2016 was . . . hard. I'll just be honest about that. It was hard in a good sort of way, though, because with God, no trial is pointless, and no pain is meaningless (Romans 5:3). In my 2015 recap post, my first sentence was "2015 was amazing." 2015 had so many fun times, and yes it did have trials, but through each of those trials it was pretty evident how God was working.
But 2016 wasn't exactly like that. 2016 was all about perseverance because this year, there were fun times, but there were trials. Recurring trials. And this time, it wasn't so evident what God was doing or if He was even doing anything at all. So this year I learned patience! Yay! Every Christian's favorite thing to learn is patience. Not. Ugh, I hate patience. I absolutely hate it. God so help me, and He has been. I hate waiting. I hate not seeing results. I hate having to be patient. So that's maybe one reason why this year was so hard; I had to wait on God. A ton.
But this year was super memorable for me because of all God has showed and revealed to me through the waiting. No waiting is meaningless (Isaiah 40:31). I learned so much about my identity in Christ this year and how God sees other people. I learned about what my spiritual strengths are and got some new ideas for ministry I want to pursue later in life. And I am thankful for that. I know this year has been crucial for my maturity as a Christian, and so I'm incredibly thankful for that. Let's go over it!
With a new year beginning, I set some yearly goals. I started putting together ideas for which book I wanted to start next, and I sent out a survey to help me determine that. I learned a lot more about my identity in blogging, and I shared some thoughts I had. In January I had to finish school basketball, which brought drama to my life, but even those memories are sweet to me because they'll mark a last, last time I played organized basketball. That's one door I definitely think is shut, and I'm more than okay with that. I want to pursue these three things: writing, blogging, and ministry/social work. I'm excited for high school because I'll get to start taking classes based on my interests.
Being a light has always been my life motto, and it's our purpose as Christians. I shared why I think that here.
My birthday month, yay! I officially became a teenager. I never really understood teenagers when they said these three words describe their life: food, Netflix, sleep.
Well I get it now needless to say.
For my birthday, I got to attend an Iowa Wild hockey game, and the next day I got Uggs! #YearMade. I worked on some church projects, which was so much fun to do as I got to grow in my faith. My grandmas got me playing Cookie Jam for awhile, and I was doing pretty good!
I began cleaning up my finished book and wrote a post over some things I learned about fulfilling dreams. I blogged about what God taught me about feeling alone, because I started feeling that way more. I got baptized!
Towards the end of February and through the beginning of March, I got my yearly cold and was definitely tired of the actual cold weather. I got a new pair of rain boots that got me really excited for spring!
I went on my first ever church retreat and absolutely loved it!! Read all about that here! I got to go spring shopping and bought lots of new spring clothes. I totally finished editing my book over spring break.
I went to my last hockey game of the year. I wrote about sticking up for your faith and living for Jesus no matter what. I compiled a post of all my best tips for telling others about Jesus, as I did that a lot my seventh grade school year. I read BRUSH OF WINGS by Karen Kingsbury, the conclusion in the awesome ANGELS WALKING SERIES, and I wrote about it because it was truly a wonderful book. I also shot my first turkey!!
In May, well, I really had to persevere through the end of school because let's just say I was more than ready to be done and have a break. A lot happened in terms of friends and being lonely and sticking up for my faith, and school is already stressful enough without that added drama, so I had to cling to God more than ever and just get through the month. I blogged about all of that here. My mom and I worked on redoing my room, and it started looking how I'd dreamed of it! I started going to church classes with my mom on Wednesday, and those were always the highlights of my week, diving into the Word and talking deep about Jesus with some Spirit-filled, awesome people that always encouraged me just enough to get me through another week of loneliness at school.
We started preparing for our trip to Canada, and Dad took us to Fuzzy's in Des Moines! That place is awesome. Dad sure knows how to find some amazing restaurants over there. I went to the races with Dad once, too.
I wrote about my persevering thoughts. I set some summer goals. We went to the Blank Park Zoo, which was lots of fun! Summer came, and I was so excited. We ate out a lot, relaxed on our deck and talked about life . . . then we went to Canada! Read parts one, two, and three of our trip here!
