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Last years, if you’re so inclined.

Initial Summary:

Where were you when 2012 began?
At Uncle Scott and Aunt Tina’s house.  Benjamin stayed up almost to midnight and LOVED the fireworks.  He kept calling them BOOM.

Who were you with?
Justin, Benjamin, Tina, Scott, Serena, Logan and Mandy.  We had a LOT of fun!

Was 2012 a good year for you?
Mostly. It was a pretty insane year – LOTS of changes – LOTS of projects – LOTS of weddings – Did I mention lots of changes? Yeah. BUSY.

What countries/states did you visit?
California to see my sisters and best friend get married, and Mississippi to visit some of Justin’s family.

Did you keep your new years’ resolutions?
YES! I am SMOKE FREE! Yee-haw!!! But, I’m not really sure I did very well with living a life of balance. This year was really, really crazy.

Did anyone close to you give birth?
Jake and Reba had their baby Feb 14th, 2012!  No one else super close to me, but there’s some friends I have made at church with young ones, but the babies were born before I met the parents, so I’m not counting those.

Did anyone close to you die?
For the first time in a long time, no deaths of anyone close to me.

What date from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Hm, Teresa and James got married March 3rd, and Amy and Keith got married May 5th, so I think those days will be remembered fondly each year.

Experiences:

What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?
Matron of honor (x2!), flew with a 2 year old, become an instructor, taught an 8 hour class, served as a vice-chair on a committee, attended my first “gala”, received my first real promotion, became a supervisor, ran a food truck at a charity event, stood by my husband while he quit a job he had grown to be dissatisfied with, and most recently I sat on the couch while someone I love very, very dearly told me they had been diagnosed with cancer. 

Did you have fun in 2012?
Yes. Definitely. I also spent most of it exceptionally tired.

What do you wish you’d done more of?
I wish I had trusted God more with my money. I’ve stressed out unnecessarily.  No, things aren’t perfect, but they’re not terrible either.

What do you wish you’d done less of?
Eating unnecessarily! 🙂

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 28, and I worked, and my birthday this year sucked pretty royally.  My coworker was irritated at me, which made me irritated at her.  The only upside was that my husband bought me a really awesome old desk. 

What did you want and get?
To find Cherry Lake!!!

What did you want and not get?
To put some work into my savings account. Life happens though.

Others:

Whose behavior merited celebration?
Two people come to mind.  My husband, for being my rock, my motivator, and my calm in the storm.  My husband, also, for having the strength to quit his job and step out in faith to be the best stay-at-home-dad that Benjamin could have.

This year I’d like to add my mother-in-law, who is an incredibly strong woman who is dealing with a cancer diagnosis with grace and trust in God.

Whose behavior made you appalled, depressed, or sad?
I’m usually very non-specific here.  However, I’ve witnessed so many people recently be so ugly and judgmental in a negative way. I’m still not getting specific, on purpose. Can we just agree to love and respect each other despite our differences? Respect means the most when it’s towards someone you disagree with. Anyone can love someone who agrees with you. It takes real strength to love – truly love – someone who vehemently disagrees with you.

Did somebody treat you badly in 2012?
Not really.

Who were some new people you met?
New coworkers, new church people. 

Favorites/Least Favorites:

What was your favorite month of 2012?
May. My trip to California took up half of that month and it was pure awesomeness.

What was your favorite moment of the year?
Again, as usual, several:
Toasting James and Teresa at their wedding. I cried, but only a little.
Toasting Amy and Keith at their wedding. I cried, again.
Finding Cherry Lake with my sister Jean. That priceless moment when she screamed out the window of her car in excitement.
Finishing up my first SAFVIC for TCPs class. It was pretty amazing.
The look of relief on my husband’s face when we finally decided it was time for him to quit his job.
Getting the phone call with my promotion job offer.
Any of the number of times my son squeezed me and told me he loved me soooo much!

