For years I’ve done an introspective post at my year-end.  I enjoy the process of looking back on my past year and seeing where I grew, where I failed, what I still need to work on, where my successes have been etc.   I also enjoy looking forward and seeing where God may take me/us, what my dreams are, what goals need to be changed and/or added to my life, etc.  I also enjoy pulling the veil pack a little and sharing about it with you.

Because I have a lot of irons in the fire and despite the previous two years feeling way more busy and complicated, I was having a hard time thinking about what I wanted to share for this post.

I got stabbed with a light saber by my son at the Sithsonian last fall.

But the other day it dawned on me – the freedom that I have on this side of 40 that I didn’t experience on the other side of 40.  So, I’d like to share some of THAT with you.  I’m also going to share some pictures of this past year, like this gem.

With regards to creative living, I started my 40th year by fully embracing my creative side and letting go of my inner critic.  It started with reading Big Magic a couple of years ago and things just went from there.

I quit my job, my career really, months before turning 40 and it took me at least nine months to be fully comfortable turning down job opportunities in my former career – and then tell the unassuming person the truth as to why, my art.  Even writing THAT sentence “my art” is sometimes hard still.  I still struggle with the truth that a person doesn’t need education or a degree in certain fields in order to claim the title.  A writer is a writer without receiving a degree in English or communication.  An artist can still be an artist without any training or a degree.  It’s a weird concept coming from an industry that won’t give you much of a look if you don’t have the education to back it up.  It’s also difficult because I have always tried not to take myself too seriously but if I want to do this, that’s not the attitude to take.

Water colors are not proving to be my strong suit by I still do enjoy them.

I know there are other people doing this exact same thing and may even make pieces very similar to mine.  But I know what I’m called to do, and I also know the promise I made to God years ago when I started this blog.  My work in this world, should I ever get out of the industry that was sucking the life out of me, would give glory back to Him.  So whether it be with words, music or paints it should all point in the same direction.

The freedom that we feel in doing more even though we are living on less.  Cutting out my salary was a huge lifestyle change the best decision ever.  It’s funny, while we have had to make some major adjustments, we actually have been doing MORE with LESS.  The months that have been tight, I’m telling you, we actually laugh when God comes through.  He ALWAYS comes through.  If I am holding off on some bill that is large, we somehow land money in a different and unexpected way.  We don’t stress about this area even though it’s sometimes been a hard topic to “deal” with.  But the whole “living on less” thing…  pffft.  Yes, it’s less money but I have more sanity, our marriage reaps the benefits and my children have a mommy to talk to them the moment they get out of the school doors.  You can’t put a price tag on that.

We sprinkled my aunt’s ashes near Cathedral Rock in Sedona the spring of this year.

Living our freedom in Christ out.  It took some major upheaval in our lives to truly understand what this meant, and what it means is hard to quantify (to me anyway).  I cannot list every freedom I have because of being a Christ-follower.  But what I want to share with you are a few specific things…

Growing up in a legalistic church there was no freedom.  There IS no freedom.  How can there be freedom when we are taught that only rituals can save us?  … is there freedom in depending on an institution to issue me an indulgence to get out of purgatory quicker (and how, pray tell, does one get that message from the leader of the church to the gate-keeper of purgatory?  Is there wifi?  Because if they’re running with an old dial-in modem we are all toast.).

First commissioned piece the beginning of this year. First PAID FOR piece. I have such supportive people in my life.

After finally spending some much-needed efforts uncovering this topic I finally realized that the Holy Spirit gives me answers.  Yes, indeed He does.  If I read my bible, and you bible readers know, that He is uncanny in giving you a scripture to make your gut turn, or your eyes cry, or your heart sing, or one that makes you want to throw your fist in the air and say, “YES!  Amen!!”  I had spent so many years knowing this truth but spent those same years disbelieving in it.  How could the Spirit talk to me when I’m just a lay person who’s not ordained?

So, I have the freedom to take what I want and leave the rest.  There is not and will never be a church that I will agree 100% with the teachings within it.  And that is 100% okay.  There is nothing in the bible that tells me that I MUST subscribe to a certain church in order to receive salvation.  The Holy Spirit reveals things to me differently than others seem to interpret it.  Why else would there be over 40,000 Christian denominations (I’m assuming each non-denom gets counted)?  We all can’t seem to agree on everything…  whether it’s worship style or rituals or presentation.  So the biggest freedom I have received this past year is that I know what is revealed to me and unless it’s contradictory with the bible then I’m resting with it.  Which leads me to…

Rex came into our lives this past February. I wish he was still this tiny, he’s now cresting 50 pounds at 7 months old.

