what i learned in 2014

PicMonkey Collage I've never looked forward to New Years quite the way I have this year. And while I have to admit, I'm anxious to turn the page on my calendar, I also believe that reflection and closure are important parts of moving forward. So I'm settling down here long enough to punch out some of the most important things that I've learned: the ones I want to carry with me into 2015 and beyond. This is not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination.

1. In 2014, I learned that I am a highly sensitive personI was browsing my friend Sarah's blog when I found her post on being a highly sensitive person. It was as if she had been camping out in my brain and taking notes. So I did a bit of googling, took a self-test, and was not at all surprised by the results. I am a highly sensitive person. I tend to be easily overwhelmed as it is, but if an environment is particularly busy or requires me to pay attention to numerous things at the same time (i.e. driving in the city) I am much more prone to anxiety and I exhaust much quicker than I normally would. So I have to be conscientious of that parameter and make sure I make an effort to engage in self-care.

2. I'm hungry for adventure.  I am in no way an adrenaline junkie. But I did several things for the first time this year that I never thought I would or could do. I rode roller coasters (the highest in the south east at Six Flags over Georgia), went zip lining, shot a gun, got my hair highlighted, showed up at the lovely Dawn Camp's house for (in)RL, played church softball, and saw one of my favorite musicians. Obviously some of those things are less adrenaline inducing than others, but even the small things left their marks. Sure, I didn't want to open my eyes and see how high off the ground I was, but when I did, all I could see were the lights. There were lights for miles.

3. Just do it. Pretty simple. For crying out loud, quit whining and get on the dang roller coaster. It will be awesome (don't tell my husband I said that). Also complex, in that I learned that it is okay to reach for something, to dream, to try a lot of things without being afraid of rejection or failure -- because I will fail, probably over and over again along the way. But I will also kick some ass and figure out what it is in this world that makes my heart beat fast.

4. The Nature Noise playlist on Spotify is my jam. In the office, in the shower, in the car, in my ear buds at Starbucks. Hours and hours of rainstorms, jungle calls, and ocean surf. It is so relaxing.

5. 2014 taught me to be more gracious when things go haywire. Because I know what its like when the computer system at the office is down and when people are late and the whole schedule is thrown out the window and what its like to deal with frustrated people. So by asking how are you on the phone or by telling my hairdresser to take her time, I can actively expand the margins and create space for myself and the people around me to breathe easier.

6. I feel called to some kind of leadership. Vague, I know, but I don't have a radically clear picture of what it looks like right now. Back when I was writing the identity series, I was intentional about including reflection questions that could spark conversation centered around our stories and who we are in Christ -- and I noticed that my breath caught in my chest when I considered the idea of doing a study like that with other women in my home. I got excited by the prospect of creating an environment where honesty and authenticity could take center stage. So I decided to invite a handful of women from my church to my house in January to explore what this might grow into.

7. Home is my element. I love being at home. There was a time in my life where all I wanted to do was go go go, but now all I want to do is stay. I want to cook and clean and decorate and organize and make my home a place to enjoy. I also learned that whenever I use the term "nesting," people automatically think that I'm pregnant. I'm not pregnant.

8. Nothing encourages me like encouraging you. So much, in fact, that I am seriously considering getting a masters degree or some kind of certification in life coaching. I love sitting down and talking about goals and dreams and passions and callings and gifts and parameters and how to dig deep and make it happen.

9. I heart Grey's. Like, I actually shed tears at the end of season ten, ya'll.

10. Praying for others is much easier when I'm intentional about asking how I can pray. So, friend, how can I pray for you today?

11. To pay attention to how things make me feel, and how I want to feel. Insert shameless plug for Danielle LaPorte here. For example, I prefer the doors in my house to be open because it makes me feel open. Its incredibly simple, I know, but it makes a difference. Also, my core desired feelings are creative, spacious, gratitude, aligned, and authentic. 

12. It is totally okay to enjoy girly things. For the longest time, I have been ashamed to profess my love of makeup, nail polish and hair styling. But over the past few months, I've started watching essiebutton, and I've been thoroughly enjoying diving into the wonderful world of cosmetics.

13. How to redefine "comfort zone." Watch this.

14. I can write a book. I self-published (very informally) an e-book based on my 31 Days series from 2013, and then I wrote strong and hard for 31 days in 2014. I used outlines, and edited, and each came out to be over thirty pages. It was just a matter of actually sitting down to do the work. Related: I learned that there are roughly 250 words on the average a book page.

15. Refusing to compete with the people around me gives everyone space to breathe and freedom to be themselves. Including me, surprisingly enough.

16. Bacon Numbers. Another win for Google. You can actually search for the number of degrees a famous person is separated from Kevin Bacon. Charlie Chaplain's Bacon Number is 2. Let that sink in.

17. #idhtbptbb. Thank you, Nester.


{Linking up with Emily Freeman today.}

Resting in uncharted territory. {Scripture for the 2014 journey.}

psalm1162Three hundred and sixty-five days lie ahead in 2014. Its a new chapter, a new opportunity to respond well to the truth of the gospel. But of course, no one really knows what these days will bring, and that lack of knowledge can be daunting. 2013, in all of its glory, was also a year that, for me, was marred by anxiety.