What was your least favorite moment of the year?
Listening to one of my officers call for assistance.  It was a recording, and I already knew the outcome when I heard it (that they were all OK), but listening to it gave me goosebumps and shook me to my boots. I love these guys, especially the ones in that recording, and hearing it made me realize how close I came to losing one of them. 

What was your favorite TV program?
I worked my way through Monk this year, and I have to say, it was awesome. I totally loved it! Very well acted and scripted.  Got a little boring at parts, but not too bad overall.  I tried working through the Mentalist next, and while it’s good it wasn’t able to hold my attention in the long run. Now I’m happily watching Dr. Who reruns, when I get the chance.

What was the best book you read?
I reread the Hobbit and that was pretty awesome.  I read several training books at work and enjoyed those, but other than work related stuff and blogs I haven’t really had a chance to read anything. 

What were your favorite films of this year?
The Avengers and The Hobbit, and yes, I know how nerdy I am.

 What was your favorite video game you played this year?
Borderlands 2. I really like Tiny Farm too (I play it on my phone) but Borderlands 2 is the game I play with my hubby, so it wins.

What was your favorite new technology/application?
No clue. I’m getting too old/busy/bored to keep up with it…

What was your greatest musical discovery?
KRISPY KREME! Just kidding. Epic Rap Battles of History! I show everyone when they come visit at my house. It’s becoming a tradition.
 
What was the best thing you bought?
My desk, and my hubby bought it, not me. I love it!

Self-reflection:

What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Promotion at work!!! I have worked very, very, very hard for this position and I’m VERY proud of myself.

What was your biggest failure?
Gaining back all the weight I lost last year. Fail.

Did you suffer illness or injury?
Yeah. I messed my leg up at the end of the year, and allergies continue to be the bane of my existence certain times of the year.

Where did most of your money go?
Family.

What kept you sane?
Love.

What political issue stirred you the most?
Meh. Pass.

Who did you miss?
My sisters and Amy. Leaving them in California is very difficult each year I get to visit.

What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Weddings!

Compared to this time last year, are you:
I. happier or sadder? I don’t know, but I never know. This has been a pretty stressful year, and my mother-in-law is facing lots of health issues.  I’m about the same, I suppose.
ii. thinner or fatter? Fatter. Ugh. So mad at myself.
iii. richer or poorer? Definitely poorer.  But, we’re a 1 income family and still surviving. It’s worth the trade-off.

Did you fall in love in 2012?
Every year I say “over and over and over again” but every year it’s true.  I love my husband so much, he’s my best friend.  I am incredibly blessed.

Did you lose anything important this year?
Immediate family being cancer free, I suppose.

What was your proudest moment of 2012?
My husband deciding to quit his job. It took a lot. I’m very proud of him.

What was your most embarrassing moment of 2012?
Having to admit that the reason for my ankle injury is because I made a stupid, stupid decision to run in the dark in the grass.

Gauge your:
(On a scale of: Very Good, Good, Fairly Good, Fairly Bad, Bad, Very Bad)
• Relational Health – Very Good
• Emotional Health – Fairly Good (less good than last year. Too many little things stressing me)
• Physical Health – Fairly bad (Ankle. Nose. Headaches. Need to visit a chiropractor. Weight gain. Lack of exercise most of November/December due to ankle injury.)
• Social Health – Good (I’ve hung out at least a few times a month with at least 1 friend, and participated in several church functions.)
• Spiritual Health – Fairly Good (I’m still a lame slacker, but I’m learning to trust God more.)
• Intellectual Health – Good (Teaching and attending training FTW)
• Financial Health – Fairly Bad (I’ll just say, sometimes there’s not a lot you can do to help this one – maybe next year!)

In the future:

How will you be spending Christmas?
At least part of it at the hospital with my mother-in-law. We’ll bring the presents to her!  The rest of it with my brother and his wife and my niece.

How will you be spending New Years?
Working the day before and the day of… so… sleeping!

What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?
Haha, a second kid, maybe? 

