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.}

A Letter to my Sisters {Five Minute Friday}

rp_five-minute-friday.jpg Dearest, most wonderful Sisters,

Professors had warned me that life outside of my small Christian college would be lonely. They told me that I would never again have that sort of genuine community. In many ways, though this past summer was joyous, it was also one of the loneliest times of my life. I was newly graduated and married, in a new town, and without a job or  a car. Even though family and friends were still close by, I felt heartbreakingly disconnected.

And then, I met Hannah. I don't even remember the circumstances of our introduction, but despite being half a world away from each other at the time, she made me feel right at home. And she invited me to a party one Friday night that would change not only my writing, but the heart that those words flowed from.

For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. -- Luke 6:45 (NKJV)

In the beginning, I must admit I was shamefully wary -- worried that whatever community I found here would be shallow at best, and that life and faith would be portrayed in a woefully unrealistic manner. I thought I would find snide perfectionism,  even competition, and I assumed that no one would want anything to do with life and God as I knew them.

I had beautiful community  in college, but the last semester was laced with hurt at the hands of someone I was hesitant to let in in the beginning. The wound was deeper than she knew and I struggled to let go of the pain and forgive.

But what I found here was everything humble and broken and life at its very best. What I found here was Jesus, again, between the lines of tweets and blogs and comments. I found genuine community to come alongside me in my joy and in my frustration. I found sisters encouraging each other in the wee hours, holding fast to the promises of God. And now there's hardly a Friday night when I don't weep over 140 characters of pure, unadulterated grace.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. -- Hebrews 10:23-25 (ESV)

It filled me past the brim. Oh, that we can take part in the restoration of souls. In the past six months, I have made friends that will be kept for a lifetime.

A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. -- Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NLT)

You all are a gift. Living proof that the Lord knows what we need and His timing is perfect. Each of your lives are brimming with evidence of His goodness.

You, mothers, who saturate every character with love for your children. You, wives, who strive to serve your husbands in all that you do. You, who struggle deeply with insecurity and every word is infused with your need for Jesus. You are so important, so magnificent in all of your everyday grit and hope. I admire each of you so deeply for faithfully coming to the altar every Thursday and Friday night. You have made me better.

Jacqui, your testimony of loss and redemption has been such an incredible example to me. Your friendship has made my life so much richer. And Sarah, its hard to paint a more realistic picture of life than you have. I so deeply appreciate your willingness to be broken before the Lord and before others. Dana, your calling to open your home to the broken -- the orphan -- you are doing the Lord's work. And you write it all out with such an incredible, tangible passion. Lisa-Jo, all of this is really because of you -- your faithfulness has brought all of us together. Fridays on the internet are like holy ground.  None of this goes unnoticed. So if you haven't heard the words thank you in awhile, please don't ever forget that your willingness to put your life into such beautiful words has changed mine. 

I could literally go on forever -- there are over two hundred of you. Even as I punch these keys, salty liquid joy spills across my cheeks. I so wish there was space and time to mention each and every one of you by name.

Lisa-Jo wrote this week about how much our words matter. And its so, so true. Another professor of mine frequently spoke of the power of our communication. Our words hold the ability to image the Father.

Because in the beginning, God spoke, and all that is went through the process of becoming. And He's still in the business of collecting the dust and creating something beautiful. He's still the God of miracles -- each of you is evidence of that. He declared that everything He made was good, and He is singing goodness over you, even now. He's so in love with you.

Thank you. Thank you for taking me in, and for being so faithful to encourage me in this journey. Not a day goes by that my prayers are not for you, that Yahweh would come alive in you, that you would sense His presence in your lives and the lives of your families.

Surely, no eye has seen and no ear has heard -- but every Friday night, I see glimpses and hear whispers.

Psst! Obviously this took a little more than five minutes to put together, but it was so worth it. You are so worth it. Back in August, I didn't know the first thing about "linking up." If you're a blogger in search of constructive community, stop by Lisa-Jo's place. You'll find that Five Minute Fridays are about so much more than weekly writing prompts. Linking up this week with 200+ of the most fabulous, brave women on the planet.