Friday, January 8, 2016

2015 Year In Review

(Skip to the end for pics and a factual breakdown of my year.  This section is all emotional. :-))

A few weeks ago, I posted a Facebook status that caused people to worry.  It said something like, “Officially, for the rest of the year, I can NOT.  I just cannot.  I’ll see if I can again in 2016.” 
This status was totally tongue-in-cheek.  People got concerned about me, but I tried to reassure everyone that it was nothing.  And it wasn’t- I mean, it definitely wasn’t something specific. It was just that I had enough.

You know what I mean?  Just enough with this year, already.  Enough with the emotional struggles, the hard decisions, the worrying about the destiny of my children, the difficult conversations.  And enough with all the little stuff- the homework management, the refereeing over toy fights, the cleaning out of closets.  I was just done.  DONE.

Of course, none of us can actually be done with that stuff, but there is a large part of it I truly am done with forever.  I have realized a ton about myself this year, and for the first time in as long as I can remember, the stuff God showed me has led me to a place of freedom and joy.

So 2015- take that. I’m so over you. It’s not me, it’s you. We are through.

But to back up, here’s what happened this year:
Each year, when New Year’s rolls around, instead of resolutions, I pray that God will give me a word or phrase to focus on for the year.  At the start of 2015, the word He gave me was FULLNESS. And I was so excited. Fullness, to me, meant I was going to really have joy and love and passion and excitement and wonder and just feel like my heart might burst. 

And in many ways it did burst.  Just not with those things.

Instead, the year was full of anxiety, stress, heartbreak, hurt, betrayal, fear, frustration.  Emotionally, it felt like we just got beat up repeatedly, and it was painful.  Rather than being filled with wonderful things, I felt like my heart was cut open, scraped out, and stitched recklessly back together again- empty. And all of this with no anesthesia.  I had no idea how all these painful things went along with my visions of a full, happy heart. 

As the year went on, I gradually saw how being broken-hearted and emptied of certain things that I held onto tightly was necessary if I actually wanted to experience fullness.  The junk I kept inside was taking up too much space.  I had to throw out some of the stuff.  And most of it seemed like good stuff- friendships held high, expectations for people close to me, commitments to church-related stuff, dreams for my children, control of many things in my life.  A lot of areas in our lives that are “good” also have a “bad” side, and for me, a lot of that previously good stuff had taken over and just grew into grossness inside of me, masquerading as non-negotiable ideals passed on to me by other people. 

What finally pushed me over the edge was that one day I woke up and realized I was miserable on the inside.  Again, nothing huge was wrong on the outside, but I sorta felt like I went to sleep at some point and woke up in a life I didn’t recognize. And had become a person I didn’t recognize. I believed tons of lies about myself, most of them coming from trying to live up to ridiculous standards.  And I was enslaved to things people had said to me over the years about who I was and who I needed to be. I had betrayed my own heart by trying, tirelessly, to please other people and had forgotten all the things that I actually liked about myself.  My inner life was full of JUNK, and it was too much to take any longer.

I can pretty clearly remember the defined moment I decided to change that.  I can only describe it like something inside me broke- but not broke like something I now need to fix.  Broke like bursting out of a rope that was tying both my hands together behind me back and now I was free.  Like finally, FINALLY, my heart was empty enough that I could start to be filled. Filled with  hope, excitement, joy and motivation to move.  

So move I did: In the direction of all things that gave me life, and away from the things that were sucking the life out of me. The more LIFE I got, the more I wanted. And the less appealing all of those tightly-held (man-made and oppressive) ideals looked.  In the end, I have been left in a place where I feel closer to God than ever, am surrounded by people who love me in the truest sense of the word, and I feel hopeful for the first time in a while.  All the pain of JUNK REMOVAL has been more than worth it.

So I’ve ended 2015 with that fullness I was hoping for at the start, but it didn’t happen how I thought.  And that’s ok. I know God knew that He couldn’t cram all these exciting things into a space that was already overgrown with dying branches and rotting fruit.  It had to get pruned and burned off. 

So as I thought about my word for 2016, it was obvious: I had forgotten what it felt like, but was pleasantly surprised by the way it snuck back into my life.  As I began to feel it more and more, it was like an old friend moving back into town.  So this year, I am going with JOY as my word.  I have a few ideas about how to recognize and treasure the joy that’s around me, but the cool thing about joy is that it can pop up out of nowhere at any time, if your heart isn’t full of stupid junk.

So goodbye to 2015. I guess you weren’t all bad, but still.  I am moving on.

Here are other things that happened in 2015:
-I was a part of two musical productions through RRT: Hello, Dolly! and The Addams Family.  Both great experiences, but Addams was by far my favorite show to be in yet.  I got to play an Addams Family Ancestor- a dead person- which I actually enjoyed immensely.  I was also cast in a show that will open in February of 2016- Mary Poppins.  Talk about a joy-filled show! I also got the chance to see many amazing productions my friends were a part of.  I just commented to my husband last night that I can’t believe I stayed away from this stuff for so long.  It is so life-giving to me, and a huge source of joy for sure.  The new friends I’ve made through RRT have expanded my world so much and I feel like I’m sorta back with my tribe- the people who “get” me. 
Hello, Dolly! 

Sitzprobe rehearsal for Addams

My Addams Ancestor character- Millie, a dead flight attendant

Photo cred- Patrick Evenson

-I started a new job in March at St. Joseph PRC- what many of you know as The Pregnancy Resource Center.  I am the office manager, and I get to be a part of a fantastic group of people who are working to bring hope and help to women in unplanned pregnancies.  This has been a blessing in many ways to me, including my fantastic co-workers and the way I get to see God moving every day in desperate situations.

-We decided I would homeschool Eli beginning this past fall.  It has been an amazing experience.  He is an eager learner and we love spending time together.  The current plan is to send him back to school next year, but he says he wants to stay home again. We will see! He also started taking Theater Academy classes, which he loves.  He is still undergoing physical therapy for his head injury and I am glad I can take him to those appointments during the day.

Eli on the Missouri Theater stage for the first time ever. Won't be the last!!! 

-The twins turned 2- which was momentous for us- I guess with them it feels like every year we survive is a reason to celebrate! But Lord have mercy- we have two two-year olds now.  They are a joy and a challenge every single day.

-Seth entered 3rd grade this fall, and he is such a smart, funny kid who loves guitars and cars and Legos and is very much becoming a tweenage boy.  Again, Lord have mercy.

-My first-ever nephew was born!!! I actually was randomly hanging out with my sister when she went into labor 4 WEEKS EARLY.  I was honored to be there through the whole process. He joined my four nieces, and then we got another niece in the summer. Our family is exploding.

-I saw one of my lifelong musical idols live in concert- my mom and I got to go see Billy Joel in May, and thanks to generous friends, ended up with really close seats! He is one reason I fell in love with the piano, so seeing him in real life was overwhelmingly touching.

-We have healed some relationships that needed to be healed long ago, and it feels amazing.

-We had our first year in quite some time where NONE of our kids were admitted to a hospital for any reason! Yahoooo!!!!

-I lost 20+ pounds and finally feel like I recognize my outer self when I look in the mirror.  It’s a great feeling.

-And we continue to be grateful for friends- old and new-  and family who stand by us.  Too many to picture here, but here are a few moments from this year;

So we will see what 2016 holds- but I know for sure many more big changes are on the horizon.  So stay tuned.