2015 | Year of Goo

Caterpillar 2015-10-12 (2)[As was the case last year, this post is long. I apologize in advance.]

Today, this post from last year popped up in my Facebook memories. What stuck out to me as I read it for the first time in nearly a year was the hope for 2015 to be better.

Yeah. That didn’t really happen.

You see, God wasn’t done with me (well, he never is, but he still had some pretty big things to weed out of my life over the last year). While in 2014 he taught me to stop depending on others before I went to Him, 2015 was a journey of letting go of the control I’ve always clung to.

In January, we lost our dog Gizmo. It turns out that he had cancer and a month to the day after my grandmother died from cancer, we had to put him down. Just two days before my birthday (needless to say, my birthday was, well, crap). Still, nearly a year later, I cry over that loss. He was my constant companion — we got him 3 weeks after we got married. He loved unconditionally and with all of his being. He was our first child, in a sense. I miss him terribly.

In February, Josh left the mobile x-ray job he had taken on and went back to working at the hospital. This was a really difficult transition for him — the double switch took a huge tole on him and a lot of factors from the mobile job were at play in that, causing him to reexamine much of his faith and reliance upon the Lord.

In June, we got a contract on our house, which had been on the market for nearly a year. It was an exciting time, for awhile. But many who followed our journey on Facebook know how devastatingly difficult that situation ended up being by the end of August. I won’t deny that the long delays and eventual loss of our buyers and the new house we had a contract on was a crisis of faith for both Josh and I. One that left us so wounded that we unpacked in the home we’d been trying to sell and decided to take it off the market for an unknown amount of time.

One major lesson for me came during that time. Up until that point, I had always (as in, since my childhood) relied upon Jeremiah 29:11 as my cornerstone of faith. But what the Lord revealed to me was that, despite my firm belief that he has me in the palm of his hand, I was always trying to assist him. “Lord, I know you’ve got this, but let me make a couple of phone calls for ya [or insert remedial task that means I’m helping], just to make it a little easier.”

When the situation with the house went down, there was absolutely not a single thing I could do. Nothing. Believe me, I tried. But it was completely out of my hands. For what seems like the first time in my life, I had to just sit down and take the blows as they came. And journey through it with my husband. And feel loss. Grief comes at the hands of many circumstances, but it’s still grief, regardless of what you lost. Josh and I were ready for a new start after 2014, and we equated that with a new home. So the loss of that clung to us like honey poured on our heads, oozing down to our toes.

Within a week of unpacking and attempting to settle back into our house of 6 years, another tragedy struck. Our elderly neighbors died in a house fire, and I was among the ones that found it ablaze. There really aren’t many words to describe that feeling of, yet again, helplessness. Sitting on the curb for hours, watching as the fire department attempted to put out unrelenting flames, knowing the whole time that Ron and Onna were inside.

Not only was this difficult for me, but this situation was what finally broke Eli. In order to be strong for me, he had been holding everything in on the loss of his great grandma, Gizmo and our house. When he found that our neighbors died, and saw the wreckage, he broke. This was what ultimately led to us getting him in counseling. And every day remains an emotional struggle for him ever since.

Despite all of this, I feel stronger. I feel more dependent upon the Lord now than I have ever been. But to say that 2015 was a better year would be an outright lie. It was equally as hard as 2014, if not more so.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been watching/listening to a sermon series from Elevation Church called Full.Filled. During which, I’ve been asking the Lord what our word for 2016 in the Cramer home is… what he has for us in the coming year.

Restoration.
That’s the word the Lord has given me. Repeatedly (because I keep asking, worried that this word came from me out of desperation for it… but God reassures that it’s from him). There are more specific details revealed to me, but in the interest of protecting my family’s individual struggles…

  • Caterpillar 2015-10-25 (3)Restoration of joy.
  • Restoration of provision.
  • Restoration of faith.
  • Restoration of relationships.

I can’t help but think upon the caterpillars we raised this fall when I think of God’s restoration in our home. Something I learned during that process is that caterpillars in their cocoon/chrysalis turn to goo. They don’t simply morph into that beautiful new creature, they are literally disassembled down to a cellular level and rebuilt again (only God would do something so incredible and seemingly impossible).

