Last sunrise of 2013. Whew...so thankful.
2013 and I did not get along as well as was hoped for. Just like sometimes after a fight we agreed to disagree. Along with some really fun and happy moments, it was challenging, stressful, at times depressing, and just downright hard. It easily could have defeated me. Some days I felt strong, resilient, tough enough to handle what came across the path, the desk, emails or phone. Then there were days when all I wanted to do was crawl back under a blanket, pull it up over my head and tell the day I wasn't having any of it.
As always, there are a few takeaways from this year. In no particular order, here's what I've observed:
- Health is important. Gah! Really? For a large portion of this year, I was dealing with an undiagnosed problem, even after 5 doctors. One very smart Doctor did help me uncover an auto-immune issue that is going on and recommended that I go on a specific eating plan. She said it would help relieve the inflammation in my system and maybe I would find out what was causing other problems. So I bought the book, The Virgin Diet, (don't go there, lol) and read it through in about one sitting. It was written by a Dr. JJ Virgin. Sure enough, everything that I had been dealing with was caused by food sensitivities. Gluten, corn, soy, dairy, eggs, sugar, and peanuts were all culprits. Some reviews stated that she was just another self-made diet guru marketing her ideas just to make money. But there is truth to the fact that foods cause irritation and inflammation in our system. I did the 21 day test and know for sure. Eliminating those foods calmed my system down, gave me more energy and the symptoms I had been dealing with for a year were gone. I've tried to add some of the foods back, and the problems return. So, it really is unfortunate that many foods now have to be avoided. I said avoided because on occasion, I indulge, then deal with it. What I've noticed is that the symptoms don't last very long, since for the most part, these foods are now off the menu.
- Love Wins. One of the books Michael and I read together this year was Love Wins, by Rob Bell. I love his rational, though at times unconventional and controversial thinking. My opinion is that if you read his books or watch his videos and walk away offended or threatened by his content, rather than have a really great conversation about it afterwards, you need to grow up. As a Christian, I do have a strong sense of values, morals, truth and the Bible. But I also believe that good healthy conversation is energizing for the soul and the mind, whether it turns into a debate or scholarly dialogue, or not. I love when my thinking is challenged, even though my first reaction in most cases is to defend my ideas. Who wouldn't? But I've learned to listen and be better at understanding others, rather than trying to elevate my ideas as if they were the only ones that mattered. Anyway, this quote (forgive the length) sums up where I think the Love Wins concept shines brightest:
“As we experience this love, there is a temptation at times to become hostile to our earlier understandings, feeling embarrassed that we were so "simple" or "naïve," or "brainwashed" or whatever terms arise when we haven't come to terms with our own story. These past understandings aren't to be denied or dismissed; they're to be embraced. Those experiences belong. Love demands that they belong. That's where we were at that point in our life and God met us there. Those moments were necessary for us to arrive here, at this place at this time, as we are. Love frees us to embrace all of our history, the history in which all things are being made new.”
Those moments, all the moments of our past, were necessary for us to arrive here, at this place, at this time, as we are. This statement frees my soul and allows me to give myself permission to take another step, and another, and another away from my past. This year, for some reason, it kept haunting me. And I didn't always end up standing when it was over. But I found that falling down gave me time to rest. I didn't always have to bounce right back up and act like nothing happened. I'm always amazed at how sports figures, whether it's baseball, football, hockey, can get knocked down and the next second they are back on their feet. Real life just isn't like that. I've accepted that getting knocked down is life's way of saying "just sit down and shut up." Not in a bad way, but in a way that means I don't have to do it all, I don't have to feel good about everything, I'm not going to come face to face with trials and not go unscathed.
During one particularly difficult episode, I wrote about the space I found myself (and I'm not one to write about dark places):
"The stress of life has done me in. From the depths I sit there's only to begin again. As out of the darkness does emerge, one who's heart has been removed. No pulse, no life but only stillness in the soul. Just be. For as long as time is short. The distant future slingshots us into itself hoping we can catch something to hold onto. For then and now are two places we'd rather not go, the farthest space that echoes light is calling, giving reason a chance to live."
I was afraid. And the only realization I could come to was that being is all that mattered and that at our darkest moments, in the middle of our being, God is there. Gentle. Peaceful. Loving. I also realized it's ok to sit with your wounds until they heal. I'm stronger if I do. I learn what can be avoided, how I can respond differently and how I can dig so deep in my heart to areas I never knew existed, to find forgiveness for those who I've allowed to hurt me. Then I forgive myself. Again. I refuse to allow my past to define me, even though others keep doing so. So, I'm thankful that each new day is a new day.
- There is something greater than ourselves, and we're supposed to learn what that is. This sentence is short, but the journey to that place can take for-ever. Maybe you know what that is already, maybe you're still searching, or maybe you've never heard this before. Lucky you. Sometimes I wonder if it has become my nemesis. Quickly rejecting that thought, I dive into a book called More or Less by Jeff Shinabarger. Whoa. Eye Opener. Maybe I'm looking too hard or too far for my life's work. It's most likely closer and more real than I've imagined. Just because it won't become the next reality show, doesn't mean it isn't important or worthy or valuable. More or Less is about simplifying, drawing the line at excess and providing for others from what is beyond our needs. Simple. Scary. Life changing.
- Tomorrow's sunrise will look very much like this one and so will the other 364 days of the year. Sometimes clouds will obstruct the view, but the sun will always do it's thing. Even though I've taken hundreds of photos of the sunset or sunrise, they all seem unique and special. In most of my photos, I can tell you circumstances surrounding the need to take yet another picture of the same old thing. The newness of the day, or the change in circumstances, my surroundings or companionship, always creates a new frame for that same beautiful cosmic show called sunrise or sunset. The earth is here, the sun is there, it's going to always move the same. It's what is between my view of earth and my view of the sunrise that changes, making the day worth getting up for, worth being thankful for.
- Music is medicine. Just barely skimming under the last days of 2013, I came across something new, fresh and energy creating. It's called The New Liturgy. Here's what they say about their collection: "A New Liturgy is our attempt to create holy space wherever we find ourselves. A moveable, sonic sanctuary." From the opening notes, I was captivated. Music has always had an impression on my life. This is no different. In fact, if I allow myself to be in the moment while listening to it, I feel it wash over me like a blanket of warmth, spirit, and love. It blesses. There are plenty of moments in a day or a week where I need to recalibrate. This will help. And I like it so much that I'm willing to give away a set to one unsuspecting reader. Just leave a comment either on the blog or the Facebook post, sharing what your year was like, something you've learned, or what you are looking forward to for 2014. A winner will be chosen at random. Then you, too, can create space in your life, especially if it's crazy, chaotic, running off in a ditch, or filled with stuff you didn't plan, and taking away your last ounce of energy. You will be blessed.
Happy New Year.