2022 – My year of adventure

On the 1st of January 2022, I wrote the following words in my diary:

“This year, I have decided, will be the year that I will flourish, by myself. I will adventure, I will explore, I’ll push myself far out of my comfort zone and believe in myself. I will pull closer to God, and walk with Him in everything that I do. There is so much growth and joy coming my way.”

As I sit typing this post, reflecting on everything that has happened this year, I can’t help but feel proud that I have achieved all of those things. I remember writing those words from a place of hope and optimism, yet still feeling broken from the end of a relationship, with an overwhelming uncertainty at what was to follow. But I knew I wanted to visit as many places as possible, and I knew I wanted to follow God’s guidance in everything I did.

So, if you’re interested, here’s a lengthy post about 2022; my year of adventure!

The year began with a flurry of activity as I moved out of my home of five years and into my new flat. It was mentally draining to go through five years of possessions and memories, and it took a while for the flat to feel like home to me. So I busied myself with DIY, and I was surprised to find that I could wallpaper and paint quite efficiently by myself, as long as I had the right music on!

I enjoyed a snowy walk in the nearby country park, a wonderful 9-mile walk around Ladybower resevoir, where I got to see Derwent Dam in overflow, with gallons of water cascading over the brickwork, and a much-needed spa day with my family to fully indulge!

In February, I journeyed to the Lake District for my first solo holiday of 2022, where I stayed in a stargazing hut with a glass roof and colour-changing lights. I explored such beautiful places, from Rydal water to Aira force and the stunning cliffs of St Bees. I was blessed with sunny weather, and I spent every daylight hour walking, exploring and gazing in awe at the scenery. In the evenings I would curl up with a hot chocolate and watch a film, before gazing at the stars above. It was the perfect way to spend my birthday. I came home feeling refreshed and more settled in my little flat.

In March I enjoyed numerous days out with friends. We walked around carsington water, jumping on hay bales, visited the beautiful clumber park, and journeyed to Ingleton for the day to walk the waterfall trail. I loved the waterfall trail, with its’ many picture-perfect moments and uneven footpaths. I may have accidentally dropped my glasses in the freezing cold water and got rather wet retrieving them!

I also pushed myself to finally perform a piece on the piano at the local piano meet-up. I was very nervous, and I was shaking as I was playing. But it was so fun to play a beautiful grand piano, and I was so proud afterwards.

In April I had a lovely day out in York, where I treated myself to a river cruise followed by a tower tour at York Minster. Once again I was blessed with good weather, and I felt very serene gliding down the river on the top deck with the wind in my hair. York Minster was breath-taking, especially the chapter room with its’ many stained glass windows. I spent about half an hour just gazing at those windows! The shambles in York are always a delight, and I spent a bit too much money in a music shop!

A few days later, a friend and I decided to travel to Edinburgh for the day. This meant catching a 7am train, with a four-hour journey either way! It was a very long day, but we packed so much in, including a rather exhausting and windy walk up to Arthur’s Seat. I had many ‘stop-to-enjoy-the-view-but-i’m-actually-resting’ stops along the way, but once we were at the top, the views were incredible!

At the end of April, I went on my second solo-trip of the year, this time to glorious Penzance in Cornwall. As soon as I arrived, I fell in love with the place; the rugged coastline, the mesmerising colours in the water, the golden beaches and the plethora of flowers that covered the grass. I stayed in an ‘ark’ that had all the quirkiness that the name suggests! I walked 30 miles in the three days that I was there, and it was a real highlight of my year.

I visited St Ives and experienced one of the best sunsets I have ever seen while walking along the beach, surrounded by couples and families with barbecues and bonfires. I spent a day in Hayle, where I paddled for three miles and went rock-pooling for the first time since I was a child. On the third day I burst my car tyre, but still managed to get to Porthcurno for an incredible afternoon on the clifftops, where I really scrambled to get the best views of the beautiful waves! I left Cornwall with sand in my shoes and joy in my heart, and I was able to pop to Portsmouth ‘on the way home’ to visit my dad.

May was a busy month, beginning with the best day of the year. On the 1st of May I was baptised, after years of exploring and finding my faith, I finally gave my life to Jesus. It was such an emotional day, surrounded by my family and friends. I couldn’t stop crying, I was overcome with so much joy and peace that I couldn’t stop smiling. I struggle to put into words what that day meant to me. But as I look back, I’m so amazed at how much my faith has grown since then, it really just keeps on getting stronger every day as I build and chase that relationship.

The rest of May was full of fun day trips with a friend. We visited Bamford edge to take the obligatory photographs with Ladybower reservoir below. It was particularly windy at the top, but we managed to balance the tripod to get some good shots. We visited Peterborough cathedral, where I went on the tower tour and found out lots of interesting facts and stories. The ceiling there is particularly beautiful, and I tried my best to capture it in photographs. At the end of the month we had a long but joyous day along the Norfolk coast, snapping photos of the many adorable seals that were resting there and ending the day with fish and chips by the sea. I also explored the stepping stones at Chee dale and almost got lost somewhere in the valley!

June was time for the big church festival – my first ever festival! It felt good to be surrounded by other Christian’s, all coming together to worship and praise God. It was the first time I had ever experienced worship, and I found it completely joyous. It was a glorious weekend of praise, faith, love and laughter. A couple of weeks later I visited Deeping Lakes Nature Reserve and made friends with a particularly creepy-looking goat. I also tried golf for the first time, and I was just as terrible as I thought I would be!

At the end of June I travelled to Crete with my mum for a week of holidaying by the pool. We stayed in a hotel by the sea and were treated to a beautiful sunset every night. It was nice to have some down time and read a few books that I’ve been meaning to get to for a while! I spent most evenings on the patio with my bible, listening to the waves and enjoying the feeling of serenity.

