26 brought a whole new meaning to the phrase "No rain, no flowers'

Because even though this year had some incredible peaks... it also rained. It rained a lot. And honestly I waited a few days after my birthday to write this post because I kept wait for that feeling of being on the other side of it. But the truth is that i'm still sitting here.... and it's still raining. So i'm writing this anyway, in hopes that in the next few months the sun will peek out just a little more.

26 was a year of growth, but it was also a year of struggle. This year I had to make the really hard decision to quit a job that I really loved. Finding a job overseas as a military spouse.... it's almost impossible. Especially finding one that relates to your major, and has a staff that you absolutely adore. I found a family in those walls and having to leave it was incredibly difficult. I felt like I had so much purpose there, and having to give that up was excruciating. I know something the Lord is trying to teach me is to not find my value in a job, and despite how hard letting go of that was, I'm so much better for having done it. I wonder, how often we desperately cling to things that aren't from God just because they make us feel worthy + important. It makes me wonder how often I've chased things with the Lord watching like, can't she see I have so much better for her?

Both of my parents got hospitalized this year, and because of COVID still running rampant in Japan, I wasn't able to fly home to see them. I remember sitting at my old office seeing an incoming call coming from my brother, knowing something bad had happened. I remember walking outside to answer, and him telling me not to freak out, but that our Dad was in the hospital, and he wasn't sure what was going to happen. And I sat and I cried and just felt the heaviness of everything rest against me.

A few days before my mom was scheduled to get the COVID vaccine... she got COVID. And most of you already know that she goes to chemo weekly - and because of this - she obviously couldn't fight it off like a normal person could. Another hospital visit, another phone call that just left me wondering if God was even paying attention.

Honestly? I spent a lot of 26 angry at God. Angry that no matter what happened, it was impossible to get home to see my parents. Angry that if something happened... I'd be too late. Angry that I had to give up a job that I thought was perfect. Angry that so many people I love hardly talked to me this year. Angry that my mom was still battling cancer day in and out. Angry that there was this world-wide pandemic happening and people were dying and nobody seemed to care.

But there were some incredible moments this year.

My mom was able to get a transfusion that I truly think saved her life from COVID.

My dad recovered, and I spent more time than ever making sure I kept up with my family. I summited Fuji despite being 100% convinced I wasn’t going to make it. I dove headfirst into photography and created my own LLC! I got to watch Drew absolutely flourish in a new role at work, and it's made me me more in awe of him than ever. I made new friends that feel like family. I read more books than ever. I learned I don’t have to be perfect at something to do it - just enjoying it is enough. And a lot of these things might seem like small victories, but this year taught me how important it is to celebrate those too.

So I guess I’m sharing all of this because I just want to be transparent, - there’s so much life going on behind what we put on the internet. Sure, I love sharing how beautiful Okinawa is and how lucky I am to get to have a job now that lets me capture that - but I always want to keep it real and remind you that everything you see online has been curated and picked apart and edited.

And the most important thing I’ve learned this year, is to just be kind. To extend a hand, to send the text, to make the call. To hold space, and to give grace first + always. Because things are heavy, and I’m trying to get better about asking myself - am I leaving places and people better than I found them?

Like I said earlier - it's still raining. (It's also literally raining as I type this) but i'm feeling okay. I still want to be able to see my family. I miss my sister. I want to hug my parents. I want to celebrate my best friend getting engaged.

There are still really heavy things going on in the world right now and it's hard not to feel it. We have so many people we love to worry about, and COVID is still keeping a really tight hold on our little island. But i'm working on staying hopeful. I'm working on not letting my circumstances control my joy.

I’m thankful to always be a work in progress. I’m thankful for the possibility of new beginnings, no matter where you are in the story. And I’m thankful that the Lord promises that what’s ahead, is better. 🌿