I want to reflect on the year that just passed. I was recently with my good friend, Joe, who said to me, “I see so many people saying they’d wish 2016 would hurry up and end, because it’s been the worst year ever, but I disagree . . . this has been the best year of my life.” He couldn’t have said it any better. Sure, 2016 has been a horrible year for a lot of people, but not for me. This has been the best year of my life, for many different reasons, and I’d like to acknowledge those reasons here.
Anxiety has always been something I’ve struggled with. I would always take medicine for it, but it never felt like the proper solution. After a decade of trying to fix this, I stumbled upon two ways that basically cured this for me: I started going to Cross Church full-time, and I started being intentional about what I let into my life. Minimalism and an intense focus on thriving relationships has given me peace like I’ve never felt before—and they are now the foundation to everything in my life.
It started with a relationship that began at the end of 2015: I met a girl who would eventually become my girlfriend, and after dating for a few months, we decided to go our separate ways—but that breakup was much different than my previous ones. To fill that void, I knew what I had to do: I told myself that going to church for only an hour had to stop. I was hurting, and if I wanted anything fixed in my life, or if I wanted to grow with the church, it would never happen in only an hour. I decided that I would start trying to be the first one there (which never happened, there is always someone there before you), and I would stay the entire day. This little plan changed the entire trajectory of my life.
I knew that there was some incredible people at the church that I was missing out on—people that wanted to be in my life and wanted to know me better—but I would always leave before ever getting to know them. At the time, they all knew my name, but I vaguely remembered their faces. It was as if they knew that, when the time was right, we’d have a special friendship—they were just waiting on me to join them. I started admitting to them that I’m horrible with names, and I asked for their help. I did this with every person that engaged with me, and each Sunday, I would do it again and again, until eventually, their names became easy to remember. Now, I couldn’t imagine not knowing their names. I relate it to not knowing a sister’s name, or a cousin’s name: when someone is important to you, you’ll remember their name. It’s that simple.
All of these people that I became close with are on the Cross Church Reach Team: a team of people that lend a hand to make the church operate at 100%. Getting there early, before the first service, is what the reach team does. Some are in the cafe, some do the audio and visuals for the services, some work with the kids, some do parking, some smile and greet you at the door, etc. — I did parking and audio/visual. I would try to stay all day for each service, and I’d help out wherever I was needed. This gave me a sense of purpose like I’ve never felt before—and still to this day, getting there early for that Reach Team Meeting is something that I consider very important. I remember what life was like before this meeting, and before I started going to church early, and I don’t ever want my life to be like that again. Looking back at 2016, the weeks that were the hardest were the ones where I didn’t get to church early and serve, and when I didn’t focus on those relationships.
I kept getting invited to small groups for the church, but I never committed to any of them, until early in 2016, when my friend Chase started Testimony Tuesdays (where someone would agree to cook a meal for the group that week, and they would all play drums, guitars, sing, and when the time was right, someone would share a testimony about their life). This opened my eyes to how fun a small group could be. Soon after, I started going to a men’s breakfast small group, where a huge breakfast was served, and we’d take turns sharing our perspective on a topic.
One day, the leader of that group pulled me aside, and suggested that I lead my own group. He didn’t say much more than that, but that’s when the seed was planted. Over those next few weeks, my mind was racing with ideas: it went from me thinking I wasn’t good enough to lead a group, to me thinking I wouldn’t lead a group without someone else helping me, all the way up to me eventually leading two groups, all without needing a co-leader. I’ve written about these groups immensely over the last few months, but I’ll say this: leading a small group has been one of the most important moments in my life. It showed me that I’m good enough, it showed me that I’m a leader, it showed me that people care about my thoughts, it showed me that I have a church that believes in me—and it showed me that, instead of being scared and turning down an opportunity to grow, if you take chances in life, you won’t be disappointed. Those opportunities to grow are the moments that shape us into the person we dream of becoming.
2016 was the year that expanded me past being creative with just music. My music didn’t slow down either (I released two albums, tons of music videos, and I performed live more in one month than I did every other year combined), but it was my blog that really took off and became my main creative outlet. The amount of words I’m able to type in a day has become one of my biggest wins of last year. It’s now much easier and more natural for my thoughts to translate into paragraphs.
I went to four weddings in 2016, three of which I served in. In March, I served in my friend Casey’s wedding in New Orleans. On Easter Sunday, my friend Chase’s wedding was right after our church service, in the Civic Center. In November, I served in my friend Kip’s wedding—and the weekend after, I served in my cousin Jarden’s wedding. I have so many special memories from these four weddings, and I can’t thank them enough for letting me be a part of it.
I went on my first cruise in 2016, thanks to my mom. She took the family on a week-long trip to Jamaica, Cozumel, and Caymans. This gave me a break away from my regular routine, it was my first trip out of the country, and it was great quality time with my family. A few months later, we flew to Atlanta, then drove to South Carolina, to watch my sister graduate from the Army’s basic training. We spent a lot of time traveling and enjoying each other’s company. I’m usually lucky if I get one vacation in a year, but to have two vacations, only a few months apart, is something I’m incredibly thankful for.
Because I don’t expect 2017 to slow down, and I plan on building on what 2016 gave me, I reduced the amount of income I need coming in, and I went part-time at AT&T. This will free me up for more time with my family, more time with the church, more time creating, and more time staying healthy and at peace. I look forward to playing a lot of basketball. I look forward to going on hiking trips and traveling, and whatever else I feel like doing.
I feel more alive than ever right now, and It’s because of everything I just mentioned: from every little detail that I chose to focus on, to the people I now have in my life. As a whole, I’m beyond thankful for 2016. I’ve gained peace, relationships, perspective, consistency, and tons of memories. For those that wished for 2016 to hurry up and end, I’m hoping for many more years just like it.
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