Tag Archives: new year

What 2013 Taught Me

I don’t know what yours was like, but my 2013 was quite the year.

2013 was a year I’ll certainly never forget and wouldn’t necessarily want to re-live. I won’t, though, go as far as to say I wish I could just re-do 2013 all over again. Though it was excruciatingly hard, the lessons I learned within the crazy that was my 2013 were well worth the pain and will never, ever be forgotten.

I’m not going to re-hash my entire year in this post, as there is plenty of posts already written (even whole series — read here and here) about much of what transpired in my life last year; others part of my life have remained more private, as they should.  If you haven’t been reading my blog the past year, just know I, even one with a wild imagination, could never have written the journey through which the Lord asked me to walk in 2013, especially the first 8 months of it.

As much as you’d like to think differently, you can’t change the past. You can only move forward. 2013 was what it was and it’s my job to learn from it, embrace the brokenness that came in many areas from it, and walk in 2014 full of joy and hope, just like I did when I walked unknowingly into the madness that was last year.

So, what did 2013 teach and/or remind me?
Well, lots of things.

Here’s some examples, in no particular order (except the 1st one):

  • God is still good and sovereign. Absolutely nothing can change that fact.

Though 2013 was my hardest yet, my steadfast belief in God’s sovereignty and goodness did not change. Were their moments I struggled with why God allowed me to become unexpectedly pregnant, let alone why He then allowed our child to die? Of course. I’m a human, after all. I am a human, though, who has seen the hand of God all over their life time and time again, even when things look the darkest from an earthly perspective.

  • My life is not about me.

After almost dying at 19, I am blessed to know from a young age that my life is not about me but instead the glory of God being displayed through how I respond to not only life’s highest highs but also its lowest lows. Though I know I didn’t do it perfectly, I hope that this year I brought Him glory through how I dealt with the circumstances He allowed into my life for my refining and His glory. I pray I do the same in 2014, no matter what happens.

  • My marriage is rock solid and can withstand anything that life throws its way.

I didn’t say my marriage is perfect, because it most certainly isn’t; it does involve two humans, after all. 😉 It is, though, rock solid, and it just keeps getting better. 2013 was the hardest year yet for our four-year-marriage. I’m thankful to say, though, that everything we went through this year brought us even closer together, horrible miscarriage included. During this year, at times, we fought a lot. At times, we cried a lot. At times, to be honest, we struggled a lot…but we came out on the other side a stronger, more unified couple. We came out a better definition of two people living “one flesh.” We came out of the struggle closer to the Lord on an individual basis as well as a corporate one. As  a couple, we came out of 2013 changed, changed for good! I can’t imagine displaying God’s love for the Church through marriage with anyone else than my best friend.  He rocks my world. 🙂

  • I long to be a mother more than sometimes I even know.

This could, and eventually will, be the subject of a whole post. Stay tuned. 🙂

  • Adoption (at least our journey) is hard – really hard – but so worth it. We can’t wait to meet Noah and Hannah and pray they join our family at the same time. 🙂

The giant mountain of paperwork hasn’t even been the hardest part. Being married to a really detailed-oriented person, though, definitely helped in that area. 🙂 No, the paperwork has been a breeze compared to other things, mostly emotional in nature, through which we’ve had to work; some of those things are just a part of the usual process (and will be written about in another series) and others are unique to our particular situation. No matter what comes up, though, the important thing is we’re committed to working through it; we’re committed to finding our children and bringing them home. No matter what, we Paynes don’t ever give up.

  • People like other people’s drama and shy away from public expressions of grief.

I learned this lesson back in the Spring/Early Summer. I had thousands of people (mostly strangers) suddenly flocking to my blog to read all 21 posts about our hard-to-believe adoption/surrogacy/pregnancy/miscarriage/adoption journey. Only an 1/8 of that audience read, though, after the 13th installment of the aforementioned series when I was heartbroken, and therefore devoted three blog posts to redeeming my miscarriage; most of the sharing of my posts stopped, too. Not surprisingly, most of that audience (and shares) returned once again when the other more-appealing series resumed for the last 7 posts.

Don’t get me wrong. I sincerely appreciated the concern (or curiosity) others showed (either through reading and/or contacting me) during my large series full of twists and turns. I just was rather shocked that my readership went down so much when I took a break from the other series (since I was initially hiding (even from my own parents) the fact I was sick post-miscarriage) to publicly deal with the intense grief that came with all that drama people loved to read. Though they were much, much fewer in nature, the private messages I did receive from that miscarriage series made the emotional exhaustion from writing them well worth it. It also reiterated to me just how important it is for me to obey His voice and live as transparently as possible, so that He can use me to encourage others who often feel alone in how they feel. I was amazed how alone so many women who have had miscarriages felt; it made me incredibly sad. It shouldn’t be this way, and as long as I’m alive, I will continue to be as real as possible (on that issue and others) so that others feel the freedom that comes with living without satanic shame.