In the midst of it all, I was thrilled by the congruence of scripture. Perhaps that idea is elementary, but for me, it became revolutionary. I fell in love with the Word afresh and anew in 2013. I came to understand what it means to hide the Word in my heart. In Proverbs, scripture speaks of writing the Word of the Lord on the tablet of our hearts so that we will not stray.

This space, my writing, has ultimately become a note to self -- a reminder of sorts of the faithfulness of God. When life seems tumultuous, this is where I come, with my Bible and a cup of tea -- to whisper His love over and over. The white space, silent like a prayer closet, waits patiently for me to wander in with my words. And as I look back over the past twelve months of blogging, I see just how much the Lord has used 2013 and this place to mold me.

I wonder, was my choice to be anxious so much of the time really me trying to test Him? Have I only been dipping my toes into the pool of faith?

"Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there will be food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the Lord Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty. -- Malachi 3:10-12 (NIV)

Its no secret: its hard to offer up our whole selves. Especially when we cannot see or touch Him. But even seeing and touching us didn't make it any easier for Jesus to offer up his life in our stead. Yet he said "not my will, but Yours." 

Oh, Love. Mercy, find me when I struggle to live out the Image.

The nations will call me blessed when I surrender to Him, the God who knows everything I need and desires to give me even more out of His goodness. And that goodness is constant. He does not change or falter. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. And He is the author, the perfecter: love incarnate.

He is before all things. What do I have to fear? This, this is how our souls find rest.

 Linking up with a host of beautiful people from all over the world for OneWord365. Have you chosen a word to focus on in 2014? Share it in the comments below! 

On reflection, rest, and looking forward.

A local pastor cuts deep in a radio commercial heard during my morning commute: did you do everything you could in 2013? I doubt my preparedness to answer.

Because I did a lot -- became a lot -- of new things in the past twelve months: a fiancee, a college graduate, a wife, a daughter and sister-in-law, a licensed driver (for the first time, at 22 years old,) and a social worker. I joined communities of bloggers who not only inspired me, but got down in the nitty gritty to do life with me. I also got baptized, over ten years after my parents and a pastor held an intervention and used guilt to try to motivate me to obey. Those were the highs. The lows saw me become anxious, angry, bitter, rebellious, and exhausted.

Did I do everything I could to be better? I ask it frequently of myself, and often I'm reminded of how short I have fallen -- how many opportunities I had to trust the Lord, and instead tried like hell to control things myself. At times, I became physically sick from the tension.

Timothy Keller's words resound: "anxiety is the result of a collapsing false god."

How much of my time has been consumed by the god of control? The god of perfectionism and guilt? Time that I can never get back.

But as I look back over the past year, what overwhelms it all is how faithful the Lord is, despite my not always giving Him my best.

An old roommate and I had a falling out a couple years back, but she left me this letter:

I see you struggling. I know you are fighting some major battles in your life. You have dealt with far more than I can even see. You aren't giving in and you aren't giving up. You are fighting against what you know should not be there. In this, I see hope.

I hearken back to her words at the end of this year, as I read over the past year of journaling -- of pouring my heart out to the Lord, regardless of its contents. I pray her words are still true, wherever she may be today.

Because at the end of the day, the essence of journaling is that it provides evidence of the journey. Throughout this year, I have been more intentional about being in tune with the Lord than ever before, because perhaps more than ever before, I realize my need for Him. 

....

Many bloggers I know begin their new year by choosing a word -- one word to focus their writing on during the year. As a lover of all things semantic, it has been particularly difficult to land on a single word. It is also difficult, given that my posts throughout 2013 are jam packed with words like joy, holy, faithfulness, thankfulness, trust, and grace. But there has been one word to breach my conscience again and again, and that word is rest. 

Rest: 

1. Cessation after exertion or labor. 2. Freedom from anything that wearies, troubles, or disturbs. 3. Calm, tranquility, ease, relief.

In the midst of the whirlwind that was 2013, I struggled to find rest. I thought about and desired rest constantly, even writing about it a few times on this blog. But what I learned more and more as the year progressed is that rest is a choice. The Holy Spirit was so faithful to convict me and bring to my attention the choices I was making when anxiety rose up in my heart. More often than not, my choices were not favorable.

My friend Andy says that the whole of life is about reacting well to the gospel. Could there be a better reaction than the cessation of my striving? At the cross, with his dying breath, Christ gave me victory. He put an end to my striving for perfection -- my striving to somehow earn grace -- so why do I insist on dragging it out?

Perhaps you find yourself in the same boat? One of the most powerful things we can do in our journey towards healing is to realize that we're not alone. Back in September, I wrote a bit about perseverance -- things that must be born in a person. Birth is an incredibly messy and painful experience. We have to push, and sometimes we come apart at the seams. But it is also beautiful.

The Word says "He has made everything beautiful in its time."

He knows what we need. He is molding us.

These are promises that we can rest in.

Hey, friend! Whether you're new here or find my small space familiar, I am so thankful that you've taken the time to visit. This post closes the chapter of 2013, but with every ending also comes a beginning! Join me in 2014 in my pursuit of rest? And let me know how I can partner with you in your own journey towards all things joyful and promising.