Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Year in Review - 2013

In 2013 I set out on a mission of sorts . . . a mission to experience grace, to extend grace, to observe grace, to search for grace.  I think in some ways my objective has been met; however, I'm still learning and growing and have failed to fully embrace grace . . . and I've failed to fully extend grace.   In my quest for grace, God has stretched me and grown me.  He's still working on me and hasn't given up on me. 

This is going to sound clich√©, but 2013 literally zoomed by.  I'm not sure how that happened, but here it is, the last day of the year.  And so, for my December 31, 2013 post, I'm going to share some highlights of the year, as well as some lessons learned this year.

First, the HIGHLIGHTS . . . (in no particular order) . . .

1.  Celebrating my Dad's 85th Birthday in August.  My siblings and I pulled-off what I would say, was a super-successful party, to honour our Dad and let him know how much he is loved and appreciated.  I know we fulfilled our mission in doing this because he was still talking about that party just a few days ago.

My dad with the cake I made him - August 2013
2.  Attending my niece's wedding in June.  It was truly a special day when my niece got married.  Our family had a great time reconnecting with extended family.  My niece is always radiantly beautiful and she looked stunning on her wedding day.

My niece and her new husband - June 2013

3.  Re-uniting with four very good friends from my Bible College days.  20 years ago we all met for the first time, and in November, we spent a weekend together at a Bed & Breakfast to remember old times and share our joys and struggles since we all graduated from college.  It was one of the most refreshing experiences I had all year, and it was fantastic to reconnect with these old friends again. 

Reunion with friends - November  2013
4.  Our family vacation to Banff and Jasper in July.  We spent 5 days driving, hiking, camping and relaxing in the mountains.  It was the best family vacation we've ever had.  I loved all the hiking we did, and the scenery was breath-taking.  We even went white-water rafting, which was an excellent adventure.

Our family at Athabasca Falls - July 2013

5.  Sister's Weekend in October.  For the past four years, my sisters, sister-in-law and I have come together at my second-oldest sister's condo for a weekend of eating, visiting, game-playing, laughing, movie-watching, shopping, sharing and praying together.  Again, another weekend to rejuvenate and reconnect.  I love each one of these women dearly.  They are more than sisters--they are friends . . . and my life would feel empty without them in it.

Sisters - October 2013

6.  Changes to my job.  Since September I have been working more hours.  I love my job and I'm so grateful for my co-workers.  I have a very unique work environment and I thank God every day for the opportunity to be a light in my workplace.  I really feel like I've got purpose and meaning in the work I do and in the relationships I'm building with the people I interact with at work.

The "Super Moon" of June 2013 - BRIGHTLY shining!
7.  Changes to how we "do" school.  Last spring Wayne and I began looking into alternate educational options for our boys and we were very fortunate to stumble-upon a cyber-school which is based out of our province, fully funded and acknowledged by our government.  The boys began their new school in September, and it is going really well for them.  And for me, I am able to be more available to them in various ways because of the fact that I no longer prep or correct their work.  They have an actual teacher to do that, and I'm forever grateful for this opportunity they have in how they are educated.

My Air Cadets - Remembrance Day 2013

Second, the LESSONS I'VE LEARNED (or RE-LEARNED) in 2013 . . .

Lesson #1.  Prayer works.  Yes, maybe it's obvious to you, but not always to me.  In 2013 I saw prayers being answered specific to my own personal situation in ways that far-exceeded my expectations.  My cyst surgery and the circumstances around it was the most obvious place where God taught me this lesson.  I'll spare the details, but He answered favourably and continues to reveal Himself to me through my surgery, as well as other health issues.

Lesson #2.  Change requires a good attitude, intense determination and an absolute faith that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  In other words, God is faithful and He will get you through anything, whether you've prepared for it or not.  This fall was intense.  I added more hours to my work; my role at work changed; my boys began attending a new school; my boys joined Air Cadets; drum lessons continue full-force; my youngest can now attend weekly Youth Group at church, which means there are times when the boys have to be in two different places at the same time, but there is only one me to get them there; life somehow got busier in the fall of 2013, and there were literally times that I felt like I was drowning.  In addition to this, my own personal plate included maintaining the household, two weekend get-a-ways, singing on a worship team, co-leading the women's ministry at my church, and undergoing a surgery that was a bigger deal than I ever imagined it would be.  The middle of December arrived and I finally felt like we made it.  We're now in the groove and life will progress at what seems to be "normal" speed rather than "warp" speed.

Lesson #3.  Sometimes boundaries are necessary in order to keep a relationship from completely disintegrating.  In addition to these boundaries, a spirit of understanding and empathy is required, rather than a spirit of judgment.  I've been wrestling with the state of a relationship all year long, and I am currently hoping and praying for the best outcome, even though there have been many times throughout the year that I've considered severing ties with this person for good.  But I am trying to be patient and wait for God's complete restoration . . . however that may look.

Lesson #4.  God really doesn't care about my outward appearance.  He cares about my heart.  I know, I know . . . another obvious thing that I should have figured out a long time ago . . . but up until a couple of weeks ago, I hadn't really embraced this concept.  I began 2013 began by reading the book of Proverbs, with a large focus on the Proverbs 31 woman.  The month ended with our women's ministry brunch, and the theme was, "What is a Beautiful Woman?" (or something like that).  My view of true beauty has been distorted for way too long, and God gave me reminders of this throughout the year.  However, it wasn't until something ugly happened to my physical-self (my cyst surgery), that I truly began to evaluate the beauty element of my heart, and let me tell you, my heart needs a lot of work.  I'll share more on this topic in future blog posts, so I will leave it at that for now.

Lesson #5.  God loves my children more than I do.  I heard God speak these words to me in a moment of my own utter fear and panic about something related to my health earlier this year.  I continually remind myself of His words to me, because fear often tries to crowd out the faith that I have in my heart.  I choose faith over fear.

Lesson #6.  I can live without my boys for an entire week.  That may sound dramatic, but when they both attended Bible Camp during the same week this summer, it was tough.  The first two days I really couldn't focus on much because I missed them and was wondering how they were doing.  Once I relaxed about it all, I was able to accomplish something good, and Wayne and I were able to spend some quality couple-time together.  We learned that we can still converse as a couple, without the main focus being the boys, and we had fun together.  We've been trying to have more regular "date nights" since then, and it's been good for us.

Lesson #7.  God is opening doors in unexpected places.  I've had some unique opportunities this year to share parts of my story (even some very ugly parts) to those hurting around me.  I LOVE that this is happening, and I pray that I am given more of these opportunities to use my past struggles to encourage someone who is going through something similar. 

So, there you have it . . . some of the highlights and the lessons. 

Good-bye 2013!!!!

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