Though I was humbled by my viewership this year, I don’t write for certain stat numbers. I write in order to be able to breathe, to connect with my Creator, to glorify His name and have Him do whatever with it He wants.  Your guess as to what He does with it in 2014 is as good as mine. No matter how many read, it’s all for Him!

  • Living “transparently” doesn’t have to mean giving anyone and everyone 24/7 access to your life, emotions, time, thoughtfulness, etc. without requiring anything from them; no, that would be toxic and will eventually leave you feeling burnt.  Having Christ-inspired, personal boundaries is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself and others.

I wrote about this topic in my “mid-life crisis” series.

  • Though he came in contact with thousands, and was followed intensely by 12, even Jesus’ inner circle only consisted of 3 people. Yours will look about the same; don’t kid yourself into believing otherwise.

Not every friend sticks closer than a brother, and that’s OK. Life is full of relationships, each with their own level of closeness. Oftentimes, those in relationship aren’t even desiring the same level of closeness, but unless they’re willing to be honest with one another, one just assumes (and prays) the other will “get a clue”. Somewhere between sometimes and usually, the other party eventually does get a clue and is consequently left confused; that is, unless you’re like my former self, and then often you are left clueless for far longer than expected. In my case, for most of 2013, I also didn’t believe in personal boundaries, so my addiction to emotional harlotry didn’t help my case.

Some friendships are for a season, then fade, then come back again. Some never come back. Some evolve and change over time. You can be someone’s friend without giving them permission to know every single thing about you and vice/versa. You, unbeknownst to me until this year, can also do this while still upholding Christ’s call to love. In fact, sometimes the most loving thing you can do is let things change inside of, or even let go of, a relationship that is near and dear to you.

In rare cases, you will find those with whom your soul connects in a way that is, if I can say, not of this world. You will find people who just “get” you without you needing to explain yourself. They will give you the benefit of the doubt but be willing to confront you when needed. They will desire your good above their own, always without question. They will guard your heart as if it were their own. In your divinely-inspired friendship, you will give and take in a natural, beautiful exchange of wills. Cherish those people. Protect those people with a fierce and loyal love this world does not know.

  • With God’s help, you really can survive anything. Better yet, you can not only survive but thrive while in the midst of the deepest pain, no matter its nature.

I learned this valuable lesson in the physical realm back in 2005 and the emotional realm in 2013.

So what will 2014 bring?

I read a quote on New Year’s Eve that really spoke to me:
“A new year is at hand,” the king said. “We cannot tell what it will bring. If it brings peace, how thankful we shall all be. If it brings us continued struggle, we shall remain undaunted.”
King George VI

That is my prayer for 2014, that I remain undaunted in my commitment to the Lord and His sovereignty and goodness, no matter what befalls me this upcoming year. Whether it be another year of not having the opportunity to be a mother, another year of disappointments and confusion, or even death. By God’s grace, as long as I’m alive, I pray I remain undaunted in my commitment to Him.

Lord, let it be so.

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What’s In A “Word?”

If you’ve read my blog for a year or more, you know each year I pick my “word.” If you recall, my “word” in 2012 was “freedom” and “fearless” in 2011.

Did I always walk in “freedom” in 2012 and feel “fearless” in 2011? Hardly.
Did I at times, though? Yes, very much so.

2 years ago, I wrote this:  A word’s power is only provoked by its author’s willingness to unleash and embrace it. For example, you can say your “word” is “contentment”. If you don’t choose to not only ask the Lord to discipline you to be content,  but also choose to participate in your sanctification, repent and change, your word (literally and figuratively speaking) is dead and useless.

Looking back, I realize that I didn’t always unleash and embrace my “word” like I had planned. I didn’t always choose to not only ask the Lord to discipline me to live out my “word” but also choose to participate in my sanctification, repent and change so that my word wasn’t dead and useless.

At times, especially in 2012, I did feel like my “word” was dead and useless, because I certainly wasn’t feeling freedom. I wasn’t feeling fearless, either. In fact, I completely forgot for a while I had even picked a word last year, let alone that I picked a word as powerful as “freedom.” I guess, at least in a way, I failed both years (esp. last year) to grasp the point of even choosing a word. Life happened – a lot of life. During the turmoil which was my 2012, my “word” and its meaning to me quickly faded out of my memory, as I dealt with wave after wave of grief, stress, sadness and every other intense emotion I felt most days of the year.

