wrapping up 2014

IMG_1231I have a fun hangover.

All of our grown children came home – plus extras – for two weeks now. People slept in every room of our small townhouse. Imported belongings invaded every counter and every inch of floor space. We saturated days with fun and laughter, adventures, deep conversations, and delicious, not-necessarily-good-for-you food. We delighted in long-standing traditions and created new experiences this first Christmas in our new home. We connected at mind, heart, and spirit. It was an incredibly rich time.

My energy level is a bit low now, but my heart is full.

That seems a fitting condition for the year I christened last January with the word “fulfill”.

These family days together were a dream fulfilled. So is living in this new home and the purposeful work I get to do with my husband. One night at dinner, we all reflected on the past year and answered questions about our greatest challenges and biggest achievements and how we grew or matured or changed through both. I am satisfied with the responsibilities and goals I fulfilled last year and by the choices I made to feel fulfilled personally at this stage of my life. It has been a great year.

There have been hard times too. Death, pain, and poor decisions by loved ones crushed my spirit and drove me to my knees. The aching desire to be present in two – or three or four – places at once has weighed heavier than ever. Community, country, and world conflicts and tragedies have burdened my soul.

And so I consider my word for 2015.

What are my passions? What do I want to do? Where will I prioritize?

I’ve read many a great post about end of year reflection questions and have re-worked some of them for us here.

  • Where did you thrive last year?
  • Where did you struggle?
  • If you had to describe your 2014 in three words, what would they be?
  • What was your biggest time waster this past year?
  • Where did you best invest your time?
  • What, or who, are you most thankful for?
  • What advice would you give your early-2014 self if you could?
  • What one thing would you do differently and why?
  • What topics did you most enjoy learning about?
  • What did you learn about yourself?
  • What was a favorite compliment that you received this year?
  • What is one thing you can do next year to add meaning and relevance?

Maybe you’d like to take time to answer these  – and any other favorites you have – and choose a word for 2015. Find a quiet place, your favorite beverage, put your feet up, and enjoy the process.

I’ll post my word next week. I’d love to hear what you choose!

an end of year reflection

sunrise It is quiet this morning. No one is awake… and it is not early. A bit different from yesterday. It could feel like a let down after all the activity, but this year for me, it is peace.

It was a good day yesterday – not perfect, not without its moments of tension, missing some special people, but a good day. A Christmas reflection began the morning; family hugs, smiles and thoughtful gifts sweetened the hours, delicious foods and home-baked desserts filled every empty place, silly games caused lots of laughter, father and son playing music together finished the evening… a good day in all.

I feel reflective in this unusual silence. Remembering the days gone by. Last year at this time, my mother had just heard of her terminal cancer… but she was with us this year… weaker, tinier, but still baking and smiling and buying small presents… a gift to us.

This year brought travel to foreign places – Africa, Turkey, the Uk – where I had never been before. New friends. Teams. Great leaders. Hope for the nations. I love my work.

We made new friends, and long-time friends and family visited us in Florida. We began the adventure of exploring our new home. I am hoping that many more will come by and spend time with us in our new place in the days to come.

Our children took on new challenges… and wowed me with their accomplishments. They are truly gifted and blessed. I can’t live vicariously through them because I never even imagined doing the things that they do. I am proud of them and their dreams.

We had to say good-bye again. Steve’s dad joined his mom in eternity. We sang his favorite song last night and cried a bit. Earlier, my brother-in-law flew out to help his mom who just lost her husband. The good-bye’s are hard. Memories help the healing.

I have felt much older this year. Physically more challenging to keep up with health and make wise choices. Scary thinking that it will only get more difficult. Watching my dad fail and working through tough decisions for him with my siblings is stretching us.

All in all, I am at peace with this year. I chose “courage” as my word for 2013, and I have needed it all year long. I have seen it displayed in others. It was a good choice.

I’m thinking about next year already.

And for you… How was your year? Are you ready for 2014? 

rainy day – muddy heart

photo

This rainy morning is my heart today – gray, foggy, cold, muddy, and deplete of any desire to do productive work. I want to return to bed, wrap myself in the comfort of soft blankets, drink coffee… and forget about the real world.

Do you ever have days like this?

Intellectually I battle my mood… We need the rain. It is good for the plants. We’ve had such a drought – I should feel grateful. The rain will end soon, and sunshine will cheer me up again. I can DO this. Just get up and get moving.

My reasoning doesn’t really help much. I am simply out of sorts today.

There are legitimate reasons for my mood. The rain really is p.o.u.r.i.n.g. down, the mountain dirt road is truly very m.u.d.d.y. and not conducive to driving.

My husband’s father is dying in another city, and our conversations center around hospice decisions, flight options, keeping family informed, and the schedule implications for my “other” life and future international trips. The emotions in my heart and the thoughts in mind are as gray, and foggy and muddy as the world outside my window.

Understandably so.

