The hardest, most exhausting, most challenging, most soul-searching, most honest, most excruciating, scariest, most shocking, busiest, most faith-filled, longest, quickest, most painful, most tear-filled, loneliest, strongest year of my entire life.
The worst year of my entire life.
Which is hard to admit, because I have three incredible children who brought me so much joy and happiness and determination and courage throughout the year.
But, it was.
2017 was the worst year of my life.
It was filled with fear and it was filled with courage. It was filled with doubt and it was filled with faith. It was filled with despair and it was filled with hope...
"Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come." Anne Lamott
"Hope is that thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops... at all." Emily Dickinson
"Some see a hopeless end, while others see an endless hope..."
I wrestled with whether or not to write my usual HIGHLIGHTS OF THE YEAR post, yet here I am.
I scoured through pictures, so many pictures - some joyful, some painful - to find one(ish) to represent each month of 2017. And while I have to admit that I am so incredibly happy to say SEE YA LATER to this year, I do want to take a quick minute to reflect on each month and what it gave me...
We know I like to keep it real. And... January was sh*tty. So, this is the perfect picture to sum up a crappy month, which kicked off a crappy year.
One of my favorite pictures of these three, and this picture is perfect for the month of L-O-V-E, because they made me step out in love throughout this entire month.
My three little people in one of my most favorite spots and LOOK AT GOD shining down on us. <3
This was the picture for April, because we took a much-needed trip out of town for spring break, and saw my family, and introduced Brooks to the beach, and this picture just sums up the three of them so very, very much.
Oh, this woman. She has been my guiding light throughout this year, and the kids and I found refuge and joy and hope and strength inside of my parents' home and within her presence. I hope I can be half the woman she is when I grow up.
We jumped into summer like THIS!
So, I break the rules here and I have to include three pictures of my three favorite people in our most favorite place on our most favorite annual trip --
A big month for my girl and me... she started KINDERGARTEN, and I went back to a j-o-b that I l-o-v-e. And the fact that I teach in her school? Perfection.
Oh this caboose of mine. September was a rollercoaster of a month for so many reasons. I couldn't believe this little boy turned ONE, and I struggled with feeling guilty over the fact that the first year of his life was stamped with so many awful memories. BUT. This picture right here -- this is Brooks. He is happiness. He is yellow. God gave me a baby when I was supposed to be infertile, and then God gave that baby the most joyful spirit -- I now know that it was all so very intentional. I am forever grateful for this little boy, who gave me purpose on days when it was physically painful to pull the covers off of myself and get out of bed...
A candid picture snapped by my most favorite local photographer in the middle of our photoshoot, and a picture that sums up a month in which the four of us were crying and clawing and laughing and praying and working our way toward finding our new normal...
Moxie! Of course. I still cannot believe that I, an admittedly cat-disliking person, have a cat (who is currently sleeping halfway across my lap and the keyboard as I type). I am still not a cat-person, but this little furball was exactly what we needed.
Breaking the rules again, because this last (HALLELUJAH!) month of 2017 was a month of unexpected, perfectly-timed snow and a month of holiday highs and lows, in which I both succeeded and failed in fighting to find and choose and focus on joy...
For the rest of my life, whatever path it takes, wherever God leads me, I will look back on this year with so many mixed emotions.
It was a year of so much pain.
But, it was also a year of growth. And I made it.
I made it through each day.
I made it through each hour, each minute. And there was a time when each minute was, honest to God, physically excruciating.
Also? I made it because of family and friends, both near and far... people who - some anonymously - provided and supported and loved and prayed and just kept showing up. You know who you are, and you will always be a part of the reason why I survived a year that brought more challenges than I ever could have imagined. The words 'thank you' are not sufficient, but please know that as I continue to find my balance on two very scared, wobbly, unsettled feet, I will take all of your graciousness and generosity and unconditional love, and I will find a way to pay it forward.
Now that 2017 comes to a close, I don't know if I am a better me... but I am certainly a different me. And that is a me I am proud of... a me that is authentic and transparent and honest and loyal and genuine and real and strong and brave.
I started the year with a new baby, a two-year-old, and a five-year-old -- and these three incredible children will never, ever know just how much they allowed me to find joy throughout a year that, at times, felt hopeless and impossible. My three tiny humans grew into a one-year-old, a three-year-old, and a six-year-old -- and they changed and matured and learned so much... yet in their growth, they taught me...
They taught me more than they will ever know.
One day, I will be able to explain it all to them, I will be able to help them understand...
But for now, I thank God that he gave me them while they are here, on earth, and I promise to do everything I can to ease their pain, to expand their joy, to heal their hurts, to mend their brokenness, and to open their hearts to understand that trials can bring growth, trials can bring determination, and trials can bring a strength you never knew you had...
"Life is amazing. And then it's awful. And then it's amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful, it's ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That's just living, heart-breaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it's breathtakingly beautiful." L.R. Knost
2018... I'm ready. I'm ready to continue holding on and enduring through the awful, and I know I am strong enough to do so. I'm happy to appreciate and exhale during the ordinary, because I know just how beautiful the ordinary can be.
And mostly? I cannot wait to breathe in the amazing, because I have a feeling the word amazing is about to take on a whole new meaning... <3