Every year around this time I do a whole lot of processing. I am very much a verbal processor, so it works out well that I have somewhere to let it all out. Around my birthday, I try to take some time to look back at my year and see where my wins were, review things that need improving, and then look to the coming year and dream about what will be. I also love to take time to feel thankful and think about all the amazing people that I get to have in my life who have contributed to shaping me into who I am today.
Last year was a fantastic year. Five Things was born in September and has been one of the highlights of my year. It has opened more doors for me than I imagined when starting. It has given me opportunities for public speaking, which is something that I had always dreamed of. Out of Five Things came a book club which includes three of my favorite things – reading books together with friends and coming together to discuss them in a dinner party fashion. Books, food, and friends – does it get any better than that? It’s been neat being able to create an online book club full of honesty and hearty discussion that fits into my schedule, because it is, for the most part, online. Five Things has been a powerful way of being able to encourage others. You always hear when tough times come that you are going through them for a reason, and being able to share my hard moments with you all to show you that we’re in this together has made going through many of those moments worth it. Creating the Stay Connected this Season challenge really helped me to connect with my family during the holidays in a new way. During a time when things are hurried and busy, it was important to slow down and make sure that I was creating space and connection with the people I love the most. Overall, Five Things has helped me be the best version of myself this year. As you probably already know, accountability is huge for me, so being able to speak about things and then make sure I am doing my best to live them out has been the best kind of challenging. My reminiscing wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t also mention how fun it has been as well. It has been so enjoyable connecting with you all in new ways through blogging and social media. Some truly beautiful relationships have come out of Five Things that I am so thankful for.
Over the past year, I have watched my kids grow into amazing human beings. It’s important to look back at the whole year, because life often seems more frustrating when we focus only on the day to day. If you are a parent, you know what I mean – days seem to be filled with fighting and complaining, but somehow most of that doesn’t stick in our memories. The things that stay with me are all the laughter we’ve enjoyed and the love that has grown throughout the year.
This past year we were able to do some traveling as a family, which is not easy when you are a family of seven, but always worth it. We did a camping trip with friends to Hocking Hills last fall. I’m so thankful for The Helms who always invited us to go camping with them and pulled us into their world of outdoor living. I don’t know many people that want to spend that much time with our family, let alone in the woods with no running water. The first night of the camping trip, I played the Moana soundtrack in our tent all night to keep Avi from crying. It’s still his favorite movie, and honestly, one of mine. It’s always beer o’clock when you make it through a night of sleeping on the ground in a tent with five little people. As I look forward to my next year, I’m hoping it includes travel to see the Helms in their new home in Florida.
I’m so thankful for our annual trip to the the beach with friends. We go to Sunset Beach, North Carolina every year with about five or six other families, and one year we counted 32 combined kids! That is always a week of refreshment, encouragement, and connection, and last year, thanks to a question from my dear friend Bettina, Five Things began stirring in my heart. Sometimes we need to get out of our normal to create time and space for new ideas to form. Often, we get so locked into our daily routines, we don’t leave time to allow for change or new ideas to form. That is something I want to be intentional about this year – creating time to create and leaving room for new ideas to take shape.
I’ve read some great books over the last year that have shaped my thinking in new ways. The More of Less by Joshua Becker, Finish by Jon Acuff, which I talk about here: Who’s in your head? Review of Finish by Jon Acuff, Bread and Wine by Shauna Neiquist, Notes from a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenreider (which I’m giving away on my Facebook page,) Educated by Tara Westover , and Wild by Cheryl Strayed are just a few. I’m not getting anything for telling you to go read them, but those are soul books for me. They spoke to something deeper in me and many called me to action. I love that books can have such an impact on my life, and that is part of what challenges me to write. If something I write can speak like that to others, then I need to get it out and share it!
Last year, my word for the year was Healthy Boundaries, and I can honestly say that because of my hard work in this area, I have reaped a bounty in relationships this year. There are relationships that are stronger and richer than before, as well as some I had to prune away. When I was growing up, my dad used to tell me, “Jessica, you can’t be friends with everyone,” and like any kid hearing something like that from a parent, I took it as a challenge. One of my favorite things about living in Cleveland is that I can barely go anywhere without running into someone I know, and I love it!
This year has had many highs and some lows as well, but it’s amazing how when you look back the lows have a sweet way of fading to let the highs shine bright. It’s good to look at your past as you consider your future. I’m going into my next year hopeful and expectant of more great things to come, and I’m thankful to have you along for the journey!