Saturday, December 29, 2012

Looking Back - 2012 in Retrospect

2012 was a tough year for me.

It was the sort of year where I was tempted to say things like, “It isn't fair!”, “Why me! Why my family!” and “God, where are you!” It was almost as bad as 2006 or '07, which were pure hell. And for me, that is saying something. I mean, those were tough.

Even so, I'm still thankful for every minute of it, because everything happens for a reason, and towards the end of the year I'm starting to see those reasons. I know God was with me every step of the way. I was no less blessed than I was in any of my good years, but this year the blessings had to come with tears. So, in retrospect, 2012 actually wasn't so terrible.

My family and I kicked off the year on the wrong foot—or should I say, the foot we least wanted to kick with. My youngest sister, who is wheelchair-bound, had to have a major back surgery two days after New Year's, in which metal rods were placed into her spine to straighten it. The previous Christmas and the first few weeks of January placed a lot of stress on us, especially my parents, which in turn led to my siblings and I also having more stress. For two weeks, we had to stay home, while Dad worked half the day and Mom stayed with our sister in the hospital three hours away. That was only the first step on her road to recovery. From there the daily, weekly, and monthly schedules were thrown out of control for all of us. Things got pretty chaotic, but we still got to keep some of our old family traditions and activities. Finally, after all the craziness that lasted well into the summer, our lives were returning to normal. It's still a bit crazy, come to think of it, but that's what happens when you have a severely-handicapped person in the house—craziness! And for us, that's completely normal.

That 2011-2012 Christmas season, I was so anxious for my sister's life, I got sick and lost weight, and even now my health isn't back to where it should be. The day of the surgery, January 3rd, was probably one of the worst days of my year. The kind of day where you mentally dwell on all the bad thoughts and actions you had against somebody, all the times you never told them how much you loved them, and hoping to God it'll turn out okay.

But the surgery went smoothly, and my sister is well into recovery. Now, I can say that it was an experience that helped knit our family together. We were all forced to cooperate, get our hands involved in things we would never otherwise do, and take care of my sister. The stress was high, indeed. Yet, I believe we came out closer and more accountable to one another, and that was something we were in great need of, as the day is drawing near when many of us will be moving out and our family bonds will be tested by that. Best of all, the doctors haven't mentioned anything about more major surgeries in the near future. So I count it as a huge blessing to not only myself as an individual but to the spirit of our family—check.

Outside my sister's surgery, our house remained relatively quiet this year, which is also normal. We don't have vacations to Europe, or road trips to the Rocky Mountains, not even a camping trip all together. However, for myself, personally, my heart was anything but quiet.

You know, we all have those years where things just go awesome—with a small road bump or two, but nothing significant—and life feels good, and we can feel ourselves blossoming and smiling bigger. Yeah? That was not 2012 for me.

My 2012 was marked with a lot of harsh lessons I had to learn inside. By the time February had rolled along, I was sinking deep into a lot of junk I had made for myself. I was letting myself become consumed by fantasy worlds so I could escape the piling stress and seemingly-eternal bore of my real life. I escaped through music, entertainment, and yes, things online I never should have read or looked at. And I got away from the stress and the bore, for a little while. But like a corpse left out in the open, I felt myself starting to decay. I felt confused, tired, and isolated, yet I was still praying earnestly to God to take it all away. Finally, in late summer, I came to my senses and pulled away from the fantasy junk. I gave it all back to Him, and almost instantly, the darkness cleared and I felt more alive than ever.

2012 was almost the exact opposite of 2011 for me. In 2011, I was on fire for God, and I felt like I was doing just about everything right. Even though that was a difficult year as well, I felt like God was really close the whole time. 2012 was about me having to trudge through a lot of junk—that is, new junk that was bringing out some old monsters under the bed I thought had died a long time ago. This year, God was with me all along, but I needed to see that I could only have one God at a time, and I needed to trust Him with everything, not just parts of me.

