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Forgetting What Is Behind

This year has been full of new experiences for me, and yet I find myself in the same place I was one year ago. And I’ve struggled with that – a lot – but it’s time to break free. While counting down the last hours of 2014, I begin looking ahead with purpose.

Running toward the Goal

After seeing the portrayal of Apostle Paul as a truly broken-then-reformed man in last year’s The Bible miniseries, I’ve been more drawn to his words than ever before. His humility was more than just a personality trait; it was the after-effect of a man who was wrecked, utterly disturbed by a traumatic experience and then lifted up by Jesus the Christ into usefulness and a mission. His purpose was revealed in his devastation. And then Paul embraced that purpose and set after it with all his might.

I have not yet reached my goal, and I am not perfect. But Christ has taken hold of me. So I keep on running and struggling to take hold of the prize.
 
My friends, I don’t feel that I have already arrived. But I forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead. I run toward the goal, so that I can win the prize of being called to heaven. This is the prize that God offers because of what Christ Jesus has done. Philippians 3:12-14 (CEV)

For the past 2 months I’ve been looking ahead and looking within to determine what comes next for me. What I know is that it can’t look the same as it has before. I can’t continue along the same path. I don’t know the details. I don’t know the timing. I only know that I have to forget what is behind and run toward the future. I’m not good at running, but that’s precisely what I’m called to do.

A Moment to Reminisce

Despite my lackluster years of late, I did find much joy in 2014, and those things deserve recognition. Posterity demands it, and my heart holds these experiences dear. Every moment in life adds to our stories. These were my stories from this year.

South Texas Respite
At the beginning of the year I was still victim to my health and, therefore, traveling with my nomadic parents. They’ve spent most winters of the past decade volunteering in South Texas, and this year I was able to meet the people who love them so dearly. Camp Zephyr is filled with incredible staff who love Jesus and serve with their whole hearts. Their joy is infectious! Although I wasn’t able to spend much time truly getting to know them, they immediately burrowed into my heart. It’s a gift to be returning again this winter, which makes a wonderful bookend to 2014.

Zephyr Camp - Sandia, TX

Homelessness
I spent part of the spring and summer at a homeless shelter in my North Texas town. In one sense it was a blessing: I needed resources to help me through the challenges of job searching with no home and no income. In another sense, it was everything you would expect from communal living. I was stretched to my emotional limits and had to fight off despair week after week, but I also met great people and found joy in the midst of the heartache. The shelter where I lived was a place of purpose, pushing every resident to find sustainable work and teaching the necessary skills to help make that happen. My lesson – which is now my soapbox – was that the face of homelessness is far different than you may imagine. It can look very much like the person working your office reception area or the “middle class” people sitting next to you on a church pew. It’s wrong to make assumptions, and it’s even more heartless to not ask people their stories. While there may be a bit of shame, there’s a greater need for unconditional love. We can all offer something to the people we meet, and you just might see an opportunity to restore a person’s dignity.

homeless shelter

A Brief Period of Employment
While living at the shelter I did find an incredible job at a local university, and I thought it was everything I’d been searching for. I provided administrative support to 13 professors, had my own office, and was able to put all of my career skills to work day after day. I also had access to great professional development opportunities (my favorite being Emotional Intelligence seminars), and immediately hit it off with my office neighbor so that we made each others’ days better just by being around. The job was a God-send with an underlying heavenly purpose. Which made my departure all the more crushing. Having found an equilibrium with my health issues, I was all in with the new job. Until my body developed new ailments, and I was once again unemployed and at the mercy of my health. I mourned this job for several months, and I’ve been frustrated in every way. But, as in all situations, God brought a silver lining out of the dark cloud, and I’ve finally been able to gain perspective. My university job was a blessing that just took a little longer to recognize.

Long-Awaited Surgery
Part of that blessing was qualifying for health insurance on my first work day and being able to retain that healthcare for almost a month after my final workday. So, finally (FINALLY!) I was able to visit all the necessary doctors and then have much-needed, much-delayed surgery during the fall. After struggling throughout my adult life without proper diagnoses and/or disposable income for treatment, being able to tackle every ailment that cropped up was a joy and a gift. Everything culminated in surgery and, thankfully, quick recovery that has given me a new lease on living. I hated losing my job but I am so grateful to have this debilitating chapter behind me.

