the year in review | 2017

Last week (the one between Christmas and ringing in the New Year) is quite possibly my favorite; which is saying something – I don’t like or play favorites. But, there is something incredibly special about it for me.

I think it’s the relief that comes with making it through another set of holidays and all of the stressors and expectations that can come along with it. The realization and gratitude of surviving another holiday season – which was just unfathomable 14 years ago – is a huge blessing in itself. I carried so much grief into this time of year for so long; every year after that very tragic one all those years ago.

But, when Christmas passes and the decorations come down – the very next day – I get giddy for the week ahead. It’s the hope of and excitement of a new, fresh start. One that everyone gets. It feels like a leveler to me. Like permission to leave behind all of that stuff and freedom to go ahead and dream a little, to dare to express some excitement at having – what feels like – a clean slate. And everyone is having to do it, not just me.

The slowed schedule brings about time to reflect. To remember. To look more deeply into what was or wasn’t, what I longed for but didn’t experience or make happen To reflect on things hoped for and that were surprisingly delivered.

It’s worth the time it takes to think about the year you just lived through, no matter how it looks on this side of it. It truly is meaningful and powerful and beneficial to make time to reflect on the past year. Especially when it’s done intentionally…

Cait Flanders was reflecting on her year and the way she did it – see here – motivated me to do the same.

Here goes:

1 | What makes this year unforgettable?

I have a lot of choices here…

I say this because there are many big markers for why 2017 surprised me as completely unforgettable. But, because I’m getting married in February, I’m gonna save all the gushy stuff about my Mister (what I call him) for this question next year.

I’ll probably often look back at 2017 as the year I had an abdominal hysterectomy – my first major surgery – and learned a lot more about my desire to people please, perform and hustle for the approval of others. I was blown away by how our spiritual family, that we’ve only known for about 2 1/2 years, came to our aide and cared and loved beyond what I expected.

The recovery taught me how to rest. To let others serve and care for me and how important it is to pursue authenticity and vulnerability in favor of connection rather than isolating and pulling away out of fear and shame.

It’s been a difficult recovery, one that has humbled me greatly – but what makes the entire thing most unforgettable is the lengths I believe God will go through to demonstrate His love for us.

2 | What did you enjoy doing this year?

I enjoyed traveling to Seattle for the first time.

For the record, we had no delays or flight frustrations, no rain the entire weekend and the city just charmed the mess out of me. I’m excited to visit it and Mister’s folks again and to take another go at climbing Mt. Rainier.

3 | What/who is the one thing/person you’re grateful for?

Okay, here I’ll share about my Mister.

I’m so very grateful for him because he is living proof of answered prayers. I had been dating online for a few months before we were matched. I was jaded and feeling tempted to settle for what I was experiencing on dates with so many other men. I really wanted to give up.

There are a lot of reasons I’m grateful for him, but it’s been because of him and the way he treats me (and my 18yo son) that our relationship is like this. I am so appreciative that God heard my prayers and brought us together.

Hold on single ladies, stay in prayer and believe; godly men who want to love and encourage and lead you in a biblical way are out there!!!

4 | What’s your biggest win this year?

Learning to be more of a coach and support to my son than mothering him.

Up until April of his senior year, he had no plan to go to college. Which was fine, we were planning and preparing for a “gap year” instead.

Let’s be clear. I really wanted him to go to college but, I didn’t want him to do it because I wanted him to. So, I prayed and prayed and asked other praying mamas to pray. And I let it go.

By early May, he’d set up a tour at the Art Institute of Dallas, completed his application almost completely independently and actively pursued the opportunity to be enrolled in college for the fall. 

He did take my advice to delay his start until October – even though everyone else was going back in August, I sensed he needed the break. And he did well.

I know it’s his college experience, but the win was that I as a mother trusted that he would make the best decision for this next season in his life. I guess I’d say, it’s OUR win.

5 | What did you read/watch/listen to that made the most impact this year?

The Bible is always going to be the most impacting thing I read each year.

I did glean some insight from Brené Brown’s, Daring Greatly about everyone’s need for vulnerability to grow closer together but how that very thing (being vulnerable) can open up us to being shamed and push us further apart. The chapter about men and vulnerability hurt my heart.

I’m still working through the American Film Institute’s Top 100 rated films. And though I don’t ever expect to “get” why those movies are in the list, I’m constantly being impressed. At the prompting of this list, I saw the entire Godfather Trilogy.

There is also a growing appreciation for how creativity will not be buried. Artists, creators, developers will use what they have to make the songs, tell the stories, create the art – that’s powerful.

6| What did you worry about most and how did it turn out?

I worried mostly about my surgery and its impact on my son. 

Though I did well physically, the emotional weight on those who love and care for me was heavier than I expected. But because of spiritual family, much of the burden was lifted and allowed my son to have home cooked meals, continue to work part-time, carry a full load at school and finish the internship at the church.

He finished well because he knew I was taken care of, but worrying did not help.

7| What was your biggest regret and why?

I regret not continuing to blog past July.

I wish I’d kept writing even when I wasn’t posting to share.

Writing is a creative outlet for me and when I don’t journal or write, I get swirly inside.

Powerful dams to my continuing to write were me not having a bigger/eternal focus, worrying too much about what the blog looked like rather than focusing on its content, allowing myself to be overwhelmed by comparison, perfectionism and fear of what people might say.

Some folks just gotta dance, I’m one of those folks that just gotta write.

 8| What’s the one thing that you changed about yourself?

Hmmmmm…

Something must have changed inside of me because my behavior changed, but I’m not exactly sure what that change is.

The behavioral change was walking away from Facebook for 6 months without checking it once. Before my hiatus, I was addicted to it. I let go of allowing myself to be pressured by the idea that I need to brand myself and navigate multiple platforms on social media. It was also a change that I no longer feel I need to strive for followers on Instagram (the one social media platform I use almost daily, Pinterest maybe twice a week).

Perhaps it is that I’ve allowed God to change my perspective about these platforms, but leaving Facebook was one of the best decisions I made this past year. In fact, I’ll be deactivating the account on the last day of December for all of 2018 with the option to return in 2019 if it’s clear that I absolutely can not function without it.

This change speaks to my desire to have more quality, intimate relationships with others, so I am more intentional about staying connected through Voxing, texting and will call and use Marco Polo from time-to-time too.

9 | What surprised you the most this year?

I “interviewed” my mom earlier this year.

I sent her emails with questions about her childhood, dreams, education, life experiences and was surprised about how little I knew about her. It made so many things make sense, but I minimized my mom’s story because I’d never taken the time to learn it.

Her candor and raw responses would leave me in a bit of a tailspin for a day or so afterwards trying to digest and align what I was learning with what I recalled and experienced. I’m glad she was willing to share with me. I think I understand myself a bit better as a result of those exchanges.

10| If you could go back to last January 1, what suggestions would you give your past self?

  • learn how to sit in uncertainty before reacting – don’t make hasty decisions or speak before you’ve been still to hear what the fear is revealing
  • stick with Blue Apron, even when you feel overwhelmed by it
  • practice speaking up without letting your emotions take over
  • make time for journaling everyday, not just when you’re experiencing stress
  • practice being bold
  • find more ways to explain (not defend) your introversion
  • take two stay-cations each year – the one I had was fantastic but just not enough

2017 threw some curveballs I didn’t even see coming on January 1st, so mostly I would want her to love God and let Him love her well. He is Trustworthy.

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