A Blessed Year

   2014 was one of the best years of my life. I was blessed abundantly with so many memories, God-given gifts, and people that I will never forget. My faith grew as I learned to trust in God. I became a part of new experiences that I never would've imagined I'd be a part of. God's plans for my life are good, and while I never would've predicted the outcome of this year, He made it so much better than I could have ever dreamed. So here's to a reflection of the blessings of the year:

   I started the year worshiping God at Winter Jam with friends and family. It was such an awesome experience, surrounded by thousands of other believers singing songs to God as well as having a night of fun and music! It was such a glimpse of the future in Heaven.

   Starting on February 1st, my life changed as my mom and I attended the volunteer orientation at the animal shelter. My original plan was to volunteer at an animal hospital for my veterinary assisting class project, but because I was under 16 at the time, I was restricted from doing so. The only place I could volunteer at was Clay County Animal Care and Control. Because I knew they were a kill shelter, I didn't want to go there, but after prayer, God led me there. He provided a sense of knowing in my heart, a sense that told me to trust in Him, that He wanted me to go there. We did. Since then, I can't even count the number of blessings that have occurred as a result. I've volunteered almost 200 hours of my time since then. I've met amazing animals that have changed my life and whose stories have touched my heart. My experiences led my friend to begin volunteering and gain a new family member. It has started the idea of training my own dog, Minnie, who for the past nine years I've considered "not trainable", but with work this year, I've trained her to do eleven tricks so far! I could go on forever.

   The spring brought lots of fun (and unexpected!) memories that will be treasured for a lifetime. In March, a group of friends, my little sister, and I traveled to the theaters to see the release of the movie, "God's Not Dead". What a powerful, inspiring movie! I will never forget the surprise on one of my friend and I's faces towards the end of the movie...no spoiler in case you haven't seen it yet!

   At the beginning of April, the animal shelter was extremely overcrowded, and I felt led to contact news stations in the hopes they would do a story so that the community would take action and adopt. Little did I know that my prayers would be answered and that I would become a part of it! After emailing, my mom and I returned to the shelter to volunteer, and as I was telling my mom about not receiving a response back from any of the stations, I turned around to the shout, "There she is!". First Coast News had been at the shelter, and they wanted to interview me! No preparation or time to think, I was placed in front of a camera and microphone and somehow managed to answer without my nerves showing! Thank God! I wouldn't trade that moment for anything.
 If you want to check it out! http://www.firstcoastnews.com/story/news/local/2014/04/03/overcrowded-clay-county-animal-control-help-needed/7273483/

  Also during this time, I became extremely close to one of the shelter dogs, Daisy, so much so that if my dog liked other dogs and if she had liked other dogs, we would've adopted her. Every shelter visit donated at least some time with her. She began to know me well and would give me hugs every time I saw her. Despite her size, she loved to sit in my lap and provide affection. Eventually, we volunteered at our first Mega Event. I was able to spend my last moments with her up until her adoption with the PERFECT family for her the following day! I am so blessed to have gotten to know her during that short time, as well as several other "Daisys" that showed up at the shelter, dogs I fell in love with (Candice, Lucy, the list could go on!). 

    Summer 2014 was the best summer I've ever had. Between trips with family, photo shoots, birthday celebrations (limos, vacations..so much fun!), concerts, another Mega Event, and a week-long vacation, alongside online classes and other things that made time fly by, I couldn't have had more fun. I went from a Hillsong Young & Free concert one weekend to Freedom Fest the following weekend, where I was blessed enough to meet my absolute favorite band, Anthem Lights! I had been tweeting them several times, with responses back, and the experience meeting them alongside the worship and music was great! It was one of the best days of the entire year. 

    Traveling to Gatlinburg, Tennessee to meet up for the second time with my long-distance friend Kara and her sweet family proved to be such an amazing time! Despite tornado warnings, broken-down vans (therefore, squished mini-vans!), and other mishaps, everything that happened made the vacation all the better! I originally met Kara through an online Bible study several years ago and have been so gifted to have been able to keep in touch with her and meet up with her family (including her sweet grandparents!). We are like sisters separated at birth and it was so much fun hanging out in one of my now favorite cities!

   Eventually, the school year started once again and I officially began my junior year of high school! I started college classes through dual enrollment at the state college and was able to enjoy a shortened high school schedule (4 classes, where I was able to come to school later and leave early!), and take part in two college classes at night and in the afternoon on various days throughout the week. I had the least amount of workload I've ever had in my life and the experience was awesome! At the same time, the college classes served as a trial in my life as the professors graded much harder, with less grades and a lack of them being entered into the gradebook, so I had to learn to trust God and rely on His strength to get by. I focused on Psalm 94:18-19 and with prayer, I managed to get all A's by the end of the semester! I know I only did that through God's strength, not my own. 
When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
    your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
When anxiety was great within me,
    your consolation brought me joy. Psalm 94:18-19
  At the high school, I was gifted with the title of being one of the editors of the yearbook staff, which has been lots of fun (as well as stressful at times!). It has strengthened my writing, editing, and communication skills and may prove to have prepared me if I end up going into journalism in the future.

  Thanksgiving came, Christmas came, then New Years, and I was able to spend so much quality time with family and friends! 

    2014 was a year I'll always remember. One long blog post isn't enough to talk about all the blessings God has given me this year. I've grown closer to Him. He's taught me that He is faithful, that He really does care about me and will answer my prayers if I learn to place my trust in Him, and most of all, He's strengthened my heart and has grown the fruit of patience in me. In June, He spoke directly to me about sacrificing everything for Him through His Word and a book by Lysa TerKeurst, "Made To Crave", where I fasted from social media for about a week and was able to focus on a daily time in the Word with Him...and this is the first year I've been able to keep up with the daily Quiet Time since then! He's blessed me with tons of new friends this year and has grown friendships with others. He allowed me to start this blog and share my love for writing and encouraging with those who wish to read!

2014 was one of the best years of my life. As we start 2015, I'm praying for His blessings and presence as we all begin with a new year!


Thanks for reading! If you were inspired, encouraged, or would like to share any thoughts, please comment below!