In other words, God broke down my houses of sin, and on top of their ruins, He built His castles of love and grace. I learned a lot and I have come out with the experience much closer to God. Even though it was hard to see it for a long time, and the whole thing was painful, looking back I can see it was a blessing the whole time—check.

Speaking from my writer's side, this was also a big year. For two years I have been working hard at a novel, but never thought it would be published for real. Traditional publishing is like winning the lottery, and self-publishing, well, that's just too hard. But one day, I woke up and realized I was letting my precious time whither away—treacherous! So I sat down, took my novel through a heavy final revision, and now it is about to be published as an e-book. I have no idea how successful it will be, but within a month I will be able to call myself not just a writer, but an author. I cannot think of anything more defining and important to me, and there is no way this opportunity could not be a blessing—check.

One thing I will definitely carry away from 2012 is a major upcoming event that had its roots back in February. That month, our family and a couple church members sat around our dining room table and prayed, “God, for years our family has wanted to do a missions trip, and today we feel like You are leading us closer to that. Show us where You want us to go.” As our team grew, we started to seek out possibilities for our mission trip. These meetings lasted throughout the whole year, and we have exited 2012 giddy with excitement for next year. Come next June, our team—which includes my dad and two siblings—will be going on a mission trip to Thailand! This is going to be a huge step for me spiritually and, well, physically. As I have already mentioned, our family rarely gets to travel because of our financial issues, and trips—much less overseas, and much, much less on a mission in the name of the Lord—are unheard of around our house. And yet, God willing, this will happen. We pray constantly for the financial support we will need for this, yet I am anticipating this more than anything. I want nothing more than to get out of western culture, touch, literally, the other side of the world, and step into the mission field! This is already becoming a blessing—check.

So, all in all, many lessons were to be learned in 2012. It was a year filled with spiritual and emotional storms for all of us, but we came through together. I fell into a heap of darkness and destruction, but God helped me come to my senses and lifted me up. We grew a lot and we were given something big to look forward to next year. It was a season of seed-planting and watering and waiting to watch them grow.

Another year means that, at age sixteen, I am a senior in high school and a sophomore in college. Another year means that, this August, I will have to say goodbye to my brother and best friend for life when he leaves for college. One year from now, I will be almost through with college and further down the road to becoming a writer. One year from now, my sister will be enrolled part-time in the local public school. Hopefully, one year from now, we will have been changed forever by the mission trip to Thailand.

Yet, I also wonder what else will change in one year. The future of my youngest sister's life is extremely hard to forecast. What if, this time next year, she's gone? What if one morning she never wakes up?

What if we cannot raise enough money and the trip to Thailand doesn't work out? What if something happens to my brother while he is in college, or my sister while she's at the public school? How will my book have sold online? How will I have changed? These things rattle around in my head all the time. I have to keep myself calm or I'll get sick all over again, and that's the last thing I want.

But if 2012 has taught me one thing, it is to trust God with every part of your life—your thoughts, your actions, the clothes in your closet, your mom when she doesn't get her morning coffee, your education, the cash in your wallet, your hopes and dreams, your obsessions, your online accounts, and most of all, your heart and soul. On your own, they are disgusting heaps of evil and death. Give them to God and you will shine, and your life will never be the same again.

Whatever God has in store for 2013 and the years to come, whether He decides to make it a joyride or another pure hell, one thing is for certain, that I will follow Him through it all. He is not just another snippet of my life. He is my life.

2013? I am ready.

(sorry.  couldn't resist one more GIF before 2013.  Happy New Year's, people.)

-Stilwater <><


  1. I love that GIF! :) Sometimes life gets tough... hope 2013 brings better fortunes for you and your sister :)

    1. Thanks! :D and I wish the same for you and your family :)

  2. I wonder how you've managed to get through all of that. I could barely survive getting pushed around at school every day without getting rather... insane.

    On the other hand, I agree with that GIF! Can't wait for 2013! There's a lot of interesting stuff. I just hope I can survive long enough to enjoy them.

    1. It's OK. It took a lot of relying on God. But through Him, you can do anything :)