Note: If you’d like to be part of our 90-Day Fitness Accountability Group, there’s a message for you at the end of this post!
Good bye, 2013. You sucked, mostly, so I’m happy to see you in my rearview mirror. And from what I’m hearing and reading from my friends, it wasn’t just me you mistreated, so I won’t take it personally.
November and December were an appropriate crescendo to my sucky year. At one point, we had seventeen straight days where we had school/church/work-related commitments, many of them over-lapping. In mid-December, I renamed the season Crazy-mas and decided I much prefer to celebrate Emmanuel in the quiet from January to November, without all the commercialism, blaring music and flashing lights.
And then I caught a terrible cold, where every cough sent daggers through my chest and head.
But things came to a screeching halt (in a good way) when we boarded a plane after Christmas/Crazy-mas and headed south for a non-traditional holiday beach vacation.
Even with cloudy, rainy days and cool temps, (and also a broken microwave, no blow-dryer, no iron, no pot-holders and only two coffee mugs for three coffee drinkers) the beach is still my most favoritest place on the planet. We sat on the cloudy beach and got caught in the rain and listened to the waves crashing through our open windows all day and all night and laid around and talked and laughed together.
A space cleared in my brain and/or my heart that I hadn’t experienced in months. Space needed to reflect on 2013 and a few things I learned (which I’ll do in this post) and set some new goals for 2014 (which I’ll share in a later post).
Here’s what I learned:
1. About Parenting: Other than the year I lost my son and my mother, I can honestly say that 2013 was the hardest, most frightening, most discouraging, most physically and emotionally demanding year of my life, hands down. Last year kicked my butt in the parenting arena. Out of respect for my growing children, I cannot share details, but I faced more challenges as a mother than I thought possible in one year. I’ve had to reevaluate every single method, rule, technique, boundary and response. Most of them, I’ve dramatically adjusted. Some of them, I’ve chucked completely. A few of them are still up for discussion.
So, I guess I learned that, no matter how old my kids get, I will never stop growing as a parent. I should never be so proud or so sure of myself and The Way We Do Things, that I’m not willing to take an honest assessment and make some serious adjustments. I am not the same mother I was a year ago, and that’s a good thing.
I learned that all three of my kids need me in unique ways. All three of my kids need me now, more than ever. I would have never believed you, if you told me this ten years ago. In many ways, this season feels very much like Toddler-hood, all over again. It’s never been more vital that I study my children and learn what they need and how they need it—and then show up and provide what they need or equip them to learn to seek God to meet their needs.
I learned that it truly takes a village to raise a child—and I am humbled by and eternally indebted to every teacher, neighbor, youth worker, pastor, parent, therapist and friend who has been part of that village. I was overwhelmed this year with the beauty of community—the Body of Christ. I cannot do this parenting thing alone. I’m so thankful I don’t have to.
2. About marriage: Jon and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary in 2013. It came and went without much fanfare (see #1), but we still stole a weekend away to honor the milestone. I’m so proud of us for making it 20 years. It has not been an easy 20 years, but we are still a couple, and that makes me happy.
I learned that few things chip away at marital unity like a child in crisis. Yet, the very thing the child-in-crisis needs most are parents in unity. Oh, the irony.
I learned that talking with a good friend does a marriage good.
I learned that sometimes you just have to decide that you are going to be on the same team—and figure out “how” later.
I learned that challenging my husband in front of the children never ends well, even when I’m right.
I learned that Grace truly means “undeserved favor.” When life beats you down, day after day, for months (years!), it’s tempting to look around and start pointing fingers at the other decision-making person in your home, finding all they ways they are failing as a human. Grace says, “I see your role in this. I don’t expect you to be perfect, and I choose to love and forgive you anyway.” I learned Grace is probably the most vital element of a healthy family. I learned I need to extend more of it and extend it freely. I learned I need it now more than ever.
I learned that almost always, what I need from my husband is not wise counsel or thorough explanation or proper perspective…but I need hope. At the end of every day, good or bad, I just want to know that we are in this together, and we are going to be okay.
3. About trials: I learned that as painful as the trial is, the refining process brought forth from that trial is sacred, holy.
I learned that the Word of God is living and active. Trials force me to immerse myself in God’s Word like nothing else. Never have I felt so weak and so strong at the exact same time.
I learned that changing the way I talk about my trials changes everything. Instead of, “I know God is good and He sees everything we are facing, but this year has been horrible,” I choose to say, “This year has been horrible, but I know God is good and He sees everything we are facing.” (do you see the difference?)
4. About friendship: Last year at this time, I was starving for some real community—a place where I could be 100% myself and still give and receive support and encouragement. As part of my 2013 goals, I set out to build that. First, I tried starting a small prayer/coffee group with three other women. After multiple attempts to meet, our conflicting schedules killed it after only one date. Later in the year, I started a neighborhood Bible study. That was nice, but the community-part didn’t happen like I hoped (mostly, because life was kicking my butt –see#1—and I couldn’t invest the time needed to get to know them better).
