Just Look...

Just Look...

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Year of the Beautiful

Here we are again, at the end of another year. I have always been a big fan of New Year's Eve (and New Year's Day) because I love an opportunity for reflection and I love a good, clean slate. I am in a very different place tonight than I was exactly one year ago when I wrote this post. This year, I am saying goodbye to a very different year than what 2013 was. This past year has brought some huge events to me and my family. All good things, all good things. ;) (And I would say 2014 was also the year of "Frozen"!)

This year has been a year of major travel for our family. March brought my yearly Model UN trip to DC, a rather spontaneous and very special trip to Amish Country with my mom, dad, and daughters. I cherish any time I can spend with my parents and this trip is one that we will remember forever. In May, on a whirlwind trip, I visited New York City for the first time ever. That was the first trip we have taken with the adults in my family and no children (we did miss Josh, of course) and it was SO much fun to get to just be grownups on a trip with my mom, dad, sister, and Kraig. We did our usual Bear Paw vacation this summer, then July found Kraig, Emma, and I on the mission trip to Cambodia and what a fabulous trip it was! I loved getting to watch Kraig and Emma fall in love with the country and the people I fell in love with a year before. Finally, and perhaps most unexpectedly, was our family trip to ISRAEL in October. Never, ever in my wildest dreams would I have expected to visit Israel. It was the trip of a lifetime and I am so beyond grateful that the four of us got to experience it together!

Professionally, I have never had a year as wonderful as 2014. My classes last spring and this fall were absolute PERFECTION. I adore the kids who graced my classroom with their presence. My coworkers proved yet again this spring how utterly amazing they are, and I fell even more madly in love with Cleveland High School and all that entails.

2014 was a year of emphasis on family for me. I have tons of friends and love them all very deeply, but I wasn't as involved in social events as I have been in the past. Any time I had to spare, I craved spending it with my three people and my extended family. And the more time I spent with them, the more time I wanted. I love the glimpses I have seen of the teenagers and adults Emma and Kelsey are going to be in the future. Emma has been such a joy this first semester of middle school and I love the new ways we interact with each other. This is the first year I have taken her to school and that time together is so special. My mom is now retired and has been the most invaluable person to us all, picking up when needed, making snacks for school stuff, dropping off things to our school that my sister or I forgot (yes, just like we are twelve again). ;)

Probably the biggest development in our family story is the start of our business, For Such a Time, in March of this year. We were doing all sorts of fundraising ventures for our mission trip and ended up hitting on a few things that we really enjoyed, creatively. We decided to make a business of it in the hopes of funding that trip and future travel and mission endeavors. We named it "For Such a Time" because our hope is that we will be available in all of the moments God calls us, "for such a time as this". (Esther 4:14) Our decision from the start with this business was to send a percentage of the profit each month to various missions, missionaries, and causes. We both felt led, after our Cambodia trip, to regularly support one of the missionaries there. We also added another child sponsorship (through Operation Compassion) in addition to Phirom, the boy we have sponsored in Cambodia since my trip there in the summer of 2013. We have given to various causes and missions each month, whatever the Lord lays on our hearts. The insane success and explosion of this business is a testament, not to us or our work, but to the Lord and the way He will use anyone who allows Him to work in them.

Obviously I can't write a reflection of 2014 without including that time I was on national television. :) Other than getting two incredible trips out of it, I think the most amazing part was the ridiculously beautiful outpouring of support and kindness from every single person with whom I interacted. It sounds really morbid to put it this way, but I remember telling someone at the time that I felt like I got to hear all the things I would hear at my funeral without actually dying. ;) I always hate that people aren't around to hear all the nice things people say about them and I got to do that! The fb posts, texts, comments, fb messages, tweets, media coverage, etc... it was a beautiful and glorious experience and one I wouldn't trade for the WORLD.

The other blessing that has come from that experience is the platform I have been given and the ways God has worked in me. I am terrified. TERRIFIED. TERRIFIED of public speaking. I have no idea how I am a teacher because speaking to any group that is not my own students in my own classroom absolutely horrifies me. Slowly, over time, God has been easing that fear. I have taught a few adult classes at church and have done some speaking on Holocaust-related topics. But this, this was on an entirely different level, in a whole other realm.... And with it, after it, came opportunities to speak to reporters and on the radio and to civic groups. And each time, there was an unnatural calm. Not just a calm, but an adrenaline rush and enjoyment of the chance to do so. I believe very strongly that God has something ahead for me to do that is going to depend on my ability to speak and that He used this process to jumpstart my willingness to do so. :)

This year was a glorious space in which I learned to depend wholly on God, got to watch His hand in my life and see Him guide my steps. I grew closer to Him in ways that I didn't even really know existed and truly committed myself to His plan. It's a year that I can't imagine ever being topped, but I look forward to 2015 and whatever the future holds for me and mine. One of my favorite quotes is Frederick Buechner's “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid.”  This was truly a year of the beautiful. And I'm not afraid of the future.