Tsh Oxenreider of TheArtofSimple.net produced a great series of questions to facilitate in reflecting on the past year. I went through the questions mentally yesterday but figured I would document my answers while the year is still fresh in my mind. Enjoy and feel free to do this yourself — it’s not too late :)
20 questions for a New Year’s Eve reflection
1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year? See previous post :) Of course, the birth of our second child, Jane Rebecca!
2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened? Another no-brainer for me… saying goodbye (or “see you later”) to our closest and dearest friends (who happen to be family as well), David and Sarah and their three girls. After living in such close proximity to them (right across the street for 3.5 years–and even before Joey and I got married, I lived just a minute away at UMHB and lived in close community with them for 2 years) and watching their girls grow up and become buddies with Arden, it has been a painful process for Joey and I to accept the closing of that sweet season as they follow the Lord’s direction and move to Orlando, Florida to join another church plant and pursue the call God has given them to help start a church in Miami. The final months of 2014 for me were ones marked by moving through the grieving process (as I am a “pre-griever”, grieving things before they happen in anticipation) and coming to terms with the changes that 2015 would bring.
3. What was an unexpected joy this past year? Finding out that we were pregnant with Jane! It was unexpected not in that we were not planning on or wanting to have another child in 2014, but, without going into detail, more because of the weeks leading up to the positive pregnancy test and the timing of it. I took the test while Joey and Arden were picking up a few things from HEB. I had taken pregnancy tests for three or four weeks, all negative, so I wasn’t really expecting a positive. Much to my excitement, there was the faintest line! I had done enough research about pregnancy tests to know that there are almost never false positives and a faint line is still a positive, so I immediately started crying and laughing with joy. I couldn’t stop looking at it and checking to make sure the line was still there. The LORD is so faithful and perfect in his timing. I stood on the porch and put the test on the porch railing and just smiled while I waited for Joey and Arden to come home. When they walked up to the porch, I couldn’t contain my smile and Joey looked confused as to why this was so. I was hoping he would notice the test on the railing but I had to point it out to him. He was definitely in shock as well! We had a fun time that night surprising family with this picture:
4. What was an unexpected obstacle? I have two: my big toe/toenail injury in July that caused problems for a couple months and our car being on the brink of dying due to transmission issues which led to us needing to sell it for quite a bit less than it would have been worth minus the transmission stuff and then raise and save money in a short amount of time to get our minivan (which we love!). The process of getting the minivan nearly put me into counseling. I’m so glad that is over, and so thankful for the support and generosity of family during that time– for example, my parents and Bethany letting me borrow her car while she was in LA (again, God’s timing is perfect in that this happened right before she spent a few weeks in LA!).
5. Pick three words to describe this past year. Grace-filled, challenging, freeing.
6. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe your year—don’t ask them; guess based on how you think your spouse sees you. (If you’re not married, have fun guessing the answers from other friends and family, or just skip this question.) I’m. So. Pregnant. (a nod to the “I’m So Fancy” pregnancy parody video we watched many many times!)
7. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe their year—again, without asking. Forward Progress, Jane. (He’s a simple guy.)
8. What were the best books you read this year? I regret to say that I really don’t remember reading many books this year. But the ones I did read I loved :) Namely, Fit to Burst by Rachel Jancovic, Surprised by Motherhood by Lisa-Jo Baker, The Antelope in the Living Room and Sparkly Green Earrings by Melanie Shankle. ALL of which I HIGHLY recommend.
9. With whom were your most valuable relationships? Outside of immediate family, definitely the ladies in my lifegroup, in particular Sarah, Micah, and Angela. The Lord answered my prayer for more mom friends and provided THREE friends (Micah, Angela and Mandy) who all got pregnant within six weeks of me! It was so fun to be able to walk through pregnancy with others.
10. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year? Without a doubt, its that I have more of an understanding of God’s grace. The role of His grace in my salvation, grace in the midst of challenges and grace in the midst of joys. As Graham Cooke says, every day is a day of grace; sometimes His grace allows you to ENJOY what is happening, and sometimes His grace allows you to ENDURE what is happening. That pretty much sums up this year perfectly.
11. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally? I learned more of what it means to let go emotionally. Towards the beginning of the year Joey and I took a Sabbatical of sorts and subsequently stepped down from our leadership positions at church. I got off the worship team altogether and we are no longer on staff. Throughout this process I met with a dear friend and wise woman in my life that I look up to and she took me through some inner healing in which I finally released bitterness and blame, high expectations I had on myself and others, and the glorification of “busy”.
12. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually? Again, in God’s grace. I can honestly say I met his grace in a way I never have before, and while I have a long way to go in this area, it finally clicked in a deep place in my heart that there is nothing I can do to earn God’s favor or love. It has changed the way I relate to God and to others… as Paul said in 2 Cor 5, I learned more what it means to “regard no one according to the flesh”.
13. In what way(s) did you grow physically? Well, I grew a human. :)
14. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others? Joey and I grew even closer this year through a couple circumstances: first, through getting off staff. Most of our marriage we have only had one or two free weekdays in any given week, which wears me out just thinking about that. The Sabbatical opened up our eyes to how wonderful it would be to narrow our focus as a family and get more grounded through having free, non-eventful nights at home. Honestly, I never want to go back to how busy we were. Looking back, it wasn’t a healthy or productive kind of busy, but rather an exhausting, draining kind of busy. Secondly, the pregnancy provided many avenues for growing closer together. Being pregnant and taking care of a toddler proved to be challenging for me. Also… I was quite more emotional and snappy with Joey this time than with Arden. But Joey was SO kind, helpful and compassionate on me the whole time. He is the hero of this pregnancy, labor, and recovery. Through this whole experience I grew in love for Joey as he taught me what it looks like to love selflessly, in sickness and in health. I am so incredibly thankful for him.
15. What was the most enjoyable part of your work (both professionally and at home)? Again, our focus narrowed as a family, and more importantly MY focus narrowed greatly and I put most of my emotional energy and time into just being a mom to Arden and growing a baby. As a result I enjoyed motherhood much more because my focus wasn’t divided like it was. The days were often long and honestly a little boring but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I learned more of what it means to be present in my children’s lives and to be okay with serving in all the often mundane ways moms do. I want to grow even more in this in 2015.
16. What was the most challenging part of your work (both professionally and at home)? This is a little petty, but honestly probably us only having one car. We are blessed in this season in that Joey’s job is very flexible and he can work from home when needed, but the fact remains that he much more enjoys being at the office and is more productive there (understandably). Joey understands that I do need the car at least some days of the week so he tried to arrange his work schedule where I could have it at least two days in the week, but that still left at least two days a week where I didn’t have a car. Those were always the hardest days for me because I often felt trapped. In the summer it was because it was so stinking hot outside and, especially being pregnant, it often wasn’t worth going outside. Then there were the rainy days, the days when all my friends are at work, the days when we are out of whatever kind of food but I don’t have a way to go to HEB. There were the days when I felt like I was going to go insane because there’s no escape and I can tell Arden is bored and all I want to do is rest on the couch but Arden just wants to climb on everything and compromise his safety. The days when we have gone back and forth between playing in his room and in the living room and how many times could I put on Baby Einstein and still feel like a good mom who isn’t letting their child’s mind go to mush for the sake of her sanity? (The answer: usually two 30-minute BE videos. Three on especially crazy days. If I’m sick? All day long.) There were days when I thought Joey would be home by 5:30 but I got the dreaded text that he needed to stay at the office half an hour longer or that there was unexpected traffic that will likely delay him significantly. But through all of this, my character was strengthened and I had many opportunities to rely on God’s grace.
17. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year? Sadly, my phone. Mainly Instagram.
18. What was the best way you used your time this past year? Investing in Arden, resting, long chats with close friends, and one on one time with my husband after Arden went to bed.
19. What was biggest thing you learned this past year? God’s grace is present through the harder circumstances. His grace doesn’t always mean that He will deliver me out of the harder things, but it always means that He will sustain me. One of the words I had for 2014 was “bravery”. I had many opportunities to be brave in relying on Him to sustain me through every hard circumstance, be it sickness in pregnancy, a crazy freak accident with my big toe, a small paycheck when we really needed about twice that amount, a teething toddler or a hard recovery after giving birth, to name a few examples :).
Also, contentment. With the state of our house, with our finances, with the present and the future.
20. Create a phrase or statement that describes this past year for you. His grace is sufficient for me.
I have to admit, 2015 is the first year I can remember actually dreading in some ways, mostly because I know it holds a lot of change and needing to adapt (which is definitely not a strength of mine). But one thing I know: the same God who sustained me this year and brought freedom to my heart through his grace is the same God who will help me through the changes and provide joy, peace and contentment no matter what the year holds. And that gives me hope.