Each year as I gain levels in this dungeon of life, I tend to pause and think of how far I’ve come. There have been many boss battles that I have narrowly escaped, and most of those battles were not won alone. As I ponder upon this past level, I recall some wonderful memories… and of course some not-so lighthearted ones tossed into the mix.

It’s strange to think that I am now at level 23. How did time pass by so quickly?

Sometimes, if I’m not careful, I can get stuck in stinkin’ thinkin’. Those moments can be dangerous, because I dwell on the “could have beens” and “what ifs”. I look at others besting dragons and making life seem so easily conquered and compare my successes (and failures) to theirs.

Thankfully, I have been blessed with wise parental units that encourage me through these self-defeating moments. I also have many trusted friends, some of which have been with me since the lower levels of the dungeon, others I have met along the way. These allies remind me who I am when I lose sight of me.

The 22nd level was no easy feat. There was more conflict than I had expected, and it took everything in my power to resolve things rather than run away and hide. In fact, more times than I can count, I did hide. I refused to face my fears head-on. That’s when I had to rely on the one who knows all- the mighty Dungeon Master (God). Even though I was afraid to move forward, He helped me put one foot in front of the other. One step at a time, we conquered each fear together. I still shake in my boots occasionally, but I can rest assured that I am not alone in this dungeon. I have my sword (the Bible) and the DM’s guidance to get me through. Sometimes I can look at the Walkthrough to get some helpful hints as well from those who have gone before me.

I had to learn to let go of things and people I held dear… and there were days where it felt like there was no point in continuing to the next battle without them by my side. At one point in time, I held on so tightly to them that it was as if my next breath was dependent upon their exhale… No human can be my life-force. That is way too much pressure for anyone to handle. So I have been learning to let go. It definitely has not been easy, but I must admit… it can be rather gratifying to let go of the past and move forward. I have gotten to the point where I can look back and smile at what once was, rather than break down in a puddle of tears at the thought of what might have been. I will always be thankful and grateful for the lessons I learned and the people that were my teachers, whether they are still around or we have parted ways.

Towards the beginning of this year, I wandered in darkness for a while. I let things cloud my vision and my thoughts, and though I had a flashlight to guide my steps, I still couldn’t see the path before me. I felt like I was blindly going through the dungeon, stumbling over both good and bad things as I went. Once I finally had the sense to take a leap of faith and turn off what little man-made light I was relying on… I discovered glow worms illuminating the way out. Now I am in the light and let me tell you, it is a glorious feeling to have somewhat of an idea where you are headed.

On the other hand, there were miraculous things that occurred on this level that I never would have anticipated. I met some fantastic travelers who were each on their own path. I am so grateful that our individual journeys have intertwined, whether for the time being or for more years to come. We’ve had many fun adventures together, and I am excited to see where we each will go as time continues on.

Recently, I set off on an adventure that is proving to be quite the blessing. This experience has been very eye-opening thus far, and I feel like I have finally found my niche in this world. I have hope again- hope that I haven’t had in 5 years. Acellus is a phenomenal program and just to be a part of something that is impacting millions of children for the better is special and so worthwhile. I still don’t know exactly what twists and turns lie ahead of me, but I am trusting that I am in this position for a reason. Thankfully, I don’t have to be in control- that’s the DM’s job!

With each boss battle I’ve walked away from, I’ve left with scars and ample lessons learned. I wouldn’t take back any experience, though, no matter how horrid it was. These scars, in their own way, are beautiful reminders that I have survived the very things that I feared I wouldn’t. Though some of those battles I never would have willingly walked into, I can honestly say that I am thankful for having experienced them. With each scar comes a story, and with each story is an opportunity to help someone else through the same battle without facing the same dangers, toils and snares that I fell into.

Level 23 is already shaping up to be full of surprises. So many unexpected things have already made themselves known… I’m excited to traverse down this path, and I’m thankful that I won’t be alone (because we all know it’s dangerous to go alone). Who knows what could be in store right around the corner?


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