiritual battle with myself. Early summer I was asked to take a permanent spot at one of our campuses leading worship. The church was restructuring how they scheduled worship leaders and wanted each of us planted with a campus and team. I got placed at GCC. I really had no complaints or concerns and didn’t think much into the new structure.

Little did I know what the Lord was lining for me. Oh, how he really really does love me.

Throughout the summer the Lord began to move in my heart and address the fears and concerns that had taken stake in my heart from early on in the year…and he used worship as the tool to do so. He placed both opportunity and people in my life and worship leading world that spoke truth to a part of my heart that was so raw and in some ways, broken. It’s amazing to me how in spite of my own brokenness the Lord used me, spoke to and through me, and while healing my heart, he moved on our congregation’s heart each week- we were all getting better together. I love that. It’s a strategy I can barely comprehend. It was also around this time I started writing a lot both for myself and for my book. My book came to life in me as Jesus started taking me on a new kind of trust journey with him.

The earlier half of this year I’d get on a stage to lead worship and I’d repeat over and over again to myself that it is in my weakness his strength is perfected. He does not expect me to have all the questions answered or to have all my life figured out, he is acutely aware of my weakness, yet it’s in my acknowledgement of the space and chaos, he releases a sweet anointing to move in ways I’d never imagine or dream up myself. It wasn’t that I was doubting my ability to sing well, but that I struggled with the idea I was being trusted to lead a congregation into worship when I didn’t feel like I had all my own stuff settled.

The reality that more than anyone He knew me and he still loved, trusted, wanted and qualified me became so real to me I swear I could touch it. Of all the things the Lord taught me in 2012 it’s that he loves me in my seasons of unknown and he trust me. His consistent reminder to me through people’s words and his quiet whispers that he trusted me to love and lead the people he loves so dearly was intricate in soothing and healing my heart in so many ways and relaid a more solid foundation of who he is and his perspective and faith in me.

The second part of this year was more of an exercise of laying and cementing the things he had done in my heart. Worship leading became sweeter and sweeter and his presence more tangible in services to me. It’s become so easy to acknowledge and offer to him my weakness in life & ministry moments. I’ve watched him over and over and over and over and over again this year turn my moments with him into something that’s anointed.

It wasn’t till the end of 2012 I started looking back over the full story of how all the moments from the year linked together and how the Lord used different people to bring it all full circle. The later part of my year was full of wedding festivities and I don’t think I had time to myself for weeks at a time then a few other little world shifts brought me back to the start of the year. It was really in my moments of remembering the journey I walked at the beginning of the year that I could see how far I’ve come and the impact the transformation from the summer has had on all areas of my life. I don’t know what 2013 has in store in this area of my life, but as every year, I’m confident that my year will end and my heart will be overflowing with thankfulness and assurance that he loves me, he likes me, he trust me, and he wants me on his team. I have great expectations for what the Lord is going to do in my life and heart again this year!

2. My people

It seems fitting to end with this category. Next to loving Jesus I do not love anything more than my family and bestfriends. I’m blessed and I know it. There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for them. They are the closest thing to my heart and are the very things that fill my heart with the most joy…and also have the ability to break my heart, stress my heart out, and frustrate my heart more than anyone or anything on the planet. Their ups and downs directly affect me. When their life is sweet, my life is sweet. When their life is not, my heart hurts for them. This year my heart experience a lot of things for my favorite people as we all experienced the life rollercoaster of ups and downs together.

I haven’t always allowed people, even the ones closest to me, such direct access to my heart. But a few short years ago, I made a decision to let go of my heart boundaries to make sure all the relationships closest to me were two way streets. I’ve always been strong and independent, so it has been a very conscious decision and rewiring of my instinctive thoughts and choices to let my heart get on the life ride with my people. It makes the good moments sweeter and the hard moments so very real, but I’d rather my emotions acutely aware of the reality around me than to miss out the sweet moments and strength I have access to pull from them.

This year the life ride with my family had a lot of ups and a lot of downs. We had some very scary moments. Watching people you love struggle as they find themselves is painfully hard to watch. It’s tragical to feel like you’re limited in how you can help them, because they have to “get it” to change. If only we could change for them, it would have been a much easier year! God has been so faithful in my family member’s lives though. He has proven over and over again that he is moving even when we don’t see it. And more than we love and deeper than our heart’s break for them, his does too. We also had some really high moments as a family. It was another year of friendships with my brothers which has become a vital part of my surviving singleness in your late 20’s. Most days I get asked a long list of ridiculous questions I don’t have the answer to or wouldn’t tell random people the real answer anyways like when I’m getting married or who I like or why in the world I am single. Every so often it makes me feel crazy or like something is wrong with me and that’s why I’m not married at the moment. Luckily, my brothers are honest and we’ve gotten to talk about it this year. They have showered my year with sweet comments that I look beautiful or am fun or am smart and that I shouldn’t settle for certain guys. They are still young, but I’m so proud and thankful for them. What they say truly does matter and resonates with my heart concerns if I’m having a crazy moment. This year was also another year to watch my parents be rockstars at navigating life. I don’t know how they do it, but I love how much fun they are and how playful they are still in their 50’s. Their biggest advice to me this year was to marry my bestfriend and only have one kid and a lot of stuffed animals. They are hilarious…and getting a little tired in the parent department. Although I’m positive once they have one grandkid their advice will change and they will recommend I have as many kids as possible.

This has been a very sweet year of friendships. The beautiful thing about my main girls is that we’ve all walked a lot of life together. Some of us are in similar seasons and others our life details literally look nothing alike, but despite looking like the character’s from Sex and the City (minus the trashy sex part) we still all love doing life together.

