Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014 Was An Audacious Year!

"It's only when we have nothing else to hold onto that we're willing to hold onto something very audacious and scary." ~Sonia Johnson

[I borrowed this idea from Dan Pearce's Single Dad Laughing's post here with permission]
I never imagined after the rough year I had in 2013 that 2014 could be so amazing.  I mean, it had to be better - once you hit rock bottom, there's only one way to go.  But it surpassed even my wildest imagination!

It was difficult to start the year off with the pounds I had put back on, but I was bound and determined that I was going to take them off for good this year.  I set my goal high - go big or go home, right? - to lose 100 pounds.  Well, I beat it by a few and I can't tell you how amazing I feel.  I haven't been this small since college.  I attribute it to eating clean which was the best lifestyle change I could have ever made.

I also started the year off with a bang in my running.  I ran a 5k every other week to train for the half-marathons.  My first was in April.  I was afraid I wouldn't finish, but I did it in 3 1/2 hours which beat my expectations by 30 minutes.  I not only did one Warrior Dash, but two and ran the second half in October.  My target was to run 365 miles in 2014, but I blew past that and hit 500.  Needless to say I went through several pairs of shoes.

I finally got the house finished and rented out.  This put us on a great start to getting out of debt.  By September my student loans were paid off and I started saving for a down payment on a house.  We should finally be in our own early in 2015.  I know the kids are going to love that!

After a rocky end to 2013, work has been great!  Although I love my job, my blog has taken off to a point that I'm finally bringing in some good income.  I finally started on a book that was almost finished by the end of NaNoWriMoI'm putting on the final touches and I can't wait for y'all to read it.  

God placed several things on my heart for this year and one of those was for homeless ministries.  I got involved with a great group of people and we have helped countless people get off the streets.  My good friend Oscar has been invaluable to showing us the true needs of those living in the cold.  My blessings have been more than I ever could have given.

I finally listened and started a children's choir at church.  Through this, we have had a number of families come to know Jesus.  I love to see the word of God shine through these beautiful faces.

One of my most cherished and fun goals this year was to get a Neighbor's Table.  I don't have my house yet, but we were able to get a rental with a big enough yard to put one in.  We invited anyone that could come for Thanksgiving and Christmas to join us at this amazing table and share what community looks like.  Those are memories I will never forget! 

The kids and I took several vacations this year.  We all went to Texas to visit their best friend Ishita and their brother Addison.  It was great finally meeting Alex and Olivia in person!  We swung by Oklahoma on the way and got to meet up with a lot of awesome dreamers.  We also went to our favorite place on Earth - Emerald Isle - with our favorite people on Earth.  

I even snuck away for a few trips of my own.  The first was to the Storyline Conference in San Diego where I got to meet Jon Acuff and Bob Goff in person.  These are two of the people who had such an incredible impact on my healing and moving forward.  I'm in the middle of packing for my second trip - I'm headed to Europe to spend the rest of the holidays with one of my good friends from college.

All in all, I'd have to say it was an amazing year.  What a turnaround from depression and rock bottom a year and a half ago.  It's incredible the healing God brought me and the life he was preparing me for.  I can't wait to see what 2015 has in store!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Dinner for One

"I am not alone at all, I thought.  I was never alone at all.  And that, of course, is the message of Christmas.  We are never alone.  Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the world seemingly most indifferent.  For this is still the time God chooses." ~Taylor Caldwell

I realized today that this is the first Christmas Eve I have ever been alone.  Truly alone.  In my entire life.  No last minute shopping.  No visiting 10 houses before midnight.  No kids trying to peek at presents under the tree. 

I am sitting here enjoying the ham Wayne's mom sent home with me.  I threw together some other stuff I had in the cupboards and poured a glass of wine.  I am singing along to Christmas music and catching up on all the well-wishes.

I may be sitting here alone in a quiet apartment with cats resting under the tree, but I'm not really alone.  I am spending it I am reveling in amazement at the people God brought into my life.  I am looking at dozens upon dozens of cards hanging on my wall from beautiful people all over the world.  I am gazing at the handmade ornaments my new friends have made lovingly and sent for an ornament exchange.  I see the bottom of the tree void of any boxes.  The gifts I received can't be placed in a box or a bag.  They can't be bought nor returned.  

This year I've received an outpouring of love completely unimaginable.  I've been giving the gift of friendship from friends both old and new.  I've been given laughter and even a few tears but always with a shoulder to cry on.  I have found out that I don't always have to be strong but can be weak and it's still OK.  I've even found a little bit of Christmas magic.  But most of all, I have found peace.  Peace within myself.  Peace with my situation.  Peace that I can sit here in the quiet and know that I am not alone and I never have been.

So tonight, I toast my glass of wine to you whether you are visiting with family and friends or sitting alone in the quiet like me.  I hope that amongst the piles of boxes and wrapping paper you are able to find the gifts that really matter the most!  I love you all and I wish you the merriest of Christmases!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Grieving No More

"The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief -
But the pain of grief is only a shadow
When compared with the pain of never risking love."
~Hilary Stanton Zunin

A friend of mine reminded me it was OK to grieve.  But the thing is, I have grieved for over half a year.  Most of 2013 wasted trying to get back what I lost.  I grieved for a relationship that is no more.  The "we" that we were is gone; never to return no matter how many tears I shed or how many hours on my knees I spent praying.  I grieved for the person I was.  A huge part of me is gone.  The part of me that believed in Christmas magic and happily ever after.  The person that would watch sappy Hallmark movies with tears in her eyes knowing that I had found my fairy tale and it was even better than the movies.  I grieved for the Olan Mills family pictures that would never be.  The family cookouts and birthday parties and the white picket fence.

But I'm done grieving.  I'm not going to spend the last month of this crappy year crying.  I don't know that I'm ready to move forward in any way yet, but I can't live in the past any longer.  Nothing I can do could bring back my life as I knew it before June.  It took something as a new pair of jeans to finally give me the closure I needed.  It took someone reminding me that if I didn't forgive, it was one of the worst sins I could commit because God gives me his mercy every day.

And I forgave.  Wayne for not loving me the way I needed and for walking out of my life.  The family members that turned their backs on me when I needed them the most.  But most of all - I forgave myself.  For putting my heart and soul into a man that threw it away.  For not trusting that God had a bigger plan for me and wasn't ready to unveil it yet.  For not seeing the precious gifts I had in my children.  For not cherishing the absolutely incredible friends I still have and the blessed angels that have come into my life since then. 

So, I don't shed tears for the past anymore.  I don't have dreams for the future.  What I have is the knowledge of a promise that God will make this all work out in the end.  Whether it's because of destiny or just because I plowed away at it until it worked.  I can't say I even have hope.  But I have prayers.  And I know that somehow, someway those are going to get to the big man and He's going to answer in His own way.  Until then, I'm going to continue to be still and try to hear whatever message I am supposed to be getting from all of this.  And maybe - just maybe - a stray Christmas snowflake will hold just enough Christmas magic to bring the spark back again.