Over the last two years, our family has gone through our goo-journey. In 2016, we will emerge, changed and renewed by the Lord. Restored into something beautiful. Spreading our wings to reflect His light.

I’m anxious for the year ahead. I’m reserved — I won’t make assumptions — but I’m anxious. I’m confident in the Lord’s promise for restoration.

 

Be a Ratel Leader

Embody the Characteristics of the Honey Badger

Baby-honey-badgerSo, there’s this video about honey badgers that went viral recently.

I won’t post a link to it. You can probably find it with very little effort. Whether you find it funny or not depends entirely upon your personality. I’m smack dab in the middle as far as that goes.

My husband showed it to me and while he was laughing up a storm, I was noticing some pretty interesting things about that honey badger.

Mostly that he would make a darn good leader.

So yeah – not the reaction my husband was looking for, but I certainly found some value in it. Well, that and a bit more research. Starting with the fact that honey badgers are also called “ratel” – which I think has a much better ring to it in the way of leadership training.

“Be a Ratel Leader”

Yeah. That’s nice.

Be Fearless

The single most notable quality of the honey badger is that it is completely fearless. There is absolutely nothing on the planet that scares the darn thing. In fact, the Guinness Book of World Records has deemed it the world’s most fearless creature. It will face off lions (there’s some video floating around of a couple of honey badgers taking on six lions and walking away unscathed). One of its favorite snacks is—get this—a cobra snake!

So are your business fears (or life fears for that matter) as seemingly insurmountable as a 30 pound ratel taking on a lion, or having a live cobra for lunch? If we faced those larger-than-life challenges with half the confidence of a honey badger, imagine where that could take us!

WebStoreHoneyBadgerCobra8705_designpicFF__29474.1391709477.1280.1280Be Thick Skinned

Honey badgers have skin that is about a quarter of an inch thick and practically impenetrable to traditional arrows and spears. In fact, it can take a full-swing hit from a machete and walk away with just a flesh wound.
Rejection is a part of the journey as a leader. So we need to have ratel skin – that even the harshest of responses or most difficult of road blocks to our goals leave nothing but a flesh wound as we just keep prancing on.

Leave Wiggle Room

Honey badgers are extremely flexible and can wiggle out of virtually any ensnarement, even the jaws of a lion. Leave yourself a way out of any situation because you never know what can happen. Be flexible as a leader. If you’re too rigid and set in your ways, then the lions will destroy you.

Use the Tools Available to You

Honey badgers are highly intelligent. They have been known to use tools to help them acquire prey, harnessing sharp problem solving skills without skipping a beat. Being a strong leader requires using the tools available to you—your team—recognizing each person’s strengths and weaknesses so you can bring them all together in a collaborative effort that gets the results you’re reaching for.

Ratel are relentless, tenacious, fearless creatures. They have all the qualities a leaders needs to embody in order to truly attain success.

So the next time one of your cheesy friends asks you “If you could be any animal, what would you be?” your answer should most certainly be the honey badger.

My Grief is Not Your Battlefield

5c378317-c9aa-4fc8-995a-c4f7f60a421dThe smells of fall oozed in through every crevice of my home – like a farm bonfire on a cool evening. But something was amiss. It was midnight in a center-city neighborhood.

Panic pounded my chest.

I opened the back door to be greeted by a cloud of black smoke so vast, I knew it was close but couldn’t tell from where. Slamming the door, I dashed to the other side of the house, swiping my phone along the way. I burst through the front door (did I remember shoes?) and, seeing an immediate neighbor, Summer, asked if it was her home. No, she yelled, it was the elderly couple’s home on the other side of hers.

As I came up to where Summer stood, panic raged like the flames leaping six feet up from their kitchen window.

They were never out of town. In the six years we’ve lived here, Ron and Onna were always home. Always.

I saw Summer’s husband on the phone with 911, so she and I started sprinting around Ron and Onna’s house, screaming for them, banging on the doors and the windows. We knew. And there was nothing we could do.

