2013 was a year of change. The person I was when the clock struck 12:01 on January 1, 2013 would be a stranger in the mirror today. In the short version of the year the highlights include NCAA Finals in Georgia, riding a camel in Egypt, watching my brother become one of the best men I know, witnessing my dad find happiness all over again, returning to Kenya, meeting another best friend, and watching my two worlds collide. The greatest things however that 2013 brought into my life are 7 lessons. Some are simple and some I could never articulate, some continue into 2014 and some begin in 2012, some are inspirational and some are testimonial, but all of them are part of who I am as this year rolls into the next. They are what defines the 2013 chapter of my life.
Lesson 1: Freedom
2012 was a year I wish I could forgot, but it gave me the greatest gift that I couldn’t see until 2013: freedom. Before 2013, I carried a burden on my heart, my mind, my soul. A beautifully broken burden that I had learned to survive with; a burden I had come to define my life by. Coming to grips with the loss of the burden will be a lifelong journey, but one that I have come to realize should be filled with broken walls, new opportunities, and refreshing freedom. I have room to feel and I have peace to believe that chaos will not come in the morning. It is a freedom I wish I could give back, but one I know will meaningfully change my life if I let it. It was a selfless gift; a gift meant to give me life. 2013 taught me that sometimes gifts don’t come in packages we choose but we do have the power to decide how we will let those gifts define our futures. Freedom isn’t something I would have ever asked for, but I can’t turn back time and I owe it to the world to use it. Be free.
Lesson 2: “your heart is too big”
I cannot count on my hands the number of times this year someone has said “your heart is too big.” Is there such thing? Can we be too gracious? Can we extend too much empathy? Being able to have your heartbreak for a stranger who has lost their mom, or someone hiding from their past, doesn’t feel like too big; it feels like not big enough. I want to love on the world with everything I am. I want our lives to be defined by who we are today and who we want to be in the future, not by our yesterdays. Knowing that someone else wants to share our pain and empathize with our brokenness can be a light in an overwhelming darkness. We could all have bigger hearts. Don’t be afraid to give a person a second chance or to extend a shoulder to a stranger, these acts are what fulfilled my 2013. Be gracious.
Lesson 3: “don’t make someone a priority who isn’t willing to make you one”
In early 2013, when I uttered those words to one of my best friends I never imagined those would be words I needed to hear myself. The world is full of people waiting to be loved, why do we waste time giving people who don’t want our love priority over those who already love us? Sometimes I think we spend so much time hoping that our love will be enough to change someone’s mind, it will be enough to make them into the people we have created in our minds, but the truth is, all of that is out of our control. How someone feels about us is not a reflection of who we are but of who they are; it is not our responsibility or our right to change them. What we can change is how much time we spend focusing on things we can’t change so that we don’t miss out on the opportunities around us. We all need to know when to stop knocking at the closed door so we can see the one across the hall that is open and waiting for us to turn around. Be honest.
Lesson 4: Joshua
I won’t tell the whole story but this year has left me in Joshua’s shoes. Moses has died, the people of Israel have mourned, and now it is time to move on. Joshua must take what was promised to him, he must lead, he must be brave, he must be steadfast in his mission, and he must go. This is not about me always leaving, but rather an acknowledgment that the only person holding me back from my dreams is myself; my own fear, my own self-doubt, my own intimidation. It is time to stop wandering in the wilderness and take bold steps to be the person I was always intended to be. Trusting in the unknown is the hardest thing to do but there is so much more out there if only we are willing to go get it. Be fearless.
Lesson 5: Say yes and no more
Almost every highlight over the past year happened because I said yes…..and no more. I said yes to things that built experiences and relationships. I said no to things that I knew were no longer healthy for my heart, for my mind, and for the person I want to be in this world. Don’t be afraid to say yes to experiences you logically can’t do it; there is no such thing as mistakes. If you want to dance on an empty dance floor, take that first step. If you want to see the world, book that ticket. If you want to take a chance, do it but look for the lesson in any outcome. On the flip side, we can’t do everything, be everyone, and be everywhere so it is up to us to learn when to say no. No isn’t bad; its a choice in a world of a million possibilities. Be bold.
Lesson 6: Country songs say it best
Anyone who has ever been a long car ride with me knows that when I love a song….I really love a song. Repeat becomes my favorite button. And more often then not, those songs are country songs. If I described my year in country songs the list would look something like this: Drink a Beer, I Drive Your Truck, Guinevere, She Will Be Free, I Hold On, Carrying Your Love With Me, Aw Naw, Bait a Hook, See You When I See You and Where the Green Grass Grows. Be joyful.
Lesson 7: Home is where the heart is
This year I missed everything about home. It is the place where my greatest failure rests and my largest refuge stands. A place where people miss you, a place where people know you, and a place where simplicity is enough. There is something magical about the land of the midnight sun. The longer I am away, the more I can’t wait for those wheels to touch down. It feels like one of those things in life that you don’t know what you have until you let it go. This year, I learned how much home is a part of who I am. It will always be my home, wherever I go, no matter how far or for how long, I will always come home. Be grateful.
2013 was a great year. I learned more about who I am, who I want to be, and how blessed I really am. The world is chaotic and there are no guarantees so making the most of everyday should be the anthem of our lives. So my wish for 2014 is that we extend more love, we don’t let words go unspoken, that we extend more compassion, we don’t let any tears go undried, and that we laugh everyday, from our bellies. We have a new chapter to write so let us not let any of those 365pages go blank.