Growing up, New Years was always a holiday spent at my church where I would snack on all kinds of delicious treats and play dodgeball with the other kids I grew up with. Those were fun memories, but now that I’m grown up and live on the other side of the world, I have found that this final holiday of the year holds more meaning than playing games and eating.
I’m not always the best at keeping New Year’s resolutions, but one thing I make a habit of is spending time reflecting on the past year. It’s been almost like a spiritual discipline for me to sit back and see God’s hand through all of the ups and downs of each season, how He has changed me and the places I find myself in, how I’ve been challenged, and how He has blessed me. But this New Year’s Eve is much different as we are not only closing another year, but another decade! Some of us have spent most of that decade outside of our home countries and others have spent time away from a host culture that our hearts deeply miss. I hope you’ll take the time to ask yourself these questions and even set aside some time journaling your thoughts as you reflect on all that God has done these past ten years.
What challenges did you face? For us overseas ladies, I’m sure a long list of challenges come to mind that we have overcome, whether that is trying to pack our lives into 50 lb suitcases, struggling to learn a new language, dealing with conflicts or health issues, or learning to build new relationships across cultural and linguistic barriers.
When I think of challenges I’ve faced, I often think about my first year in China and how I felt like I had been thrown into an environment that was the polar opposite of what I had grown up in. I often think about some of the personal conflicts I dealt with during those first few years specifically with teammates and my school’s administration. Those uncomfortable experiences pushed me outside of my non-confrontational comfort zone as I learned to speak honestly about disagreements and frustrations. Do I still loathe conflicts? Of course! But I don’t run away from them like I used to.
How has your life changed? How have you changed? This can be a fun one to answer as it can apply to your personality or how your average day has changed compared to the previous decade. I used to be so painfully shy before I moved to China and I could barely keep eye contact with someone while speaking. I’m so grateful I’ve grown in this area and that I’m no longer anxious about social interactions. As someone who has struggled with fear most of my life, I’m amazed that by the grace of God. He has placed me in uncomfortable situations that have forced me to face this struggle head on, strengthening my trust in Him.
My daily life has also changed as well! I no longer live in suburban America with my parents, but in a seventh floor apartment in a city of 9 million people. I don’t drive around like I used to but rely on various forms of public transportation. I no longer run to the grocery store to pick up something I need, but instead use an app to get food sent directly to my house!
What have you celebrated? This question brings back such great memories amidst the struggles and difficulties that have occurred over the years. I think of my first time coming home from China and how it was such a joy to be reunited with my loved ones. I think of the time I finished my action research project for my MA after a busy and hectic two years of teaching and studying. And I think to this summer, when I finally got to marry my best friend, surrounded by our closest friends and family. Amidst seasons of sorrow and sadness, Christ has been so kind in how He has blessed and cared for me. I can’t help but celebrate when I remember all He has done!
What has Christ taught you? How has Christ changed your heart and mind? I often think about how a little over ten years ago I committed my life to Him and what a journey He has taken me on. He is still teaching me what it means to fully trust Him during every moment of my day, whether that be the mundaneness of grading papers or trying to figure out what is the next step here in China. He has taught me to come to Him with my worries, my questions, and my doubts. He has given me a love for His word that I never experienced before and it has opened my eyes to discovering more of who He is. I have not always been a faithful follower of Him and like all of you, I fall short, but I know that He will continue to lead and teach me in the decade to come.
Do you have a tradition for closing out the year?