Oh, on the way home from Canada, I'm writing this before I forget and I'll elaborate more on this in a later post, I learned about the unforgivable sin. That was the scariest thirty minutes of my entire life learning what it was and if I'd committed it. Now, long story short, if you don't know what that is and are freaked out, let me just say that's good. That's good you're freaked out about it because you haven't committed it then. Repent and believe in Jesus and you will be saved. I'll tell more about that later, though.
I kept attending my Wednesday classes, and one day I wrote about it! Then I got to go up to see my Gramps and Grams for two weeks. The first day I came up we had a lot of fun discussing our plans, and we went downtown to listen to some singing and browse the farmer's market. I tried Diet Dr. Pepper. That marked a first and more importantly a last. You'd rather have calories than poison, people. Trust me. Grams and I also went walking downtown to go visit one of her friends in the nursing home, and we had some great life talks.
The next day we went to Okoboji and did some shopping. We ate at the Spirit Lake Dairy Queen, which is awesome. And then Gramps and I went for bikes rides! He got a new bike! It's a beautiful pale purple, and it rode so smoothly. We all went out to eat at Godfather's later that night, too. Then my cousin came up for a day, and we had a blast taking pictures (she's the only person I have in my life who understands the importance of photographing your food and literally just about everything else because ya do it for the blog, people), riding bikes, and going to Fareway and buying Dr. Pepper. They had a #pickyourpepper thing, and I picked out the prettiest Dr. Pepper ever. And yes I did too take a picture of it, deal with it. I posted some amusing Snapchat videos that night staying up late with Grams (add me on Snapchat "ashleestaerk" for all of that).
We rented movies the next day. We watched THE LAST SONG, a movie I'd already seen, for three main reasons: 1) Liam Hemsworth is HOT, 2) It has an inspiring message, and 3) It's maybe the only romance movie I've seen that doesn't have a love scene in it, and yes I went there because in today's culture that's all but impossible to find, so hats off to it.
We celebrated the Fourth of July by going over to (a) Casey's (FOR THE DONUTS, and guess what, they had PINK and BLUE frosted donuts for the holiday!!!) and (b) Spirit Lake and snagged an awesome, secluded spot to see the fireworks going off at the Lakes. Someone also honked at Gramps as he was turning, which was hilarious, mainly because of his response ("Don't honk at me you fool" and "I'm turning, ya moron"). Never a dull moment with him, people. I also wrote about some things I learned when celebrating that holiday here.
My cousins came up, and we lit sparklers, went back to Okoboji and shopped 'til we dropped, and I learned a lot about getting my happiness only from God that month. We had fun taking vlogs! We did the Bean Boozle Challenge! Guys, one day I just may start a vlogging channel, and it would be great. That's the first video I'd upload!!
We went to the Swinging Bridge and had some memorable, FUN times there!! We had a garage sale, and Gramps, Jacob and I went for truck rides. I love love love those. I wrote another letter to my future husband, and I shared a lot of what God taught me over the summer.
In August, I didn't do anything real productive. I learned the importance of being still, though, and knowing God. We went to Knoxville Nationals as a family one night, and much money spent later... It was great. I got a new phone!! Welcome my new child into the world. It's a beautiful, healthy pink iPhone 6s. We went to the State Fair. There were, like, ridiculous amounts of people for what? There was three things there, mainly: rides, animals, and food. Who knew that could attract so many people?
School started up. I wrote a prayer over eighth grade, based on what I learned over the summer.
In September we went to Rube's Steakhouse, which is awesome. I got mini corn dogs because I felt like it, and they were great! Yes, I'm that girl who orders mini corn dogs at a steakhouse. I'm also that girl who wears flip flops or white tennis shoes to the races. I make my family proud.
My mom and I participated in the Bible Reading Marathon at our nearby courthouse, and of all the 66 books in the Bible we could possibly get to read, what do Mom and I get?! Chronicles. All those names you never knew how to pronounce and killed by trying. We came, and we totally nailed it. That was fun, and we got to chat with the people from our church.
