Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
That about sums up many of my thoughts for this past year. I've been very honest about my struggles and challenges with this year. But with every "hard" there are buckets of amazing, wonderful, and little lights. Life seems to be about holding the tensions of it all and remaining true to who you are and tenaciously contributing for the betterment of the world.
As I gleefully say ADIOS to 2016, I'm mindful of the goodness that this year also held. In no particular order, here are my Top 10 Blessings in 2016...
- My Man. Life together is the sweetest, safest, and sassiest part of my life. Brian is the yin to my yang and so very good for me. Even when we fight and disagree, he's my safety net and challenger to move forward. Celebrating 15 years of marriage with him this year was the ultimate sweetness. He really is the best man I've ever known.
- Our Babes. As they get older I find myself a better mom. Babies and toddlers are super cute but older kiddos are more my jam. Conversations that can include jokes and multisyllabic words are more life-giving for me. Less naps and more energy makes for more fun as we get to play, discover, and explore a little more together.
- Glimmers of Neighborhood Diversity. We've struck friendships with neighbors who are Vietnamese, Indian, and Rwandan. Their culture, accents, and global perspectives have been water to our parched souls. Asher's closest buddy is Muadh and their home smells like a slice of curried heaven. Huy stopped over on Christmas with a gift, card, and a list of "decent" Asian restaurants in town. Our Rwandan neighbors have shared just a bit of African connection with our Ethiopians and their teenage daughter has offered to babysit. Heaven on earth. This past year has deepened my commitment and desire to build relationships with those who are different from me. These friends help me see God, the world, and myself so much better.
- Being a Volunteer in Youth Ministry. For nearly 20 years I was a paid leader in the church, but for the last year I've been a volunteer small group leader to a group of 8th grade girls at our church and it has been surprisingly freeing. Even on the Sunday afternoons when I'd rather take a nap on the couch, I come home from being with my girls energized and inspired. Volunteering has been a breath of fresh air for my soul.
- Neighbors of Color. We've sparked friendships with a few neighbors with different accents, traditions, cultures, and foods and my heart has been crazy grateful. God knew that we needed our Vietnamese, Rwandan, and Indian neighbors so very much.
- The "No's". There were a lot of "no's" - or at least "not yet's" - this past year. And while every one stung or broke our hearts, we can see some of the WHY NOT. The "no's" are teaching us steadfastness when we want to run or fight. I'm re-learning the blessing of actively waiting and finding contentment even when my heart is restless.
- doTERRA Essential Oils. This may sound crazy but as I've been digging into the healing and wholeness benefits of nature's medicine, I've been awed by the complexity of creation. Almost 6 years we were gifted with our first diffuser and set of oils and there's been no going back. This past I intensified my learning journey and we've been using a bunch of oils for health, mood, focus, energy, relaxation and anything else in between this past year. I'm ridiculously grateful for how they've improved our family's quality of life!!
- The Best Friends. From the divine gift of a couple new local girlfriends who feel like lifelong friends to friends who've known me my entire adult life to friends who faithfully pray for our family to friends who are more like family, this year has been filled with trips and times to be together. Tears and belly laughter, secrets and hopes, vulnerable confessions and bold proclamations, working hard and playing hard together...these describe the sanctity of my friends. They are the best.
- Gift of Travel. It's been an absolute gift to travel as much as I did this year ... and get paid for it! Being able to hop on a plane and see a different climate, culture, and community has fueled me like I can hardly explain. This year has affirmed a hunch that travel is actually a deeply held value in my bones. I have fallen more in love with my Father's world and being able to be a local in another city reminds me that "home" really is where meaningful relationships are.
- Hope. In the midst of all the hard, I hold on to hope in Jesus. What would we do without hope? Some days I collapse and am desperate for a do over. Hope reminds me that there are new mercies available to me. Hope pulls me toward what's not yet so I don't settle with the reality of today. Hope taps on my shoulder and begs me not to stay where I am today but to move to a better place tomorrow. Hope has challenged me this year not to give up.
As 2016 comes to a close, what blessings can you capture and savor? Especially when life has sucker punched you, it's important to cultivate gratitude. I'd rather be a grateful person carrying a hard load than an ungrateful person with loads of unappreciated gifts.
As 2017 knocks on our door this evening, make some decisions about who you want to become this year and what you'll contribute to the world around you. God knows, we could all use kinder, more generous, wildly courageous, deeper loving, freely themselves, and more peaceful people in our world. Let's make 2017 that kind of year.