What are your plans for 2013?
Get back on track with my health.

Will you make any new years resolutions for 2013?
Last year I resolved to stop smoking, and I did. This year, I haven’t decided yet. I think I’ll resolve not to buy any candy at the store. Or something like that. Something else challenging and health related. Maybe do 20 push ups a day?  Hmmm. We’ll see.

In Conclusion:

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012:

The world is broken. Evil exists in this world. There is not really a whole lot we can do on a legislative level to stop evil.  We can’t increase laws and get evil people to stop being evil – sorry, but we just can’t.  It won’t work.  On an individual level, I think we all need to do our very best at trying to saturate the world around us with as much love and goodness as is possible.  You can turn something like the Newtown tragedy into a sound bite for a law you want to pass, but I don’t think that’s the best we can do.  I think we can do better.  I am choosing instead not to debate gun control (or even mental health, in spite of how much as I am passionate about it) and choosing instead to try to increase my output of good into my community.  We can debate gun control and mental health another day; I think an appropriate response to this type of evil is not legislation, but love.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

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I just had to share this quote because, well, I think it needs to be read.  And reread.  Sarah Bessey is one of the few reasons I haven’t completely given up on reading blogs.  Some days there’s too much anger and misunderstood words on the internet, and she is a peace to me in the storm.  I love her writing, so let me share what she wrote about the Shikh Temple shooting.

Hard conversations are coming, perhaps legislation, around gun control, about hatred, racism, religion, about our culture’s glorification of violence, our nationalism, and the divisions between us, yes, those conversations need to happen, but not just now: now is the time for grieving, now is the time for loving, for burying, for mourning with those who mourn, for gathering humanity together, and for compassion.

I believe that it is precisely because of my Christian faith that I am sitting my heart down, mourning with those that mourn, grieving and honouring, loving and praying. Love casts out fear, and may the mouths of the faithful be filled with words of Love and hope and peace, never fear.

Thank you, Sarah, for your beautiful words.

(Source)

Dear Benjamin,

Last week you turned the big TWO!!  I was reading the letter I wrote you at 21 months and it’s amazing how much you have changed.  Even over just a few months you change and grow. 

You still talk and talk and talk.  You love to run through the house, play with swords, and tickle Mommy and Daddy.  The dogs drive you crazy (especially Frankie), and when you and Frankie are energetic and chasing each other you both drive US crazy.  We’ve been swimming half a dozen times this summer and if I put you in your swim donut you can swim around the pool yelling “Kick! Kick! Kick!” as your legs frantically propel you forward.  It’s a joy to watch.

We had your birthday party the day after your actual birthday.  Lots of friends and family came over.  I made you chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with chocolate and vanilla ice cream.  You started crying when I lit the candle on your cupcake and everyone started singing.  I’m not sure why – maybe the attention? Maybe the singing? However, as soon as we were done and you got to eat the cupcake, you were much better!

You got some neat toys for your birthday and love to play with them.  Lots of animals and blocks and cars and trucks.  Puzzles and dinosaurs and oh, my, the vehicles.  Our house has become a speedway and you are the driver of racing machines darting in, out, and over the couch.

We took a trip to California almost two months ago.  We were worried about how you would do in the plane, but we shouldn’t have worried.  You love any kind of vehicle, planes included.  Daddy sat next to you on the plane and talked about how you were going to go really, really fast, and go up, up, up!  You loved it.  We rode in the car for ages and ages, and you rarely fussed about it.  We drove through random subdivisions in Elk Grove, and you asked if we were going to Mae Mae’s house! It was the cutest thing, and you made Mae Mae’s mom giggle about it when I told her.  We went to a wedding for my best friend Amy.  You love Amy, and you loved dancing at Amy and Keith’s wedding.   We went to Monterey Bay Aquarium, and you had such a blast hanging out with your 3 cousins.  We went camping (which you LOVED) at my old camping site in California.  It was heart-wrenchingly beautiful to see you scale the same rocks I had scaled as a child.  To see you in the “rock club” and down at the water’s edge was an incredible experience for me.  Even though the water was freezing cold you stood in it until your feet turned to chubby little icicles, and you loved it.  Watching you eat s’mores with your cousins is a memory I will treasure forever.

