rearview mirror

the beginning of each year holds such hope for me.

the ability to see things differently, to move forward, to grow in my understanding of God, to accomplish new and exciting things, to finish tasks, to reach goals that have been a long time coming, to meet new people, to get involved in new and different ways, to strengthen relationships that already exist, and to just soak up all that comes my way.

and it’s funny- because the only way for me to really think about who I want to become and what I want this next year to hold is to look back at the last year. No two years are identical, but it is only through replaying events, emotions, interactions, goals, commitments, and situations from last year that I can really grasp what I want to be different and what I want to keep.

I definitely do not think we are supposed to live in the past, and we all know that driving forward using our rearview mirrors will only get us so far. BUT- I do know that our past can be an incredible teacher for our future. And I do know that a lot of times, the past predicts our actions in the future. And for some of us, we don’t want our past to predict the future. So looking back at the past as a learning opportunity for the future is really important.

I decided to go through my past year and write about those events and what I learned from them- 2011 was by far an extremely eventful year, and I do not want to lose sight of all that I had to learn from those moments.

At the very beginning of 2011, I cut my hair off. Big deal, Ally… you might say. But for me it was a symbol of letting some old things go, changing what I had known for so long, and learning to embrace the new things that were coming my way. I learned to leave old memories, unmet expectations, and failures in the past and embrace a new change for the future. It was extremely freeing and gave me a newfound positive outlook for the year ahead- and yes, hair apparently can do that.

My 22nd birthday surprise with Meg taught me something about myself. I absolutely love surprises. We were both totally blown away that our friends actually kept a secret from us that well. Between the two of us, we would normally figure it out. But we didn’t and it made it so so so hilarious and fun. What a great memory- and thank you to our amazing friends for pulling it off. Spending my birthday with a really close friend and all of our friends combined was such a blessing. Some of my best birthdays happened during my time at APU- and celebrating with such a close community of friends was such a lesson in the gift and true necessity of relationship. They are filling, encouraging, supportive, loving, and stretching- what a true gift.

On the same note about great community and friendships was this day. I was asked to present my senior thesis on Bilingual Education for Common Day of Learning at APU. It was such a blessing to be asked and two other girls and I combined our findings to present all together. This was the big group of support that showed up to hear my presentation that day and I was seriously blown away. It was the biggest blessing ever. I learned not only about the importance of community, but also that through supporting one another, we grow together and celebrate the gifts and abilities in one another, no matter how different ours might be. I want to be that kind of friend to the people in my life and even though these people might not have the heart for bilingual education that I do, they came to support me in the way they knew best- and their presence was an absolutely cherished moment for me in all my 4 years of college. So thank you- for those of you reading this 🙂

 I had the true privilege of working for Mexico Outreach at APU during my last year at APU. These were some of the amazing people I got to work with everyday and this photo might just be one of my favorites 🙂 Mexico Outreach taught me so so so much- its really hard to even try and articulate. But I learned about my own personal gifts, how to better serve others, how to serve with the right heart, how to serve selflessly, how to deal with all types of people, and how to handle moments where I am totally stretched due to discomfort. What a blessing. I got to call this place work, but really it felt like home away from home. I worked with the best people ever and I got to enjoy my time at work everyday. I learned that as much as I enjoyed the administrative part of a mission organization, I would rather be in the actual field with kids in Mexico than anywhere else. I can use my administrative skills elsewhere, but when it comes to Mexico, I learned that I thrive when I am interacting with the Mexican people themselves. I shed more tears because of this job, but have never grown so much or been more filled and encouraged through a work environment in my life. Such a blessing. Definitely things I hope to take into this next year and for the rest of my life.

I learn more and more about sacrifice through my parents everyday. But last year was no exception. This is my mom and dad in Puerto Vallarta last year in February. Our time there together was amazing, especially since we don’t go on vacations very often at all. My parents are completely devoted to their children and I am blown away over and over again at their unconditional love and support. I am in no way thinking of having kids anytime soon, but I know that there are endless things I can take into my daily life now and when I have kids from their example. So grateful for the blessing to call them my parents.