I cannot imagine how I would have navigated another year without sneaking away and spending quiet family nights with Amy and her cute babies, my lunch dates with Jordan or the many girl nights and shopping trips Amy, Jordan and I went on hunting for the best deals, putting on fancy clothes for an adult girls night out in the city, and we can’t forget our countless HILARIOUS group text. We are three of the funniest people on the plant. My favorite moment with these girls was Jordan’s birthday when we accidentally slipped into a car parade. Seriously, good times.

Those two really mean the world to me. I wouldn’t want to do life without them. They add an element of fun my heart desperately needs and even though they’re married which means there is ALWAYS a % of conversation I’m not adding to (you can figure that topic out on your own), I’m thankful that relational status hasn’t affected our ability to grow our friendships to many new depths this year. Even though I feel like I’m miles a part from them in moments because our worlds are different, I’m thankful that’s just a feeling and the truth is relational status has never been a defining factor on bestfriendom. We might be trusting the Lord for different things, but we’re still encouraging each other to trust him for those things. I’m so glad they’re on my team. They really make me a better woman and I’m positive I’m going to be a real awesome wife and mom because of them too. I’m very blessed they care about me, my heart and my future. It’s reassuring to know that there isn’t anything that could happen that I couldn’t or wouldn’t want to call them and have them be a part of! I love life with them.

And my final person to recap my year with is my BeffF, Andrea. She’s been my life sidekick for almost 3 years now. Every year has brought us a new set of adventures, memories, depth and growing pains as we force ourselves to not settle into what is comfortable or instinctive. We’re kind of like best friend therapist. Life gives us opportunities to shine and celebrate each other or exposes parts of our heart we need help to address and change. Unlike a therapist, our commitment isn’t restricted to 60 minutes or a price tag, so we get a lot more time and grace to help navigate the uncharted territories of our heart together. This past year was no different. One of my favorite things about her is her faithfulness and commitment. I’m not sure that I’d say this was our most carefree year yet mostly due to how crazy life was for both of us, but I will say that looking back on the year it laid the foundation for new level of depth to form. My friendship with her has broken the surface level mold I was getting use to. I had become scared to dream with people and plan life with them farther than a few months ahead after years of having to let dreams and plans die on my end while others moved into new seasons. I love that in 2012 I see both a picture of us growing up together and dealing with real life coupled with lighthearted friend adventures. Proverbs says Faithful are the wounds of a friend….and although I don’t like the implication of the word “wounds” here and don’t think it applies directly to us, there is much truth behind the premise that doing real life with friends through good and bad seasons is truly a gift and force to be reckoned with.

She’s a great teammate to have. She’s been my “feel like home” girl and constant means of conversation for all 365 days of 2012. I would be quite interested to know how many text we sent last year. My guess is it would be well over 30,000 and that’s low balling it. We’ve weathered and processed family, boys, school, jobs, diets/detoxes, the future, goals, money and life together over hundreds of cups of coffee and probably thousands of dollar of food and countless gallons of gas for car ride convo’s. She makes me laugh a lot and when we hang out I feel like I can take a deep breath and just enjoy life without being Renee Hall, video girl, worship leader, small group leader, marketing girl, tech girl, swap page admin, writer, therapist, etc. You get the picture. I just get to be normal with no expectations of filling some preconceived notion of who I am suppose to be and best of all I do not feel reminded of how different my world looks from others in so many other life moments. This blog isn’t about all the things we did together in 2012, but it’s safe to say the mass majority of events took place with her and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m so thankful that three years ago the Lord created space in my life for a new best friend. She’s undoubtedly been the sweetest gift I could have received and very big part (knowingly or not) in me learning to let my heart get on the life ride with my main people.

I know not everyone has bestfriends like her or my other girls. The one’s you know the Lord has knit your heart to. She’s challenged, encouraged and fought for our friendship many times in the last three years, and I’m so thankful for that. That’s a good friend. 2012 was another year of sweet memories, but I’m equally as thankful for the moments we fought for our friendship as I am for the easy to love moments. 2013, like the other years, is going to blessed, fun, and I expect filled with new moments and bumps for us to walk together, but at the end of the day I really wouldn’t want to walk out my life with anyone else.

I should prob add in a disclaimer there are quite a few more ladies I could give a spot to in this blog, but it’s already 100 miles long and I already feel bad for crapping up the feed with the world longest post. So I limited my shoutouts to my main three girls.

I don’t know who the heck would honestly read all the way to the end of this, but if you did I should probably buy you dinner. These yearly reviews are more for me than for anyone else. It’s easy to forget pieces of the journey if you don’t take moments to reflect on it as a whole. It’s good to stop and look at life from a bit of a distance and see how the hard moments linked together with the sweet moments and they all add up to a beautiful ongoing story Jesus is helping you navigate and walk through. As much as I wish I journaled more frequently, I am thankful for this tradition that forces me to reflect on each year.

2012 was a new kind of year for me. It’s easy to have a semi-realistic mapping/expectation of your life in college. In adulthood it seems so much harder to know what each year will bring because there are very few constants in my life. This makes me planning things become SO much more important and also my ability to be flexible in all areas of my life SO very important as well. I’m learning with each new day and season to love what today actually is. I really am walking out in a very real day to day way the journey of learning to love my moments in between the mountain top celebrations. I know more than ever that is it the day to day journey that cultivates depth and recarves and shapes our perspective and faith in who God becomes for us. In 2012 I need him differently than any other year before and he was certainly faithful to be all the above and more.

I expect 2013 to be a great year, but I also know that there are already challenges that have lined up for me to deal with head on. I’m not 100% sure how I’ll face them and I don’t know what the result of them will be, but I am hoping I do better this year than last and that more than anything the Lord covers my year with a sweet peace and grace to navigate the moments ahead.

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