Friday, December 31, 2010

Everything and Nothing....2010 in Review

I have everything and nothing all at once. Yes, I'm just cool like that.

This year has been life changing. Nothing short of incredible. Yet, when the clock strikes midnight on Friday night, I'll be 31 and single. Yup....everything and nothing.

All in all, 2010 has been a great year for me. I started the year with a job interview in January that turned into a job back in Texas. I left Kansas City in May and moved home. I was apprehensive at first - I felt like I was giving up a lot of freedom to move back. It is liberating to live in a city 'alone' and I loved that aspect of KC, but the draw of family brought me back.

When I started my job in May, there were a lot of changes I had to adjust to. First and foremost - a commute. I had a nine minute commute in Kansas Texas, it is 45 minutes - minimum. That also meant that I had to start getting up earlier. I'm not a morning person, and I love my sleep - so this has been an adjustment. I also moved into a position that was pre-existing. Prior to this, all of the jobs I have had were new positions that I was able to create and develop - that is my forte. In addition, I had a boss. A real boss....and that was a challenge. I am used to reporting to someone, but not really being 'supervised' on a daily (or hourly) basis. The other challenge on the work front - I didn't have an office. Early on, I was in the main office with the admin, student employees, and all the traffic.

How quickly things changed! My boss left in July - she took early retirement from the university - and we moved into our new building in July - so I finally had my office. From there, the wild and crazy ride began. I have certainly learned the things I love about my job and the things I could live without. It is helping me shape my goals and direction for the future, which is good. Before moving back, I really didn't have clear 5 year career goals. I am starting to define those more each day. More on that another time.

Outside of work, things have never been better. 2010 has been good to me. I have escaped a lot of negativity I felt like I dealt with in the midwest. I have spent a lot of time with my family. I would not trade the past eight months for anything in the world. Some of the things I have enjoyed in the past eight months:

  • Mother's day with my mom
  • Sadie's birthday (and not having to fly in for it!)
  • Pool time with the kids and watching Sadie really swim
  • A girl's weekend with Denise in Austin - complete with Sixth Street & tubing on the river
  • Dawson's first birthday party
  • Getting to see Christen and Autumn this summer
  • Memorial Day & Labor Day at the lake
  • Too many Ranger's games to count
  • Going to Ranger's playoff games - and a WORLD SERIES Game!
  • Seeing Tim McGraw in concert....Twice!
  • Big XII Championship game in Cowboy's Stadium
  • Homecoming in Stillwater with Jess and her family
  • Catching up with old friends
  • Spending time with my cousins and aunts (and uncles)
  • Going to the Showcase college basketball games with my dad
  • A strengthened and renewed relationship with my Heavenly Father

I could probably go on an on....just looking at the list overwhelms me with the blessings that I have been entrusted with. I have an incredible family, and I am lucky that I enjoy spending time with them and have the opportunities to spend time with them that I do.

I do my best not to take any of it for granted. I do my best to focus on the positives each and every day. I do my best to count my blessings. I have everything a person could ever need.

Yet, when I lay down at night, there is always the haunting feeling that I have nothing. Some of my strongest desires are not met. Some of my most heartfelt, deepest prayers have not been answered yet. I am a 31 year old, single woman - and I'll do you one better - I haven't been on a date since I was in high school. Yup. And that was only once. I never would have pictured my life this way. What single 30-something would? When my head hits the pillow at night, or when I sit still long enough to let my mind and body rest, if I allow my mind to lose focus (which I admit, happens a lot), all the insecurities and inadequacies and doubts slam me in the face. It is then that I say I have nothing.

So at the end of 2010, the year in which I have made one of the biggest changes of my adult life, the year in which I have experienced more blessings than I dare ask, the year in which I have loved deeper and stronger than ever, the year in which I really 'got' what God was all the end of this year, I stand alone. I stand lonely. But I will continue to stand clinging to the promises He has given me. Better yet, I will not stand at all....I will choose to kneel and cling to the promises. May I be found worthy.....

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas 2010

Christmas 2010 has come and gone. This is the first Christmas since I moved to college that I have been home for all of the preparations and did not have to travel at all. What an incredible blessing!