Some days are not full of sunshine. Some days are gray and sad and not my favorites. Some days are not productive… or are they? Sometimes doing less means time for quiet reflection, soul-level conversations, nourishing prayer, healing grief, needed rest… 

I am normally an active, optimistic, sunshine-loving, type-A person, but I am learning to accept my rainy days and foggy thoughts too. They are a part of my life, inevitable and unavoidable… even purposeful. Cleansing and new growth come from the rain… for the earth and for me.

How do you handle the gray days in your life?

____

*Update: My father-in-law died on Saturday, Sept. 14. My husband flew to be with him in his last hours. We appreciate your prayers for the family.

a rhythm of rest

I just returned from a few sweet vacation days with my family… a rustic cabin by a high altitude river, trail runs under the pine trees, fly fishing, campfires, reading, game nights, puzzles… and too much delicious food.

No cell phones. No TV. No internet.

Just lots of inside jokes and side-splitting belly laughs… very relaxing. Very refreshing.

Our special time reminded me how important rest is in our lives… a time to pull back and think about nothing… or reflect and talk deeply… whichever is desired and needed at the time.  Sometimes I don’t even know what I need until I’ve been away from the busyness and distractions for a while.

A wise friend once shared a recipe for rest that – when I choose to apply it – helps me to ensure that I am resting… even as part of a very busy life. It might help you too…

REST daily

Even 30 quiet minutes a day to get away from the to-do list and everyday chores gives me perspective and energy for the day. I like to set aside time in the early a.m. to read from my Bible and/or a devotional book and pray for guidance and direction for the day. This gets me started on the right track. Others find time to exercise or add a nap to each day.

REFRESH weekly

This is one “Sabbath” day per week that is a change of pace or a break from the week’s schedule and routine. For many this is a church and worship day. For me, this day can include reading, a longer run, working in the garden, fun with friends, sports or anything that makes the day feel special and refreshes me for the next week. I try to stay away from my job, blog postings, or M.A. homework… a break from anything that feels like “work” to me.

REFLECT monthly

For years we have scheduled a whole day or a weekend to review goals, evaluate progress, and plan personal, family and/or ministry activities. This has been a great time to check on personal development plans (PDP), yearly resolutions, children’s character building, and any life-change challenges in process. I like to go away to a favorite coffee shop with my husband, and we have also enjoyed a park setting, a library, a nice hotel, or a retreat center. We take along calendars, podcasts, PDPs, and other resources for our time away.

RETREAT yearly 

This is the longed-for extended vacation, get-away, or escape! For me, it usually involves a complete geographical change and a total disconnect from usual responsibilities and everything virtual or social media related. I love when it includes time with my family, staying up late and sleeping in. These are the treasured times when traditions strengthen, memories multiply, and dreams take flight.

Life flows with a rhythm of activity and rest. I often have to battle prideful, self-made, artificial arguments that claim I am too busy to rest. I need to remind myself that I am not too important nor too indispensable to step aside for a while. I am healthier, more energized, more peaceful – and more pleasant to others – when I rest regularly as part of my life rhythm.

I’d love to learn from you… How do you rest?

use the past to build your future

Facebook and Twitter are full of “new beginnings” this month… everyone with thoughts of leaving behind the last year and starting fresh.  I love the idea of new starts, but I have been thinking about the fact that it is also important to build on the past – not just wipe it away and forget about it.

The past year is important for building the future.

  • the past shows me where I need to grow

It is a humbling experience to review the past year and recognize where I messed up or where someone pointed out that I needed to grow. I remember work reviews that indicated my leadership weaknesses. I remember apologizing to my co-workers because my stress level made me critical and grumpy. I remember comments on my MA papers that indicated writing methods I didn’t know or challenged me to “step it up” and take more risk. There will be many opportunities for me to grow this next year. I wrote about an idea for recording some of these areas now so I can look back at the end of the year and see the difference!

  • the past reminds me that I am not in control

There were so many things that happened last year that I would not have done that way IF I was in control. I would not have had so many dear people die, or struggle with cancer, or get hurt by mean comments, or struggle to pay bills, or … But I couldn’t stop that pain, and I couldn’t make other good things happen that I wanted. God is God, and I am not. The past reminds me of that truth for today and the future.

  • the past teaches that I can make choices every day

I get to decide HOW I will handle what happens each day. Will I greet adversity with faith or fear? Will I treat people with love or with judgement? Will I spend time in reflection or be too busy for that? Will I waste my time, or will I invest in my health, energy, experience and resources to help others? I didn’t always make the best choices last year; I know that, but I made some good choices. And I get to make new choices today and in the days to come.

  • the past confirms that God is present and He is good

No matter what I look back on, I see that God redeemed, restored, renewed or refreshed – even during very difficult situations. I enjoyed wonderful times with family, incredible memories, great friends, laughter, goals reached… and I prayed anguished prayers and cried over tragedies and pain. He was always there, He was always involved, and He always brought some good out of the circumstances. My past experiences tell me that He will also be there and act that way in this year ahead.

We often say, “Reality is our friend”. The past is part of our reality; the past is our friend. You might want to take time to reflect on your past year in these next days, learn from its lessons… and build on that past for an even greater future!

I’d love to hear… What has the past year taught you?