I got the bright idea to try and get the hose – what more could I do? I ran inside, screaming for Josh to wake up and help me. We realized the hose wouldn’t reach, and by the time we got back over to the house, my neighbor Doug and an unknown gentleman were banging down Ron’s front door. They got it open, but the fire pushed them back. And then the fire trucks arrived.

For nearly five hours, the fire raged through the house. They’d get it out in one place and it would start somewhere else. And all we could do was watch. All but two of the Springfield fire stations were on the scene. The first wave of firefighters that made it inside the house bailed out a side window within minutes – the flames jumped at them and snapped their lines. Two were sent to the hospital with burns. And, hour after hour, the fire would not be stopped and the firefighters could not get inside.

Morning came. By 5:30, the hoses were shut off. At 10am, they started tearing down walls. The upper level had collapsed – even with the flames out, the firefighters still could not go in the house. So, slowly, meticulously, they dug. All day long.

It wasn’t until about 6:30 that evening that what we believed was confirmed. Ron and Onna were found at the bottom of the rubble. Together.

To say that it was traumatizing would be an understatement. I’ve still not been able to process it.

And to recap the last year… my grandmother died of cancer. The best dog on the planet (anyone that met him will agree) died of cancer – my boys still tell everyone they meet that Gizmo died. I still cry about him once in awhile – he was my baby. Our house sold, we found our dream home, we packed everything we owned – and then it didn’t – and we unpacked in the same place we started. Not three weeks later, the fire raged.

I have a substantial helping of perspective in my life. My work with On Angels’ Wings provides that in plenty. I won’t ever sit here and pretend like what we’ve been through in the last year even comes close to the grief of losing a child.

But this is the loss I know. And my grief is not your battlefield.

This is not the place to tell me how much worse it can be. This is not the place to tell me how I’ve got it good because your circumstances far outweigh mine. This is not the place to let your own grief rear its head and smash into me with the horns of a ram to make sure I understand that other people are hurting too.

It’s my job… no… my calling… to be there for people who are hurting in unimaginable ways. I spend every day chatting with moms who are watching their little one suffer in agony because the state cut off her insurance and they can’t buy medication, or who sit by helpless while their child goes through yet another heart surgery before even starting preschool, or who never get to take their baby home from the hospital at all.

IMG_9751Every day. Even Monday as they dug through the blackened rubble for closure.

I never tell them it could be worse. I never list the difficulties in my life as a means of comparison. I never tell them to stay strong. I never tell them things will get better. And, even though I believe it with every fiber of my being, I never, ever tell them that God has a plan.

Because those are all words.  They are meaningless – and sometimes thoughtless – words that only make the grief that much harder to bear.

Someone’s grief is not a place to brandish your faith or how strong you would be or how you expect them to push through it. There are no expectations in grief. There is processing, there is enduring, there is surviving to the other side of it. But the journey there is filthy. It’s long. It’s arduous. It’s completely unbecoming and sometimes even downright ugly. It’s angry. It’s defeated. It’s broken. It’s soggy, limp and rigid. It’s everything you don’t want to be but sometimes all that you are.

And that is, without hesitation, perfectly acceptable.

There is no course correcting. There is no redirecting or distracting. All there is for you to do when someone you care about is grieving any sort of loss significant to them is to love and console. Don’t even say “it will be okay,” because it’s often completely unfathomable. Tell them how much it sucks. Tell them that you’re angry. That you’re heartbroken. That you don’t even get how they’re still standing.

Validate. Let them know that it’s okay to feel the way they feel.

Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down.
Romans 12:15 (MSG)

But, for the love of GOD, don’t make someone’s grief a battlefield for whatever personal struggles you’re facing too. If you can’t be the friend that someone needs because your world is being ravaged by your own loss, then say “I love you. I’m praying for you.” and find someone to unload your own grief on that can handle the weight of it.

Friendly fire usually gets you both killed.

Redemption Through Spilled Milk

milk spillThe kids don’t have school today. While they eat breakfast, I’m sitting in the other room. I asked them not to interrupt me – to just give me 10 minutes I can spend with God.