A few weeks ago we travelled to Senatobia, Mississippi to visit Papa’s parents.  Mimi and PaPaw loved you, and we loved visiting them, and you had a good time running around their house and showing off.  A mere week after that we went down to Houston for your cousin Austin’s graduation.  Each road trip you demonstrated your willingness to sit still when needed, your love of movement, and your love of music.  I love how you love music.

Son, I’ll be honest, because it’s my letter and I’m allowed to be: I don’t know what the future holds for you.  What I do know is that you capture the attention of people – your joy, your mannerisms, and your movement.  Watching you is like watching life take place – it’s like observing the best the world has to offer.  Maybe you’re just like every other two-year old on the planet, I’m not sure.  I hope that I can teach you to harness that attention-grabbing skill and use it to better the world around you.  I know that living with you teaches me every day the meaning of slow down. Observe. Breathe. Love. Be patient.

Your Daddy and I talk about you, often, after you’ve finally given up and gone to sleep.  We lay in bed, snuggled, and talk about whether or not we’re doing a good job (most days we think we’re doing OK).  Recently we were talking about your exposure to television and video games.  We don’t want to shelter you from the world and its issues, but we don’t want to desensitize you either.  It’s tough to say “No, we won’t play this video game while Benjamin is awake, because it depicts violence too accurately,” but that’s exactly where we are at. 

This world is dangerous and violent and broken, son, and you’ll have your whole life to learn that.  I hope that we can teach you about the beauty of the world first, and it’s dark side later. 

Eventually, Lucky will die, and you will learn grief.  Eventually, you will ask where Mommy’s parents are, and you will see me cry.  Eventually, you will ask why Jesus hangs on the cross, broken and beaten, and you will learn about sacrifice. 

Our hope, though all of that, is to teach you about love.  Love that shines through grief and brokenness, love that taught Mommy how to heal, love that makes Daddy get up even on the days when his depression beats his heart and soul, love that put Christ on the cross and love that triumphs all of the dark things in this world.

However, before you have to learn all of those things, I want you to know joy.  I want to continue to see my baby boy, beautiful and full of grace and energy, running around squealing with laughter.  I want to continue to love you so much it hurts.  I want to see animals for the first time all over again, though your eyes.  I want to continue to chase the dogs in the backyard until we collapse into fits of giggles.  I want to dance with you in the living room until I’m sweaty and exhausted.  I want these good and wonderful things for you so that when darkness seems to sneak in, you can remember the things from the light.

I hope you understand, one day, how hard it is trying to figure all this stuff out.  I hope you have enough grace to forgive us when we mess up.  I hope I have enough grace to forgive myself!  But either way, we’ll muddle through this crazy adventure together.  Being a Mommy is quite an amazing experience in general, but being Mommy to you – well – I think that’s my favorite job yet.

I love you son, happy 2nd birthday.

Love,
Mama

Today is my first day back to technology for almost 3 weeks.  The vacation was amazing and lovely, and I came to work with 1000+ on my Google Reader and over 600 work emails.  As I work through the deluge of information I came across one scripture listed two different places (here and here).  I really, really, really like the scripture – which is one of the types of scriptures that you’re just going to read over until someone makes you stop and see it for the first time all over again.  Here is the scripture in its entirety:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8, NIV)

There is one other part of the bible in the New Testament that sums up what we should do:

One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 
 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:35-40, NIV)

I like how it’s worded in both portions of scripture.  The second one is much more well-referenced, and for good reason since Christ says it is the greatest commandment.  But the first – to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly – I think it sums up a lot of what we need to do now.  But when I think about how much outrage and judgement I see on a daily basis (not just from Christians, mind you) I think that the first scripture from Micah is a good reminder that we maybe should see a bit more often.  Because loving mercy is hard.  Walking humbly is difficult.  Acting justly – while loving mercy – now THAT is tough.  If we can maintain love throughout it all I think the world would be pretty amazing.

