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)
    endofyearblogpics6
  • Weddings – I was the maid of honor (for the first time!) in one, crashed another, and caught the bouquet in a third.
    endofyearblogpics4
  • 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).
    endofyearblogpics
  • 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.)
    endofyearblogpics3
  • 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.
    endofyearblogpics2

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)

Glass Wall

7556589672_ddde808ca9_b

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.

Forgive me.

rainy tree

Everything in me tells me to run. Run far away, and try to forget.

Forget the pain. Forget the past. Forget him.

My knuckles are turning white, so I let go of the steering wheel and focus instead on trying to keep the tears inside my face. Composure is key, I try to tell myself, knowing that is just a lie. The last thing I want to do is go through those doors and face him, but there is nothing I want more than to have this behind me.

The guilt, torment, and sorrow hang heavy around my neck. I repented and prayed for forgiveness, but that necklace reminding me of my shame every time I look at my own reflection is a thick, heavy chain. And it hurts to wear every day.

Every link a different sin. Manipulation, control, physical gratification, selfishness, disrespect, dishonor… Anger. Bitterness. Lies…

Hot tears spill onto the clenched fists in my lap. Crap. I need to be strong!

No, you need to be weak. Let me be strong.

How can I even get the right words out? Nothing I say will be enough. With a failed engagement and tarnished purity between us, and most of it by my own doing, how can I stand before him and admit that in just a few months’ time, I had single handedly destroyed so much goodness in him that left his heart charred, bruised, broken, and trashed? Every word of accusation and disrespect that spewed from my mouth and every glare of disapproval and discouragement that left my eyes like a sharp sword had branded him like a hot, ugly iron. Every moment of red passion that I selfishly stole from him could not be returned.

Better that I turn around and leave. Let him hate me forever. I do not deserve what I am about to ask for.

No, you don’t deserve it. But it’s still the right thing to do. You will not regret this, I promise.

Isn’t His forgiveness enough? Is this really necessary? Shouldn’t I just try to forgive myself, forgive him, and move on? Yes, that would be so much easier.

Confess your sins to one another that you may be healed.

Healing… I want that, so badly. Even more than I want to run away.

Then it’s time.

Every step between my car and the front door feels longer and heavier than the one before it, and I am half a century older by the time I finally stand at the front desk, staring into his deep, brown eyes.

He is certainly bewildered by my presence after nearly two years of bitter separation, but he agrees to talk to me in private.

Fists shoved deep into my pockets, knees shaking uncontrollably, and my voice betraying every ounce of courage I struggle to muster up, I finally say it.

“I came here to tell you that I’m sorry.”

I can’t hold the tears back any more, so I quit trying. They flow down my cheeks and under my chin as the remorse pours out of my heart and through my mouth.

He is surprised, even humored at first, but his expression slowly hardens as he listens. Slowly even that melts away and the whites around his eyes turn red and shiny.

I cry and I talk until I am gutted out. The ugliness of my heart is before me, exposed for him to see. I wait and for a moment my heart catches in my chest, overcome with fear that those three words I so desperately crave will never come, but then he finally says it.

“I forgive you.”

The chain around my neck breaks and shatters on the concrete under my shaking feet. I realize I will never wear that chain again.

Alone in my car once more, I start to cry. This time, it’s different. This time, I’m free. And at long last, the healing process begins.

I will never forget.

mourning-black-ribbon

I remember like it was yesterday, though I was only 9 years old. Our schoolbooks lay forgotten on the coffee table as we sat in the living room, glued to the TV and watched history unfold before our eyes. Shocked, confused, and scared, I wouldn’t fully understand what happened until years later.

Today, I understand. And today, I feel the heartbreak.