I turn on my Worship mix on Spotify and put it on shuffle for a random selection. Redeemed by Big Daddy Weave is the first song that plays. Then I turn to my devotional, Good Morning Lord by Sheila Walsh. The next topic is Today I will remember who I am in Christ. And the question it asks is What, if anything, keeps you from living with absolute confidence that God loves you and from remembering who you are in Christ?

And, just as I’m about to answer… just as I’m about to examine my life and jot down some thoughts in this journal… Eli calls for me. Lincoln spilt his cereal. And I break down. I get angry. I exclaim how all I ask for is 10 minutes – to spend with God no less – and Lincoln makes a huge mess that needs immediate attention. And it’s because he was playing, which I had just moments before asked him not to do or he might spill his milk.

And, in that moment, I see the thing that keeps me from fully accepting that God could love this broken shell of a person. That I don’t call to him in those everyday moments of frustration. That I – though I hate to even admit it – yell at my precious boys because I feel like most of the time I’m talking to myself… they never seem to listen because I’m always saying the same things over and over and over again.

I’m not here to vent about them though. I’m here to complain about the fact that I can’t seem to get it together and be the mommy I want to be for them. I want so desperately to set aside these petty grievances and always speak to them with grace (sternness where needed, yes, but with grace and love). I don’t want to be the mommy that gets so angry over spilled milk that both of my kids cower.

Obviously, I’m back at my desk, rambling out my thoughts with my fingers on the keys. Eli just came in and politely says, “Excuse me, Momma.” Exasperated, I impatiently say “What?”

And he hugs me, gently telling me he loves me.

Tears well up. Condemnation starts to fester in my head, but then God shows me that, even in my lack, he uses the heart of my precious boy to remind me that He loves me. Every part of me, even where I fall short. I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to be super mom and handle every situation like a champ. I will falter. I will stumble. I will, unfortunately, probably yell at my kids again. But God loves me anyway. He will fill in the places where I’m lacking.

I am cleansed and forgiven (1 John 1:9); I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). I am loved by my heavenly Father and have been adopted as his child (1 John 3:1). I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), and God delights in me (Psalm 147:11). I am God’s chosen (1 Peter 2:9); I am the apple of his eye (Psalm 17:8).

I am redeemed.

Get Stuck or Make Mud Pies

Mud PieOne of the first verses we taught our kids to memorize is Philippians 2:14:

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing…” (NIV)

And it’s not just about getting them to obey without objection (though that is, admittedly, a goal). Complaining can really drag you down quickly.

And, boy howdy, does it drag down those closest to you.

There’s been a lot of complaining around my house lately. I’m not going to point fingers… but there are three men (one big, two small) in this house that have high expectations, and when those expectations aren’t met, well…

I’ve taken to an approach that is rather different from my norm. In the sense that I typically respond in extreme frustration. Now, don’t get me wrong, a person can only take so much of the negativity before she succumbs to it herself. But I’m trying really hard to hold my head high and always remind certain individuals of the positive in any given situation. Granted, sometimes I may be the only one that sees it. I’m ever the optimist though. It’s how I’ve survived the turmoils of my life (another post, another day).

As I’ve learned in the past year, you can’t push through an obstacle (regardless of how much you cling to Jeremiah 29:11) with Complaining as your travel buddy. Not only does it make you incapable of moving forward, but sometimes God will keep you just where you are until the complaining stops.

After all, look at the Israelites. An 11 day trek taking 40 years to accomplish? And why? Because they couldn’t see past the difficulties and focus on the amazing things God was doing in their lives:

So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?”…Then the Lord said to Moses: “How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them? I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.” Numbers 14: 1-4, 11-12 (NIV)

They were a bunch of whiny babies. I mean, really – there is no denying that. Yes, they had to endure some pretty crummy turmoil. And I’m for a little venting sometimes, especially in the sense of being real with God and expressing how you feel about a situation to Him or to a godly confidant. But, at the end of the day, we need to focus on the fact that God’s ways are bigger and better than ours. He is sovereign. He sees all of time at once (the Doctor Who reference is not lost on me here, people). It is our own inability to perceive time correctly that is the set back, causing us to focus so much on the muck we’re sloshing through right now, and not enough on the solid, level ground awaiting us.

