January 01, 2011

The Naming - and CLAIMING - of a Year


The happy have whole days,
and those they choose.
The unhappy have but hours,
and those they lose.
~Colley Cibber

A few years back, I began naming my years. I'm pretty sure it was a borrowed idea - probably from Ann Voskamp who has been doing it for much longer than just a few years. I loved the thought of narrowing down your focus to try and learn something - to hide something within your heart - that would change your charachter and bless your life and your family's lives. That's why every year I have picked a name for the year that seems to be a stumbling block to me in my spiritual life... or a habit that steals my effectiveness as a wife, mother, and Christian woman.

In 2009, my year was "Intentional Living". I picked up the term from someone who commented on one of my New Years posts that talked about resolutions or lists - or something of that sort. It seemed to fit exactly what God was working on with me. I was overwhelmed. In 2009 I was pregnant with the little Viking boy that is destroying my house these days. I was homeschooling my older children - the oldest of which was moving from elementary to junior high grades (and the younger, more competitive one is never far behind him). I was ill prepared for how hard it would be to rewind back to baby days while homeschooling and raising big, capable kids.

I'm pretty sure that God taught me some 'intentional living' through the chaos that became of 2009 after baby arrived in March. Still, it all seems such a blur of activity after the bed-rest ended - daipers, nursing, sleeplessness, laundry, bags and gear; not to mention our increasing bad habits with slacking on school work to take care of the urgent. By the end of the year, my heart was heavy with the burden of feeling like a failure at homeschooling - even though our hearts were full of love for the tiny new addition to our family equation. It was a strange, wonderful, DIFFICULT journey through 2009 and 2010 (hard to separate them, honestly, as they just seemed to run together). 2010 became "Simplify" for obvious reasons... even though nothing in my life felt simple for the entire year.


I noticed, though... through the hardships of this old dog learning new tricks, that I had left behind a key element in my heart. Most people talked about being burned out a few times during each school year, but I was always burned out. I read every book I could to encourage myself. I read blogs. I talked with friends. I started a series on how to get your priorities in line. I even offered to co-host a talk on "How Not to Homeschool" with my good friend Dawn hoping that in teaching the session, it would give me the shot in the arm I was seeking so desperately. I attended THREE homeschool conferences with a nursing infant in one year - three different cities - with strollers and bags to tote. I prayed earnestly ... but never could remain consistent in a daily pattern. I felt defeated. And so I was. Entirely. The talk about public school busses whisking away my children who had long since let bad habits and laziness embed themselves in to their daily behavior became more and more frequent. They were empty threats (the kids knew this) and did no good other than making the situation worse. By the beginning of fall in 2010, I knew that we needed help - change was necessary or "Total Disaster" would be the name for 2011.

We tend to forget that happiness doesn't come as a result of getting something we don't have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have. ~Frederick Keonig

I considered giving up blogging as one of my first 'answers' to the problem. I have to be honest, if I weren't already committed to a lot of people that had offered money towards conferences and products for review, I probably would have quit last year. Giving up my support system (online prayer warriors and friends) was not something that would be easy (homeschool moms are a bit more isolated than most adults without their 'iBuddies') - but if it prevented total meltdown, so be it. I knew that I needed to limit distractions... and to "intentionally live", "simplify" and get my priorities perfectly aligned if I was going to overcome the 'failure' I was experiencing.

There was a vague picture in my mind of how I would let go of the blogging slowly after the conferences and awards had ended - and all of my commitments had been fulfilled. Then Relevant came: a women's blog conference that really was about the heart of who we are, Who we serve, why we write, how we live out our roles as wives, mothers, teachers, story-tellers. I heard from kindred hearts about WHY what we say and do is so important - things my soul had obviously forgotten in all the strife of 'keeping up'. Finally, I had my shot in the arm. I even got a hug from Sally Clarkson who encouraged me to not give up. It was the band-aid I needed.


It's amazing what a word of encouragement can do for your heart.

[Like when Ann pleaded with us to "not stop writing our stories".]

A simple heartfelt word... or a long, prayerful string of intentional and relevant ones. Healing began somewhere deep inside.

I spoke with my children about their thoughts and they told me they felt like nothing was ever good enough, the laughter was gone, that mama never smiled and was always upset about something. They saw me distressed over undone lists, unmade beds, unwashed or unfolded laundry, and unfinished assignments. In simple terms: my joy was gone. I knew this all along deep down. Lost joy was the crisis that my perfectionism and inability to transition from 'mom of two tweens' to 'mom of two tweens and a baby' had caused. It was a long, hard, two-year lesson. There were many tears... and more frustration than I care to admit or remember.

My two years became by default the years of "EPIC FAIL".

They that sow in tears shall reap joy. ~Psalms 126:5

As 2010 ticked its last few seconds down last night, I sat there, rubbing my huge pregnant belly, wondering why God would give a broken (hard-headed) woman another precious soul to raise... another chance, another gift, another new year - and new life.

My eyes opened to the ways He held me in my chaos... the way He blessed me in the valley of 2009 and 2010. Somehow, despite me, there was goodness - blessing - beauty - cohesion. We are still here. We are OK.

Who cares if the laundry got done perfectly, anyway? Who cares if every page in the Math book got done?

My children are wonderful. My God is wonderful.

2011 will be wonderful because He is in it. It doesn't depend on my ability at all. Stripping away the self-reliance and perfectionism was the goal of 'intentional living' and 'simplification' - In Christ. I only saw the failure, but He was giving me success by breaking me of my bondage. He was the melody in all that noise... making sense of the madness.


