In just a few short days 2017 will come to an end. It has been the hardest year of my life and I am ready to leave it behind. It's time to figure out how to begin a new chapter and get unstuck from the old one.
At the end of each year, I like to take time to reflect on memories made, struggles faced and lessons learned. At first glance, 2017 was a year that I might want to just forget all together. But upon closer inspection, I am reminded of some amazing growth for me and huge milestones for my kids.
Through the pain of betrayal I have grown stronger and learned that God's love wraps around us and carries us through the tough days. The days when we don't want to be strong and resilient anymore. The days when we just want them to see the pain they cause and to care enough to change. The days when the weight of hard decisions feels like it will crush us. God draws close and holds us tight.
Through financial abandonment, I have witnessed God's faithfulness to provide in so many ways. Some days it was a card in the mail, a gift left on my doorstep or a friend just stopping by. I have learned that hard work and trust in God go hand in hand. I can't just sit around waiting for God to take care of my needs. I also can't keep everything in and pretend that it's all OK. I have to work hard and take the opportunities that God gives me. I have to be honest when someone asks how things are going instead of just answering "I'm fine". I have to be willing to accept help from those who offer. God has used some amazing angels this year to bless me and show me that he has not left me to do this alone.
Through fun times I have learned that laughter really is great medicine and that my kids are growing into some amazing people. Through my struggles to be strong for them I have learned that they love me and they understand that I am human and make mistakes. They don't expect me to be perfect and to never have a meltdown when the stress piles up. They just need to see me keep getting back up and never giving up.
We have made some great memories this year. We welcomed a new furry friend into our family. An English bulldog named Jovi Lynn. She has been a handful but she also brings so much joy and love.
I was able to visit the beach twice this year. Once during Spring Break with Madison and then again in June with all four kids and lots of extended family.
Madison got her driver's license in July and a car from my Mom in August. Tyler started high school and played JV & Freshman football. During a summer youth camp he rededicated his life to Christ and was baptized. Noah completed his first year of college and earned an athletic scholarship towards his second. Christian and Nichole got married and have begun creating a life for themselves.
I will always see 2017 as a major turning point in my life. It was the year when all of the chains fell off and I gained strength, freedom and peace. I found my voice. I found me again. The me that I had forgotten even existed. Despite all of the hardship, I have become a better me. A me who knows that without God, I can do nothing. A me who refuses to settle for excuses. A me whose story is still being written by God.
2017 was a year of growth that would not have happened if my circumstances were different. I look forward to new adventures, new lessons and new growth in 2018.
As Christmas Day 2017 draws to a close, I am thankful for the memories made and the blessings of family. Christmas has always been one of my favorite times of year. I love the traditions, family time and giving just the right gift....but things were different this year. It was the first Christmas since the separation. The first Christmas since my firstborn got married. The first Christmas morning that I had to work.
As the kids and I talked about what Christmas would look like this year, there were many traditions that we knew would continue. Some would include their Dad and some would not. We wanted to include the newlyweds in as much as possible but also wanted them to have the freedom to spend time as a couple making their own Christmas memories.
We enjoyed a great Christmas dinner together on Christmas Eve. All 7 of us sitting around the table eating, laughing and talking. It looked like so many other Christmas dinners from the past. The table was set with the Magnolia dishes. One of the few nice things we bought as a young married couple. We've lost a plate and cup along the way. But that dish set has survived 4 wild kids, two decades of holiday meals, and at least a dozen moves.
For that hour of the day, it was like the turmoil of our circumstances didn't exist. For a brief moment I forgot about the pain of the past 10 months. We were practicing in real time what we had been reading about in our Advent devotionals.....the unstoppable, unbeatable love of God. Just like the baby that was born in a stinky messy stable, God's love meets us in the messy muck of our lives and forever changes us.
After dinner, their Dad left and the kids and I went to the Christmas Eve service at our old church. It was so great to be there and see so many friends who are like family to us. I heard over and over again that we were loved, missed and prayed for. Being there with all 5 of my kids was an amazing gift that overwhelmed me with joy. No matter what is going on in my life, centering our focus around Christ is what Christmas will always be about for me.
Towards the end of the service the worship leader sang a song that I love and the tears began to fall. The song is "Somewhere in Your Silent Night" by Casting Crowns. Every time I hear that song it speaks so deeply to my broken heart. Here are some of the lyrics:
Somewhere in your silent night
Heaven hears the song your broken heart has cried
Hope is here just lift your head
For love has come to find you somewhere in your silent night.
From heaven's height to manger low
There is no distance that the Prince of Peace won't go
From manger low to Calvary's hill
When your pain runs deep
His love runs deeper still
Christmases may be different from now on but God's gift of love will never end. Our traditions may change but the reason that we celebrate will not. In the midst of joy, heartbreak and gratefulness I have hope for what is to come. Hope for healing, forgiveness and continued peace.
Christmas 2017 was a different kind of Christmas but I cherished each moment and I am so in awe of all that God did for me during the season. And technically it's not quite over yet. We're now in Georgia spending the next few days celebrating with extended family.
I hope that you were able to enjoy the season with your friends and family. And no matter what level of dysfunction you identify with, just remember that Jesus meets us right in the middle of the mess and carries us through.
When we are young we are afraid of monsters being under our beds or in our closets. Our parents will come in and assure us that there are no monsters. We might make them open the closet doors and double check before we believe them.
As we get older we no longer need to look under the beds or in the closets. The monsters that we once feared have made their home in our heads. They keep us anxious and worried about a variety of things.
We are constantly asking questions about life. What are other people saying about me? Will they still be my friend tomorrow? Will I find someone to love me no matter what? What happens if I don't get the job? How will I be able to provide for my family? What if things don't go as planned?
It's not bad to ask questions, but the monsters will make us believe that we're not lovable or valuable. They'll convince us that no one cares and that we'll never accomplish anything important.
If we listen to the monsters we will miss out on the amazing part of life. We will be too afraid to step out and use the gifts that God has blessed us with. We will constantly see the negative side of things.
We must face the monsters and take away their power in our lives. We have to combat the fear and lies with the truth of God's Word and the value we have as His creation. The more truth that we speak, the weaker the monsters become.
What power have you given the monsters in your life?
I am a Christian, a wife, a mom, a VBS crafter, a coupon clipper, a thrift store shopper, a football fan, a cook, a student of the Bible and an avid reader.