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.