Chronic Illness · Chronic Pain · Grad School · Mayo Clinic · Mental Health · Personal · Recovery · Religious · Social Justice

There’s just so much I have to be grateful for from 2016, friends.

2016 was a terrible year on a societal level for many different reasons (here’s a list of 99 beautiful things that happened in the world, though!). On a personal level, however, it was amazing. If I had to pick one word to describe this year, it would be growth. There is so much for me to be thankful for, and I could never try to do all of my blessings justice and reciprocation by writing them out, but here are 80 of the best things that have happened in the 366 days and 1 leap second of 2016, in no particular order of chronology or importance.

  1. Saying some of the most important hellos of my life thus far.
  2. Saying a few appropriate goodbyes, too.
  3. Petting wonderful dogs and cats, especially my beloved Sammy.
    [image description: My mom, my mom’s boyfriend, sister and I smiling at the camera with my mom’s boyfriend’s golden-doodle dog, Sammy, in front of us].
  4. Playing the piano again.
  5. Learning to sit still and take time for Sabbath (שַׁבָּת).
  6. Praying and seeing God answer some of those prayers in bigger and better ways than I ever could have expected or asked for.
  7. Reading life-changing books.
  8. Meeting doctors and other practitioners at the Mayo Clinic who finally treated me and listened to me in the ways that I ‘d always wanted.
  9. Cutting my hair really short for the first time.
    [image description: Me standing on a bench in a field of sunflowers. I’m smiling and looking up to the sky, my arms outstretched, and I’m wearing a black shirt, sunflower skirt, black sandals, and sunglasses].
  10. Becoming more unapologetically feminist, queer, and out there in response to Donald Trump’s election – and seeing many of my friends do the same.
  11. Meeting some of my best friends’ and sister’s friends and significant others.
  12. Spending about 11 of the months of this year being joyfully single.
  13. Forgiving and being forgiven.
  14. Learning more about myself.
  15. Growing more comfortable in times of uncertainty, difficulty, and waiting.
  16. Getting my fifth tattoo to permanently commemorate God helping me to get back up once again, just like the girl Jesus brought back to life in Mark 5:35-42.
    [image description: a freshly-inked tattoo on my right hip that is an arrow 3″ long that has on top of it the word “arise” in a combination of my handwriting and the tattoo artist’s].
  17. Starting this new part of my long-running Tumblr blog, “Illness to Wellness.”
  18. Changing my future from social work to ministry (likely as a hospital chaplain!) within the span of 8 days in what will forever be one of the wildest days of my life.
  19. Having others invest so much into my future, whether through accepting applications, teaching me more about life, pushing me past where I thought I could go, giving me support in countless ways, encouraging me, and so much more.
  20. Going across the ocean to Finland and Estonia and across the border to Mexico in some fun family travels, and meeting kind new friends in new places and seeing wonderful sights.
  21. Driving here, there, and everywhere in the United States, perhaps most importantly from New Jersey to Minnesota for the Mayo Clinic.
  22. Returning to Nashville 3 times.
  23. Laughing about life with some of my dearest friends.
    [image description: three of my best friends and me cuddling on a couch].
  24. Taking down my handicap permit and being able to walk thousands of steps a day once again.
  25. Going to many caring and helpful medical professionals at various points in my healing journey before Mayo Clinic – and not needing to see them nearly at all once I got back.
  26. Sending some of my friends and family members off on new and exciting twists in their life paths.
  27. Getting dressed up and going to once-in-a-lifetime events.
  28. Learning that I love lifting weights and exercising.
  29. Climbing a mountain again.
    [image description: The view from the peak of a mountain in Northern Virginia in the Blue Ridge Mountains].
  30. Being part of authentic, vulnerable, and life-changing therapy sessions, both individual and group.
  31. Understanding the Gospel and the undeserved, yet still unending, unbelievable, and unchangeable love of Christ more.
  32. Reconnecting with old friends in a far deeper way than before.
  33. Coming to more peace with my past.
  34. Taking what I thought would be wrong turns that ended up getting me to the right places.
  35. Testifying in front of the District of Columbia’s legal council about how they can better treat survivors of sexual assault. 
    [image descriptions: 2 selfies side-by-side, one a few days before I testified for the council (looking serious and holding up a red “Vagina Monologues” necklace while wearing red lipstick and nail polish) and one a few minutes after I left the building where I gave my testimony (wearing a big smile and giving a thumbs-up).]
  36. Enjoying precious time with family.
  37. Visiting the animals many times at a local petting zoo.
