If I don't take the time to see where I have come from I have much less appreciation for where I am currently at.
If I don't stop to reflect I miss the richness of all that I have gained in the valleys and all I have celebrated on the mountain tops.
You won't find me complaining, but neither will you find me re-writing the truth to exclude the hard things. Instead you will find me telling our story in all honesty, hard parts and all, but in a way where every time I look back and I can clearly see that God redeems every. single. thing. and works it for our good. Always.
So I sit still. And I look back. 2014. We have grown, oh how we have grown. We have been saved all over again. And we have welcomed into a wide open-arm embrace these full and raw and joyful and painful emotions, all vying for the front of our hearts at the same time. We have lived full and we have lived wide awake. I am thankful for 2014, but I leave it behind in a strange sort of way... It has grown me and changed me in ways I wouldn't trade for anything, but I kind of hope 2015 is a bit smoother of a ride.
So let's start at the beginning.
Last January we were in a scary place as a family. We didn't even know it, but we were at a crossroads, and we were starting down a path that looked innocent enough to us, but now stepping back from it all and seeing it for what it was, that path led to a dark place, and it is no wonder I felt all the questions and hesitancy in my spirit during that time. It was nothing so obvious or terrible, but it was a choosing of the world over a choosing of heaven. And little choices that take us away from the Lord can lead to bigger choices that take us somewhere we never intended to go. Maybe you remember the hardest week of motherhood I've experienced yet that came at me out of nowhere last January while Shaun was away on a business trip. That week culminated in Drew's febrile seizure, an ambulance ride to the hospital, finally getting my husband back from his trip across the country, only there were hard things we were working through in marriage in the midst of all that which God has totally healed and mended now, but I still choose to keep private. What you might not know though, because I never shared it on here before is that in the first week of February Drew had another, afebrile seizure in his sleep. I can hardly bring myself to go back, and yet it was during all this that God totally re-directed our family and "saved us all over again..." and so even though it makes me feel like I might suffocate under the weight of that deep terror that I fought off with all my might that night as I drove him to the hospital again, in the middle of an ice storm no less, and stifled wave after wave of panic attacks and thoughts like "I can't live without my Drew bug..." as I remember calling friends from church, fighting back tears, begging for prayer that fear would not overtake me as I faced the unknowns, as I held Drew in the lobby of the e.r., him so sleepy, but finally awake enough to communicate, as we looked at the fish swimming in the tank together and I pushed back every nightmarish thought trying to break down the doors of my mind and instead named the colors of the fish with Drew and soaked in his precious little voice, the feel of his hands around my neck, his head resting on my chest.... I also remember the beauty of coming home around 3:00 a.m. (my dad drove me home through the worst of the ice storm so I could come back to nurse Jaden, and Shaun came to stay the night at the hospital with Drew) and coming into a dark and quiet house to find Shaun's Bible sitting open on the counter, post-it notes inside it scribbled with his thoughts and prayers as he waited to hear from me in the e.r. And with Jaden sleeping in my arms I broke down in the kitchen, tears streaming from my eyes at the beautiful, tender, and yet bold words he had written in his desperation. I finally fell asleep that night listening to branches in the huge trees in our back yard snapping under the weight of the ice, landing on our fence and fracturing it in several places, but with a peace that God saw us and was holding us. After several days at the hospital we chose not to go through with recommended tests after they saw an abnormality on an eeg, we proclaimed the words the Lord had spoken to us over Drew, we brought him home, we keep close watch over him when we first put him to bed, and he has been fine ever since. And he will continue to be fine. I remember when Shaun called me to tell me about the abnormality on the eeg, panic totally seized me again and Isaiah came walking into the kitchen at that moment singing his little heart out "DEATH IS BEATEN, LOVE HAS CONQUERED, WE HAVE THE VICTORY!!!" God reassured us in every possible way that He had us in His hands, that everything was going to be alright, that we could trust Him. And so we did. And the victories we experienced, in our marriage, in Drew, in our family, in every area of our life really, as we put our complete faith in Jesus all over again was undeniable. Everything changed. We were re-born, again. We have continually filled our home with worship, we have fixed our eyes on the Lord and removed all other idols, and the peace we have experienced is so, so deep. I remember the day Drew came home from the hospital, my sister called to see how things were going, and in the background she could hear Drew and Isaiah fighting... they were both trying to get things out of the refrigerator at the same time and battling over who had control of the door, and Randi and I were both laughing because we had never been so happy to hear the two of them fighting. Life is such a matter of perspective.
