The Year of Change

This has been a year to remember. There have been really high highs, and really low lows... I think it's time we talk about it.
Today in church, I cried. The praise team was singing for KING & COUNTRY's "Shoulders" and I think everything from this year finally hit me.

This year has been a year of change, for better or for worse.

In January, I started cutting down on soda. I had a bit of a struggle with it in mid-April, so I committed to fasting completely from it for the whole summer. Shortly after that, I ended up with a lymph node swollen so big, I could actually see it protruding from my neck. When I went to the doctor, I found out I had lost weight inexplicably, which is not a good thing, and I was extremely iron deficient. I closed on my first house the same day. A maternal uncle died around the same time. About 2 weeks later, a paternal uncle died. A couple days passed and my great-aunt died. I became the sole developer on a major subproject at my job and have been very successful coming up to speed and developing the feature. I turned 30 in June. Then in July, conditions worsened for a friend I've known so long I can't remember where or how I met her. By mid August, doctors had given her a few weeks to live. I was blessed to be able to visit her on a trip home. She died Monday.

As I said, it's been an eventful year...

I feel like God has allowed such high peaks and low valleys back to back that I haven't really been processing anything. I've just been moving from one event to another with my mood shifting very little. As such, I've been neglecting the blog a little and I've been neglecting the testimony section a lot. When I woke up this morning, I had every intention of finishing a blog post I started on forgiveness, but in that moment, I realized I needed to shout the praises and glory of God. So let's take a walk through this year of change.

Fasting from Soda

I've talked about journey cutting out soda from my diet on the blog. I shared the beginning of this journey in "The Water Challenge," where I talked about how I wanted to increase my water intake. I followed up touching on the psychological difficulties in "The Tragedy of Addiction." What I haven't talked about is why on the blog called PSALMS to God, there's a whole (heavily neglected) section on food and health.

The first time I made a major shift in my diet was in 2010, when I stopped eating pork. I was in the midst of studying the Old Testament for a class and realized I couldn't articulate why we ignore the laws on clean and unclean foods in Leviticus. So, I began fasting from pork (all unclean foods, really, but pork is the only one I ate on a regular basis) and searching for the why. To be honest, my first year in grad school totally derailed my goal to study this topic. However, after I got used to putting veggies on my pizza instead of pepperoni or sausage,—a plain cheese pizza just isn't my thing—this fast was a cake walk. By the time I started studying, I didn't actually have any desire for these unclean foods. Perhaps that helped me be unbiased in the study. When I couldn't find a single verse that validated eating unclean meat, I made the change permanent. (References to and explanations of the verses people usually cite on this topic are discussed in "The Christian Diet.")

But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Matthew 4:4 KJV
That first change, drastically changed my relationship with God. The combination of heavily studying the Word and denying yourself foods you usually wouldn't, is a life changing experience. I learned so much during that time. I would argue that this is when I went from being a baby Christian to whatever the next phase in spiritual growth is.

If you've been following my blog from the beginning, you might notice that the first major change in the blog coincides with the second major health choice I made in life: going vegetarian. The year I created In God I Trust, and separated it from my poetry blog (both of which were merged/revamped into this blog), is the same year I became vegetarian.

Disclaimer: I don't think there's anything wrong with eating clean meat in general.

The major shift in my diet caused me to research nutrition and healthy eating habits. Eating healthy changed everything. While I may struggle with iron deficiency, I haven't had as much trouble with my skin (I used to have extremely sensitive skin, anything would irritate it and cause rashes), my menstrual woes are less frequent, and my body just feels better. With all that extra energy I was able to focus better, which not only helped me graduate, it helped me study the Word.

The Bible tells us that our bodies are temples; the Holy Spirit dwells within us (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). If you read the verses on the Temple in the books of Moses, you will see how big of a deal that is. God wants to make us clean, not just spiritually but physically as well. These two things are connected. The healthier I am physically, the better I am at nurturing my spiritual life, and the more I nurture my spiritual relationship with God, the more I realize how He wants me to take care of myself, which nurtures my physical health.

