Goodbye & Thank You to 2020. Hello & Welcome to 2021.

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Traditionally, it seems that now is the time of year that many people enter into a time of reflection and goal setting. My reflection time reminds me that I entered into 2020 jobless due to a mass layoff and dealing with a failing marriage. I saw neither of these events coming and found myself in a deep sense of sadness and grief trying to navigate everyday life. I started and ended most days with tear stains on my pillow. Add to this a world-wide pandemic that forced a stay-at-home order for several weeks, pushed my new employment 6 weeks, and created havoc on any semblance of a routine with my kids. Needless to say, I was ready to be done with 2020 almost as soon as it started. I know I am not alone in this thought. I am not looking for any pity party. I also know that viewing the past year as a singular negative experience is not purposefully serving me. I have to believe that the struggle, fear, and uncertainty I lived through will have prepared and shaped me in ways that will serve me well as I navigate this new chapter of life.

Thus, I am making a conscious choice is to take the negative experiences from last year and say “thank you.”. Thank you for making me stronger and for forcing me to reevaluate my priorities. I am still grieving the loss of what I thought my future held. I fear that I won’t measure up as a mom, a friend, an ex-wife, or even a maybe someday wife again. Today, I choose to believe that fear is a liar and will only serve to hold me back from the person I am meant to be.

January is the time of year where many people say, “This is my year. It’s time for a “new me”. Call me crazy, but I do not want a “new me”. I don’t think that healing and growth come from total reinvention. A reinvention would require me to completely forget how I have survived the most challenging year of my life. 

A very good friend labeled last year as a year of endurance. I agree with this. If 2020 was about endurance, then I am intentionally setting 2021 as RESTORATION. I don’t want a detailed plan with goals and a rigid schedule of activities. Instead, I have compiled a list of intentions to lean into and create the restoration that my body, mind, and emotional health are deeply craving.

My 2021 intentions for restoration: Healing. Comfort. Joy. Well being. Grace. Humility. Kindness. Self-care. Giving. Abundance. Rest. Growth. Bravery. Courage. Compassion. Patience. Random Acts of Kindness. Meaningful Connection. Confidence. Faith. Yoga. Meditation. Journaling. Reading. Bible study. Writing. Drawing. Creativity. Friendship. 

What are the intentions you are setting for 2021? How will you take the experiences of the past year and use them in it a positive way this year? Please comment below.

The Week Between

This is one of my favorite weeks of the year. The week between Christmas and the new year. The merriment of the holidays is past and has provided us with another year of memories. For some of us these are the best memories of the year. Others may find the time sad and lonely. No matter the sentiment it’s time to wrap the ornaments, take the stockings down, finish the leftovers, and enjoy the final crumbs of cookies.

This particular week provides us with the ability to reflect on the previous year yet it still provides us with the hope for the year to come. I love to learn and, for me, reflection is a time for learning. I don’t think there is a “right” way to spend time reflecting, although there are probably thousands of self-help books and internet sites to provide direction. Personally, I choose to close my eyes and think of all of the happy moments and what I might have done differently in those not so favorable moments. Sometimes I will play songs that remind me of a special moment or person. It’s not the method of reflection that is important. What is important is that we dig down to the deepest depths of our soul and remember the moments of the year past that shaped our life and personality.

Reflection, however, is only useful if you take what you have learned and use it to shape your future. This is not always an easy task. Reflection can produce many emotions. Happiness, thankfulness, sadness, guilt and shame are just to name a few. Though some of these emotions are admittedly difficult to deal with this is the perfect time to consider taking the leap forward toward closure. This might mean forgiving oneself and letting past behavior and attitudes stay in the past. This could mean forgiving others and deciding to end relationships that no longer create happiness. Maybe it’s even mending a relationship that seemed to be long gone. For when you make it through the emotional maze of the year past you can see a light at the end of the tunnel.

This light is like a beacon of hope. A quick Google search of the “definition of hope” tells us that hope is “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen”. It is knowing that a new year is beginning and provides you the opportunity to start fresh. This hope does not promise only happy moments and it certainly doesn’t promise that life will be any easier in the coming year. What it does promise is to give you the opportunity to choose your expectations and desires for the coming year.

I think this is exactly the reason so many of us choose to make a New Year’s resolution list. Somewhere, deep down inside, we relish in the fact that we have the opportunity to embrace the hope and light of the new year and reinvent even a tiniest portion of our own self based on the findings from our personal reflection. What comes out of this will be different for each individual but one thing will remain the same. Reflection and learning of the past combined with the light and hope of the future offer the gift of peace in the present. Take the time now to treasure the reflection, slow down to enjoy the peace and embrace the hope.

Want to share your thoughts on reflection, enjoying the peace and embracing the hope? Please take a moment to leave your comments.

To “My People, My Tribe, My Whatever You Want to Call It”

It’s been 4 months since I wrote my first blog post. It’s not that I haven’t thought about logging in. It’s more that I just didn’t think I had much to say. Today is different. My heart and mind are so full that I’m almost overwhelmed. I am inspired by a podcast titled “For the Love With Jen Hatmaker”, specifically episode 1 “Savoring Your Friendships”.