She is running
A hundred miles an hour in the wrong direction

I would like someone to write a song, please.  I don’t have the skill for songwriting.  I would like you to model it after “Does Anybody Hear Her?” by Casting Crowns.  I would like you to tell a different side of the story.

She is trying but the canyon’s ever widening
In the depths of her cold heart

The song is about a broken woman who wants love and acceptance and help from the people of the church but does not get the help she needs.  I would like you to write a song about the people who offer love and acceptance and help to a broken person… to no avail. 

So she sets out on another misadventure just to find
She’s another two years older
And she’s three more steps behind

I would like you to talk about how heartbreaking it is to sit beside them and watch them run in the wrong direction.

Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?
Or does anybody even know she’s going down today?

I would like you to talk about having an opportunity to help them.  About how scary it is when they move in to your world and how happy and hopeful you are that this time, this time it will be different.

Under the shadow of our steeple
With all the lost and lonely people
Searching for the hope that’s tucked away in you and me
Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?

Sometimes we do see.  Sometimes we see the hurting, and the broken, and the bruised.  Sometimes we say to ourselves: Hey, we should be like Jesus and try to help them.  Sometimes they ask for help and you see an opportunity.

 She is yearning for shelter and affection
That she never found at home

So we invite them into our world.  We take them to church.  We hug them and cry with them.  We feed them and clothe them and pray for them and with them.  Sometimes it works for a while. 

She is searching for a hero to ride in
To ride in and save the day

Sometimes you tell them their worth and they nod, and they smile, but they don’t believe it.  You tell them to have faith in their own worth.  You tell them that they are God’s precious and loved child, and their lips say “I know” while their heart can’t believe it yet.

You pray for them.  You kneel at your bed and you cry for their soul.  You pray that God will give you the words you need to reach them in the midst of their brokenness. 

And in walks her prince charming
And he knows just what to say
Momentary lapse of reason
And she gives herself away

And then… then they tell you that they’re leaving.  That they’ve found another path, another way out, one that doesn’t involve the hard work of facing the pain.  They’re leaving so they don’t have to deal with someone loving them, but telling them that they need to make better (and admittedly more difficult) choices.

If judgment looms under every steeple
If lofty glances from lofty people
Can’t see past her scarlet letter
And we’ve never even met her

You watch them go.  Despite the sacrifice of time and energy you watch them leave.  You know it’s fruitless.  You know they’re not ready to change.  You’ve seen for some time now that your argument was ineffective. 

One of the worst parts about this, in my opinion, is that when it’s all said and done there is a small part of you that is relieved it’s over.  Don’t get me wrong: the overwhelming emotion is grief and sadness.  But there is also relief tinged with guilt – relief that your time of sacrifice is over, and guilt at being relieved.  How can you be relieved they’re going back to their broken life?  But you’re human, and you’re glad that this means less stress and sacrifice to you and your family.

And there’s a bit of doubt.  Did I try hard enough? Did I show them enough love? Could I have changed the situation a bit and had more success?

The important thing to remember here, and the thing I have to remind myself, is that I can’t fix anyone.  I can’t make them better.  Only God can.   That is what I hold on to.  When I feel all these emotions so strongly, I remind myself that God is the great physician and we are his broken church.  Ultimately, He is the one who heals.  We just point people in His direction.    

So, dear reader, if you decide to write a song about one of the other sides of “Does Anybody Hear Her” then please make sure you talk about how in the end, God is the great transformer…not us.  I know I’m asking a lot, and I know you probably won’t write a song about such a sad and helpless place, but my request has been made. 

I’d like a song that reminds me that sometimes we fail, but at least we tried.

(all italicized words from “Does Anybody Hear Her” by Casting Crowns from their album Lifesong.)