Our Christmas was low-key this year, but the season was full of family and love. I started the season feeling less than excited for Christmas for a few different reasons. The end of the semester is one of the busiest times for me, and for the first time in years, I worked until 5:00pm (really 5:30, but who's counting) on the 23rd. I love Christmas because of the message and the magic, but it really is different when there aren't children around. That's a lot of what had me down prior to the holiday. I'll just go ahead and say it - as much as I love and cherish my family and wouldn't trade them for the world - being single at Christmas just sucks.

So....I made sure my season was f~u~l~l! haha From Thanksgiving weekend through Christmas day seems like a whirlwind. I've decided it would be much easier if I didn't work. Food for thought. Or wishful thinking. Take your pick.

Some of the pre-Christmas activities around here:

  • Attending the Dallas Symphony Orchestra with special guest Michael W. Smith - it was awesome. That's the only word that can be used. I went with my mom, cousin, and my mom's friend. We had dinner before the performance, and our seats were in the choir loft behind the orchestra so we were able to see everything. Simply breathtaking and a perfect way to start the season.

  • Sadie's Christmas program at school. This was the first year I have been able to attend, and I was so impressed. The great thing about going to a church school is the Christmas program is actually about Jesus - not Santa. Afterwards, the school had a 'reception' for the kids with cake and punch. I felt so blessed to be a part.

  • At the reception after the performance - please note my mom's incredible ability to take candid pictures of me ;-)

  • Decorating the house with a little of my own flair. After decorating my own place for the past few years, it was fun to blend some of my personal style with my mom's while incorporating some of our traditions as well. I was pleased with the outcome, and already have a lot of ideas for next year!

  • Pampered Chef party at our house. My mom and I booked a Pampered Chef party back in early fall for the first weekend of December. I had never hosted a party like that before, and it was so much fun! We did a make-and-take candy party - four stations of candies (chocolate dipped pretzel sticks, pecan turtles, pink ice (peppermint chocolate), and Oreo balls. Yummo.

  • End of the semester pot-luck at work. Man, did we have a lot of food. I was blown away with the cooking skills of some of my co-workers, and we enjoyed a great time of fellowship and food away from the hustle and bustle of the telephones and people coming in.

  • ICE Exhibit then dinner at the Gaylord Texan with the family. It was cool (pun intended). This year's theme was Charlie Brown Christmas, and the whole concept was fascinating to me. The entire exhibit was made of ice and was housed in a tent kept at 9 degrees! Thankfully we had friends go the day before us and warned us that although they hand out parkas, you still need something for your head and hands. I am not a fan of the cold, so I appreciated the warning. We had a great afternoon as a family - exploring the exhibit, sliding down the ice slide, admiring the decorations in the hotel, then enjoying dinner at one of the hotel's restaurants.

    • Time with my Gran-Gran. My mom's mother - my only living grandparent - joined us for Christmas this year; we are truly blessed. She was here when I got home from work on the 23rd, and left on the 28th. We had a great time of fellowship, shopping, looking at Christmas lights, and playing games each evening. We spend Christmas eve at North Park mall looking at decorations and eating Chinese food, then went to church together.

    • Unexpected and fun visit with old friends. Ian called the week before Christmas to say that he was in town for a class, so I was able to spend an evening catching up with him and Jason - both college friends. It had been many years, and was like putting back a missing piece of a puzzle.

    • Annual pilgrimage to Neimans downtown to look at decorations. Mom and I try to go down there every year, and have yet to be disappointed. This year they partnered with Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the bigs and littles created the decorations. They also partnered with design students from the University of North Texas to design some of their trees. As I have no creative bone in my body, I was more than impressed with their creations.

      Through all of this, I was busy trying to make homemade gifts for some friends and family, as well as being incredibly busy at work. Right before we left we hired a new Learning Specialist who will start on Jan 3rd and have completed all the phone interviews for our new director. Things are progressing with the staffing of our center, and I am anxious to see the changes that take place in 2011.