Time and Energy for Reading
An interesting side effect developed from this roller coaster year of living with various people and struggling with my health: I craved silence like never before. Shelter living offered TV with the lowest common denominator (usually sports, stupid comedies, and true crime), and the only quiet moments came after lights-out curfew. So I began to read again, and after a few weeks I began to crave the reading itself. While working, my exhaustion and long days allowed for only short spurts of concentration, but I kept to the reading by following blogs and chasing rabbit trails around the interwebs. Even when Jack Bauer resurfaced and Fall TV began, I just wasn’t that interested. It’s as if I’m slowly extracting myself from the quagmire of entertainment media that has consumed me (and this blog) for so many years. I’m finally rediscovering my love of books. Though I still love movies and still enjoy lazy days of TV binge-watching, I no longer want to fill all of my down time with them. Which leaves much more time for creativity and inspiration.
2014 in Books

My Year in Books
All told, I read 24 books this year, including one abandoned Brad Meltzer title. [correction: Divergent is a trilogy, so I actually read 26 books this year!] It’s a big number considering I only completed 6 books in 2008, and it’s a great starting point for a reading challenge in 2015. It’s also notable since I read only for pleasure and without any goals in mind. Reading became a true leisure activity for me once more, and I’m very proud of that! Two books stand out from my reading year. Go With the Flow by Brad Huebert outlines a simple yet enlightening approach to devotional time and prayer, and it continues to resonate with me 7 months later. Huebert recommends patterning your personal time with God after a walk into the ancient Temple of the Old Testament. Beginning with the Ascent to the Temple steps, we are to prepare our hearts by ridding the mind of all that troubles and worries us. We then pass through the Gates with thanksgiving and praise, and continue onward into each Temple chamber until we enter the Holy of Holies and become still in the Presence of God. After Huebert shares his own experience of imagining this journey into the Temple, it takes no effort to put myself in that same frame of mind. And it has transformed my time with the Most High God. I cannot recommend this book enough!

The greatest novel I read this year has also been added to my all-time list of favorite books. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is (as recommended by GlitterFem) the kind of story you wish you’d never heard so that you could experience it again for the very first time. It is best read with no idea of its plot or characters or story. You simply need to walk through the circus’s grand black gates toward the towering, majestic clock and amble your way through the forest of black-and-white striped tents. Pick up a bag of scrumptious caramel-drizzled popcorn and a couple of chocolate mice, then give yourself over to the experience. You will never regret your time in the world of The Night Circus. It is at once exquisite, mesmerizing, intense, powerful, sensual, romantic, and fantastical. No words can describe it well enough for the uninitiated to comprehend, so I can only suggest falling into this book. You will be forever changed for the experience. I’m not sure another book will ever come close to this again.

Preparing for What’s Ahead

These last few months of 2014 have provided plenty of time for introspection, and I’ve taken the opportunity to really dream. I dove into CreativeLive courses with an eye toward blogging and online business for makers and designers, and I’ve been consuming media on finding creative purpose and turning that into a marketable product. It’s been incredibly inspiring, and my mind is swirling with creative possibilities. There’s no deadline, which means I can really dream, but I’m finally feeling open to any possibility. This year has taught me that confidence and courage are choices, not inherent traits, and my future is as open as I allow it to be. That’s very freeing! And I’m excited to see where it might lead. I hope 2015 brings you hope and possibility, as well. Happy New Year!

Padre Island shore

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untold stories of 2011 :: One Little Word (a recap)

 
My One Little Word for 2011 was…

Healthy

You’ll see from the lack of entries on my pilgrimage blog that I totally failed in documenting that goal. For over half the year I also believed I had failed in achieving that goal. And then something interesting occurred: I put some thought to the happenings of the past 12 months – to the daily moments, the small celebrations, the big epiphanies – and I realized that 2011 had not been a year of failure after all. In fact, even today there are visual reminders of success. I almost missed it because it didn’t look anything like I expected it would look.

When I chose the word HEALTHY in January, I hoped that twelve months would bring a significant weight loss, a habit of fresh foods, a joy of home cooking, and a pattern of regular sleep. I expected to feel more energy, less sickly all the time. I expected to need an entirely new wardrobe. None of those things occurred. Hence, my assumption that 2011 was a failure in the area of goals. I also wanted to embrace creativity in a larger way, to focus on personal art projects that brought a renewed health to my mind and my spirit. Again, I determined that this goal ended in failure because much of my year was spent in front of a laptop with the television droning in the background. Sometimes 24/7. Definitely not healthy. No matter what I may have been “watching.” With those things in mind, I declared 2011 a resolution FAIL. And vowed to make 2012 “the year.” But then I came to a realization…

It all began with a pair of jeans. Jeans that, last year, did not fit comfortably during the first hour of wear because they were simply too snug in the waist when freshly laundered. This year, when the weather finally turned almost cool, I pulled on those jeans and found room to spare. At first I believed they must had been worn and placed back in the closet unwashed. I rarely do that, but perhaps this one time? I wore the jeans all day and found them to be far too loose for my taste. Baggy in weird places. Still I didn’t think much of it… until I wore a different pair a week or so later. And those were just as loose on first wear. Freshly laundered but looser than ever. Suddenly I realized! I had kept off enough weight to make my clothes fit loosely! And my thoughts turned to the summer and another moment of success.

