I found these written by Tsh (of Simple Mom fame), over at (in)Courage today, and decided that it would be a good thing for me to sit down and reflect for a little while on this past calendar year. I haven’t read these ahead of time, I just copied and pasted them here, and will be answering them with whatever comes to mind immediately. I’ll be praying on both the questions and the answers as the New Year opens tomorrow.
1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?
I would have to say the single best thing that happened this year was the birth of my niece, Tischel. (a.k.a. “Sassafrass”) Her bright, bubbly little half-dimple has lit up our life with new colors ever since the second of June. I couldn’t be more grateful to be so intimately involved in her new, precious life.
2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?
The single most challenging thing that has happened this year is not really an event. It is more of an ongoing struggle. Handling all the difficult circumstances currently surrounding our family – from Dad’s cancer diagnosis to my in-laws house hunt, and so much more in between – I am swamped. Utterly. I am dealing with more than I can possibly handle on my own. Thank God for…well…GOD.
3. What was an unexpected joy this past year?
Hands-down, getting the news from Sabrina and Stewy that they have orders for Colorado Springs! With all my best friends scattered all over the world, it’s so wonderful to finally be able to look forward to one of them moving here!
4. What was an unexpected obstacle?
My emotions. They get in the way of what’s real and true more often than not, but praise God I am getting freer by the day! Not emotion-free, but free to accept and feel emotions without letting them dictate my choices. I’m not Miss Perfect, by any means, but I can honestly say I’ve grown.
5. Pick three words to describe 2010.
Change. Tragedy. Victory.
6. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe your 2010 (don’t ask them; guess based on how you think your spouse sees you).
Chaotic. Crying. Confusing.
7. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe their 2010 (again, without asking).
Change. Challenging. Choices. (Totally did NOT intend all that alliteration.)
8. What were the best books you read this year?
Contact, by Carl Sagan.
Moby Dick, by Herman Melville.
The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis. (I chose only books I read for the first time ever.)
9. With whom were your most valuable relationships?
Levi, by far. No one else comes close! He is a solid place in my life.
My children – in no other year have I realized quite this much how very vital it is to build a good relationship with my kids. I think it’s because they’re older now, and their needs go so far beyond the very physical nature of a baby’s needs. A good relationship with them goes hand-in-hand with teaching and training them. My teaching and training will only be minimally effective if my relationship with my kids is not based on love, respect, and trust – founded on Truth. I’m working harder than ever to earn their respect and trust instead of demanding it arbitrarily.
My parents count easily among the my most valuable relationships. This relationship grows more valuable with everyday that goes by.
I have a very small circle of best friends – only one of whom lives in this state. I could not have grown the way I did this past year without their encouragement. Tiffany, Kim, Sabrina, Erica, Sara V, Sara R, Julia, and Cari. I love you.
10. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?
My biggest personal change? I have been freed, by God, from my overwhelming, guilt-inducing, burdening sense of responsibility for everyone around me and their choices. The sense of utter helplessness in the face of those perceived responsibilities was crippling. Then, I finally listened to God, went to some dear friends for prayer counseling, and in that one night, the chains were broken. I no longer lay awake with worry about the poor decisions others might or might not be making. I no longer feel like a camel with so much straw on its back, that one more will break me. I’m free indeed.
11. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?
I’ve learned that it is completely acceptable to allow myself to thoroughly feel and accept my emotions as normal and healthy things that we all deal with, while not letting them rule my decision-making. I have grown in that I am able to wait until my emotions settle a little before I make important choices, and that when I do that, I make better ones.
12. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?
I’ve learned to let the Holy Spirit be the Holy Spirit. He’s perfectly capable of convicting, teaching, guiding, leading, and causing growth in the hearts of His own without my help, thankyouverymuch.
I’ve learned to recognize better what pride, bitterness, and resentment look like, and to cut them off at the pass by taking every thought captive to Jesus.
I’ve learned the meaning of surrender. I can’t explain the “step-by-step” process, because there is none. Even the ability to surrender does not lie within me – it’s a work of the Holy Spirit. And it does, indeed, work. Surrender is a wonderfully freeing place to be. I don’t plan on leaving this town ever.