In this first episode the host and her dear friend reminisce of how they became friends and how they have learned to nurture their friendship. They also discuss the importance of making time to connect with other people. This has inspired me because for so long I have told my husband, “It’s easier for guys to hang out with friends and find things to do.”. For example, golf league and basketball. It isn’t easier for guys, that’s just been my excuse. I’ve had this picture in my mind of how I’m supposed to be or the things that need to be in order to invite a friend over for coffee or dinner. Let’s not forget the “mom guilt”. You know what I mean. That little voice inside your head that tell you that you can’t do something because you should be doing something or making something 24-7 with your kids. Yeah…I hear that voice too. What I learned from this podcast is that it’s ok to let it go and just be present. I learned that friendships, like marriages, take work.

Now you might be thinking that I’m a little all over the place in this post. You’re right but that’s how my brain navigates life. This is where my full to overflowing heart of happiness and joy comes.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to spend the day with a very dear friend of mine. I have known this friend since elementary school and we officially have been friends for 24 years (since the age of 13). We navigated side-by-side through jr. high and high school together. We went to different colleges but still remained intact as “best friends”. As we entered into adulthood we did it together but we ever so slowly began to drift apart little by little.

One day a few years ago I looked back and became saddened by the realization that I didn’t know my best friend anymore. I carry the blame for this as I realize I became lazy in our friendship. I became so consumed with myself that I didn’t make time to reach out and connect. We were in different stages of life and instead of cherishing this about our friendship, I unintentionally let it push us apart.

So how did we go from the occasional letter or text to spending the day together? We did it slowly and with humility. My friend showed me the grace that I had yet to show her many years ago. I will forever be thankful that we have reconnected and have begun to share our lives together again. The best is yet to come. How do I know this? I know this because at the age of 37 years old, driving down I-71 on our way to a day spa I found myself crying with tears of laughter as we discussed everything from work to kids to husbands. It’s like there hadn’t been a day gone by since we were 17 and getting ready for dance team together.

I share my story of reconnection because as human beings we need other people. Whether we realize it or not we need to surround ourselves with people that not only care about and love us but that we care about and love as well. Although I embrace being on the “hot mess express” I still feel the need to want to hide this from others. As in “my house is too messy to invite the neighbor over for coffee” or “I want to get these non-critical errands done so I can finish off my task list”. Guess where these perfection striving thoughts get me? If you guessed “nowhere” then you would be correct. (Thank you Jen Hatmaker and Shauna Niequist for reminding me of this.) I’m a list maker and get sheer joy from crossing things off of my “to-do” list so I’ll always have a list laying around. What I won’t always have are the left behind moments that I didn’t choose to share with other people.

Our world is so full of negativity that it is up to us to bring positivity into our own lives and share it with others. We aren’t meant to be alone but we do have to put the effort in. Who cares if you have 19 baskets of laundry? Call your friend and invite her over for coffee. Dollars to donuts (donuts go good with coffee) her house has laundry to be folded too. What really matters is the connection we make and share together. This connection is what makes the happy times happier and gets us through the tough times. When it’s really bad our people help pull us through, even if we are kicking and screaming.

My people, my tribe, my “whatever you want to call it” range in age and life stages but they are so very precious to me. I love them all and will protect these relationships over my “to do” list. Take the time to show your people that you are thankful and grateful for having them in your life. Reach out to your people near or far and spend time with time or at least let them know how much they mean to you. Whether you choose phone, video chat, text, email or invite them over to dinner do it today because tomorrow is never promised. And to “my people”…thank you for the joy and kindness you bring into my life. You are cherished.

The Beautiful Mess

Life is one big beautiful mess.  We are all a mess in one way or another.  Admit it, you know it well.  It’s letting your kids walk out the door with mismatched socks because you can’t find one matching pair in the nineteen laundry baskets of clean clothes.  Which, by the way, have been waiting to be put away for over a week.  (Never mind the fact that as I write this I ignored the dog and he ended up eating the last 2 remaining slices of apple pie.  Not great for his diet but I’m on day 2 of Whole 30.  Thanks for the assist Wegman!)

Back to the mess.  How about a morning that you forget to put the coffee in the coffee maker before hitting brew?  I did that today.  Even the best Ninja coffee maker won’t make coffee grounds magically appear.  How about putting yourself in “time-out” because your husband has been away for 2 days and you can no longer stand to hear the YouTube videos your kids are watching of other kids playing video games?  Did I mention that “time-out” is locking yourself in the bathroom with a couple of mini Snickers bars and Pinterest on your phone?  Yeah…that happened….before the whole Whole 30 lifestyle change.

If you can relate to any of these, then you my friend might just be a “hot mess”.  You might consider joining my unofficial club lovingly dubbed by some awesome co-workers as “The Hot Mess Express”. It’s a judgement free zone because at the end of the day we’ve all got “stuff” to deal with.  It’s can be fun, hard, sad and messy but when the sun has set and the chaos turns to quiet a beautiful mess can be found in this crazy thing we call life.

Life isn’t always perfect and it isn’t always fair,  but it’s something to embrace.  To me embracing life is being thankful for what you have and sometimes for what you don’t have.  To be grateful for the goodness life can bring.  To be humble when life is good…and to be humble when life is maybe not so good.  To be kind to yourself, your friends, your neighbors, your community and to the world.

If you’ve made it this far and feel like you can relate, then I invite you to stick with me and embrace the mess.  I won’t promise this to be the most awesome blog you’ll ever read but you might get a few laughs from time to time.    You’ll share in my walk through life in my faith, as a wife, as a parent, and as a friend.  Most of all you’ll share in my life as a person living in this world, just like you, and trying to bring a glimmer of hope and happiness into the everyday and ordinary of life.

“Seek peace and pursue it.” Psalm 34:14