  38. Eating great food all over the world.
  39. Going to a conference dedicated to folks with disabilities and seeing just how far assistive technology has come.
  40. Learning tons of new things in my first semester of seminary.
  41. Making new friends, the first of many new folks from this new and exciting chapter. 
    [image description: Some of my new friends and me standing in front of a Christmas tree on our seminary’s campus.]
  42. Loving my body more freely, consistently, and unapologetically, regardless of appearance, functioning, or others’ opinions.
  43. Letting my wanderlust determine the way.
  44. Going to basketball games with my dad.
  45. Having others let me help them carry their stories and hearts.
  46. Mentoring other women.
  47. Getting a pre-cancerous mole removed and knowing that I got to beat cancer 20 years in advance (in exchange for one badass scar).
  48. Soaking up inspiration from artists and their crafts.
  49. Rediscovering my silly side and finding ways to make even the weirdest, most eye-roll-worthy moments laughable.
    [image description: a photo of four pairs of legs and feet, one of which (mine) has on a short cast for an injury. My friends and I are holding Christmas lights near our feet].
  50. Getting sweet and soul-reviving letters, text messages, phone calls, talks, and prayers from others.
  51. Seeing the church plant I’ve been involved with since last November go public in September.
  52. Cherishing beauty in nature.
  53. Going to lots of public lectures by amazing speakers.
  54. Surviving more periods of depression and emerging into light once again each time.
  55. Exploring Minnesota with my cohort from Mayo Clinic.
  56. Experiencing God in new ways.
  57. Celebrating two weddings – one of my cousin to her (practically) middle school sweetheart and one of my best friends to her dream man.
    [image description: Sarah, my cousin, in her wedding dress on her big day, holding her bouquet. In front of her, I stand in my bridesmaid’s dress, making a monster face at her. Sarah looks frightened].
  58. Watching Netflix, especially How to Get Away with Murder, Grey’s Anatomy, and The Office.
  59. Daring to fail greatly – and sometimes, by God’s grace, succeeding greatly.
  60. Having my entire immediate family by my side at both of my Mayo Clinic visits, and also having time alone that reminded me that I can take care of myself.
  61. Doing a “timeline” of my life in one of my group therapy sessions at Mayo and being met with wild, immense love in return.
  62. Experiencing the delights of each season, whether it was flowers blooming in the spring or long nights in summer or the colors changing in the fall or hot apple cider in winter.
  63. Learning how to cope with pain and live anyway (and despite the pain).
  64. Keeping my heart, mind, ears, and eyes open.
  65. Hearing from my readers.
  66. Going to seminary parties.
    [image description: 4 of my friends and me on Halloween. I dressed up as a red M&M].
  67. Getting picked to do a “Vagina Monologues” piece.
  68. Feeling my emotions fully, just as I always have and pray that I always will, regardless of the pain that can bring at times.
  69. Basking in sunshine, jumping in puddles of rain, and quietly sitting inside a warm house on chilly nights.
  70. Realizing a lot of key truths about life.
  71. Gaining more self-confidence, self-esteem, self-love.
  72. Experiencing more and more of a true sense of freedom.
    [image description: me standing with my back to the camera in front of hundreds of paper cranes on strings. I’m wearing a white dress and my bird tattoo is visible].
  73. Having multiple places I consider home.
  74. Spending more time with my sister than I had gotten to in years.
  75. Growing so much emotionally and spiritually that it hurt sometimes.
  76. Being told, over and over, that I walk taller and look happier than I used to.
  77. Turning 23 surrounded by some of my most important friends and family members.
  78. Believing once again in possibilities that I had cut out of my mind.
  79. Listening to music that gave me goosebumps.
  80. Cherishing, being inspired by, and growing with the family that formed among the participants of the adult and young adult cohorts at Mayo Clinic’s Pain Rehabilitation Center.
    [image description: part of my cohort from the Mayo Clinic Pain Rehabilitation Program, our parents, and me].


So, my dear and beloved readers, here’s to 2017, a year that I hope will be described by the word rhythm, but here’s to knowing that God always has better things planned for my life than anything I could ever try to dream up.

Happy New Year to you and yours!

3 thoughts on “There’s just so much I have to be grateful for from 2016, friends.

  1. Bless you, Emmie, and so many thanks for all of your observations above (I love how engaged you are with so much of the world around you!). May 2017 offer you (as I think 2016 did!) an ongoing set of wonderful new learnings and friendships–you’re a remarkably gifted, observant and caring person, and I’m SO glad you were one of my students!!


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