 This photo holds 2 very important meanings. First of all, I graduated from college. I don’t say that in a boastful way, but in an extreme-gratitude kind of way. Graduating college taught me a lot in and of itself- I learned what it really feels like to accomplish a long awaited goal, to push through times of unknown situations and confusing circumstances with the end result in mind, to spend way too much time studying for a test that might not really matter in the end, and on the other hand, to spend time where it matters most- with friends and important people in your life- in the midst of college. I realized as my last semester was coming to a close that my 4 years had flown by way too fast and I knew I would never get them back. Thank God I enjoyed every moment of those years and thank God that he helped me pass all my classes when I had spent my time on other things that finals 🙂 Hard work pays off and college taught me about discipline and consistency. And all the relationships that come from spending 4 years together in the same place is truly remarkable. Unlike anything else! Second, the woman in this picture is Debi, my mentor. I had always wanted a mentor and never knew how to find one. APU set me up with one and I could not be more grateful for the role she played in my last few months there. She was a place where I could be truly filled and not worry about being ‘on’. Her wisdom, laughs, and encouragement that poured into my life during that time are more meaningful than a lot of things that happened during college. What a blessing to share some life with her, and I know without a doubt that I want to give back in that way somehow this next year. Pay it forward 🙂

laughter. there is nothing as healthy or that I love more. I never want to stop laughing.College and these girls taught me that more than anyone else. Always laughing.

I became an aunt last year- and quickly I realized I was a very proud aunt at that! Grayson James was born and he could not have been cuter. And there is no bias in that at all 🙂 I have decided that aunt is the best role in the family ever! I get to have as much fun with him as I want, I can buy him really cute clothes and toys, dress him, walk him, show him off, brag about him all the time, hold him, kiss him, do all the fun stuff- and then give him to my brother and sister in law for the sleepless nights and crying spells 🙂 He automatically brought lots of laughs and joy to our family.

My heart for these kids in Mexico still stands as strong as it did the last day I left the orphanage. I pray that Mexico continues to be a part of my life and that I am able to be a consistent face for some of these kids. They teach me more about Jesus than anything I have ever heard or watched, and I don’t ever want to lose sight of the God they know. Truly amazing.

 There is still a huge part of my heart that is in the midwest. Rachel and I got to visit my old stomping grounds this past summer and I could not have been more proud to show her around my favorite parts of Chicago. I want this to be a place I continually revisit. I had some amazing years in this place and I want to build even more in the future!

 I started my teaching credential program at St. Marys this summer and will be graduating in May- Lord willing. My first placement was with second graders and I didn’t know it would be so amazing. 18 weeks with these kids and they had totally taken my heart. This is one of my favorite students- our journey together was difficult and not always fun, but I grew to truly love his heart, his smile, his needs, and his comments. He taught me what kind of teacher I want to be in so many ways and in some ways, what kind of teacher I do not want to be 🙂 The second graders also taught me more about God, love, patience, innocence, and grace than I had known before. I want to take these lessons into my next placement, as well as into my own classroom. My time with them was truly a gift.

 Finally, 2011 held some more really exciting news. David came into my life out of nowhere through some mutual friends and we started dating early in December. I have learned so much already through our relationship, and without saying too much on a blog (though I probably have already done that), let’s just say that it is truly amazing when things happen in God’s timing. There has been so much laughter, fun, communication, trust, and growth already and I am so excited to be enjoying it right where it is. The best thing I have learned through this is that when things happen in God’s timing, there is no need nor room for fear of what the outcome will be or what will happen along the way. God knows what he is doing, and ultimately, as we seek him and ask him to be in all our relationships, we find that he works all things out for the good of his followers. Every single time. He never misses a single beat. So through any challenge, adventure, or change, I have learned through this relationship alone that God is so completely in control and he just wants us to enjoy the ride. And I am learning to do that, because it is a process 🙂 But what a gift. And David is amazing and has been such a gift to me- truly a gift. Ok, I will stop myself there 🙂

Needless to say, 2011 held some amazing memories, challenging moments, and lots of lessons learned. I am excited to see what unfolds in 2012, and I know that it will surely come with its moments of confusion and frustration as well as many triumphs, victories, and celebrations. I just continue to pray that I allow God to use me in the ways he wants. I do not want to be the same in 2013 as I am today. And I look forward to wherever God wants to lead me. Such freedom.

So instead of continually driving while looking in the rearview mirror, I am deciding to take the past and use it for what is coming in the future. That is where I want to live. Not in the past, but in the wisdom of the past that holds great opportunities for the future.

Here is to 2012 and all that it holds. 

don’t let your past be an indicator of the future- let your past propel you even further into grace, hope, joy, and peace.

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