On January 1st we have a tendency to reflect upon the previous year and think about what we can do differently to make the new year better. I used to be one of those people who made New Year's resolutions. I had a 0% success rate of keeping my resolutions, so 3 years ago, I decided to take the One Word Challenge.
For me, focusing on a single word has been much more effective than making resolutions. In the past, I have focused on words such as, Obey, Share, and Look.
Over the past 2 years, blogging has become a part of my life. As a blogger, you put your words out there, not knowing who will read them. This part is a little scary. And most of the time, you have no idea how your words impact someone, but you continue to write. You trust that the words you have been given are meant to be shared with others for a reason. This is the life of a blogger.
Once in awhile, someone might share with you how your words have helped or encouraged them. These moments are gifts….little reminders that your words are making a difference. It’s because of these moments that I continue to write.
Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. As a child, I have fond memories of going with my parents and younger brother to the Christmas tree farm. We would brave the cold and snow in search of the “perfect” Christmas tree. Once we got the tree back to our house, we would turn on Christmas music and decorate the tree as a family. I always looked forward to the Christmas season, and I loved putting up the Christmas tree.
Now, putting up the Christmas tree is bittersweet. While I still love the Christmas season, the holidays are very different. I no longer live at home with my parents, and my closest family members are hundreds of miles away. I’ve always envisioned myself being married with kids, but that hasn’t happened yet. So, instead of cutting down a real tree and decorating it with family, I find myself putting up an artificial pre-lit tree and decorating it by myself.
It would be easier to skip putting up a Christmas tree, but each year I choose to continue to do it because my Christmas tree is full of memories. Some ornaments were given to me by friends or students, but most of the ornaments are the same ones that hung on our family Christmas tree when I was a child. They remind me of Christmases full of excitement, happiness, and fun. This part is also bittersweet, because now Christmas (and all holidays) are a mixture of joy and grief.
The first time I remember grief slipping into the holidays is when my mom was initially diagnosed with breast cancer. With each holiday, I remember thinking, “Will this be our last one together?” Presents became less important to me, as I started to focus more on being present with the people around me. All I wanted was more time with those I loved.
Nine years after her diagnosis, my family and I experienced our first Christmas without my mom. Grief didn’t just slip in that Christmas, it seemed heavy, like a thick blanket of snow. But, just as the Christmas lights glimmered in the night, moments of joy pierced through the darkness. Sometimes you just need a little bit of light to give you hope.
Today, I don’t feel weighed down by grief, but it still lingers. And I’ve learned that’s ok. In order to grieve, you first have to experience love, and I’m thankful to have had a mom who showed me love.
As I look upon my decorated Christmas tree, memories fill my mind. The memories may be bittersweet, but at least I still have the memories.
My eyes always gravitate towards the top of my tree, though. There, underneath the angel, are ornaments that remind me of my mom. Even though it’s hard not having her here, I know she’s with the angels, celebrating the birth of our Savior in heaven, while I celebrate His birth here on earth. Some day we will once again celebrate together. Thinking about that always brings me joy.
The past 8 weeks, I’ve gone through Jennie Allen’s study, Proven, with a group of women from my church. I always look forward to Women’s Bible Study. Not only do I enjoy getting to meet new women and hearing their stories, but God always uses these studies to reveal truth to me.
During the last week of our study, we read John 21. Simon Peter and the other disciples were out fishing all night and caught nothing. Their nets were empty.
I imagine their frustration, disappointment, exhaustion, and hunger. Then, a voice from the shore says, “Friends, haven’t you any fish? … Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” (John 21:5-6a)
Some was an understatement, as they caught 153 LARGE fish. Their nets were no longer empty but filled. They had an abundance.
This man on the shore turned out to be Jesus, and not only did He fill their nets, but He invited them to join Him for breakfast. I’ve heard this story many times before, but this last detail I previously overlooked. Now, I can’t help but focus on it.
Back in January, I wrote a blog called “The Need to Run.” I talked about how I’ve never enjoyed running, but sometimes, I run as a healthy way to cope with stress.
This past summer, a friend said she was starting a couch to 5K program using an app on her phone. I had no desire to run a 5K, but I did want to get in better shape, so I entertained the idea.
I found a couch to 5K app that had thousands of 5 star reviews. Several people commented that they never considered themselves a runner until they used this app. I remember reading one review that said, “This app can turn anyone into a runner.”
I thought, “If this app has helped thousands of people become runners, maybe there is hope for me.” I was up for the challenge, so I downloaded the app.
I'm an ordinary introvert who loves an extraordinary God.