Thursday, December 22, 2016

What I've Learned: 2016 Edition

As 2016 wraps up, I've been reflecting on what this year has held. And what it has taught me.

In no particular order of importance or intensity...

1. My favorite books are funny books. Every time. Hands down.

I listen to the What Should I Read Next podcast. In each episode the guests tell the host three books they love and one book they hate. Most of the guests pick three books they've loved recently. Personally, I'd have to do two categories of loves...fiction and nonfiction. (oh, and maybe a third category...that of favorite series.)

My 3 favorite books of all time, are humorous books. They make me laugh out loud. Literally. Every single time.

Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade by Patrick Dennis. I actually read this one twice, having forgotten that I read it the first time. But, I read the summary flap in the library that second time, and thought, this sounds funny. So I checked it out, and made it into the second chapter or so, when I realized I'd already read it. But, it is hilarious, and was very worth a second reading.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Definitely more subtle, nuanced and snarky humor, but still very funny.

And my newest favorite, but sure to be a favorite forever...

The 100 Year Old Many Who Climbed out of a Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. When I was reading this last month, I kept laughing out loud. And then my husband wanted me to tell him what was so funny. And I had to summarize the back story to make the funny part make sense. The Bible part takes the cake. And now you have to read it to find out what I mean.

And, in case you were wondering about the book(s) I hate, (hate is a strong about greatly dislike...) I have not enjoyed a single currently popular book that has the word GIRL(s) in the title. I don't know what it is, but I have had to quit all the girls...including Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, The Girls, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I'm sure there is a reason, but none of these have been my jam.

2. Priorities matter. I feel like I've always known the importance of priorities, but I've not lived the importance of priorities as much until this year. Frankly, my two words for the year could be blessed and priorities.

In a session with our marriage counselor this spring, he reminded us of what our priorities are.

Church, Employment, Ministry, Extended family

Knowing the order of priority in your life is very important. A proper priority paradigm is very clarifying. It has given us freedom from the weight of things we are going through. We evaluate activities and opportunities based on this filter. How does this activity or opportunity sift through the filter of our priorities? How are we able to glorify God today as we fit things into these priorities?

The crux about priorities is that they are intensely personal. Most people have a similar line up of priorities. But, my personal priorities, i.e. my husband and my kids, are not your priorities. And people don't like when your priorities come into conflict with their priorities for you, or simply their own personal priorities. It sometimes causes friction.

But, the freedom comes from (extending grace and) knowing that I am accountable to God (and my husband) not to man. I have to do my best in these circumstances, using the brains God has given me, and leave the rest to Him. 

I don't feel like we've done way less this year, but what we have done has been way less stressful or guilt motivated. Even things like my daughter's health over going to church (on occasion). It's a no brainer, though it used to be something I would really struggle with. Through the filter of priorities, it becomes crystal clear that God gave me my children to care for, and sometimes that looks like saying no to gatherings (in this cancer/immune compromised season of life) where germs are a-flowing.

3. Cancer sucks. I'll just put that out there. We've learned that first hand this year. It sucks in my 5 year old daughter's battle with retinoblastoma. It sucks as my BFF's mom's fight against breast cancer. It sucks in each of the lives it touches. There are lasting effects. I'm so very thankful that not all the effects are negative. We've met so many good people on this journey. We've been surrounded by our own tribe. Unbelievable.

4. Memories and relationships trump possessions. Every time.

This year we have put a priority on relationships. Relationships with our parents, and siblings, and friends. We've made memories. We've laughed and cried together. People are what has made 2016 a year to be remembered. The trials and their memory will gradually fade in intensity as we move past them. The relationships and memories will still be strong.

I've also been thinking about this possessions thing in another light.  Meres goes to the hospital, she comes home with "junk". Every.single.time. Toys, stuffed animals, crafts. You name it, she's probably brought it home from the hospital. For a minimalist, this is insanity inducing. Trust me. But, I'm learning to be gracious and to remember the thought behind the gift. Because the giver (and the relationship) trumps the gift, and how I feel about it.

