**Disclaimer: I know that most of my blog posts have been about community, but when I think back on this year, that is the area I have learned and grown the most in, so forgive me while I brag on my people :)
A year ago today, I was graduating from college (Go Dins!) 10 months ago, I moved to Raleigh. 9 months ago, I walked into a stranger's house and met 9 other strangers who I'd be spending LOTS of time with. But in September, I had NO idea what Christian community really meant. I knew what it seemed like from the outside, and I knew I wanted it. But, in September, I began to experience it, slowly building my own definition of community along the way.
It happened as Jessie asked me how I was feeling when she could tell I felt unsettled after a group activity on our first beach retreat. Or when Stephen brought me my favorite food for lunch, seeking out tough conversation that would eventually strengthen our relationship. It was Kenz and I's deep life chat in the backseat of the minivan our first night as Fellows, sharing pieces of our stories and our hearts with one another.
It happened as I learned how to navigate a new work place with Richie, and feeling like he was a safe space almost immediately, accepting my tears, questions, and unformed thoughts on those front porch rocking chairs. It was sitting in Starbucks with Mariah, praying fervently and believing in a God of healing and of power. Or looking at Gebbie's face as we rafted down the whitewater and knowing I wasn't alone in my fear. It was in the way I watched Zach begin to bring the group together from the start, whether it was over a ridiculous game of train at the beach or somehow getting me to a State football game... GO TARHEELS! It was Matty teasing me like a brother, but also showing me what it looks like to have a deep understanding of the Holy Spirit.
It was Ash encouraging community by asking tough questions, including "intentional hangouts" in our schedule, or always being willing to start a hilarious dance party. It was the way Spencer and Derick and Ally and Pete welcomed me into their family, always making me feel like I was just one of the Daniel's. Or Barbara sharing her wisdom with me, encouraging me, and praying intentionally.
It was Sam and the kids giving up time as a family and letting a bunch of loud, hungry people in their house every Thursday night. Or the Fellows alumni welcoming us into the family. It was the teachers introducing me to new ways to experience a God I've known for what feels like forever. It was a group of 15 sixth grade girls meeting weekly for fellowship and prayer as they begin to understand who that God is. It was a church family who stretched out their hands and prayed for us, making sure we felt known and cared for.
And this all happened in the first MONTH!
So thank you, all of you, for the ways you have taught and are continuing to teach me what community means. I wrote a blog post in October about how I had been searching for the "easy button" for community building. But community is not easy, it takes work. And I have learned more and more that those tough moments are often the same moments I feel growth happening.
As I begin to reflect back on the year and attempt to "end well," there are many questions still left unanswered, many uncertainties in the future. But, I know that the Lord has used this community to give me a more clear picture of who He is, drawing me closer to Himself each day. And for that, I am forever grateful.