It was fun, but I’m glad it’s over.

I for one am happy to see 2013 disappear into the history books.

Not for any particular, profound, deeply reflective reason, but to me the year change is a nice reminder that no matter what happened, life moves on. As Victor Kiam said, even if you fall on your face, you are still moving forward.

I fell on my face a few times last year. It really hurt, and it hurt people around me too, but made standing back up all the more worthwhile. Let us pause and look back on a few of the moments that made 2013 memorable:

  • Graduation from college with an Associates of Science and an Associates of Arts (and 3.69 GPA – not too shabby)
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  • Weddings – I was the maid of honor (for the first time!) in one, crashed another, and caught the bouquet in a third.
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  • I traveled to Nashville, Pennsylvania, and San Antonio. (Some favorite moments included going to the Grand Ole Opry, meeting my cousins’ children, and taking my mom on a roller coaster, respectively).
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  • Photography: I bought a camera, and quickly realized that I was over my head. However, with a little practice and some coaching, I discovered a true passion for portraits and close-up photography. (I also learned how much I love COLORS.)
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  • I started a blog. Thanks to all of you wonderful people who read it, I’ve kept writing. And I still can’t believe you’re still reading.
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I lost friends, won back some old ones, and gained a few new ones. I broke a heart, and I broke a car (to my knowledge, at least one of those has been repaired). I learned a lot about myself, and a lot of it surprised me. I discovered the strength of family and the power of a hug. I realized what it takes to be a true friend. I found freedom in forgiveness. And I was humbled by how much I need grace…

But for 2014, I’m ready for a year of discovery, exploration, adventure, and anticipation…
I want to take leaps of faith, even when they’re scary.
I want to make active choices for the life that I’m living NOW, not for the life I want to fall into my lap.
I want to work harder, push further, love deeper, and pray longer.
I want to enjoy the moment without my phone.
I want to look into my friends’ eyes and hear their hearts, not their news feeds.
I want to have stories to tell, songs to sing, moments to remember!
I want to enjoy contentedness with all that I have been abundantly blessed.
I want to learn how to love life as a process, not an event.

Beyond all of this, I want to become stronger in my faith and weaker in myself, and remember every day that without Him, I’d have no hope. No matter what year it is or season of life I’m in, He is still good and sovereign and on His throne.

1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…

10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.

14 I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. 15 That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.

– Ecclesiastes 3:1, 10-15 (ESV)

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Glass Wall

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Two inches thick doesn’t seem like much.
Only five feet and ten inches tall,
The perfect size.
Seamless, smooth, and safe.

A strong defense, built over time,
Keeping everything out, and holding everything in.
It has only one flaw;
Complete transparency.

Everything inside is in plain sight.
No hidden details.
No disguises, no masks,
No facades, no sound.

The most colorful display set to the rhythm of
Silence.

Suddenly, two inches seems like a mile,
No matter which way it’s seen through.
Everything on the other side is so close,
And yet so far.

Saltwater slides down the clear encasing
As senses long to be reunited.
Sight with sound, and most importantly touch.

But at what cost?
Harder than diamonds, and more valuable too.
What does it take to break
A glass wall?

From the outside looking in,
Is what’s inside worth the effort?
From the inside looking out,
Is what’s outside worth the risk?

Only a few accepted the challenge
With gentle love and warm light
And the softest touch imaginable.
It shattered in a moment,
And covered the ground in white.

Two inches doesn’t seem like much
For a near six foot glass wall.
Although successful at it’s job,
I wish it wasn’t there at all.

Ugly is the new beautiful.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.com

“That was very brave of you to put yourself out there! I don’t think I could do that.”

“I wish I could express my feelings like you do, but I don’t think I can.”

“That was so [powerful, heavy, beautiful, honest]! It reminded me of myself, but I can’t share it like you can.”

First and foremost, thank you for all of the response to my last post. I really appreciate all the encouraging words, shares, and texts. It means a lot to me that people enjoy reading my blog and that they like what I have to say.

But to be honest, something in the middle of all of that encouragement and positive response was bothering me. A lot.

This nifty hosting site keeps a log of all of my blog traffic, and I can go in and view all kinds of fun and interesting statistics. Like how many page views I get per day, what countries my readers are in (shout out to the Philippines, and to Bahrain and Germany – you know who you are!), and how many followers I have. My favorite statistic is which topics are most popular. And while I’d love to say that your favorite posts are the ones in which I share a thoughtful opinion, some random quirky thoughts, or my growing photography skills, that’s not exactly the case.

My three most popular posts are not happy. They’re not funny, quirky, or light. They are serious, honest, heavy, and they were hard to write. It’s when I shared the uglier side of myself that my page views shot up and my phone started buzzing with notifications from readers.

And it bugs me. It’s not hard to deduce that people tend to be drawn to drama, but there’s something so horribly backwards in knowing that if I want to draw readers in, I will need to write about the ugly things I experience. The stuff that I try to otherwise hide in all of my social media. The deeper, more truthful parts of myself.

In other words, real life.

Isn’t it ironic? We are so drawn in to the stories of hardship, brokenness, struggles, and pain, especially if they have feel-good endings with freedom, redemption, and healing. We love to know how others are coping with their tragedies. We sympathize and cry with them. But secretly, we all have that ugly story, although we do our best to hide it from the world (especially if it doesn’t have a feel-good ending).

Yeah, I’m looking at you, Pinterest-Perfect Person. You aren’t fooling me.

If my ugliest stories are the ones that impact you the most, how do you think your ugly stories might impact someone else? Do you consider how transparent you are with your friends and family? Do you ever wonder how differently the world might look if we stopped pretending like we have it all together and admit that we are all jacked up?

That’s why I blog about the hard and ugly stuff. It’s real, and it’s part of my story. I have no problem confessing my failures and shortcomings, because at the end of the day, I can say with confidence that every sin and flaw in me was done away with at the cross. It is easier to let the world see my struggles and ugliness because in that transparency, people will see Christ at the center of my being, and every day I am just a little closer to being more like Him.

And the truth is, you can be honest too. You CAN let people know you’re struggling. It does take courage and vulnerability, but you’re a deeper person than your face-value Instagram or Twitter feed. You’re a person with real thoughts, feelings, and ideas. It’s okay to stop comparing your real life to everyone else’s projected dream life, and start being humbly transparent.

In reality, we’re all ugly, but there’s something incredibly beautiful about being able to acknowledge it.