Holiday Greetings Everyone!
It’s been at least a decade since I wrote, printed, folded, and sent out a New Year letter to friends and family. Tonight as I lie here on my couch staring at my Christmas tree, decorated only on the front side that people will see, I figured – it’s time.
Yeah, that’s right. I only decorated the front. See, I have only half the ornaments I used to have since I gave the kids the ones I’d collected for them over the years. So, if you come over, be sure to sit directly in front of the tree – not to the right, and not to the left. And also don’t laugh at the top. I know it’s bent over. I can’t reach the stupid thing. (And please don’t gift me with any ornaments – I’m in this “giving everything I own away” phase of life). Seriously! I have THREE EMPTY CLOSETS, and a toilet I have to remind myself to flush weekly!
Okay, okay… Back to the Christmas letter. Or New Year letter. Whatever.
It’s been the first year of my adult life that has not flown by. It has draggeddddd on and on and on and on……. and it has been one of the worse, yet one of the best….
I’m about to get real.
Let’s go all the way back to December 31. I broke an engagement. Yes, I loved him. No, he’s not a bad guy. People, people – sometimes, two decent people who care about each other can break up. A breakup doesn’t mean one is nice and the other one is a jerk. But if you must believe one is a jerk – please – it was me, okay? I just couldn’t do it.
January stunk. My heart ached for multiple reasons, and there were some relationships that needed to heal. Praise God, they have. And, they are sweeter than ever.
February I flew to Oklahoma in order to “run away” for a week alone. I figured being alone and serving at Voice of the Martyrs would be just what I needed. There, I met some really sweet women who I am most certain God brought into my life – for the rest of my life! Annette, Cheryl, and Nance. Annette and I had a riot giggling and driving around town, and she and Cheryl and I spent hours and hours and hours talking while we wrote out scripture verses on stationery – like THOUSANDS of times! Nance and I chased buffalo (well, sort of), and made it to Pawhuska, OK to see the Pioneer Woman’s Store, and we plan to do that again this March. Yup, I’m headed back again this March! An added bonus was running into Abdu Murray while down there, not only getting to hear him speak, but getting to fly home with him, and spend a couple of hours in the airport picking his brain and talking about all sorts of things! (God loves to give His kids gifts, just like we love to give our kids gifts!)
In March my heart still ached…… and ached.
In April, I ran away again. (Are you seeing a pattern here yet??) I spent my 55th birthday in Napa Valley with my long-time Army buddy Shelly. She and I checked off a big bucket list thingy and went up over Napa Valley in a hot air balloon. It was simply amazing. I’m not sure it could have been more perfect.
At the end of April I was finally beginning to come out of a “funk” I’d been in for six months or so. A funk, depression, cloud – whatever you wanna call it. And I still thank God for the woman at work who cornered me in the locker room when we were the last ones in there and said, “You! You are NOT okay, are you?!” (You know who you are, and I thank God for you every. single. day.)
In May my back went out when trying to help my mom get to the car so we could take her to the ER. That would be the beginning of my new baseline of back pain. They say getting old ain’t for sissies. This is true. And I’m a sissy.
I made it to Ian’s graduation from Moody Bible College in May, thank God. Did a lot of slow hobbling, drove all the way to Chicago with ice on my back, took taxi’s so I didn’t have to walk much, and got to see him graduate with honors alongside Rory, my brother-in-law Tom, and my friend Carrie.
In June I went to a conference in Indiana and visited friends Ruth and Sarah. Thankful for these two gems who are always quick to remind me that one should never drink coffee while eating tuna fish. Inside joke.
Over the summer, I tried attending every festival I’d never been to. If you’re at all curious – the lavender festival at Blake’s is a MUST! The rest of them were kind of boring. Oh, except for when my friend Diane and I decided to act like we were young again and get on a scary ride. Thank God I was on the outside of the ride, or my weight would have collapsed at least one of her lungs. I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed so hard at myself before. At one point I thought I might die (seriously), and when she yelled out, “Come Lord Jesus, come!” I was sure we just might laugh ourselves to death!
But here I am – still alive.
My friend Nishelle returned from Togo, Africa in June and came and stayed a few months with me. Having her for a “roomie” was like medicine for my soul. I don’t tell her that often enough. I love you, Nishelle.
In August, Owen Peter arrived, or “Owey” as Lyla calls him. He is a darling little guy, hardly ever cries – just looks at you and smiles. I still can’t believe I’m a Grandma. And do you know what the best part is? Watching them see things for the very first time. I’m pretty sure I was too busy just trying to survive to have noticed in quite the same way when mine were this young.
Oh wait! I’m not a Grandma. I’m a Gummy – that’s the name Lyla gave me 😉 I love, love, love my name 😉
Lyla turned 2 in November and she is my little pal in the kitchen. She loves to climb up on a chair and mix cookie dough or watch for bubbles in the pancakes when she comes over.
Rory is now selling real estate, and with his gift of gab – of course he’s doing really well at it. Ian landed a job at Willow Creek in Middle School Ministry in Chicago and loves, loves, loves it. Holly is a full time stay-at-home mom, also working in Children’s Ministry at her church and teaching English from home. I’m still plugging along at the hospital in the MICU, still writing monthly for the Thumb Print News, and still trying to figure out what more there is to this empty nesting life other than work, home, sleep, laundry, repeat…… But as my friend Mike just said in a text to me, “When you need to know, you will know.” And I do believe that. I really do.
I hope this letter wasn’t too sappy or perfect or phony sounding. I’m not perfect, my life isn’t perfect, and my family isn’t perfect. I’ve said a lot of things this year I’ve regretted. I’ve done things I wish I’d have done differently. Some relationships in our family continue to suffer and are very fragile. Others have grown sweeter over the past 11 months. I get discouraged too easily at times, worry too much what others think, and I often speak before I should. My house isn’t paid off, my cupboards are falling apart and my carpet needs a good cleaning. My car’s bumper is cracked and I have no intention of fixing it. I’m praying my 26-year-old furnace gets me through the winter and my AC lasts a while longer as well. I sit too much, don’t exercise enough. My cholesterol is too high and I gained 9 of my 33 lost pounds back. (Turns out, they weren’t very lost!) I haven’t saved enough for retirement – and if I don’t remind myself of how God provided for me in the past, I might start worrying! My back hurts, my knees ache, and flat on my back with a pillow under my knees is the only comfortable way to sleep.
But real life and its ailments, aches, and pains have a way of slowing you down. And do you know what happens when you slow down? You see things a little bit differently. Not perfectly – just differently. Life is sweeter. Even this tree is looking prettier to me right now, with it’s crooked top and only one side decorated. It’s all perspective 😉
It has been one of the worse, and yet – one of the best years I’ve ever had.
Ian will be home in a few weeks. We’ll celebrate he and Rory’s 25th and 27th birthdays. Gosh, seems like yesterday I was bringing Ian home from the hospital, and Rory was excited to meet his little brother. Another year behind me. And God willing, another in front of me. 2019 – Bring it on!
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!