I had cross country, and gosh, that sport. I hate it. I like running on my own terms. Like. Running. In the same sentence. That's funny. I prefer walking. And I got to walk, too. We walked down by our nearby lake while Hunter played that Pokemon crap.
Over those few months, I started having a growing interest in prison ministry. I've always wanted to help people and go into some sort of ministry, and prison ministry has really intrigued me, and I really have a desire to go into it. I won't say for certain that it's what I'll go into, but it's definitely a great thing and much needed. I want to go into some sort of ministry sometime in my life, and I'm really into studying psychological things, and I can't wait to do that in high school. That will help me a lot in ministry. Anyway, I blogged about prison ministry and my thoughts on that here.
Otherwise, October was pretty uneventful. I ate out a lot with my mom. I worked on some projects God had laid on my heart that I hoped I could eventually reach out to someone with.
November was pretty uneventful too. God opened up some doors for me to connect with some people I really am grateful for, so I know He's been providing for my needs, even despite the loneliness I feel this school year. I did a lot of reading. I've been rereading Karen Kingsbury's Baxter family series. I first read those in fifth grade. I think that was way too soon due to the subject content, but again, I am a girl with little to no patience. And on the bright side, I think that really helped me mature so yeah. . . . The series is great, though. I understand them a lot better since I'm older, and God has been laying so much on my heart through them. I pray I can write like that one day. God also opened up the door for me to reach out to someone, and I was so incredibly thankful I could do that.
I blogged about my thoughts over if life is beautiful. I spent Thanksgiving break with my grandparents. I loved every minute of that. I also started getting impatient towards the end of November. Impatient over my circumstances, why God wouldn't change things, if He ever would. . . . I started learning the importance of being totally real with God. For so long I've always filtered what I said to Him out of fear, but God wants total intimacy with me. He already knows how I feel anyway. Once I realized I could tell God literally anything, it was the most liberating thing. He is such an amazing God, to desire that intimacy.
In December I got really upset a lot in the beginning of the month. Between circumstances I watched and stress from school and maybe hormones, too, I don't know. I just felt down a lot. But one day it was really cool because I was so depressed I didn't even know how I was going to survive my school day. So I just told God, "You're going to have to give me the strength because there's no way I'm getting through this day on my own." By first period, it was amazing, because I did. I felt this supernatural strength, and with it came peace about all the hurt in my life, and with it came joy nothing could take away. Nothing can explain the supernatural joy God gives me. I could never not believe in God, based on just that alone. There's no other way to explain the strength I got that day. I know for a fact it was totally God and the prayers from my mom and grandma.
I got to ditch school one day and go with Hunter to one of his doctor appointments in Des Moines. We praise God that so far he's still healthy. We got to go bowling afterwards. I also made a new public Instagram account just for this blog and my mission (follow me @sparklesbyashlee), and I have a private account too for my photos and what God is doing in my life. I'll let you guys follow me though, so request to follow my private account @ashleestaerk for behind the scenes and life updates. I also joined Snapchat again!! Add me "ashleestaerk"! We also went to Jolly Holiday Lights as a family in Des Moines and tried to find a place to eat (there was literally no place to walk in Jethro's).
We had a nice little Christmas. I got a lot of books which I'm already almost done with! I got a lot of pretty sweaters and some other clothes, as well as a new winter coat I'm in LOVE with! We also went to see Rogue One as a family. It was really good!! And now I'm at Gramps and Grams' again, and I've loved spending time with them.
So I've learned a lot, and I promised I'd recap everything specifically God taught me, so stay tuned for that! I'm praying you all have a healthy and joyful 2017 and grow a lot. I plan to keep spreading sparkle and keep loving Jesus. He is faithful. That is totally true and was definitely evident this year for me. No matter what, He is the bread of life (John 6:35). Regardless of how your year was, or what your next year will be like, that will always be true. So in any circumstance that may come up, go to Him, and you will, in fact, have a rich 2017.