But in the midst of all that, God brought some women across my path, organically, naturally. I found myself connecting with women at school events and in the church lobby. For the first time in years, I was meeting friends for lunch or coffee or a walk in the park on a regular basis. One friend emerged as the BFF I so desperately needed, talking with me and praying for me through this entire cruddy year. (And I can hardly say this without crying—but she’s MOVING AWAY in a few months! Hello, God??? What is up with that????)
So, one thing I learned is that connection will happen, even in a busy season of life, if I open up my eyes and look around at the people walking the path alongside me.
I learned a long walk with a good friend is better (and cheaper) than any counseling session with a therapist.
I learned that a weekend laughing and talking at the beach with my sisters, sister-in-law and my niece is perhaps the best decision I made for my health the entire year.
I learned that from henceforth, we will take said trip annually, amen.
I learned that the best kind of friend doesn’t try to fix or minimize my problems. Instead she simply says, “What you are going through is really difficult, and you are doing a great job.” And then she makes me laugh. And then she prays for me.
5. About blogging: I learned that it is crazy-hard for me to write for other people when life is cruddy (again, see #1). I can fill up almost two whole journals for myself. But write for you? Can’t do it. Either I’m going to write something highly personal, hurting someone I love, or I’ll write something highly superficial, just to get something posted.
That’s why it’s been so quiet around here, FYI.
I don’t beat myself up for blogging so intermittently last year. I did the best I could. But I do miss the “everydayness” of what my blog used to be. When I go weeks between blog posts and then finally resurface, it feels like I need to post something spectacular (even now, I’m struggling with this). Sometimes I just want to tell you about my day or a funny observation or show you a beautiful picture. I never figured out how to accomplish that during Crud Year. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to. I don’t really know.
I learned that if I don’t make time to write on a regular basis, I fall out of the habit altogether. I used to be very aware of things like Fitness Friday, even if I hadn’t managed to post anything. I lost track of all of that last year.
I learned that I probably shouldn’t commit to a year-long series.
I learned that blogging has changed tremendously since I started almost six years ago. It seems the blogs that started in 2008-ish either exploded into Mega Blogs with book deals and sponsors and millions of subscribers, or they’ve fizzled out. I spend a lot of mental energy trying to decide what I think about the changes, where I fit and if I should continue writing in this venue.
I learned that I really do love writing in this space, I love feeling like I’ve contributed something of value to your lives, and I love the connections I make here with you, but I don’t always know how to make it fit with the responsibilities of life.
I learned that I’m entering 2014 with more questions about my writing than I have answers.
6. About my health: I learned that I am getting older and my body cannot handle stress indefinitely. For the first time, I felt stress affect my health in ways that scared me a little. I learned that, while I already do take very good care of myself, I need to do an even better job at self-care (said the doctor at my annual physical).
I learned that a hot bath in the Jacuzzi tub with a glass of wine is like a little miracle worker after a stressful evening. But sometimes a cup of hot herbal tea or a run on the pavement is an even better option.
I learned that exercise endorphins are vital to my emotional well-being, and that I see the world completely differently after a hard workout.
I learned that, because of my age, long gone are the days I can forego exercise and clean eating without paying a price. Jean size and flat tummy don’t define me, but I know that I feel best about myself when I take excellent care of my health. I have energy, I handle stress better, my skin glows, my hair shines AND my jeans fit. Balance requires I make time for pie and naps, but I’m at my best when I eat clean and exercise every day.
7. About myself: For much of this year, I prowled around like a caged animal. I could pontificate all the reasons why and how, but what I learned through it is that I need two things, or I will shrivel up and die inside: a creative outlet and a sense that I’m investing in something eternal. I learned that I must make room for creativity and ministry, both. The ones INSIDE my four walls need me, for sure. But getting OUTSIDE my house and OUTSIDE my head is vital, as well.
The final thing I learned is that January is my favorite month of the year. Truly.
I love the newness. I love the clean, uncluttered house. I love the routine and the crisp nights and hot soup and the fireplace burning. I love fresh workout programs and clear calendars. I know that’s weird, since most people love Christmastime or summer vacation or spring or fall—but I like NOW. Now is when I thrive.
Welcome, welcome, 2014. I’m so excited you are here.
Speaking of Fresh Workout Programs, if you are interested in being part of our 90-Day Fitness Accountability Group, I have created a Closed Facebook Group. I sent out invites to the people who expressed an interest. If you want to be a part of this, leave a comment telling me so, with your Facebook name. You need to have a Facebook account to join. If you don’t have a Facebook account, but still want to have some accountability, we will do a weekly check-in here on the blog each Friday.
Q4U: What did you learn in 2013?