I lost perspective, and in the process, I lost my freedom.
I lost my “word.” I don’t want to lose perspective again, no matter what life brings us this year.

I haven’t chosen my “word” yet for 2013, but when I do, I plan on doing it with an intentionality with which I did not choose the two previous years’ words. I plan on fully unleashing and embracing it, so I can watch God use it for His glory and my good.

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2012 – 20 Reflective Questions

20 Questions for a New Year’s Eve Reflection

1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?
John’s finally excited about our adoption and very ready to move forward with the process. This fills my heart with my joy than you could ever imagine! Watching him the past few weeks want to start to get the nursery together, start thinking about buying baby things and really diving into getting ready for our little girl, Hannah Grace, makes all the heartache of 2012 seem more than worth it.

Also, after a trillion setbacks, we’re also almost done with the expanded and revised edition of our book, which will be released in E-book format here soon. Our ministry website’s new look is almost done, too, so that will be launching, as well. 2013 is going to be a great year! I can’t wait!

2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?
Which thing? This whole year has been extremely challenging, the most challenging year of my life, to be honest. If I didn’t believe that the Lord is good and sovereign no matter what our circumstances, I would be one hot mess, if not dead by a self-inflected gunshot wound (I’m serious). 

3. What was an unexpected joy this past year?
Becoming friends with Lindsey, someone with whom I have connected extremely easily and quickly in the past 2 months or so. I love her very much and am so thankful for her. If only I would have known her earlier this year when the earth caved in (or so it felt) on me not once but three times.

4. What was an unexpected obstacle?
There were plenty, but if I have to just pick one, I’ll go with getting sick this summer with some crazy super virus, which left me exhausted and sick for 2 months and consequently caused me to have to resign from a job I loved and only had for a few months. I hadn’t been that sick since my double lung transplant 7 years ago. Thankfully, though, there doesn’t seem to be any long-term side effects from it. We’re praying whatever it was never decides to take residence in my body again.

5. Pick three words to describe 2012.
Painful, Trying, Sanctifying

6. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe your 2012—don’t ask them; guess based on how you think your spouse sees you. (If you’re not married, have fun guessing the answers from other friends and family, or just skip this question.) Horrible, Sad, Refining

7. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe their 2012—again, without asking.
Hard, Sad, Surprising

8. What were the best books you read this year?
The Word — life will inevitably change, but His word thankfully remains the same now and forever.

9. With whom were your most valuable relationships?
My husband, John — I can’t tell you how many nights I buried myself into John’s chest and cried myself to sleep, while John prayed over me and asked the Lord to be merciful to us. I have never experienced so much hurt, anger, and sadness in my life than I did this past year.
Our small groupI feel so blessed that John and I have chosen to surround ourselves with others with whom we live in community and share each others’ burdens. I needed them more than ever in 2012.

10. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?
After the events that transpired this past year, I found myself at times becoming very skeptical and cynical of people, a character trait of which I’m not proud and do not want to cultivate in the slightest. I used to be very trusting of people, always giving people the benefit of the doubt, even if they had hurt me before many times. Negatively, it was to the point I was extremely naive and way too trusting of others in some ways, at least according to my husband. Now, after being deeply hurt by the actions of others this year, in some ways I am “smarter” in regards to how I deal with people and in others too cautious. I don’t want to be (nor should I be) anyone’s doormat, but I also don’t want others’ actions to jade me to the point of not allowing myself to see others through Jesus’ eyes instead of a grid that is clouded by past hurts.

11. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?
I cried more tears this year than I think I have if you combine all the tears from the years I’ve lived before. I don’t know if that counts as ‘growing,’ but it certainly was humbling to be so emotionally feeble. I truly believe I probably had clinical depression (due to circumstances that came out of nowhere) earlier this year, but I’m feeling much more like myself now that some months have separated me from some traumatic life experiences. While I was so emotionally down, the Lord continued to show me that His mercies are new every morning, even when I didn’t think I was going to be able to get out of bed to face the day. Without His help, I don’t think I could have gotten through this year. Yes, it was that bad.

12. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?
I wish I could say I grew spiritually as much as I would have liked, but I can’t. Though this year was incredibly hard and filled with too many unexpected, horrible circumstances to count, that’s not an excuse for my lack of spiritual growth; at least what seems to me like a lack of growth. Though I lead other women in a weekly Bible study, I’m ashamed to say I wasn’t in the Word as much as I had planned, I wasn’t diligent in my spiritual disciplines as much as I had planned, either. To be honest, I feel like I completely failed in this department this year and am greatly saddened by my lack of progress in my sanctification. Now maybe I grew more than I feel I did and just can’t see that right now but will one day. I’ve seen that before, years after the fact.  I hope the same is true this time around, as well. I am, after all, my own worst critic, especially when it comes to measuring my spiritual growth. I have to continually remind myself that the Lord’s love cannot be purchased by a certain number of spiritual acts, that He loves me the same no matter how many hours a day I spent with him. He wants me to delight in serving Him, in spending time with Him; acting out of duty is hardly a sacrifice of praise. That’s not a license to become lazy in my desire to grow closer to Him, but it IS a license to walk in grace and freedom. I’m thankful He asks us to embrace our humanity and all that comes with it (fear, tears, anger, sadness), so that we’re able to see just how desperately we need Him and how desperately He desires to heal us in Jesus’ name. I’ve certainly felt very human and finite this year.

13. In what way(s) did you grow physically?
I was pretty good about keeping up with my work-out schedule, so I’m pleased to say that. Something went right this year, at least! Just kidding..sorta. 😉 I’ll be doubling up on things here the first of the year, though, since the last few weeks I’ve done absolutely nothing but eat!

14. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?
I always try to be very intentional when it comes to my relationships with others, and this year was no different. I now have very close friends with children, so I am working on developing relationships with them and helping their moms as much as I can. It’s been so much fun. I can’t wait until there’s more babies to love on and buy things for! 🙂

I’m learning as you grow older, and life circumstances change, it’s harder and harder to be intentionally connected to as many people as you were able to in the past, at least in my case. I’m extremely social, so naturally I have lots of friends. My inner circle, though, has inevitably shrunk, and I’m learning to be OK with that. Over this next year, I do want to work on doing a better job of keeping up with those living out-of-town and be more intentional when it comes to calling, especially you, Annie!

15. What was the most enjoyable part of your work (both professionally and at home)?
Professionally — I loved working for a Christian TV station in the Sales department for a few months and greatly appreciated the privilege to do so. It was nice going to work every day viewing my job as a ministry and a privilege instead of dreading the day and feeling like I wasn’t make a difference. I enjoyed my work so much I would have worked the job for free, if time wasn’t money and money wasn’t needed to help pay bills and save for adoption.The change in career was challenging (in a good way), involved interacting with people (instead of working for home, which I did for over 2  years) and was basically my dream job. It was everything I could have ever asked for and more. I guess the Lord had other plans for me, though, so I look back on that time in my life with great joy and still a bit of sadness that time there has come to an end.
Home Today we’re cleaning out one of our spare bedrooms so we can start working on the nursery, so that’s definitely my highlight of the year home-wise. 🙂

16. What was the most challenging part of your work (both professionally and at home)?
ProfessionallyOh, dear. I have too many.
HomeWe had a LOT of unexpected expenses this year, so that wasn’t any fun. From having to get a new roof on our sun room, to having our kitchen ceiling cave in from a furnace pipe leak, to needing a new toilet and now a new oven, we’ve seen it all. I’m thankful, though, that we were able to pay for all of them without a problem, just had to take money out of savings which is going toward adoption.

17. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?
The Internet by far. I spent many months this year unexpectedly unemployed, which meant I had plenty of time during the day where I could have been doing other things than checking Facebook and perusing coupon sites. I definitely want to do a better job of re-prioritizing my time online this next year.

18. What was the best way you used your time this past year?
I don’t really know. I spent a lot of time praying for our unborn daughter, Hannah, who we’ll, Lord-willing, be adopting sometime this next year. I find that extremely important. I pray that she’ll grow up to be a mighty woman of God, one who is ready and willing to be used by Him however He may choose, that she’ll always know she’s beautiful and special, even when others tell her otherwise.

19. What was biggest thing you learned this past year?
It wasn’t anything new, but once again I learned that God’s ways are higher than mine, that His thoughts are not my thoughts, and that ultimately He is STILL good and sovereign, no matter what life throws my way. I wouldn’t have ever dreamed that 2012 would have been as hard as it was, and have no desire whatsoever to go back and relive it, but I never want to forget how the Lord carried me through the storms that, at times, felt like they would flood my soul with too much grief to bear. I know, no matter what 2013 brings, He will remain constant. He will remain true. Even if our adoption falls through, even if ____, even if I have to do it through tears, I will continue to say “it is well, it is well with my soul.”

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