      I'm sure there is more, but I can't think of it right now. I can say without a doubt that I have never felt more blessed. My brother and I decided months ago that we did not want to do gifts as a family because the experiences we have had with our parents this year are priceless. I would not trade the past eight months for any gift in the world. Instead of filling our Christmas morning with loads of presents, our day was spent eating omelets (a tradition in our house), playing games, then going to the Cousin's for dinner with my Aunt & Uncle, and my Cousin and her family and gifts with the kids.

      Opening & trying on the skirt and shirt I made her.

      Another example of my mom's candid photos of me - haha

      All and all, Christmas 2010 was wonderful. I love the constant reminder of the One who we celebrate. As cliche as it sounds, it is my prayer for myself and for each of you that you keep a little Christmas in your heart all year long.

    • Tuesday, December 28, 2010

      Arguing about God

      I learned my lesson a long time ago about arguing WITH God....but arguing ABOUT God is such a different story. I told a friend today that I wasn't going to talk to them about God anymore. How Christian of me, right? Truth be told? I didn't feel bad for saying it - in fact, I felt rather relieved.

      It seems I have a lot of friends struggling with life and relationships right now. It breaks my heart to see, and as a problem solver, I always want to step in and fix those problems. However, it is not my place to fix it all. This is something I am learning (sometimes better than other times). The hardest part is when it appears the problems/issues have been brought on by conscious decisions. It makes me sad and frustrated. The most frustrating part is blaming God.

      One of my best friends is from a background almost as different from mine as possible. At first, it was the differences that helped the friendship grow. Our first conversation, almost 8 1/2 years ago was about God. He was struggling with the end of a long relationship and through mutual friends was told that I had good insight and strong faith. (What a compliment at the time.) As our initial conversation took shape, it was clear to me that we had different views on God. The basics were the same - belief in the Bible, that Jesus was the Son of God, and salvation is through Christ. Everything else had different twists/spins on it. This was one of the first times in my sheltered life that I had experienced someone who did not believe in God that way that I do.

      Over the next eight and half years, a friendship grew. At times it was healthy and positively challenging, too frequently it was co-dependent and unhealthy. I learned a lot about myself during those years - but from the friendship and from the places that God had me during those times. There were a lot of days (...weeks...months....even years) that I pushed God away. I got tired of the frustration of the people around me and what I perceived as God not answering prayers, so after many (0ne-way) conversations with God about my frustrations and his lack of changing things, I just quit praying all together. Real mature on my part, right? haha

      One of the best things I have ever done for myself was move back to Texas this May. I had known in my heart for a while that it was time to move, and despite my desires to explore the world and look to live elsewhere, I knew all along that the first step to getting back on track was to move 'home' (literally!). That meant, however, leaving behind my home of the past 7 years, good friends, amazing coworkers, a lifestyle befitting of my severe introversion, and the proximity of my best friend. It was hard. It has been hard. It has also been amazing.

      God brought me right where I needed to be (geographically) so that He and I can bring me where I need to be spiritually and emotionally. Am I there yet? Geographically, yes; Spiritually and Emotionally, not yet. That's okay; it's a process. I am loving the changes I am seeing in myself. I sleep so much better at night. I have less guilt. I love deeper. I appreciate small things more. I have less stress. And above all, I have a better understanding of God and my personal relationship with him.

      For the first time, I truly understand that God is and should be different for everyone. I am comfortable with that. We all pray differently, we can read the same passage of the Bible and get something different out of it, we can experience the same situation and come out with different understandings and meanings. God is amazing like that.

      Funny thing about all of this is, the more I become comfortable with God in this sense, and the more at peace I feel, the more I see those around me struggling. I'm sure it was there all along, but my selfishness had blinded me to it. Now, my eyes are opened a little more.