February. My best friend in the world, my sister, moved away. But here again, in her moving God did so much. First, I realized more fully just how much I appreciate my baby sister. Second, God used her absence along with other situations to unveil deeper issues in my heart and to bring me to a place where I depend on His love and affirmation alone for my fulfillment. And lastly and most importantly, her moving ultimately led to her and Nate's marriage, and it is the most beautiful and wonderful thing ever. I feel so close to her even though there's distance and the every day life isn't happening alongside each other, it is such a cool thing to be intentional in my phone calls, my questions, to know that the miles can't stop the memories, and to feel her intentionality in doing the same for me. There is this really sweet and warm feeling to know that we both matter to each other, and to feel the effort we are both putting in. Also in february Shaun and I went out for our valentines date to a local pizza shop and had the best heart to heart talk ever, the one that really set the tone for all the changes that began and continued through this past year.
March. I turned twenty seven. We began to get back into a normal groove of life. I did my first photo shoot since having Jaden, and from that point on was always fully booked through the end of the year, which is more than I could have possibly hoped for. (Thank you so much to all of you who trusted me and hired me for your photos this past year!!) April and May found me painting different rooms in our home, working on photography, contemplating simplifying life.... (still a work in progress!!) We also were part of a church wide fast in April leading up to Easter that totally re-vamped my perception of fasting and was an awesome time for us that solidified the direction we were heading. And at the end of May Shaun's sister and her husband moved here from Kansas City, began completely renovating and updating a house on his parents' farm, and we've gotten the privilege over the past seven months of doing life with Shaun's family as a complete family unit. I love it so much. I truly have the best in-laws. They are not just family, they are friends. I've especially loved getting to know Brittany's husband Tre in a daily life sort of way. I really, really admire his integrity, trustworthiness, conviction, honesty, energy for the Lord... the list could go on. Tuesday night family dinners at Shaun's parents' house are so special to me, and a beautiful constant in this season of life.
June ushered in a season of one celebration after another. I went with my little brother to help him pick out a ring for Mary. Right after buying the ring we had a family vacation in Sanbridge, which was just an absolutely wonderful, amazing, refreshing time where I really felt we were coming into a new season. When we came home I got to photograph my brother's engagement, which was the biggest honor ever. A few weeks later, over fourth of July weekend, my sister got engaged also, and an October wedding was planned for my brother, a December wedding for my sister. That of course meant bridal showers in September and November, along with the fall celebrations of Isaiah's third birthday, Drew's fifth birthday , Jaden's first birthday, and our seventh anniversary, not to mention Thanksgiving and Christmas, of course. Drew started pre-school, and normal life didn't stop during that time either. ;)
The best thing in the world for me in this season was learning to enjoy and be present in the moment without letting the stress of tomorrow and all the things I still had left on my to-do list steal from me. I'm not saying it went flawlessly, or that I learned my lesson once and then skipped through the rest of the year without feeling the weight of any stress. It was a daily choosing, a taking charge of my emotion and attitude, deciding what I would focus on and where my joy would come from. I didn't always succeed, but I made huge strides of progress. I learned that thankfulness and expressing gratitude are the key to switching off negativity and switching on optimism and joy.
In every moment of every event, whether it was celebration or tears, I felt Jesus right there with me. The promise that nothing will come into my life that He won't use for my good.
I am beyond thankful for the past 365 days.
For the lives of my loved ones.
For the beauty that can be found in every day.
For my husband, my wonderful, adorable, humorous and loving husband. :)
For the faithfulness of Jesus.
A Happy New Year to you!