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Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016 // in words

Before I post a recap of 2016 in photographs - which will show the joyful, fun, exciting, peaceful moments from our year - I wanted to share the deeper thoughts on my heart as I reflect on this most recent trip around the sun.

I can look back on periods of my life (such as my twenties) and say that I was a fairly static character. I was pretty selfish, busy, self-absorbed.  I worked a lot, studied and read voraciously, spent a lot of time by myself, socialized only when it was convenient and did not interfere with my introverted tendencies.   

I ignored a lot of really big issues in my life, issues in my psyche that needed love and attention. I ignored them and told myself I'd be fine.  Or settled for being "not fine." 

My thirties have brought me to a whole new level of self-awareness...and awareness of those around me.  Having children forced me to deal with issues from my adolescence that I had buried unconsciously - probably under the guise of survival.  There is nothing like seeing your own negative tendencies in your children to snap you into a realization that you need to fix some things about yourself in order to be the best parent you can be for them.

So in 2016 I made some pretty significant adjustments to my life, though at the time I had no idea how profoundly they would affect me.  In the spring I signed up for the women's elective Bible study at my church, which happened to be Pricilla Shirer's Armor of God. In 2015 I really struggled with my depression/anxiety, and at the start of 2016 I was still searching for a good and healthy way to cope.  

I knew God was using this aspect of my life, my mental health, to bring me back to Him.  However, as many people do, I had dug in my heels for many years, calling myself "Christian" and praying to God (and probably complaining more than necessary) but not really nurturing or building my relationship with Him.

Raising tiny, sweet babies had appeased my soul and pushed aside any inner struggles for a while. But as they got older - dealing with noisy toddlers day in and day out - I was struggling for mental peace and searching desperately for answers in how to survive it all.

The Armor of God study, going to church those Wednesday nights in the early spring and never missing, even when I didn't feel like going -- that was a turning point for me.  If you ever think one small choice - like attending a Bible study at your church - can't make a significant difference in your life, boy, let me tell you : it can.

I'll admit, I felt uncomfortable sitting with my small group those nights, some of them very outspoken Christian women who are at a level in their faith that I am nowhere near.  I struggled to verbalize my relationship with Jesus and honestly just felt unworthy sharing my faith -- my inner struggles and past mistakes being used by Satan to silence me.  I was shy and very quiet, as I can be when I feel completely out of my element.  But I kept telling myself - this is good, Greta.  This is where you need to be.  You should be the quiet one, the learner, the listener - you have to be.  

Spring of 2016 changed me.  During that study, I started dedicating my early mornings to time to God...reading Armor of God, the Bible, and talking to Jesus, actively. Getting up, brewing my coffee, and being with Him became a habit that, if missed, threw off my whole day.  Those thirty or more minutes with Him became crucial.  They still are.

Not that it solved all my problems, making this switch from blogging or checking social media first thing to being in the Bible and prayer.  It did prepare me and help me in dealing with other issues, though.

Another big change in 2016 was that I finally found (or perhaps, God led me to) a counselor that I click with.  I am a huge proponent of therapy and attending to your mental health.

Even if you don't feel like you need "therapy" I will say that, as a mama, things can be overwhelming (ya'll know what I am saying) and sometimes it is essential to have a non-judgmental third-party to vent to.  A "drain," if you will.  I needed this - need this - maybe you do, too.

Anyway, I have tried over the years to connect with many different mental health counselors, and never found one that I felt "got" me.  In 2016, though, I did.  Hurray!  For a while I was going once a week, but recently I've been going about once a month.  I have learned more about myself and how to cope with certain situations (or radically accept them) over the past year than in my entire lifetime.  I have let go of more ugly thoughts in 2016 than I can say -- and for that I feel lighter.

So the past year I started making time for God every single morning, opened myself up to relationships, ended unhealthy relationships, found an amazing female therapist to help me vent and get through issues, and survived another year of motherhood!  

There is always room for growth.  I still feel overwhelmed a lot.  I still need to drink way more water and eat many more vegetables.  I still sometimes regress and get caught up in the social media comparison game and have to check myself.  I still don't know whether or not we should have another baby, or call our family complete.

Maybe 2017 will provide some answers?  Maybe not.  I am excited to see.

How do you feel?  What has changed in the past year for you?  What is still the same?

Whether you are focused on meeting goals, making changes, or simply survival - be hopeful, pray fervently, and never give up.

Happy New Year from our family to yours!