When life hands you mud, make a mud pie. Or jump, splash, and stomp in that pool of gunk. Sure, you’re going to get dirty, but isn’t that much better than sinking like Artax in the Swamps of Sadness? Resist the desire to complain about where you are right now, and allow God to show you where you’re going. He’s going to keep you here until you accept it as the journey He has you on. It could be you that’s making it 40 years instead of 11 days. Who can hear God speaking over all that moaning and groaning? God can’t do the work in you that He has planned for this situation until you release it and let Him. 

But the Box is Too Heavy…

10420261_10204559575643916_7134421351611017942_nLincoln, our four year old, does not like to be kept waiting. This morning, on this New Year’s Day, he was—as always—impatient to go downstairs for the day. Josh and I were deep in discussion regarding our current state of affairs with his new job and the stresses therein, but all Lincoln was concerned with was the fact that we were up, so it was time to descend, and that someone needed to carry his box of Transformer toys.

Because the box is too heavy for him to carry.

That’s what we heard over and over again: “Someone carry it for me… the box is too heavy…. no one is carrying it… who is going to help me… the box is too heavy… you’re not listening…I want to go downstairs… but the box is too heavy.”

This morning, his persistence resonated past its typical annoyance into a life lesson. See, Josh and I were discussing how badly he despises his new job. He’s been ready to go back to his previous job since the first week he started. The mobile x-ray company he works for was not prepared for how busy things would be when they branched out into our area. Josh was their first hire and they have one other full time tech. The two of them work the expected day shifts, Monday through Friday, but also alternate overnight shifts each week, and are on call at least one weekend a month (there are two part-timers that cover the other two weekends). Most days, Josh works a 12 hour shift. They are working on hiring an overnight person, but we have to endure this until they do.

It’s the “endure” part that’s been difficult for Josh. He doesn’t like being away from us so much. He doesn’t like a lot of things about this new job, really. Where, two months ago when he was hired, this was provision from God (because he’s been miserable in his previous job for years), he’s wanted to walk away basically from the start of this. He never would walk away and do that to his family–that’s not who he is—but it’s been a huge burden for him.

I am the ever present optimist. Almost to the point of annoyance. With his current work hours, I’ve had to parent more, I’ve had to do housework without help, as well as maintain my work load. I certainly don’t refrain from complaint here, but I see how God is providing this amazing financial opportunity for us through Josh’s job and I see how it will get better. So I’m focusing on the optimistic approach.

This is our balance: Josh’s realism and my optimism. Sometimes one of us needs more of the other’s strength to help us through a season. So we were discussing the silver lining found in this current stressful situation for us. We were discussing trusting God—learning the lesson He intends through this experience.

We were discussing how easy it is to get overwhelmed by the circumstances and lose sight of the fact that God is sovereign and his timing is perfect in his plan. Or to get impatient for God to make move. We need his help, we expect it, but we want it right now.

The box is too heavy to carry. God has reassured that he will carry it for us, but we are four year olds, standing at the foot of the bed, rattling on and on and on and on about how heavy the box is and how someone needs to help us RIGHT THIS MINUTE. Because waiting isn’t a concept we fully understand.

Got to love those life lessons that smack you in the face just by observing your children.

Since making the trek downstairs, God brought Jeremiah 29:11 indirectly through a friend. Another posted the first page of Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, which also quoted Jeremiah 29:11 and the following:

Come to me with a teachable spirit, eager to be changed. A close walk with me is a life of continual newness. Do not cling to old ways as you step into a new year. Instead, seek my face with an open mind, knowing that your journey with me involves being transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Then I turned to the first page of the devotional I purchased to start this year, Good Morning Lord by Sheila Walsh:

Charles Finney once said, “A state of mind that sees God in everything is evidence of growth in grace and a thankful heart.” Everything. Mr. Finney doesn’t offer fine print or exclusions. Everything. Consider your life right this second. Do you easily see the hand of God in everything that is happening right now? What, for instance, are you dealing with right now that you don’t remember signing up for? Life’s harsh intruders often make it hard for us to recognize the truth that our God is always present with us.

