I’m usually quite sentimental about New Year’s Eve reflections. The writer starved within me jumps at the thought of a day generally expected that bloggers post about their year. Jump away, oh my heart. I know you’re reluctant– but I have a story to tell.
Two thousand and thirteen. This decade is still in its awkward teenager stage, made apparent in the fact that I still do not know whether to say “twenny-thirteen” or stick with the good old original words. This year wasn’t one that I ever imagined in my head for some reason, and when it came I was so surprised! It turned out to be those intense-labor-pain-years that everyone knows you have to go through but no one knows how hard– nor how triumphant– it would be.
One afternoon in April I was Skyping with my brother and sister-in-law who live “just across the ditch”, aka in Australia. There was this untold air of expectancy as a tiny slip of paper moved into view. In thin pen, this is what it said:
YOU ARE AN AUNTIE.
I flipped. Screaming into my pillow because houseguests were napping after an umpteen-hour travel from London in the room next door. Spluttering and exclaiming, “I knew it! I knew it!” due to a memory of Daniel and Jess nonchalantly suggesting I visit in November not October. (A month earlier I had scrambled to my 2013 wall calendar and frantically counted back 1, 2, 3… NINE!) But of course the previous suspicion did nothing for my shocked excitement that Sunday afternoon. I was an auntie.
Swallowing my thrill in suppressed secrecy, I faced the very-present mission of speaking for the first time at my church. I had been asked to do the “First Ten” which instructed by our pastor, is “on whatever’s burning”. And because the testimony of identity, belonging, and a heart of flesh never stops burning on my heart I practiced with an iPod timer reciting to my teddy bears about growing up in a place like an airport, how I became cold in saying goodbye, but how Jesus made me alive. It was simple. But we should never take the spotlight lightly.
Soaked in prayer and shattered by nerves, I only barely stood in my black collared dress as the songs rose and ebbed until that moment where I was introduced as Kayla Norris. My voice quivered and “umms” and “likes” surfaced but in reality my only lack was that I might not have fully prepared my church for the emotional roller coaster ride I was about to take them on. I guess when we don’t realize ourselves what an impact we have on others, it is difficult to prepare them for it.
My pauses and whispers, laughter and dramatic exclamations. That’s what I remember, along with the disappointment in myself that I didn’t quite cry, just choked up. I like a good bit of emotion in church. But later I was also humbly reminded that we need to get our messages out. And you can’t always do that if you are exclusively making tears not words.
Afterwards, what shocked me was how many people were impacted by something that was so simply and utterly me. My message as a YWAM kid growing up in Kona actually has power? I don’t have to have a testimony of falling away from God and a dramatic renewal to inspire people? I can well… just be me?
I left that night with a heart full, and just a little bit of knowledge at how hard this year was going to be. I did not realize how practicums, mission trips, school assignments, and separations from family and friends were going to weigh harder on me than any year before. Yet neither was I prepared for the joy. In those dark moments of confusion or desperate tears what I held on to was that promise Jesus gave me the end of 2012:
“You’ll be full of joy, and it will be a joy no one can rob from you.” -John 16:22, The Message
Whatever came in 2013, there was a promise of a new child and family times, there was hope of skipping along the beach with lifelong friends in Australia in December. But even then, I had to learn to rejoice in those hard moments, too, for I’d been given gifts in those, too. Readers, I don’t know what Jesus showed you this year, but he showed me joy.
And as I beheld my brother hold his daughter Lilly, and later as she fell asleep in my own arms, I realized I couldn’t capture those moments nor cling to them so they wouldn’t disappear when I traveled back to New Zealand. . .
I could only say thank you.
Thank you, my dearest one, thank you.
“We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.”
-2 Corinthians 1:5, MSG
Readers, thank you heaps to you, too,
for your incredible encouragement in this year.
It means a lot.