      So, back to this friend. He is again struggling with a difficult relationship. It is much easier, yet harder at the same time, to be experiencing this from 500 miles away. This has become one of the most frustrating experiences in a long time, and it is ongoing. First of all, it is hard to see a friend hurting. It is hard when you can not do anything to ease someone else's pain. It is hard when some of their pain comes at the hands of another person. What is really, really, really hard is the constant blaming of God. I can not handle that. I don't know how to answer someone who says "well, this is what God wants for my life, so this is how it is," or "God wants me to be miserable, so I am." I mean....where do people come up with this stuff? I think it stems from the "Genie in a bottle" Matthew 7:7 theory of God - whatever I ask for, I'll get. Like that's all there is to it. Imagine a world where that theory held up - I ask God for a million dollars, and I get it - because I asked. I asked God for a husband - and *poof* there he is - because I asked. I asked God for children - *poof* a house full.

      There is so much more to it then that. I have tried and tried and tried to explain my perception and what I think. I might as well beat my head against a wall.
      The God I believe in wants me to seek HIM with my whole heart. I believe that my God wants me to prosper - but not in the material sense that I have so long wanted to believe. My God desires for me to know him fully and seek a greater understanding of Him - not for my days on earth, but so I can fellowship with him and inherit all He has for me in eternity. I have chosen to read a little further from Matthew 7:7 - verse 21 says "Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." To me, it is pretty cut and dry. I guess you just have to be ready to listen and receive.

      What a frustrating last few weeks it has been. I have let this situation creep into some of my other insecurities. I do not for a minute doubt my faith, but I have doubted my ability to express my faith. I have doubted my level of friendship. When I said last night I would no longer talk to this person about God, I even doubted my devotion and level of commitment to God. I sat across the table from my mom at lunch the other day (P.F. Changs - yummo) - and told her how frustrated I was because I felt like this one person was trying to steal my joy. How sad. I know that is not the entire truth - and I know this person is not being malicious in his words. He is merely struggling to find answers. Here's where I get to a part not everyone may agree with. I don't necessarily feel it is my place to 'teach' him these answers. Aside from my frustration, I feel strongly that women are not meant to teach men in matters of spirituality. That's not to say that I would never answer a question or point someone in a certain direction, but I don't feel that it is my place to teach him and be that support for him. I have time and again encouraged him to talk to a pastor or another man. I have even given suggestions as to who and even offered to make phone calls to set things up. Nope - he's having none of that.
      I'm at my witt's end. I don't know what else to do except continue to pray. I have decided that some people just want an easy answer and want God to be 'easy' for them. I don't know what else to do.

      At what point is it being selfish? At what point is it giving up? Is self-preservation a smart move? What about those you leave behind? I'm confused, frustrated, and done at this point.

      Wednesday, December 1, 2010

      Remember how I was going to post more? Yeah...see how that's turned out so far?!?!? I started this post about three weeks ago. I'm going to do better....really, I am.

      Welcome to December, the month that I cry more than any other month. It doesn't take much to make me tear up on any other day really, but December....the whole month takes the cake.

      Let's start with Jesus (a naturally good place to start!). Of course I think of Jesus every other month, we're on a first name basis, and talk frequently. But in December....well, in December, lot's of other people are thinking about him too. He's everywhere. (Ok...I know he's everywhere all the other days too, but you get the point). It brings a smile to my heart and I just want to shout from the rooftops how much I love Jesus!

      And another thing.....I have been overwhelmed this season with the commercial aspect of Christmas. I am not anti-Santa (yet) or anti-gift giving, but my heart has been burdened this year. I don't know if it is living back in Dallas (a very materialistic and shopping-centered city) or if it is my line of work, or God working on my heart, or all of the above and then some. Bottom line, I look one way and see greed and materialism and I look the other way and see devastating need despair. It is overwhelming and consumes my thoughts these days.

      I know a lot of people who are hurting this year. Not just around Christmas but with life in general. It is painful to watch. I am blessed that the Lord's protection is on me during this time. I feel like for the first time in a long time I am right where I am supposed to be. What I am trying to figure out is why I am in this position to witness all of the pain and hurting. I feel helpless. In this season of giving and loving, I feel like my love is not enough. It isn't. I wish I could will Jesus on those who are hurting, but I can't. I can't force anyone to turn to him or to believe in him. I can not require anyone to make Him the center of their life, the passion that drives everything they do.

      But I can do that for myself. And I can offer my prayers. And my shoulders. And my ears. And my checkbook. And my love.