But you may be like me. Usually I know enough when a crisis hits to turn to God for strength, grace, and guidance. It’s the small stuff that gets me, those moments when my plans are messed up. Those are the times I must learn again to trust God. It’s hard for me, because it means I have to let go of my agenda. As I look back over my life, I can think of many times when my plans seemed to fall apart. I see now that God’s grace was right there, available, every single time, but sometimes I didn’t reach out and receive it. To have my hands free to receive God’s grace, I have to be willing to let go of whatever I’m clinging to.

I would say it’s pretty clear that God intends to show us something today. So, Josh and I have decided that our word for 2015 is: MARGIN. Margin in our approach to God’s plans for our lives – looking outside of the box of predetermined circumstances we’ve limited God to and allowing space for Him to move however he wishes. Margin in our time – removing frivolous activities that take away from our time with God. Margin in our finances – making strides toward better stewardship of what God provides. Margin in our hearts – being teachable to the things that God wants to show us.

Margin in the load we bear – because the box really is too heavy for us to try and carry alone.

Moving Forward in 2015

31974629_blog[Note: I know this is epically long, but I have a lot to say, so if you read it all the way through, thank you in advance.]

I’ve been reflecting. Not uncommon as one year comes to a close and another begins – time for a restart. And, boy, do I need it.

I can honestly say 2014 has been one of the hardest years of my life. But also jam-packed with blessings that I can clearly see the Lord’s hand in every step along the way.

We buried my grandma this week – and that’s just how the year ended. As hard as that has been – and as bruised as my heart is from the whole process of losing her to cancer – my response just shows how I’ve been forced to morph into someone new this year. Someone who can find the gifts amidst the pain.

Looking back, the warning signs were there last November. My two best friends – women I had been inseparable from for going on four years (our kids too) – had been spending more time together and I wasn’t included as much anymore. I brushed it off that they had more in common at this juncture. Both were homeschooling their kids while we did public school. One was a single mom, the other sincerely unhappy in her marriage, while Josh and I were honestly happier than ever.

So I disregarded their avoidance as a weird little season, anticipating it would pass. Even after I had surgery in November and neither of them checked on me for weeks. Totally out of character for them, but I chalked it up as a phase. But, after that, every attempt to spend time with them was abruptly avoided.

Fast forward through the holidays and into the first of this year. It finally occurs to me that this isn’t just some phase, My journal entry from February 20th says the following:

Feeling down. Rejected. Hard on myself today. Then God tells me:
“You’re worth fighting for. Those who won’t fight to keep you are the ones I’m removing from your life. Those that remain are there to encourage and love you the way you deserve. You’re worth fighting for.”

So I call them on the complacency… I asked them what was going on. What I received in response within hours of that word from God was a laundry list of grievances dating back at least two years, including berating me for continued selfishness, manipulation and attacks on my children (and my parenting). It seriously felt as though someone had dropped an anvil on my chest.

Let me be clear, these women are Christians. They love God. But they are both very passive. What I didn’t realize was that they held on to grievances and they stocked piled, creating bitter hearts. Rather than address issues when they arose, they let on like nothing was ever wrong. I am a Type A personality, so I never let things go for long. My attempts at strengthening our friendship over the years by airing things out came off to them as selfishness. And they held on to things for so long that their checklist was full of inaccuracies.

At any rate, I was devastated. Despite the fact that several people in my life reassured me that their accusations were nothing but lies, I constantly wondered if I was terrible at being the person I had always tried to be – loving, compassionate, prioritizing others. Three days after my smack in the face, God reassured me. This is my journal entry from that day.

I had also started the book One-Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp just a couple of weeks before everything went down, and it was clear that was intentionally in God’s design for me. This book is amazing – I can’t emphasize that enough. Everyone should read it. It literally changed my life.

