Looking Back

Oh hey, it is January 2017. And nine months have passed since my last blog post…My bad. I suppose I should do one of those 2016 recap posts. So grab a cup of coffee because this is going to be a long one….

If I am being completely honest, 2016 was tough. I had gone into the year feeling that I had finally gained some solid footing in most areas of my life and work, only to have that stripped away. A lot of things happened last year and I still find myself asking God, “Why?” I have been hesitant to write…. I have not known what to say and frankly, it is kind of embarrassing. Aren’t I supposed to have my stuff together? Am I allowed to share my mess in this little corner of the internet? But I am feeling God push me to do so, and here we are.

2016 held a lot of hurt, doubt and frustration.

Two close friends quietly disappeared from my life and I am not sure if I will ever get an exact answer as to why…regardless, it hurt. It still hurts, even months later. As I processed (and some days, still process) these losses, I cannot help but wonder if it is me.

Am I a terrible person? Did I do something wrong? Or did we just outgrow each other? Is it because of my faith? Do I have a terribly irritating personality flaw? As much as I hate to say it, I may never know. That unknown is the most difficult part.  I find it creeping into my other relationships and as a result I hold people at arm’s length, wondering if I am too much of a burden or a hindrance. This is something I have to continually give to God and trust that He knows what is best. As you can imagine, it is easier said than done.

As I come to terms with this, I realize that God is using this to draw me closer, forcing me to rely completely on Him. Again, this is hard. A lot of pre-conceived notions have been stripped away and at times I feel raw, like Eve, standing completely naked in front of Him. And yet… He is so good! He simply takes me as I am and asks only that I follow Him.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV).

Even after all this time, it is so hard for me to grasp this. Grace. I am so flawed, and yet, He loves me anyway. My prayer is that as a minister–as a human being–I would be able to give even a small portion of that grace to those I interact with. And this cannot be done apart from God.

2016 was also a time that I was able to grieve an event that occurred several years ago. At the time, I thought it had no effect on me but for whatever reason, it came to the forefront last year and I finally dealt with it. It was hard. Harder than I ever would have guessed. But I like to believe it has made me a far more compassionate person and it is something God is using to refine me.

Work is an area in which I have always felt confident, but working in ministry is different. This year held so many changes and un-answered questions. So many questions. Life does not make sense…and sometimes that really sucks. In my line of work, we see the best of people, but we also see the worst. We see amazing God-things happen, but we also see terrible things happen to good people. A lot will simply not make sense this side of eternity. And for the sake of being transparent, some days this burden is not easy to carry. I do not like to broadcast it, but I am a very sensitive person. I have BIG feelings, always have. Dealing with people as intimately as I do, this makes things messy. When I see someone hurting, I hurt for them. And it is hard to talk about–who do you talk to???

Still, God is there. Patiently waiting for me to come to Him. Whispering, “Be still, and know” (Psalm 46:10 NKJV). And again, I am completely overwhelmed by His grace, that we can bring absolutely anything to Him.

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16 NKJV).

It still takes my breath away.

It would be unfair to mention a portion of the bad  without mentioning some of the good. And there was a lot of good!

While there were many hard days in 2016, I was never alone (even if I felt that way). Ben was–and is–a huge blessing to me and I could not imagine doing this life with anyone else. We celebrated five years of marriage last year and while each year holds unique challenges, I like to think we came out even stronger than before. I have never met someone so patient and understanding. He has taken on my ministry–a task he didn’t choose!–without batting an eyelash. Frankly, I don’t give him enough credit for this. I would not be able to do what I do without his support.

It still amazes me the people God has placed in our paths and the friendships we have formed; People who have encouraged and supported us, but also told us when we need to rethink something. Sometimes, it is difficult to be honest and I am glad to do life with people who love us enough to tell the truth, even if it may be unpleasant. This last year, I desperately needed that. I had so many insecurities come to the forefront, things that I had not thought about for years, and I needed a lot of loving (and sometimes brutal) truth. I have learned that we cannot go through this life alone. We need people to hold us accountable and sometimes, to pull us along. We’ve had the opportunity to experience adventure, heartbreak, worship, prayer, tears and pure joy with this group. I am so grateful for each one of them.

“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:3-6 NIV).

It was also a huge blessing to help with the baptism of some of the teens I work with. Making a public declaration of Christ is reason to celebrate! These teens continue to challenge me and surprise me. I am encouraged by the wisdom and the love for God some of them possess at such a young age. It is incredibly humbling to have the opportunity to be a part of their faith journey. This is something that I do not take lightly and while it is not for the faint of heart, God has shown me amazing things through these kids.

2016 was also the year that I was granted my first district license in the church of the Nazarene and I was able to preach my first sermon. I still cannot believe that I am in this position. Looking back on my life, I never would have guessed that I would be here. This only could have happened through God’s grace. Again this is not an easy task, but I have found joy in the small things; hearing answers to prayer, seeing people come to Christ and spending time, sharing burdens and celebrating the small victories with hurting people.

This is hard work. Some days it is downright overwhelming, but still I am blessed. And I am looking forward with hope.

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13 NKJV).

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Photo Credit: A. Clark

Cheers to 2017!

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6 Comments on “Looking Back”

  1. Beth Anne Macdonald says:

    Morning Noelle –

    Not sure how many comments you ever receive on your blog posts but I enjoy reading them and in fact was thinking I hadn’t seen one in a very long time so it was nice ( in the best use of the word nice ) to find one this morning. You have a lovely writing style – thanks for sharing.

    Beth Anne

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  2. You are a blessing! So glad God chose us to do life together at this time! Thanks for sharing your amazing heart! 💖

  3. Girl! So good to read your post!
    So much of what you said explains my 2016 in so many ways!
    I pray your 2017! Will be blessed with many wonderful relationships and memories with Ben!
    I didn’t realize you were at a First Nazarene church! I grew up in a Nazarene church and my dad was even a pastor at one for a bit.

    Here is to a much better 2017!
    Blessings!


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