Giving up soda completely has been the hardest of these challenges. I'm not sure if it's the timing (with this year being so eventful), or the iron deficiency, or the lack of caffeine, but I haven't felt any boosts in energy or real benefits from drinking water instead. My fast ended on September 1, but I still haven't gone back to soda.

Last week, the new associate pastor at my church was telling her story about how she went through so much to be where she is now, only to have her husband almost die right before she graduated from seminary. She brought up the question that she asked herself at the time: "if God were to take [her] husband, would she still worship and serve God?" It resonated with this situation for me: will I stop doing something I know is bad for me (re: drinking soda) even if God doesn't reward me?

Home Sweet Home

Most little girls plan their wedding; I planned my house instead. I've wanted to buy a house and decorate it since I was a tiny thing following my dad in Lowe's. By the time I graduated, I was resigned to the fact that I needed to move buying a house off my 30 before 30 list.

Unfortunately, the apartment complex I moved into just after my 29th birthday was a hot mess. The maintenance staff was horrible, the management was rude, and my neighbor smoked all the time, so I couldn't use the outdoor space (he was also very creepy).

My parents are actually the ones who encouraged me to start looking to buy. I started looking in November, and by March, I was convinced it wasn't going to happen. I got a notice that I had to renew my lease to get the best rate by a particular date in March, and I knew it wasn't going to happen. I had two weeks to find a place.

On a Monday I prayed and surrendered the situation to God. Tuesday I found a potential listing. Wednesday I found 3 more. My parents drove down to go with me and that Sunday I viewed the place I would eventually call home. After months of only seeing things I couldn't afford, there was a place in my budget that had every single thing I wanted. My offer was accepted almost immediately, the inspection went without a hitch, and the negotiation process got me the home for significantly less than the asking price. Nobody but God could pull off such a miracle.

Not only did God make my dream come true, He gave me a safe place to stay. The more I live, the more I see homeless people, the more I realize how much I take for granted. I was so annoyed in my old apartment, but I had a roof over my head and food in the fridge. There are people sleeping on side walks every night, huddling under bridges under the rain, and depending on the kindness of total strangers for food. God has blessed me above and beyond what I deserve. When I surrendered the question of where I would live after my lease expired to Him, I did so because I realized that even if I never was able to buy my own place, the fact that He kept any roof over my head was a reason to praise Him and be happy.

Deaths in the Family

I've always read posts of people complaining about posting death notices on Facebook before the family has been notified, and I could imagine how that would feel, but I found out first hand in May. The Tuesday before I closed on my house I logged onto Facebook and was greeted by a post from my maternal aunt grieving the loss of her twin brother (re: my uncle). I had just hung up the phone with my mom who hadn't mentioned a thing. I called her to see if anyone had called her and luckily my grandfather had just told her (she never hung up the phone switching calls between him and me).

I didn't know this uncle well because he wasn't around much when I was kid, but I felt immensely for his daughter and the rest of my aunts/uncles. I also realized that even though his death wasn't because of age, that generation in my family is getting up there in age. This was the first time I really processed the fact that a day will come when many of my other aunts and uncles won't be here any more.

About 2 weeks later, an uncle by marriage on my dad's side of the family was rushed to the hospital. He also died. This uncle lived across the street from me. He used to help my dad out around the farm. I remember him sitting under the shade of a tree in his yard reading the paper—that seemed to be his favorite spot. I remember him and the other men in my family watching football at thanksgiving dinner. And then I remember my dad, who just turned 68, is the baby in his family.

Four days later, I got a call from my mom telling me that my great aunt (maternal) had also passed away. My mom was extremely close to her, so I grew up hearing stories about her when I was a child. However, since she lived in Maryland, I had never met her. When I was 20, I did an internship in Maryland and decided I wanted to meet her. I called her up and she invited me to her home. She invited her kids, their kids, and any family in the area she could get a hold of. She cooked—some delicious food at that!—and basically put on an impromptu family reunion. I kept in touch with her through letters and on Facebook (yep, she was tech savvy). I have never felt so loved by someone I'd only met once.