So, after all that and still healing from that epic pain (I thought this sort of junk only happened in high school, not in your 30s), one might expect that to be all I could handle. I guess not.

Within a month, the content marketing firm I was CEO for closed. After working together to build this firm for three years, and finally seeing awesome results, life events out of her control caused my business partner to have to abruptly walk away. After speaking to her every single day for three years and developing a deep friendship with her, she severed me out of her life completely.  So, not only did I lose another dear friend (which I don’t hold against her in any way – life just dealt her a heavy blow), but the business we had worked so hard to forge was hanging the balance.

The resulting options were: take everything on myself or close the business. Since there was no way I could handle the work load, Josh and I took a leap of faith and closed the business, worried what that would do to us financially, but choosing to trust God.

My writing income was replaced in less than a month. Also, around the same time, I finished Voskamp’s book and joined a book study through our church on God is Able by Priscilla Shirer. Good gracious… God has been protecting and guiding me all along the way. When I finished this book (equally life altering as the other), I worried that I wouldn’t have anything else to feed into me because I was still hurting – the pain was still raw.

Then a dear friend felt led to buy me the book Friendships: Avoiding the Ones That Hurt, Finding the Ones that Heal by Jeff Wickwire. Again, life altering, as I started to learn how I had become so dependent upon others to get me through hard times and rarely went to God about them. And why those women hurt me so deeply in the first place.

So the healing process commenced. I’m still healing, but can honestly say I’ve forgiven. Though, admittedly, I don’t know that I would ever let my two former BFFs back in my life, certainly not in the same way.  But that wasn’t the end of my journey this year.

  • In July, my grandmother was diagnosed with lymphoma – and an inoperable brain tumor. A difficult journey watching her try to battle the cancer commenced and, subsequently, she passed on December 23rd.
  • Starting on this new “gifted” journey with Eli, which has just as many struggles as blessings.
  • This fall, our dog, Gizmo, who we got as a puppy just three weeks after we were married, was diagnosed with a condition that will slowly paralyze him (he’s my doggie best friend, so this has hit me hard).
  • In October, some dear friends of Josh and I’s, who live five hours away, got some horrible news: he was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Thankfully, he had his kidney removed in November and is doing very well.
  • On December 1st, after seven years as an x-ray tech at Cox, Josh started a new job doing mobile x-rays at area nursing homes. It’s been a really difficult adjustment for our family because they didn’t hire enough people and he’s working days and then is on call overnights and weekends (working over 50 hours a week).

Amidst all this, and other every-day struggles, the blessings have been just as plentiful. While Josh’s new job has been really hard and there’s been some uncertainty there, it has the potential to be a huge financial blessing. I started selling Plexus in September and it should help us get rid of a ton of debt in 2015. On Angels’ Wings, the charity I founded in 2013, has jump started into action and has expanded through several areas in Missouri, with recognition by several media outlets in the area. In June, major progress was made in my relationship with my dad, which has been a 30+ year struggle.

I’ve certainly changed and grown in tremendous ways this year. When I saw my dad in June, moments after saying hello he told me that something was different about me – that he saw a change just by looking at me. That confirmed what the Lord was doing in me. And that process has continued. For the first time in my life as a “people pleaser,” I’m finally in a place where I am secure in who I am. If someone doesn’t like me or has something crummy to say about me, so be it. I no longer have panic attacks (shaking, sweating, heart racing, hives) when someone tells me they don’t like something I said or simply don’t like me at all.

I know who I am in Christ and I don’t need their approval to confirm that. God knows my heart. I’ve learned that people often see things through the filter of their own struggles, which misconstrues perspective and twists how they see others.

I’ve learned to go to the Lord first in my struggle, something I’ve never really done because I’ve always been so dependent upon other people. Sure, solid friendships with godly people who encourage and challenge me are a must, but my lifetime of craving a “best friend” (aside from my husband) is over. God is my best friend now. And my bestie has reassured me that 2015 is going to be a year of renewal… of refreshing peace… of provision… of joy unspeakable.

Raise your glass. A toast to the freedom found only in the love of Christ.