ending strong: 2016

When I set my goals for 2016 I chose my "word" of the year to be BRAVE. I am actually shocked at how timely and relevant this word was for me this year.

The year began and I was unsure about everything. My job at our church as Elementary Director had me completely burned out and in need of a change. I was also teaching preschool 2 days a week and needed a change there as well. My embroidery business was on the back burner, but I wanted it to be way out in front. I was confused and tired. And really really tired. Because I was doing everything for everyone, except for the people who mattered.

I took a leap of faith in February and purchased a huge embroidery machine- my third machine. It was the price of a small car, which for my growing business was HUGE. But I saw it as the next necessary step if I wanted my business to grow. Spoiler alert: this was probably the best choice I made all year! Be BRAVE Caroline was the anthem chanting in my head. And it took a great amount of bravery to personally take on the debt my new machine incurred. I have felt so blessed to be able to run my business COMPLETELY debt free except for this one purchase (that I am not paying interest on). I have made every machine payment and I've been able to contribute to income for our family. I am so eternally grateful!

I swallowed my fear of confrontation and went in to church to step down from my position in February. It was a decision I wrestled with so so so hard. Be BRAVE Caroline. My stress level was through the roof. I stopped enjoying church and I had lost my enthusiasm. When I should have been focusing on teaching Jesus, I was focused on all the small details of everything (that were still really important), and filling spots for Sunday morning, that many times didn't get filled. Which meant I'd spend the entire Sunday morning teaching and not sitting in church and then wonder why I felt so depleted. It was a vicious cycle that I didn't know how to stop because as soon as Sunday morning was over I was faced with another Sunday morning in 6 more days... be BRAVE Caroline.

The same day I went in to step down, I was offered the position of Communications Director which we all felt would use my talents more fully. While this transition felt very seamless and logical at the time, it ended up causing a great deal of hurt later on. More on that in a minute.

Preschool ended in May and I did not renew my contract. I was heading in the right direction! Saying no. Stepping away and following my heart. 

Then our AC unit in our townhouse died. This sounds so silly to even mention, but it was not a really great time to have to fork over a few $grand$, because 2 weeks later...

Our tenants in our old house told us they would be moving in July. Be BRAVE Caroline! I feared this day. Somewhat because I knew that we would have to put some time into getting the house ready to rent/sell but also because I feared having to make 2 mortgage payments. We have planned for this day for years so it wasn't a complete surprise, but still something I get incredibly anxious about. We listed it for sale, had a contract in 24hours and then the contract fell through 2 weeks later due to the buyers financing. I was devastated. Be BRAVE Caroline.

SO many of my fears were happening- double mortgage payments, really expensive house items breaking. The oral surgeon telling me I need major dental work to remove a wisdom tooth stuck in my jaw bone. Um, no thanks.

We spent 3 out of 4 weekends in July fixing, painting, and cleaning our rental house which was set to be rented the first week of August. Praise the Lord. While we both wish it had sold at least we had tenants! To say July was a blur is a complete understatement. And it was like 100 degrees the whole month and exhaustion was so so so real. Be BRAVE Caroline.

I was asked the last week of July to come back to the preschool to teach. I had already said yes to being the PTA secretary at Luke's school thinking I would "enjoy volunteering since I wouldn't be teaching". So here I go again adding too many commitments to my plate. I said YES to teaching preschool again, this time on different days that worked better for us as a family.

The day after I said yes to preschool, I lost my job at the church. It was still July-- the month of exhaustion and stress. And while I tried to not take the loss personally, of course I did. "Things are the best they've ever been... it's not you..." sounds like a terrible episode of The Bachelor. This definitely isn't my first tango with feeling blindsided by a church. Be BRAVE Caroline.

I think that our hurt is still so raw and real that I honestly am not sure that I've fully recovered from 2013. And in reality I'm not sure I ever will. I'm really good at putting on a happy face and continuing even when I am completely shattered inside.

I decided that I had a choice-- to wallow in my self-pity or to face it for what it was. I went on a personal self sabbatical of sorts... a season of REST. I didn't figure everything out immediately, but I decided to use this time to focus on healing. For me this is immersing myself in books that speak to me. A few that were balm to my weary soul were "Bittersweet" and "Uninvited".

It was becoming increasingly clear that in order to heal and sort through my emotions that I needed to take a HUGE step back from everything. See when you are on staff at a church (or anywhere really) you do things because you have to. I "volunteered" because I needed to. I said yes because it was the right thing to do.