While visiting my parents in July I stepped onto the scale after a shower one day and saw that I weighed 30 pounds less than the last time I’d weighed, sometime during the past 6 months. Thirty pounds! And I’d not been on the Healthy wagon for four months by this time! But in those four months of neglect and passivity toward my yearly goal I had still managed to keep 30 pounds at bay. That was clearly a success! I held onto that Win throughout the remainder of the year, but until I encountered the results in my clothing I still did not treat it as a completion of my resolution. After all, I still wasn’t sleeping properly and I still didn’t see much difference in the mirror. I also wasn’t eating properly. No, not at all. The old habits were ever-present, with fast food my most frequent menu. Yet, in the midst of all those bad habits, I’d remained thirty pounds lighter than before. Thinking back on this while analyzing my looser jeans, I could not deny that I had made some headway on this goal of HEALTHY.

Nearing the holidays I mentioned all of this to my mother. I still couldn’t believe my clothes were telling a different story than my mind, but she agreed that I had made some progress this year. She hadn’t noticed the clothes – I’m a plus-size girl with a tendency for ill-fitting clothing, so that did not surprise – but she pointed out that I seemed to be healthier than I’d been in a very long time. There seemed to be fewer stomach issues (which I’d had for over a decade), and I’d been more joyful this year than other times. And despite my irregular sleeping patterns, I had, in fact, been able to go to sleep and sleep more restfully than the past few years. At least, she noted, I was able to get to sleep when I went to bed rather than lying awake for hours before drifting off. That itself counted for a lot on this road to Healthy. I had to agree.

In the end, I’m not where I imagined I’d be by December 31, 2011, but I’m further along than ever. And that encourages me and motivates me to continue on this path. While I have chosen a new word for 2012, I will continue to hold onto HEALTHY, as well. That period at the end of the word up there? That will remain in the front of my mind. I want Healthy to be a lifestyle. I want it to be a pattern and a habit of my days. I want the fast food to become a treat, and I want my kitchen to be a place of joy. As far as it will, of course, for a girl who truly despises the act of meal preparation. Simply put, I want to be HEALTHY… period. And this year was a decent start.

Watch for a new post this week about my chosen word for 2012. It’s my favorite word yet!


One Little Word is a yearly challenge issued by Ali Edwards. I also (kind of) participated in the One Word community at Grit and Glory this year. Perhaps you’ll consider joining me in the new year!

My Top 40 in Pop Culture for the year 2010

Note: This list encompasses my pop culture year, which means that some things were current and many others originated in past years. Of the things I saw and heard through 2010, these are the ones that stood out… for better or worse.

MOVIES
1. Inception
2. Salt
3. Toy Story 3
4. Crazy Heart
5. The Hurt Locker
6. The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader
7. Knight and Day
8. The Expendables
9. Stage Door
10. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (which I finally, finally saw this year)

 

TELEVISION
1. Rubicon (may it rest in peace)
2. concluding the saga of LOST
3. the final season of 24, which included my beloved Clayne Crawford and provided my number one favorite moment of its entire series run: Jack Bauer’s armored assault
4. Mad Men, featuring the steady downward spiral of Don Draper, the comic demise of Miss Blankenship, and Sally Draper’s coming of age
5. the parallel universes of Fringe and my ever-increasing love for Peter Bishop
6. The Walking Dead, the zombie series I never knew I’d want to watch
7. finally discovering Friday Night Lights
8. Cole Hauser’s return to a weekly series (however brief it may turn out to be)
9. the revival of Grey’s Anatomy, with more Christina and less Meredith (thankfully!)
10. giving up on no less than 8 series in a single network season, including two longtime favorites (Survivor and Private Practice)

 

MUSIC
1. Lady Antebellum’s Need You Now album
2. Free by Zac Brown Band
3. White Liar by Miranda Lambert
4. Every Dog Has Its Day by Toby Keith
5. an actual mass-produced CD from Christian Kane
6. discovering Josh Turner
7. discovering Blake Shelton
8. giving Kenny Chesney a chance
9. realizing I’d been loving the music of Garth Brooks without knowing it
10. the continued (superior) musical output from Glee, which made me love a Lady Gaga song and reminded me that Gwyneth Paltrow can sang, baby

 

NEWS & EVENTS
1. Earthquake in Haiti
2. Oil spill in the Gulf
3. Flooding in Nashville, Tennessee
4. Chilean miners survive more than two months trapped underground
5. The Great North Texas Snowstorm
6. Texas Rangers play in World Series
7. Royal Engagement of Prince William to Kate Middleton, which brought back memories of his parents’ grand wedding in 1981
8. Sandra Bullock wins the Best Actress Oscar for a family film then shows true grace through the public spectacle of her crumbling marriage
9. the ridiculous success of Avatar sets off an influx of movies released in 3D… much to my dismay
10. my personal highlight of 2010: finally getting a chance to see Wicked on stage and being able to share that with Kiwi