13. In what way(s) did you grow physically?
I have decided, on my own, that it’s time to lose some weight and become healthy – for myself, not for my looks. I have hit roadblocks with exercise, but I’m incredibly motivated and looking for ways to go around those. I have lost a total of six pounds through the holiday season through diet alone, and I am happy to say I only gained one pound during Thanksgiving week. Now that I know, beyond doubt, that I can do it by myself, for myself, I look forward to gaining momentum, and achieving my goal of losing a total of 30 pounds by my 30th birthday in June. I only have 24 to go!
(This is also the first time I’ve made this public. Not even my Mom knew I had started this. I guess it was just time to say it.)
14. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?
I’ve learned that I have the reputation of being an encourager, and I have tapped into that, and worked to be better at the role I really believe God has given me. This quote sums it up, I think:
“I’d like to add some beauty to life,” said Anne dreamily. “I don’t exactly want to make people KNOW more… though I know that IS the noblest ambition… but I’d love to make them have a pleasanter time because of me… to have some little joy or happy thought that would never have existed if I hadn’t been born.” ~Anne Shirley
And it is in this area in my relationships where I think I have grown the most this year.
15. What was the most enjoyable part of your work (both professionally and at home)?
AT HOME: The most enjoyable part has been homeschooling. Yes, it’s hard to stay consistent, and make sure everything’s covered, but I really really enjoy playing teacher. The actual time we’re sitting together is just special. I enjoy it so much – even when it’s hard. Don’t ask me why. I think it’s because I’m a weirdo.
AT WORK: My most enjoyable moments in my work as a doula come when I find out that a mother barely remembers my being in the room. In the moments following birth, when she says to all in hearing distance “I DID IT!!!” When I see the birth of a father as awe, respect, and love flood a man’s eyes. As a childbirth educator, I love the “Aha!” moments. The moments I can see gears turning, light bulbs going on, and a new assertiveness in the eyes of women empowering themselves with knowledge and confidence.
16. What was the most challenging part of your work (both professionally and at home)?
AT HOME: What isn’t challenging? Even the enjoyable parts of being a SAHM are challenging beyond belief! One misstep, and you feel as though you just might ruin your child for life. One day getting behind in housework is enough to induce crippling guilt for not keeping up with Martha Stewart standards. It’s tough. It’s 24/7. If you want to do a good job at it, anyway.
AT WORK: For me, the most challenging part is teaching clients and students about hospital protocols, interventions, and self-advocacy. I have never had to deal with those as a mother, and sometimes I used to worry that this fact would interfere with my ability to achieve the goal of giving objective, current, evidence-based information. While I no longer worry about it, I still prepare that information carefully, and I make it a point to disclose my own background and possible biases to my students and clients, so they know exactly where I’m coming from.
It’s also challenging to present evidence-based, but controversial, opinions I have on child-rearing, breastfeeding, and other issues that tend to get volatile. Handling criticism regarding these things is always a challenge for me, as I tend to take it personally, when I shouldn’t.
17. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?
Ha! That’s easy. Facebook. Followed closely by leisure reading.
18. What was the best way you used your time this past year?
I have realized that, aside from the obvious things, writing regularly has helped me tremendously. It does so much for me to be able to throw my words out into cyberspace, and maybe bless or encourage someone I might not have otherwise. Not to mention it helps me see myself more accurately. That is always a good, and humbling, thing.
19. What was biggest thing you learned this past year?
The biggest thing I learned? That God does give us things we cannot handle on our own. If He didn’t, we wouldn’t need Him, would we? I’ve learned that God will allow impossible situations, just so we can see Him blow impossibility out of the water by His love and power.
20. Create a phrase or statement that describes 2010 for you.
How about a haiku instead?
an incredible journey
of challenge and growth.
The only edits I attempted were grammatical in nature. This all came directly from the first thoughts I had after reading each question. I have a lot of food for thought as the New Year begins, and it was kind of nice to see that I’m not quite the same Tiffany I was in January of 2010. Knowing that I can, indeed, change, encourages me.
Happy New Year to you! May 2011 hold joy, peace, new challenge, and new growth for you and yours!
What are you looking back on with thankfulness in 2010? What do you most look forward to in 2011?