Sunday, January 1, 2012

[2011...what a year!]

Last New Year's Eve, I welcomed 2011 by gazing into the distance as I stood on my balcony under a starry Ugandan sky. To be completely honest, I wasn't super excited about a new year. In fact, on January 1 I penned in my journal: "For some reason, this year ahead of me is a bit daunting. I wonder to myself, 'in what ways will my life be changed, impacted, and affected in 2011?'"

Quite honestly, I was a bit fearful of the unknown. I was so in love with Uganda, yet I was scheduled to leave in March. Turns out I was able to extend my stay until May, which was wonderful. “But then what??,” my anxious heart wondered.

[my neighborhood kiddos in Uganda]

[my incredible neighbors in Uganda]

But I knew God wanted me to trust Him and take it one day at a time. As I sit here this evening reflecting on the past 12 months, I can see that my life in 2011 was “changed, impacted, and affected” by
the places I went and the meaningful relationships that He has provided.

I am grateful that I now have a spirit of
contentment that I certainly didn’t have during the summer. I came back to the U.S. in May (after living in Africa for 11 months) and had a VERY difficult time adjusting back to this culture…day after day, I kept wishing I was back in Africa with my dear friends there (the week I said my goodbyes in Uganda, I probably cried more tears than I had in the past 5 years! It was ridiculously hard.)

I gradually realized I’m supposed to be in the U.S. for the time being, so I applied for jobs in Colorado and Virginia. Nothing happened. In early September, I remember feeling a sense of peace and understanding that I was supposed to stay in PA for now. Who knows when that will change (I still have a heart for missions and am still trying to figure out my life’s purpose...hoping for a full-time job instead of several part time ones...etc : ). But I can honestly say that I REALLY VALUE the friendships I have here in PA—I’m glad I’ve been here longer than anticipated.

2011 has been full of rich experiences and fantastic people. I recognize a need to purposely remember those things (by writing this)…so that year after year, I can look back at my journals/writings and see where I’ve been and be reminded of His faithfulness. Here are some things I’m grateful for this past year:

Family events such as being in my sister’s wedding, as she said “I do” to Abram. Thanksgiving with my wonderful cousins (good food, fellowship, and Mario Kart!) Also spending Christmas with the whole family (including my former college roommate) last month was so special.

[With my siblings last week on Christmas Eve]

A church that challenges/encourages: I visited ECC in May and haven’t looked elsewhere. I was sick of church-hopping, so this was an answer to prayer. I only know a hand-full of people there, but I know that takes time. There’s a vibrant, refreshing, passionate atmosphere at ECC…

Protection while living in Uganda…particularly during the violent riots during elections. My cousin pointed me to Psalm 56: 3-4 during a fearful circumstance this year. “…in God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?”

The kids/staff at Dwelling Places who taught me far more than I could have imagined

My Grandma (dad’s mom): thankful for 24 years with her. her passing away was difficult, but I’m confident she’s in heaven. No more suffering.

New friendships: in Uganda: Maria, Derrick, Laeticia and family, Lauren C, Rachel W, Antonia, and others. In the U.S.: Joy, Jess, the Hoffman family, Greg. Thank you for walking through life with me this year…those of you in PA, I can honestly say the past 7 months were brighter because of you. Looking forward to more memories!

Continuing friendships: too many to list. But thank you for your honesty, for challenging me, for laughing/crying with me, for being patient with me through the years.

All my amazing photography clients who allowed me the privilege of telling your story with my camera. I am a changed person because of you. Thank you!!
[Mary & Nick's wedding, October 2011]

The local newspaper and churches who invited me to share stories/photos from Africa and who allowed me to advocate on behalf of the street children

Exploring places:
-Rwanda (began 2011 with a trip to Rwanda. Met people/saw things in Kigali that were touching and that I will never forget.)
-London, England (May. Stopped for two days on the way home to the U.S. Saw the important sights and had a blast.)
-Haiti (Nov) Had the opportunity to do mission’s photography in this beautiful land-
-Nashville, TN (May)
-Lynchburg, VA (May, my sister’s college graduation; Aug to visit friends
-Wisconsin (June. to photograph my dear friend, Erin’s, wedding)
-Chicago, IL (June. thanks, Carol!)
-Oklahoma (July. visited family friends and helped them fix up a rental property)
-Colorado Springs, CO (July. Stayed with family friends and realized once again that I wouldn’t mind living here someday.)
-Richmond, VA (job-hunted and visited Kate)
-Raleigh, North Carolina (Aug. time with Rach!)
-Philadelphia, PA (Oct)

[Tower of London in England]



Lord: thank You for each new breath you choose to give me…I realize I am not guaranteed tomorrow. Thank you for every moment of 2011. Thank you for loving me, despite the times I am ridiculously selfish, choosing not to trust You. In 2012, please allow me the fervor to fall more in love with You and to be obedient.

I am eager to see what 2012 holds. It is certainly starting off with a bang! In two weeks, I will be spending a month in Africa (2 weeks in Kenya doing mission's photography, followed by 2 weeks back in Uganda volunteering/hanging out with dear friends). A total God-thing...I never dreamed I would return 8 months later.
[An ornament hand-made by my friend, Amy.
I teared up when I opened it last week!]