All of my apps and social media outlets are trying to tell me what my "highlights" were in 2021. And while I appreciate the effort, I also know that I am the only person who actually knows how each day of the year went for me...so I am the best judge of my own highlights! Haha.
Before I begin writing what I really want to focus on, I first want to acknowledge that I know that the last two years have been full of challenges for most of us, myself included! I know that social media can make it seem like life is something other than reality. The truth is, life IS challenging. Pretty much all the time. BUT...it is ALSO beautiful and full of good things too! And so, with that, I want to take some time to reflect on all of the GOOD that happened in my life in 2021 and I invite you to do the same!
This post is mostly just for me, but feel free to join me in gratitude! There were some seriously difficult days filled with tears and spent on my knees in prayer. But this is about all of the moments of JOY that 2021 brought me!
After years and years of praying and planning, I began the year in the country God placed on my heart so long ago! I had the privilege of building new relationships, exploring a new country, learning a new language, and making lots of new memories that will last a lifetime! I had intended to stay longer, but my brother was getting married, so I came back in late March.
Almost as soon as I got back to the USA, some close friends and I had the opportunity to go on a road trip together to Mississippi to watch our dear brother Luke get married! We had such a wonderful time driving down, spending time together, exploring a new town, making random stops, and of course...dancing the night away at the wedding! A few weeks later, my little brother married the love of his life and I gained a sister! Molly is beautiful, kind, and all-around wonderful and I am so thankful to have her in my life! She and Derick are great parents to Liam, whom I got SOOO many snuggles in with this year too! Also in April, my cousin Iesha got married, so we got to go on another road trip and meet even more new family members! Such a year of growth! AND the Sunday after Easter, I found the church I have been praying for to exist for at least the last 10 years...maybe even closer to 15! SO much I could say on that subject.
Originally, I was supposed to fly back to Asia in May, but my flights kept changing because as COVID cases were on the rise, the country closed its borders for unknown amounts of time. It was during this uncertain season that I also noticed my passport was going to be expiring somewhat soon. (You cannot fly to many countries if your passport has less than 6 months validity on it and on my first trip, I actually witnessed another passenger get sent back home because of that very reason.) I made the difficult decision to postpone my return until the Fall after the three-month process it took to get my passport renewed. In this same month, I had already booked flight credits (from my cousin's wedding when flights got canceled) to visit my family in San Francisco. Trips to SF are never disappointing for me! Fills my soul to the BRIM to be able to be with my family there!!
This unexpected month at home allowed me to get to spend time with not only my brother Derick, but also my baby brother Bryson, whom I hadn't been able to connect with prior. Not only that, but I witnessed Derick's first Father's Day AND got to spend time with my grandpa OUTSIDE of his assisted living facility. Oh, and of course, started getting more connected with people at my new church!
I always love July because my birthday is in July and it's an excuse to bring people together! In addition to birthday celebrations this year, one of the missionary families I am connected with overseas was able to come to the USA to visit for the first time in YEARS and it just so happened that my house was not far out of the way for their journey! So I was blessed to spend a few days with them, introduce them to my family and church family, take the kids to the movies, and spend the day at the lake with them before they continued on! Also in July, we have an annual family reunion in West Virginia which I was able to attend this year! AND I was able to introduce my "little sister" Jasmine to everyone and see her do a lot of things for the first time...shooting guns, riding four-wheelers, camping, etc. July is my JAM!
While at home, I have been uniquely blessed to be able to work for my dad's roofing company. Thankfully, I know the owners and they are exceptionally gracious with my uncertain schedule of "I may or may not be in the country next month. But can I do some work and earn a paycheck until then?" kind of situation! One thing I got to focus on was community involvement and I LOVED it! We did a backpack donation this year and organizing it was so much fun! Speaking of school, I also decided to go back to college after a 10+ year hiatus. This is because I'm starting my own nonprofit but I want more skills under my belt if I do this! I'm currently enrolled online at Western Carolina University working towards a Bachelor's in Business. Made all A's this semester and hoping next semester goes just as smoothly!
In September, my dad's mom's side of the family was able to have their first family reunion in...we don't know how long! (My grandma is no longer with us, but she still somehow holds us all together!) We had a weekend at the lake and my cousin Gregory got baptized in front of the family by my pastor who drove almost 2 hours just to be there for this moment! (Gregory lives about 8 hours away from us, but has developed a good relationship with my pastor!) The following weekend, our leaders at church also had a retreat and we were able to spend some quality time bonding, playing games, telling stories, and making memories.
In October, I got to be present for my sweet nephew's FIRST birthday!! So surreal! Kids don't keep, y'all! Love them every second you've got them! Also in October, our church outgrew the space we were meeting in and we were blessed with a new space in a club downtown! We spent several weeks cleaning the space up and preparing it to be used. SUCH a transformation! We also got to celebrate my stepmom Carrie's birthday by going to see the Broadway performance "Wicked" in Greensboro...where we also were able to see Jasmine and another cousin as well! This was my first Broadway experience...and I really hope it's not the last! AND my DEAR friends Kyle and Jasselle got married at the end of this month...which meant another trip to California! While there, a friend I made in Asia also came to visit San Francisco and I was able to show him around to some of my favorite places! (He is not from America, so that makes being a tour guide all the more fun!) Seriously. I know these are not normal situations for most people and I never want to take it for granted! Ended the month with a fun Halloween outreach with the church fam!
This month saw my nephew's first steps! Forever memorable! Spent most of this month packing and saying goodbyes and preparing to go back overseas. Was very fortunate to spend Thanksgiving with family and to do Thanksgiving outreach with my church. And to top it all off, I was able to squeeze in some Christmas spirit before going by making my "going away " party an ugly sweater Christmas party! No regrets.
On the very first day of December, I boarded a plane back to Asia and that is where I completed 2021! Witnessed people graduating from Bible college. Had a phenomenal Christmas. Played in the snow. Distributed blankets to some families. And most importantly, spent time with my family here!
All in all, there is no way I can look back and wish 2021 would have been any different than it was. Even the difficult times just made the happier times all the sweeter! Sometimes I think that's a reason God allows us to face challenges. It puts things into perspective...if we allow it! This year was a year where I could hardly catch my breath. And it was worth it. Praying the theme continues on into 2022 and really excited to see how God continues to work!!
What about YOU?! Tell me something good that happened to YOU in 2021!!