What a wonderful life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner. ~Colette

I want my children to have this Joy. I want them to feel appreciated and loved. I don't want my kids to be defined by their accomplishments - but to know who they are in Him... cherished children of a God that longs to lift them up and hold them close.

I don't want us to just survive. I want us to be filled with JOY.

Joy is purpose plus contentment - delight, peace, cheerfulness, gladness. This is what was missing. This is what 2011 will bring.

I've dedicated my new year to claiming the "Joy of the Lord as my Strength" (Nehemiah 8:10) - no more fretting over lost time, loose ends and things left undone. God makes no mistakes and my purpose is tied up in His able hands. That's enough to smile about.

2011 will be the year of "Joy".



Sam said...

Beautiful post Heather! I have made some of the same assessments and mistakes you have. I take everything on myself, and won't share the burdens, and then am grumpy all of the time. I am write now making a who I want to be list, and schedule, from a short e-book I just bought today, called "Tell Your Time", by Amy Lynn Andrews. It is really helping, and I see better what I need to keep on my schedule, and what to do away with.
My theme of the year is Love. I need to love myself.
I pray your year is filled with much Joy!

Talysa said...

Oh Heather. You have no idea the nail that you just hit on e head of my life! I am readin 1000 Gifts right now and it is wrecking me. Wrecking the perfectionist within. That ing that robs me of all joy. Fogs my vision so that I miss what is right in front of me in this moment.

And this is the time of year that my old friends fear and doubt come to visit. I feel insecure and incapable of effectively teaching my kids. As though God somehow has it all wrong in picking me for this job.

Thank you SO much for the reminder. :-)

Talysa said...

Sorry for the typos. Not used to this iPad thing. ;-)

Susan said...

Wonderful honest post Heather. I can relate on so many levels. I think I need a word for the year also.

Steph @ Wild Crickets said...

Thank you for sharing your warts and frowns among your smiles and laughter. So many times we present the "pretty" online and not the real. Joy has been something that has swirled around my head this month as a focus for 2011. I keep finding myself using that word. I need to narrow down a focus and a verse, though I, too, keep coming back to that. We've had a rough two years in our family as well. I need to become again the woman that my husband married. This lady is too cranky and short tempered to be the positive girl with a smile that he fell in love with so many years ago. To 2011 - a year of joy!

KarenW said...

Thank you for sharing your heart. I've never thought about naming a year. I've ranked some of them as "the worst years". 2010 probably hits the top and I never thought anything would top 1997. Looking forward to joy in my own home in 2011.

dmauton said...

Thank you, for this post. I have felt much the same as you this past year. But I know God is helping me and used your words to encourage me. 2011 is going to be a Great year. :)

TerriG said...

Great idea about naming the year. For me 2010 was the year of surrender. I gave up trying to change things and stopped being angry. It feels great!

I laughed about your threats to public school, my kids were on to me quickly with that one.

Janessa Osborn said...

I can't even begin to tell you how much you have blessed me with these words!! I'm a weeping mess just reading this. You really inspired me, and I truly believe that (although it may sound a little selfish) God had you write those words for me. :) Thank you so much for being obedient to His prompting, and also for looking to Him in your valley!! It's really helped me to see that His joy has been what was missing for me, too. This year will be my "Joy" year as well. My first of hopefully many more!! Praying for you and your lovely family!

Tracy @ Hall of Fame Moms said...

Thanks for sharing. I think your 2011 "name" is absolutely wonderful the way you described it - The joy of the Lord is my strength!

Beverly said...

Love you, girlfriend. I'm glad to know that you're not backing out on us. We need you! You were one of my very first friends here on the world-wide-web and I am a better person because of you. Thank you for being who you are, and for NOT being perfect. After all - no one really wants to be friends with someone who is perfect, right? The pressure would just be too much. ;)

Anonymous said...

That's beautiful! Thanks for sharing, and I hope this year lives up to its name.

Sisterlisa said...

Joy sounds wonderful to me..I did a word study on Joy from the New Testament, Heather. I think you'll love this...

Joy in Greek is 'chara'
Cognate: 5479 xarĂ¡ (another feminine noun from the root xar-, "extend favor, lean towards, be favorably disposed") – properly, the awareness (of God's) grace, favor; joy ("grace recognized").

Love that, Grace Recognized!

TexasLea said...

Another awesome post Heather. While I can certainly understand you considering setting blogging aside, I hope you know how much your beautiful, raw and honest words inspire so many of us. As a fellow busy homeschooling Mom I can certainly understand if the posts are fewer and further apart, especially in another 39 days or so, but I sure do hope they continue to come whenever you get the chance! Here's wishing you nothing but JOY in 2011!

Karen Ziemkowski said...

Thank you so much for commenting on my blog - I'm truly glad to have found yours. You are an inspiring and insightful person and absolutely an inspiration. Looking forward to checking out more great posts from you this year. :)

Erin said...

Oh Heather {{{}}}
I so, so relate, this was my 2008-2009 years. I slowly started crawling out of this space in 2010. Facing 2011 in a better frame, but what a dark, dark place to be.{{{}}}

Shell in your Pocket said...

This is so GOOD!!! I read some of it twie..thanks for your honesty.

sandy toe

Anonymous said...

You really have the gift of encouragement with words. I was so very blessed to read this , and felt so relieved to know that I am not the only one struggling at times. I have just joined your blog, but in some ways I feel like I already "know you".

May you and your family be blessed with every good and perfect gift from above..




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