What May Come
I met an above average number of famous people, traveled to picturesque places and even paid for professional head shots in 2016. I’ve given it a lot of thought, though, and this is hands down my favorite and most important picture of me from this year.
I rode the train alone to Amsterdam this August. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t scope out Pinterest and Instagram beforehand, seeking out the best places to take the pictures to really send a message to the Internet of how awesome my trip was.
I hit the pavement in a fresh pair of Birkenstocks immediately after dropping off my suitcase at the hotel. It was raining, gray and cold, but I was undaunted. I needed a picture of my smiling face and Pinterest-inspired outfit in front of the Comic Sans like “Amsterdam” letters spelled out in front of the Rijksmuseum. You know, so the world could know and see that my trip was living up to all expectations.
I handed my phone to a stranger who looked trustworthy enough. I’d just lost my phone on a boat ride in Haiti a month before, so I couldn’t afford to lose another. She smiled and snapped pictures. I told her, “Thank you so much! I really appreciate it.” She nodded and walked away. I walked towards the Rijksmuseum, scrolling through my camera roll confusedly.
There were two pictures. And in both, I was fighting the wind and rain to keep an umbrella out of my face.
Certainly, it was not the perfect moment I hoped to capture and share with the world. In hindsight though, it was everything it needed to be.
I’m taking a break from packing my suitcase to head home to Denver for Christmas. It’s Christmas again! It feels like I was heading home to the cold weather and my family just weeks ago. The calendar, though, tells me that another year has passed. And as I think about 2016, I have contentment in my heart, because I know it was everything it needed to be.
When the clock struck Midnight on January 1, I told myself it’d be a year of redemption. I started the year reading the book of Hosea and ended it turning back to what I needed.
I’ve battled to create a perfect life for myself. And what 2014 and 2015 taught me, is that’s impossible. Life is filled with heartache, challenges, betrayal, disappointment and regret.
If you give way to what may come, though, life is filled with redemption. It’s filled with hope and joy and a future and peace.
It’s filled with my 2016.
I let go of expectations in 2016, and perhaps that is the most freeing thing I’ve done in my years. My favorite instance of this arose in early June. Earlier in 2016, I met a University of Miami alumna who runs a nonprofit in Haiti, teaching children there about marine life. She invited me to bring the I’mME children on one of her boats to look for dolphins and whales.
The first week of June, I flew to Haiti to surprise the kids with a boat ride to celebrate the completion of their first year of school. I had such great anticipation for the day. In my mind, it’d be a Disney like day–perfectly executed and enjoyed. We’d see dolphins and whales jumping over the water, laugh and giggle with each other and soak in the sun, sand and water.
What I painted in my head for the day little resembled the day that unfolded. We woke the children early in the morning and didn’t let them know where we were headed, as we wanted to surprise them. We packed them tightly into a tap-tap, while the adults rode in the back of an open air truck. It was hot and dusty and every single one of us forgot to eat. As was traversed through Port-au-Prince, we were pulled over outside of a United Nations checkpoint lined with armed guards. We were stopped for a fair amount of time, during which one of the children got sick in the back of the tap-tap. Given that there’s little free flowing air through a tap-tap and we were driving in the middle of a hot, Haitian day, the kids in the back of the tap-tap were stuck with a smelly, hot ride.
It took us several hours to reach our destination. When we arrived, we realized we forgot food. We were hours from home and not near a place where you could purchase food or snacks. Everyone was getting cranky, but we proceeded with the boat ride nonetheless.
The American in me never stopped to think that the children had never been on a boat. I couldn’t communicate with them in Creole, so you can imagine their horror as I snapped life jackets on them and then threw them over the water to a handler on the boat. Their surprise and confusion intensified as the engines were fired up and we started cruising towards one of the most picturesque beaches I’ve ever seen.
The water was choppy that day and there were high winds. The boat started rocking back and forth and the babies started wailing. It was then that I realized we also forgot diapers for them. Pieces of the boat actually started blowing off and for a quick second, I almost had a panic attack wondering how we’d save the children if the weather took a turn for the worst and the wind and waves picked up even more.
To my surprise, the boat outing lasted several hours. Before I knew it, we were picking up the kids and packing them and their things into the tap-tap to begin the long journey back to Port-au-Prince. I felt defeated. I wanted nothing more, but for the kids to have a perfect day filled with fun on a boat. I wanted to cry, because in my eyes, it was anything but.
As we were getting in the car, I had one of the Haitian adults ask Prosper, the boy I sponsor, if he had fun.
He said, “Wi!”
T-john then asked him why he had fun.
Matter of factly, Prosper immediately responded, “I had fun today, because today I went on a boat and I have never been on a boat before.”
In that moment, a 9-year-old boy taught me one of the greatest lessons I’d learned in my then 31-years.
The lesson he taught me was to let go of expectations and to accept what may come with an open heart.
When I look over the last year with that perspective, it’s been a year of great redemption. I’ve stopped making plans for my own life. Instead, I’ve surrendered to His plans. For after all, Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'”
2016 saw my heart finding a soft landing spot. It saw the building of memories to last a lifetime with friends, old and new. It saw developing deeper relationships with my parents. It saw the creation of purpose for a career. It saw traveling to places literal and figurative I never thought or knew I could go.
Most of all, though, it saw me giving up.
As the most extreme type-A person I know, perhaps the most surprising thing about 2016, is that it no longer pains me to write those words.
For once, I am not trying to manipulate my future. Rather, I am welcoming what may come with open arms, finally recognizant of the truth that great expectations may perhaps be the most futile and dangerous symptom to plague a life.
I had fun this year. More fun, probably, than I’ve had in any year before. I had fun this year, because I took each day as it came to me and molded it with ounces of hope, faith and joy, to make it the most exceptional.
I had fun this year, because I had never experienced 2016 and this year, I experienced 2016.
Wishing you all hope, peace and joy this holiday season and that you can give up your expectations in exchange for the great surprises that await you.