I remember the footage. I remember the newspapers. I remember trying to grasp the concept of our country going to war. My head, flooded with my grandpa’s battle stories and my grandma talking about collecting scraps of metal for the war effort, was ringing with questions. Would there be a draft? My own brothers were too young to fight, but what about my oldest cousin? My uncles? Why do Muslims hate us so much? Would they bomb more of our cities? Would they bomb our houses? Would we be able to fight back? Would we win?

I never dreamed that over a decade later I would see two of my best friends go halfway around the world to fight for my freedom.

I never dreamed that I would grow up to live in a country where that same freedom would be replaced with “security.”

I never dreamed that the foundations our country was built on could crumble like the twin towers did twelve years ago.

I never dreamed that one day America would no longer be a Christian nation.

Yes, today I feel the heartbreak. As a member of the next generation, I remember September 11, 2001 and my heart hurts when I see the status of my beloved nation, and it hurts even more when I look at my peers – our country’s future leaders – and wonder, will the Land of the Secure and Home of the Entitled ever be truly free again?

So many lives were lost, and for what? Are we actually winning this war, this fight for our freedom when we are more limited, monitored, and ignorant than ever?

I will never forget September 11, 2001.

I will never forget what it was like to be free.

Confessions of an Extroverted Ambivert

meeting-mindsLast night I faced a tragedy. I was home, alone, by myself, with no one around me. Solitary. Single. Unaccompanied. Companionless. And I was facing 3 more nights of the exact same thing.

I thought I was going to die.

It was one of those nights when I was so lonely that I must have refreshed my Facebook feed every thirty seconds, CRAVING a new, enlightening post that I could like, or maybe even comment on! Now, ordinarily, I warmly accept a night such as this because they are few and far between. A few hours to veg out by myself are the perfect fix for my achiever soul. But when I have 4 nights in a row of unexpected alone time, it feels as if by the time I emerge again back into society I’ll have culture shock.

I stumbled across a page on BuzzFeed last night called “25 Frustrating Things About Being an Extrovert.” I forwarded the page to my mother (one of the two introverts in my extrovert family), who has no sympathy for my agony, in hopes that she might get a glimpse of why I need social interaction!

But sometimes I wonder if I’m not a true extrovert as the standard definition and stereotype goes. I think introverts stereotype extroverts as much as vice versa, and we are often seen as people who need to hog the microphone and the spotlight. In my case, that’s far from true. I love being around people but sometimes have nothing to say.

So, I did what I always do and took a personality quiz. Turns out, I’m an extroverted ambivert. Here are my confessions.

1. I charge up by being surrounded by people. This does not mean I always need to be the center of attention. (But honestly, when it happens I don’t mind it. :D)

2. The more to take in, the better I feel. Lights, sound, activity? Sign me up!

3. I am not a talker. More often than not, I prefer listening to talking and I get energy from hearing other people’s thoughts, opinions and ideas.

4. A full schedule makes me feel loved, needed, and appreciated, but when I don’t have enough time to shut down and sleep I feel stretched and overwhelmed.

5. I only need one evening to myself every 2-3 weeks (usually no more than 4-5 hours total) to wind down and rest.

6. I love telling stories and public speaking not because I enjoy talking, but because I enjoy feedback and responses from my “audience.” The words of affirmation as a response to something I said/did is much more fueling than my words/actions themselves.

7. When I am upset, talking to one person isn’t enough. I need to share with at least 3 people at separate times.

8. Sometimes I feel bad that I’m not as well-read as some of my introverted friends, but I can’t spare the time needed to read because…. well… it would take time out of being WITH that friend!

9. Yes, I talk with my hands. It’s more for my benefit than my listener’s. Drawing pictures with my hands helps me express what I’m thinking more clearly.

10. I prefer a focused, balanced conversation with one person at a time than a group discussion. My get-to-know-you skills are diminished when I have to compete for your attention with several other people (especially if you are an introvert).

So don’t be surprised if you find me at a party but I’m quiet and reserved. I’m having a great time, but sometimes it’s nice to be surrounded by people and activity and say nothing at all. 🙂