The freedom in letting stuff go.  I grew up in a home where the only things we had strong opinions on were voting for a union democrat, never eating spaghetti sauce from a can, and cheering for the underdog ALWAYS.

My dad, God love him, he won’t take too strong of a stance on much of anything (except politics) and enjoys the aspects of talking through both sides.  If there’s one thing that man has taught me is how to have a good conversation even if we disagree.  He could open his mind to how I arrived at my decision and I learned to open my mind to how he arrived at his.  It’s almost always been very adult, very cordial (again, EXCEPT POLITICS. haha) and I knew that by me having a differing opinion from him didn’t mean he thought less of me.

During our trip to Charleston in June, we paddled in Congaree National Park. One of the coolest things we’ve done.

So, it made sense when a loved one told me that a motto from their 12-step program is “Honesty Open-mindedness and Willingness” (H-O-W they get and maintain sobriety).  If there’s one thing that anyone, addict or not, could benefit from is letting crap go.  No, you DON’T have to come to a conclusion about our country’s involvement in North Korea.  No, you DON’T have to come to a conclusion about your church’s decision to change the music.  No, You DON’T have to come to a conclusion about your sister’s third husband.  Yes, your judgment may get the better of you and you might conclude away but you certainly could do without it.  Your life would be better without having all of those opinions and conclusions taking up space in your precious gray matter.

Big Catch!

It’s really easy to just sit with “judge not lest ye be judged” and move on with life.  It seriously is.  It’s no wonder there’s so many people “outside” of the church now – feeling unloved and unwanted because they love the wrong person, vote the wrong way or protected him/herself from abuse.  How can we open our arms to people when we spend so much time judging them?

The freedom in being me.  It shouldn’t take a person until they are midlife to be comfortable in their own skin, but that was the case with me.  Before I could like myself I had to find out what my problems were, why I had them and appropriately place anger where it needed to be placed.  THEN I could grieve and only then could I heal.  This is where a counselor has been crucial for me.

I finished Hermano a little over a month ago and stuck him in the county fair.

I learned about my character defects but really focused on their origins.  It was nice to be gentle with myself regarding how and why I behave the way I do.  That simple acknowledgement has deterred the sin tendencies I have and also the things that I did to cope from previous hurts (to avoid getting hurt in the future).

Finally, we focused on my gifts and talents in a way that didn’t feel boastful.  It finally clicked that God has MADE me this way.  He’s made me like this, so why would I try to unmake what he made?  Why would I try to change a creative and put her with aggressive personalities protecting their own image and status?  It’s not going to be good for her.  God always knows best, even when it comes to dealing with ourselves.

It’s as simple as that, really, but it was a lot of work.  I’ve had other counselors in the past but NOT ONE of them had me do as much work as this one.  She’s been worth every penny and is my brunette Stevie Nicks from heaven.

Our last hurrah for the summer, Rocky Mountain National Park. Just got back a few weeks ago.

The freedom in doing life OUR way.  My husband and I have made some deliberate and hard decisions regarding our family.   We have been resting in the confidence that “perfection” is an unrealistic goal so we don’t worry about our image anymore. It is what it is. You can’t really go through what we have and spend a lot of efforts trying to cover it up. To do so wouldn’t glorify God anyway…
Everything is a work in progress. I have yet to meet a godly woman, chasing after God, who’s got it all figured out and everything is going smoothly. It’s just not the case. But we have to TRY…  we have to KEEP trying.  We have to put forth some efforts.

 

Anyway, years ago I would have posted something about slaying the coming year, plotting out some races I wanted to do or exercise program I wanted to demolish.  Meh…  not this year, I don’t really care about that stuff too much.  “Slaying” just sounds so angry and that’s really not my style.  I’m more just gonna keep doing what I’m doing and throw in some walking and hopefully eat less ice cream.

Also, as I reflected on this past year I realized the amount of books I put under my belt was pretty nice (one a month!).  There were some keepers that I will soon add to my “Life Changing Books” page.  So go check back soon if you feel so inclined.