Here it is again, the end of another year and time to reflect on the days past. 2018 was a year bursting with new opportunities, lessons, and accomplishments. New friendships were made and old ones nurtured. I grew as a wife and mother, friend, mentor, writer, employee and leader because of them.
I gained a lot in 2018 but lost a few good men who influenced my life. We lost my youngest sister’s husband in January and she and their children are navigating life after losing someone too soon. But aren’t they all too soon?
We lost our beloved friend and former neighbor in May. I remembered Mr. Jimmy in my post titled Like A Good Neighbor. Then in the fall we lost our dear Uncle Frank. He lived a full and beautiful life of love and generosity. No matter how full or long the life, the loss is just that – a loss. So we remember the ones who touched our lives and carry on without them, but with the cherished memories, love, and lessons.
It seems I’ve attended a lot of celebration of life or funeral services in recent years. I’ve never been to one where the celebration or remembrances included the number of Instagram followers, Facebook friends, or You Tube videos the person had. Neither are the thrills they experienced or the stuff they accumulated. What mattered, what inspired, what’s remembered….is the real live, face to face connections. The words or stories shared within a good conversation. The real life, sacrificial hands-on love shown.
During my Lent observation this year, I shared my own struggle and frustration with wasted time on social media in Wash It Away. After Lent, a friend and I studied the book of Ephesians using a resource written by Keri Folmar. We met weekly to talk through what we studied throughout the week. I also studied Philippians and am currently studying James using more of Keri’s inductive studies. You can read more about Keri and her studies here.
In the fall I was excited to do Beth Moore’s online Bible study, Quest, with my oldest daughter. We both enjoyed it even more because we did it together. It was an important study for my daughter. She told me God awakened a desire for more of His Word through it. God did the same for me when I was about her age after I heard Beth Moore at a ladies’ event in Georgia. Now that’s what I call a gloriously good “what goes around, comes around.”
One of my hopes for 2018 was a website revamp and with the help, patience, and creativity of my friend and designer extraordinaire, Monica Yother, it is finished. It took more time and work than I bargained for but I learned plenty in the process and it was worth it. Now it’s up to me to do with it what I dreamed.
I continued the Monday School feature I started in 2017 and will continue it into 2019. A few of the most memorable Monday School posts of this year are Extraordinary Things, Won’t Back Down, Our Trademark, and She Gave it All.
In addition to my Live Like it Matters Challenges, I added two new features to the blog: Favorites and Beauty Break. I post these sporadically as I’m inspired by a memory, a divine moment, or something beautiful. Big Shot was prompted by a weekend trip with my husband to Chattanooga at the beginning of the year and Looked After came after a divine encounter on July 4th. All of these features will continue into 2019 with an emphasis always on encouraging us to live like it matters.
Another hope I had for 2018 was to go on one backpacking trip. My youngest daughter and I planned our first ever trip on the Appalachian Trail with a group of others led by my brother-in-law. It turned out to be the trip of a lifetime. Late March usually doesn’t bring snow and ice storms of this magnitude but they were brought. It took all the mental grit we had to get through the cold nights and mornings, but we did it. We loved it so much we went back to another part of the AT six weeks later on a much warmer Cinco De Mayo trip. I went on the trail for a third time in August. I wrote about our time on the trail in The Hard Parts, The Blazes, and Waiting is the Hardest Part.
I’m hooked. The friendships formed, the stories and laughter shared around the fire, the challenge and the beauty…..all of it makes me want to be out there more than I’m able right now. But I plan on more trips in 2019.
I also completed another Spartan Trifecta this year and motivated my niece and her fiance to race their first Spartan Race with us. We finished two of our races on the same weekend and wondered why we’d planned it that way. The first day’s race nearly depleted us due to the intense heat and terrain but because of milder temperatures and a light rain the next day we managed to finish the second, longer race well. We traveled to Spartanburg, South Carolina to complete the final race for our Trifecta. The trip was the best kind of girls’ trip – time on the road talking and laughing, a cozy Air BnB, and 14 miles of obstacles, thick mud, and determination.
2018 brought an abundance of opportunities to grow as a speaker and writer. Shattered Media asked me to write another story. It involved several back and forth interviews and I’m happy I did it. I got to know an amazing woman. I attended the Speak Up Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan for the second time and left the conference with a refreshed vision for my writing and blog. I wrote about it in What’s Next. The writer’s group and the variety of writing newsletters and articles I read teach me new and better writing skills. I also reviewed and promoted books for two of my author friends during their book launches. Maybe they’ll get to return the favor soon.
I remained active in my local Toastmasters club and in June began Pathways, which is part of the brand new educational curriculum of Toastmasters International. I’m also mentoring one of the newest members through his initial projects with the program.
A couple of “just for fun” trips included one to Nashville with my daughters and niece to see Taylor Swift in concert on her Reputation tour. It was an outstanding concert.
The other trip was planned on a whim when I decided I’d waited too long to see my son since he moved back to Boulder in the spring. My youngest daughter and I enjoyed a three night, four day visit to one of our favorite places. The mountains are beautiful, but it’s our favorite because he’s there.
Now I look ahead to 2019 and hope for more opportunities to grow and change and love. Because God changing me is never just for me.