The last six months have been some of the most incredible and surprising of my life. Since May, I’ve traveled to cities around the country, met my role models, become an American citizen, bought an apartment with my boyfriend in Europe, and written two books. Today, I’m sharing this slice of my life and lessons with you!
Many bloggers write about their monthly reflections and goals on their blogs. I love reading those sorts of posts; peoples’ ambitions are really interesting to me, but I’m more interested in their thoughts on the previous season. What did they learn? How did they grow? What could they have done differently? I’ve toyed with posts like these before, but didn’t love writing them because I focused more on numbers than on experiences. Well, today I’m putting an old spin on a new blog classic; instead of sharing my thoughts on October, I’m sharing my thoughts and reflections on the season of Ordinary Time.
Ordinary Time, for those of you who aren’t familiar, is among the longest seasons of the liturgical year. The liturgical year, or “Christian calendar,” is a cycle of seasons and celebrations throughout the year that center around the Christian faith. Though not all Christians rely on the liturgical year, I use the seasons of the liturgical year to bring a sense of sacred structure to my life. Today, I'm combining Pentecost and Ordinary Time in my reflections because they are grouped together in the liturgical site and planner I use.
This Season's Highlights
This year, Ordinary Time began just before I walked in my college graduation. Though I'm finishing up my final semester now, I was able to walk with my class in the spring. It was definitely a highlight!
A few months later, on my twenty-third birthday, I met Malala Yousafzai on a train and we spoke for the better part of an hour. It was truly incredible to meet her, and she was so kind to me. I will treasure that experience for the rest of my life!
I've also had a few amazing city trips in the last few months. In July, I went to New York City for HerConference, and had an incredible and inspiring time. Later that week was my trip to Providence, followed by several trips to Boston this fall. In September, I flew to D.C. for a presidential summit on behalf of my college, and just a week later, I went to Chicago for a weekend for a conference. Last but certainly not least, I spent a week in Seattle with Ken just before Thanksgiving, the last time we'll see each other before we move in together in January. It's been an incredible time seeing these seven cities, and I feel so lucky to have seen so much of this beautiful country!
In August, I became an American citizen. I've lived in America for two decades now, and I am honored to become a part of this country and hope, as many of my fellow immigrants do, to spend a great portion of my life making it an even stronger and greater place.
Finally, in the last few months I have written two books for my Bible Journaling website, Seasons Illustrated. Advent Illustrated became the #1 Hot New Release in its category on Amazon on the day it was released. Women of Valor, comes out on December 1st! I'm thrilled and truly grateful for the opportunity to do what I do for a living.
Where I Was Strongest
I think that my biggest areas of success this season were time management, productivity, and happiness. For the last six months, I have worked hard every single day, whether in my official employed position, in my capacity as a college student, or as the manager of three websites and a large Facebook community. I've also had an absolute ball doing it, and the last few months have been some of the happiest of my life.
I've also worked hard to prioritize my friendships and relationships this season, making time for not only Ken and my younger brother Broseph, but also spending time with friends both old and new every day.
Finally, I feel that I've really grown in my faith this season, especially because of the extensive Bible study work I've been doing, and the constant spiritual reinforcement that my religious communities provide. I think that a large part of my happiness has come from developing a deeper faith identity and truly finding a home in new spiritual practices.
Where I Could Have Improved
Fitness and health have always been a struggle for me. I go through times where I work out daily and am really mindful of what I eat – in my gap year, I would do 100 sit ups every day and rarely ate processed food. But I also experience times where I eat anything around me and spend most of my time sitting behind a laptop. This season, while really productive in the areas of work and creativity, has been a weaker period in terms of how I take care of myself. I can feel the effects of that on my body already, so I'm already planning ways to improve my fitness and food habits in the coming months.
I feel myself focusing a lot less on school. I'm still getting about the same grades I was before, but I know that I've been a lot less disciplined in my work habits around schoolwork. This is in large part because of the success of my creative projects; I often work on blogging or writing when it would be wiser to focus on my homework! The upside of this weak area is that I've been much less stressed about school, which has made me much happier overall.
I also think that I could have been more patient, especially with my parents. While I truly try to be a kind and patient person, sometimes I feel myself growing frustrated with my mom or dad, even when I know that, just like me and everyone else, they are just doing their best. I think working on being more patient and speaking more thoughtfully when I'm feeling frustrated would help me be a better daughter, and would probably help me in other areas of my life, too!
Up next is the season of Advent, which is the month of waiting and preparation before Christmas. This season should be savored and lived slowly, but it is just when my finals and other deadlines are piling on. As such, I'm doing my best to finish my semester strong, meet my last few goals for this semester, and still make time for reflection, Bible study, and prayer. I'm hoping to implement the following goals for the season of Advent.
My Plans for Advent
I intend to be disciplined about schedules and self-imposed deadlines. I'm doing this so that I can make sure to tend to each of my responsibilities in its own time, rather than stressing about them last-minute.
I intend to wake up early (I'm slowly working myself to 5 AM). I wake up early so that I can spend the first 30 minutes of the day in prayer and study, and then tend to my pressing work to-do's before breakfast. This helps me stay focused and productive during the day.
I intend to truly celebrate this season by attending church services and following along in a daily devotional. I'll be following my own Advent Illustrated program as the leader of my group, and will also be doing the She Reads Truth Advent study.
That's all for now, but I would truly love to hear from you in the comments.