(Which is not to say that we don't do major purging over here on a regular basis...but I can allow the gift, and enjoy it, and then we can eventually let things go as needed.)

5. Sometimes you just have to let go. And let God. (it may sound trite, but that makes it no less true)

About so many things. But even about relationships. And this has been a hard one to learn. I can't change hearts. I want peace and harmony. I can't control people. The only thing I can control is my own heart, my own actions, my own motives and attitudes. That I have the ability to change. The rest is God's wheel house. And sometimes, even though it feels like my heart is being ripped out, I just need to step back, and let something be. And allow God to do His greater work that maybe I can't see.

6. Prayer is the battlefield. 

Brian and I were convicted to start prayer walking this fall. Generally 3-4 times a week, we head out our door, walk, and pray. We pray for our family and friends and situations that are small and situations that have us baffled. 

It has been so good for us.

We've come to realize that a 2-3 mile walk that takes 30-50 minutes, is no where near long enough to cover the things that are weighing down our hearts. We barely cover the tip of the iceberg. 

It is evident that prayer changes things. My heart is changed. It is softened. Problems are worked out. Our year has been filled with answers to prayer.

But, also, prayer is not without opposition. Some things we've prayed about have not gotten better. If anything, they may have gotten worse. Why? Because God is working, and Satan is fighting back. He doesn't want his control over people to be broken. He is happiest when people are in bondage to sin, and bitterness, and guilt, and shame. When people are going to hell.

So, we keep praying. Sometimes we cry as we plead with God in desperation. We pray Scripture. We do battle for souls. And we trust that God is sovereign. That God loves people even more than we do. That Jesus died for people to live abundantly. We pray.

7. High school is scary. Or rather, homeschooling a high school student is scary. (moving on from a rather intense point #6...)

Wow! I was home schooled, as was my husband, and we turned out (relatively) okay. I've been home schooling my own kids for 10 years now. But, let me tell you, I was feeling rather intimidated, as we embarked on this school year with a freshman in high school. 

It all of a sudden became real. Like, I could really screw these poor kids up. 

But, we've settled in to a groove. And while high school is intense, it also isn't our first rodeo. Thankfully knowledge tends to be cumulative, and skills upon skills are piling up. I am proud of the progress I am seeing in all my kids this school year. Meres learning her letters, and then the sounds, and now some word families. We are moving right on our way towards reading. And LC becoming a better and better writer. Articulating her thoughts in a very good way. And Freckles branching out into creative writing, and learning about color and depth. And thriving in our studies of Ancient Rome. He is loving the reading list this year, and has breezed through extra books in addition to the assigned ones. I am so proud of how he is flourishing as he studies topics he is interested in.

And BMV. The high schooler. He is building on his foundation of knowledge. He is progressing in Biology, and Spanish, and Algebra, and writing. His writing has really improved this year. It was always good, but with the goal of getting better and better. And it has. His past two book reviews for his reading list books have been phenomenal! I am so proud of him too.

So, what I've learned is to continue in my goal of equipping with skills, and it does pay off. Which is quite affirming. I'm mean, I still have time to permanently mess them all up, but, the likelihood (at least scholastically) gets less and less, with each year that passes.

Big sigh...

8. I love ... and ( ) and -. They help me articulate without articulating.

9. There is much more to eye color than blue, green, or brown. Take it from someone whose daughter now has a glass eye.

The variation in eye color from person to person is unbelievable. There are hundreds of shades of blue and green. And even after the ocularist starts with the color match that is closest to the shade you have, they still add color striations and such to your prosthetic to match your unique coloring. It is amazing. Meres' blue eyes are actually very grey, with just a tinge of blue. She gets that from her dad. My eyes are a green blue. 

10. I've learned this year, that there is so much I still have to learn. Oh, to never stop learning! To cultivate my own growth mind set. To be better, and hopefully more Christ-like, with each day and year that passes.

Here's to 2017...