2018 wasn’t my favorite year.
If I had to pick one picture that summed up the feelings of this year, it would be this one.
The events leading to this moment are complicated and cannot be contained in a single post. It involves the grief that follows a devastating loss of faith in a God I’ve always relied on. It involves an unexpected repair bill in excess of $50,000. Neither of which I was adequately prepared to face.
I entered 2018 with a heavy heart and crushing debt load.
It is in these times of life that you must roll up your sleeves and go to work and dig your way out and find your new community and figure out a plan.
But I didn’t.
I found myself paralyzed by the enormity of the task at hand and grief-stricken by the loss of my faith and community.
My year went like this:
In January I finished a remodel project in Idaho involving months of dirt, dust, steel beams and brand new electrical. Our hard work paid off, and we opened a beautiful escape room.
February we hired employees and packed up and returned home to Oregon.
I spent most of March lying on the couch utterly exhausted.
April I tried again…to eat healthy and workout and do what I could to improve my situation.
May seemed hopeful.
June was full of company.
And this picture is from July.
While one son returned to Idaho to run our escape room for the summer and the other son threw himself into online classes and a job, I lay in my bed… sometimes too tired to get up…sometimes curled in the fetal position shaking with anxiety…knowing there was no way to get myself out of this big fat giant mess I had created for myself.
All of this was made exponentially worse because I had lost my one ace in the hole…the one thing that I had always relied on. My faith.
I no longer believed that God would help me. I didn’t even know if there was a God. And if there was a God, I was sure I’d used up all my grace cards.
I was on my own.
During this dark month of July, I found myself consumed with the ideas that
“My best years have passed.”
“I have nothing left to give.”
And in the lowest of moments:
“The world would be better off without me.”
That was when I reached over to my phone and snapped this picture. The day I thought I had nothing left to give and the world would be better off without me.
I would have described my soul as being totally empty if it were not for the despair that filled every part of me.
Now, I feel like I need a disclaimer here.
I am strong and capable. I do hard things regularly.
I have a great track record of overcoming challenges and being victorious.
And yet, I found myself captive to the sneaky lies that we tell ourselves when things aren’t going so well.
I found myself believing the pernicious lie that there was no way out and things were hopeless.
I found myself believing that the world would truly be better off without my pathetic, ill-planned, scatterbrained, far-fetched ideas.
It was during this time of darkness and paralysis that I practiced doing ‘the next thing.’
The big picture felt too exhausting. And it felt too hard to make a plan.
But I could do one thing.
The next thing.
I found that one small step created motion. And motion, even in the wrong direction, is better than paralysis any day of the week.
I did eventually roll up my sleeves, cling to an idea and go to work.
I went on to fail two more times this year. And when I thought my situation couldn’t get worse, it did.
I worked my guts out during August and September only to be met with failed projects.
October arrived, and I sent my boys off to school in the morning, then climbed back in bed until they arrived home in the afternoon.
I felt dead inside.
This went on for several weeks until one night I could no longer handle being around myself.
I sat in bed with a blank notebook.
I made a plan.
I needed to fast. I needed to clear my mind and my body of all the things that weighed me down. I needed to think clearly.
I put my phone away with a promise not to pick it back up again until I had a plan.
I spent the next few days with just me and a notebook. It was hard to write at first, but I wrote ‘the next thing.’
I made lists…what I would need to do to get healthy…what I would love to do if money wasn’t a concern…what good things I had done in the past…what good things I still wanted to do… I needed to know what would make my soul come alive again.
It was just a few days in of technology-free desperate soul searching that I had a breakthrough.
I sat down and wrote a list of 50 things that I would love to do. Fifty things that would light my soul on fire if I could create them. I gave myself permission to dismiss practicality. I gave myself permission to set down the weight of the world for a few moments and just dream. And as I wrote, an old friend showed up.
Joy. I hadn’t felt joy in so long, but as I wrote that list of fifty things that I would love to try, joy filled my heart, and I felt excited and delighted about the idea of a new of season in life.
That was nearly two months ago. I have spent two months with spring in my step and joy in my heart. Every single day I feel thankful for one more good day. They are precious to me currently. Not to be taken and enjoyed without gratitude.
In just a few days I was able to carefully set down the weight of grief and loss I’ve carried for the last few years and find in me the beautiful gift of hope.
My soul has been resurrected with new life and hope has been restored to my situation. I have faith that there is life after loss and hope after heartache.
I have the will to try again.
And that’s where I am as 2018 ends.
Over the weekend I ran into a neighbor of mine at Fred Meyer. In our brief encounter, she gave me a gift. She thanked me for showing up to the world in this way with my whole self.
That’s what I want to do.
I want to show up to the world as my whole self in 2019.
See, I was wrong in July. I DO have something left to offer. I have a heart full of compassion and a desire to lift the saggy shoulders of those in despair. I have a desire to share the beauty of life every single day.
I have a long road ahead of me. I have details to work out and problems to solve, but I have the indescribable gift of hope planted freshly in my heart.
And the unquenchable desire to try again this year.
Here’s to a better 2019!