Except it wasn't.

When you say yes to things that your heart isn't fully vested in,  you are living for the approval of others. I realized that I had said yes to things that I didn't actually want to do. The job loss was a  betrayal of sorts and literally shook me to my core, but I fear without it I was on such an unhealthy trajectory of people pleasing that I would never have stepped down on my own. God wasn't whispering, he was SCREAMING to get my attention. I was saying yes because it's what I thought everyone else wanted me to do.

So I began saying "No." No without apologizing. 

"No" is a complete sentence. 

It was hard. It IS HARD. I don't like saying no and it does not come easy or naturally at all.

One of the books I read in September (Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequiest) talked about how people figured out who the "yes-ers" are and they will continue to ask them to do things. And I'll be honest. I know who my "yes-ers" are. So this has been incredibly eye opening for me. Saying yes is not a bad thing. But when I realized that I didn't even know how to say no, and that I felt immediate regret when saying yes that something needed to change. Will I disappoint people by saying no? Of course. Do I live for the approval of everyone else? Nope.

You guys, it's awkward. I feel like I have to defend everything I say. We have discipleship groups that started at church this past August and I had numerous people ask me if I was signing up. Which is fine! I asked others what groups they were in. I envisioned saying "No, not this time" but instead it came out "No, I just can't commit to one more thing, and this is my season of rest and I just can't. And I hate that because it's a really good thing and I love discipleship groups. And I love people. And I love Jesus. But I just can't right now." #deerinheadlights

"No." IS A COMPLETE SENTENCE.

This is clearly still a work in progress. A simple no. And those closest to me understand. And those not close to me don't deserve the details.

There are a few areas of my life that unfortunately I've already said yes to and I have an obligation to finish. You know that pesky word perseverance? I see these tasks as a lesson learned in saying yes to too much and having to live with the consequences I've created until I have fulfilled my commitments.

Already I have learned SO MUCH. One of my biggest takeaways is that "hustling" isn't something to be proud of. I can't STAND that word anymore. I envision pushing myself so hard that nothing else matters but whatever it is I'm hustling to get finished- and I can almost  guarantee it's something that doesn't even matter.

Because the things that matter aren't things we hustle through. I've also realized  that in this season of rest I may be saying no to things that are REALLY GOOD THINGS. Things that my former self would have said yes to. Kingdom things. Eternal things.

I need this time away to refocus on what I actually WANT to say yes to. Not what others want me to say yes to and not things that I should say yes to out of obligation. I am stepping back and reevaluating EVERYTHING.

So that at some point I'll be able to say yes again.

August-December has been my unofficial season of rest. And it has been the BEST. We have spent more time as a family during this time. I am planning our meals because I actually have time to. We are spending TRUE quality time together on the weekends. And we are enjoying the small amount of time we have during the week together. I love it.

Because this "season" has been absolutely everything that I wanted and needed,  I am going to continue it into this next year. I don't feel like five months has been nearly enough time. I am still finishing commitments and I am excited to cut away some of these things so I can focus on more rest. Family time. Togetherness.

We paid off over $10k in debt this year. Not bad irresponsible debt. Adult debt. A/c units and house repairs. That's something to celebrate! My van will be paid in May (hopefully sooner) and we are taking that money that we were putting toward our payment into weekends away. We went away a handful of times in 2016 and it was some of the best times we had! Our kids are at such an amazing age that we need to soak up the together time. So it's something we've decided we are making a priority in 2017-- many many weekends away! Exploring new places and taking in all the sites.

As I reflect of 2016 I am honestly content. Weepy actually because of how GOOD God is. How he uses adversity and hardship to our good and for His glory. And I am so thankful that my word was BRAVE. Because there wasn't a day that went by that I didn't think about it. That tiny word helped me remember the bigger picture on days when it was so incredibly heart wrenching and hard to see.

I absolutely LOVE new years. I see them as such a fresh start and new beginning. As these years pass (SO SO SO QUICKLY!) I see how we add all our experiences to our life story. I hope that by sharing mine with you, that you are encouraged. I am always amazed to hear people's stories because they are so very different, yet so much the same. We all deal with trials and adversity and we can see Jesus redeem the worst situation. I love that.

So let's raise a glass to 2017! and RESTing and saying no.


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