In July I decided to try a day-trip to the Lake District, which would mean six hours of driving and a very early start! I was pleasantly surprised at how smooth the journey was, and I was able to enjoy a wonderful day back at Rydal water. I revisited the cave and the grot at Rydal hall. It was lovely to see the Lake District in the summer for the first time, the scenery is so striking when it’s a vibrant green!

Back at home, I discovered a great local spot to watch the sunset, and I spent quite a few evenings on curbar edge to catch the stunning view. Quite a few people gathered there too, and it created a really nice atmosphere as we all watched in silent wonder at the simple beauty of the sunset.

At the end of July, I visited New Wine for the first time. I met a lovely lady from Scotland who prayed over me – it was the first time I had experienced that and it felt very special. I also had an intense experience during worship where I felt God speaking so clearly to me, giving me instructions for my next step in life. I cried through most of it, but they were such joyful tears.

August came with highs and lows. A friendship that meant a lot to me suddenly slipped through my fingers. Overnight I lost the person I told all my stories to, and my days felt uncomfortably quiet. I slipped into a grief that I wasn’t ready for, and it knocked me completely off my feet for a long time. But God is close to the broken-hearted, and He had plans for me.

I felt a huge need for fellowship with other Christians. I began visiting different churches to try and find one that felt like home. I quickly found two that are now like family to me, and I’m lucky enough to work at one of them. I knew that these churches would bring new opportunities into my life. I’m enjoying overseeing the social media for the church, serving on the youth and worship teams, and integrating my passion for photography to capture special moments. With that came lots and lots of new friendships and connections. I’m so blessed to be surrounded by so many wonderful people who bring me so much love and joy every day.

At the end of August, I visited David’s Tent for the first time. I’ve written an entire blog post about it because it was such an incredible experience. Many amazing things happened over the course of the weekend, but the highlight was how close I felt to God and the way He gently took away the pain I was carrying. I made some new friends while I was there and I’m hoping to return again next year to serve on the team.

I took a rainy day-trip to Lincoln cathedral, and I was really mesmerised by the whole place. There’s plenty to see, and I want to visit again to explore more and hopefully do a tower tour. I’ve visited quite a few cathedrals this year, but I think York Minster is my favourite.

In September, I went back to Ingleton to explore the waterfall trail for a second time. Even though I’d visited in March, it was still beautiful, and there were areas that I’d missed on the first trip. I highly recommend it for a day trip!

I had a lovely 14-mile walk around Ladybower reservoir and made it up to Bamford Edge to catch the sunset. I got a bit disorientated on the climb and ended up making my own path up a very steep and rocky slope – I think I gave an unsuspecting photographer the fright of his life when I popped up from under the rock he was sitting on! I also stayed a little bit too long admiring the sunset from such a beautiful viewpoint, so I ended up using my torch to find my way back down again.

We started a new group at one of my churches that meets once a month. For the first meeting we all went for a meal together to get to know each other. While I was there, I was invited to join some of them on a mission trip next year. It’ll be my first ever mission trip and I’m full of anticipation and praying that we can all have a positive impact with the church we will be serving in Cyprus.

In October I travelled to Billingshurst to stay in an ‘airship’ I found on Airbnb. It was set in the middle of the forest with no internet connection or signal. It was a week of quiet that I utilised to reflect, read, pray and reconnect with myself.

November brought bonfire night, which turned into a wonderful night of spontaneous worship. I felt brave enough to jump on the piano and play ‘The Blessing’ while we sang it together. Everyone gathered round and we all came together in such a lovely way to worship and praise God!

I took an autumnal stroll around Derwent Dam, which looked breath-taking in auburn colours. It was such a refreshing day in the middle of a chaotic month at work with lots of activities going on at the weekends, from weddings to Christmas markets.

In December I travelled to Keswick for the day to climb Catbells with a friend who lives in Cumbria. The climb was tough for my little legs, but the views were beyond worth it! We were so blessed with still, mild weather and we even caught the sunset on the way down. The colours were simply mesmerising, and we kept stopping every few steps to gaze at the view.

At the beginning of the month I had the joy of watching my friend’s son being baptised. He gave such a beautiful testimony beforehand, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house! I love seeing people give their lives to Jesus, and hearing their individual stories always amazes me.

I had a lot of fun being the nominated photographer at our carol service, performing in the worship team as part of the youth-takeover service and making 150 christingles for the Christmas Eve service!

It’s been a full year of adventure, and when I look back at the woman I was this time last year, once again I feel like I’m unrecognisable. God is using many experiences to grow and shape me, and I feel so different from even the person I was 6 months ago.

This year has had the most wonderful highs, where I’ve laughed until I’ve cried, seen places that made me stop in my tracks because they were just so beautiful, connected with people who brought me so much joy and pushed myself so far out of my comfort zone. It also brought a lot of pain, and there were days where I really didn’t know how I would keep going. There were moments where I felt such an intense despair at the situation that I physically didn’t know what to do with myself. But it has grown me immeasurably, and I’m so excited to see what is coming next.

So what is next? I’ve started making plans for 2023 which so far includes a family holiday in January, my first mission trip in February, a hot air balloon ride in March, a two-week backpacking trip around Japan, Big Church Festival in May, David’s Tent in August, being a bridesmaid at a very special wedding in October, going on my first residential trip with the church youth and New Wine with my fabulous colleagues. It’s set to be an eventful year, and I’m ready for whatever God has in store next. If 2022 has taught me anything, it’s the importance of truly surrendering to God and trusting in His plans, because ultimately He really does know best.

Happy New Year!

-Holly

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