Highs, lows of 2017 + my 2018 intention

Strybis 36
Credit: Monamie Photography

Happy New Year! As I write this, I’m hiding out in my bedroom while my husband entertains our 11-month-old. I have my laptop, my coffee, a cozy blanket and snuggly dog, and I’m feeling especially grateful to be indoors on this chilly day in the city. It’s heavenly.

It’s been pretty quiet on this blog the past few months. Jay and I are on the other side of a particularly difficult parenting season. To keep things simple and maintain my sanity, I gave myself permission to take a writing break both professionally and personally during that season. In doing this, I was reminded of a valuable lesson: Sometimes, the only way to find inner peace is to let go of the expectations you set for yourself.

I missed writing. I missed this space.

I often found myself composing blog posts during my commute home only to arrive at my doorstep with an overtired baby, overtired mind and daily chores to complete. Once I had a free moment to myself, choosing to consume content versus create it was the easier course of action. After a difficult string of sleepless nights, I was reminded of my therapist’s advice to be gentle with myself. I stopped feeling guilty about getting lost in a good story or scrolling through my phone and just enjoyed it—particularly season two of The Crown, this YA novel, this bookthis podcast series and my fair share of Instagram stories.

In 2018, I want things to be different. I don’t want to stop reading and watching and listening and learning, but I do want to start creating and sharing more with all of you, friends. God has put a deep, burning desire to write on my heart–and I’m eager to lean into this passion and see where it leads me.

I won’t call this a resolution. By now, I know myself well enough to know I am not a resolution maker. (Frankly, the barrage of life and health and wellness challenges for the new year on social media this year is a bit overwhelming!) Instead, I’ll borrow from the yoga world, as I have done in the past years, and set an intention, a focus, going forward.

This my intention for 2018: to use this space and all the other channels available to me to tell my story, to create + connect with you. I intend to write and post more regularly, to not let fear, excuses, overwhelm and busy-ness get in the way of carving out a little space to reflect and share. The connect part is important to me too—this is my way to make my small corner of the Internet a more positive space, to find common ground with others, to keep in touch with friends, to inspire and encourage you on your journey. Speaking of which, I’ll start with some thoughts on the past year.

My year in review 

For me, 2017 was a year of change marked by the highest highs and lowest lows I’ve ever felt. The biggest change? Becoming a mother, which involved learning to get comfortable with change and challenges as our son moved through various stages of infancy. He’s on his way to becoming a toddler right now and I am amazed by the growth that happened right before our eyes. It seems like just yesterday we were bringing Jack home from the hospital, and now he’s on the verge of taking his very first steps.

As for highs and lows, here’s my list . . .

Highs: Giving birth to my son, breastfeeding and nurturing him, watching him grow and hit major milestones, growing closer with husband and other family members through parenthood, reuniting and connecting with Valpo friends, witnessing our goddaughter grow older, sharing in our godson’s baptism, getting back into yoga, publishing a couple essays, leading Living Lutheran‘s first theme issue, writing about Millennials and the church, sharing stories through this blog.

Lows: Processing postpartum trauma, transitioning back to work after maternity leave riddled with anxiety/heartache/doubt, vacillating from worry to disgust with the current U.S. administration, feeling lonely in our new neighborhood, struggling to keep up with work and home, dealing with my own newfound forgetfulness, receiving rejection emails, sleep-deprivation, illness, grieving the loss of innocents to more mass shootings, grieving the loss of two beloved grandfathers.

Undoubtedly this was the most challenging year of my life and my marriage. And it was also the most rewarding. Becoming a mother opened my eyes to the simple beauty and wonder of childhood and the deep joy and love of parenthood. It also pushed me to build greater resilience and grit.

Although I was at best an intermittent church-goer, I continued to pursue my faith in other ways, through reading and listening to podcasts and praying. I’ve prayed a lot more since becoming parent, and I’ve found the simple word, “help,” (of Ann Lamott’s “Help. Thanks. Wow.“) to be my particular Hail Mary in times of stress.

Our family lost two incredible men of faith this year–my Grandpa Joe and Grandpa Richard. Grandpa Joe was the strong silent type, but he loved baseball, square dancing with grandma, tending to his garden and going to church. Grandpa Rich, too, was an avid church-goer and he sung in the choir. He was incredibly outgoing, a good listener and a diehard St. Louis Cardinals fan. Both were dedicated husbands, fathers and, first and foremost, Lutherans. I really miss them both, but know they’re smiling down on us from heaven.

All in all I’m deeply grateful for the rich blessings God has bestowed on our family this past year, especially the gift of our son. That God entrusted this little wonder to our care never ceases to amaze me. Just today I found myself changing the diaper of my wild baby who would prefer to be naked wistfully wondering when the “real” adult/parent would step in and rescue me. While washing my hands, I looked at myself in the mirror and remembered, “Oh yeah, that’s… me. I’m the parent. I get to deal with this poop on my son’s leg. On my own. (Also, when did I start looking so tired? Have I looked like this all year?)”

This may sound trite, but the poop, the tears, the sleepless nights, the dogged tiredness, the doubt, the forgetfulness, the frustration, the annoying pump sessions… they’re all worth it. All it takes is a giggle, a smile, a snuggle, a hug from my son and my heart just melts. This joy, this love, this wonder–I never knew life could feel so full of brightness until I became a mother.

And that is what I’ll take with me from 2017. I’m leaving behind all the other icky stuff (I know, there was a lot of it) and remembering this: 2017 was the year I became a mother. It was the year Jay and I received the greatest gift of all, our son.

Help. Thanks. WOW.

Blessings to you in 2018.


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