I was blessed with a big family even though I was raised as an only child (my sister is significantly older than me). God allowed me to grow up surrounded by my family and I have been blessed to have this love and support my whole life. This of course means that days like this will continue to come. The price for having a large, loving family, is that there is a long list of people to miss when they're gone. It's a price God knew I was willing to pay, so I thank Him for giving me this blessing.

Turning 30

Not where I was, but beautiful nonetheless
Photocredit: Unsplash.com/Simon Migaj
I celebrated my 30th birthday this year, which is supposed to be a milestone, I guess. It's really only as eventful as you make it. I was confused for a high schooler a few days after, so I don't think it's fully hit me yet. What I can say is that when I was growing up, I thought the characters in Living Single were in their 30's and that's what I thought life would look like. As I settled into my mid twenties and realized all my college friends were quite a distance away, I started to realize what "adulting" really looked like: having to plan a month in advance just to grab lunch with friends you've known your whole life. God did bring me a great group of friends locally, though. The young adult group at my church has been a blessing and many of them were there to help me celebrate my 30th. God gave me the best birthday present ever: a clear night sky and a beautiful place where I could actually see the stars. (Yes, I'm obsessed with looking at the stars.)

Professional Success

It's only been a year since I graduated with my PhD and the imposter syndrome has been strong. There have been days where I felt like I didn't know what I was doing at all. There's this feeling that everyone is in the break room laughing at how incompetent you are, when really, they're just as confused as you are. God has blessed me with a great work environment. The people I've been working with are extremely supportive and helpful. Earlier this year, after I asked to work on a project closer to the hardware, my manager obliged by placing me on the feature of the project I'm working on that ties everything together. If this feature doesn't work, none of the other features will work either. The senior developer on the project ended up leaving the company and I became the primary developer for the feature almost as soon as we started implementing it. No pressure...

I've implemented 90% of the feature and it's been amazing. Due to the nature of the project, I get to work with many different teams, so I've been able to meet more people than usual. There have been one or two hiccups, but the feature is completely functional and I've gotten the privilege of demoing it's progress at monthly meetings. This week, the functionality of the feature was challenged by someone outside of the development team and I was able to successfully (and calmly) defend it.

Apparently management approves of my progress at work because last Friday I was assigned to mentor the latest addition to our team!

The Death of a Friend

A friend I've known since probably elementary school has been living in spite of cancer for 5 years. During this time she kept friends updated through Facebook posts. Every single one of those posts was positive and full of faith. Her faith was so inspirational. Her health took a turn for the worse in July and in August the doctors said she had only a few weeks left to live. I was already thinking about going home the last week in August, and decided I would go to see her.

I was terrified. I had no idea what to say.

She was the same cheerful, easy going, and funny person she had been in high school. Talking to her that last time was just like I remembered our senior year in high school. She was brave. She was strong. I'm so glad I got to witness her faith and had the chance to be friends with her. I've never seen my graduating class so united in thought as when people shared the news of her passing. There's no doubt that she claimed victory in spreading God's light.

Her best friend promised to honor her memory by encouraging donations to sarcoma research: you can donate here.

3I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,
4Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,
5For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;Philippians 1:3-5 KJV

Today

So that brings us to today... I may have shed a few more tears writing all of this (sorry for the length), but I thought you should know: God is good and I trust Him with the rest of this year.


*I know I was listening to "Shoulders" when I decided to share all this,
but I want to leave you with "Broken Praise" for some reason

References

  1. for KING & COUNTRY. "Shoulders". YouTube. March 20, 2015
  2. Ree Hughes. "The Water Challenge". PSALMS to God. February 28, 2018
  3. Ree Hughes. "The Tragedy of Addiction". PSALMS to God. August 4, 2018
  4. "Victor Gaines". Gaston Gazette. May 2018
  5. "Raymond Colbert". Myrtle Beach Online. May 2018
  6. Jacqueline Y. 'Jacci' Keyes". Herald-Mail Media. June 2018
  7. Local woman stresses importance of faith, humor in cancer fight". My Horry News. August 28, 2018
  8. "Sarcoma Foundation of America"

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About

Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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