2017 – A Look Back at My Year

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I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions. The New Year will have enough in it for me without my making a to-do list!

However, now that the last few days of 2017 are coming into focus, I pause to take a look back at this year and ponder what the new year may have in store for me.

I did something a little different yesterday from anything I’ve ever done as I consider the ending of one page in my life and the beginning of a new one. I pulled out my journals from this past year and began reading, remembering the year and my written thoughts from each day, beginning with New Year’s Day. Some of my journal entries weren’t terribly impressive or interesting at first glance, but then something happened while turning the pages from one day to the next. I began noticing the emergence of a handful of themes, as I read my own words and musings from day to day. I began to jot down main topics of my writing, discovering that there were a few things that seemed to stay on my mind, or in its recesses, throughout the year. Interesting!

And now, I will share these with you, my dear readers and friends.

Spiritually, it was a year of growth for me. Early in the year, I wrote that I felt off-balance and not sure where I was heading. I had a premonition of challenges and struggles in my future, which weighed heavily on me during the winter months. Then, one day after listing the things I was grateful for, I ended the entry with, “I love God!!”  With spring, came the unexpected death of a dear friend, and I also watched helplessly as some of my favorite little farm animals died, one right after another, without cause or reason, it seemed to me. I wrote about “the ebb and flow of life.” It was a time of sadness and loss, and I found myself turning to God and prayer for comfort and understanding. Gratitude remained an ongoing theme, along with God’s grace. With these losses tearing at my heart the way they did, I began seeking to make a difference through my own life and in my writing. I wrote about fear versus faith, knowing that my faith could overcome any fear I had. It was an epiphany, hearing God’s voice in my heart and recording His message in my journal, “I will take care of you. You have nothing to fear.”

Professionally, and as a by-product – financially – 2017 was a year of  insecurity. Early in the year I learned that my job wasn’t secure, and I began wondering if retirement was approaching more quickly than I was prepared for. Money, or the lack of it, took a prominent place in my journal where I fretted about being poor and worried about the future and my financial status. I rode that choppy wave until the end of July, when my position was finally terminated. During this time of waiting for the ax to fall, I coined a new mantra for myself, sharing with my prayer posse girlfriends that my immediate goal was to just “relax and let life happen.” It was much easier said than done, especially when panic would overcome me, and I’d forget momentarily about God’s promise to take care of me. I applied for a newly created position at the same place that let me go, wondering if I wanted to go back there to work if they offered the job to me, or if I might perhaps be ready to retire, regardless of my income.

So, what did I do? In August, I went on a road trip with my cousin! We headed north to Maine, then meandered our way back, exploring back roads and picturesque towns, staying in obscure places, meeting fascinating people, reuniting with old friends, laughing, crying, talking, and soaking in this beautiful part of our country. It was in a gift shop in Amish country that I found a plaque that read, “A ship at harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are for,” which I bought. In my journal entries during this trip, spirituality and faith took a front seat, as well as this new mantra about ships. I decided my ship is not ready to stay in the harbor. My ship is still at sea! While on the road trip, I received an invitation to interview for the new position opening, and soon after returning home, I was back where I had left two months earlier. God was at work in my life. I had a new job, which was exactly like the one I was terminated from, but with a higher pay grade and better benefits. Again, my journal pages were dotted with thoughts and prayers of gratitude.

Another theme of my year was that of yearning for a circle of close friends, and in particular for someone who might join me on my life path, someone who would understand the heart and soul of a writer.This was the year that “Jennie’s Girls” became an official group, and I wrote about my love for these delightful young women who took me in as their adopted mom / big sister, and who have placed my heart tenderly into their hands. They have taught me how to live in the present and not obsess over the vague and unknown future. Again, the word “gratitude” found its way onto my journal pages. I also noted that I was beginning to feel more like a part of the “prayer posse” of women I meet with on a weekly basis. I had felt very much on the fringes of this group when the year began, but as it progressed, my writing clearly expressed that this was becoming my circle of friends. As for finding someone who might join me on my life path, I am hopeful. We’ll just have to wait and see what I write about in 2018 regarding this!

So it is that I bid farewell to 2017 and all that it brought my way. It was a year where I often felt like I was not treading on a solid surface, but on a wobbly one at times, and one where I was tested with loss and sadness, often coming at me from many directions and in various forms. But through the year I came to realize that indeed my house is built on a firm foundation, and that God is keeping His promise to me. I was also reminded that faith is stronger than fear, good friends are in my circle, and that my ship is still at sea. I am looking forward to 2018 with joyful anticipation of whatever is out there waiting for me.

Goodbye 2017, and thank you!

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Goodbye 2016. Hello New Year.

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The New Year has a way of haunting me as January 1 draws nearer. I know it’s just another day, but for me it’s a time of looking back, taking stock of where I am right now, and gazing ahead for perhaps a glimpse of what is in store for me in the coming year.

The past few nights I have been awakened by dreams reminding me of my past and filling me with a mixture of regrets, feelings of accomplishments, and memories of pure joy, deep sadness, and even loss – all jumbled together in a sleep-depriving slide show of my history. As I contemplated all that is part of who I am, I reached out to God in gratitude for delivering me from evil, for walking beside me during trying times, for teaching me about what real love is all about, and for giving me my life.

And now, today, on New Year’s Eve, I turn the final page of 2016, the pages filled to overflowing with my words, thoughts, prayers, and wishes. I close the book, but I don’t seal it. I can always return to this year in my memories, and be reminded of this great and wonderful gift called life and of the year of 2016. A new book awaits me, its pages blank and ready to receive whatever each day decides to grant me.

Last year I wrote a list of things to NOT DO in the New Year. I didn’t accomplish my goals entirely, but I can report proudly that I have not put on a sports bra backwards in 2016. (See my blog from last year to read my list: https://jennielousdays.wordpress.com/2016/02/01/my-to-dont-do-list/ ). But I also have to admit that I fell off the chocolate wagon over the Christmas holidays, and I enjoyed far too much candy and cookies. The New Year is a good time to re-group, get back into good habits, and take a bold step forward.

2016 is waving goodbye as she approaches the door into years past. She is taking with her tender memories of dear friends I have had to say farewell to this year, of great personal accomplishments that at times seemed daunting and unattainable, of prayers for healing and those answered prayers, of fears over the fate of our nation during the most disturbing political race I’ve ever experienced, and a plethora of moments and days that brought tears to my eyes merely from the pure joy of being alive and acknowledging my small place in this remarkable universe.

As she moves closer to that door, 2016 pauses to glance back at me and with thumbs up and a broad smile, she wishes me Godspeed into 2017.

I pull out my book with blank pages, and I am ready to write!

As I Bid Farewell to 2015 (and also 2014)

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My collection of days for 2015 is at an end. My journal book that I began in January of 2014 is full. I have three pages left in it, which I will fill up before 2016 begins. A new journal book waits quietly on my bedside table, full of empty pages, ready for my words to embrace it. A new year beckons.

Over the past two nights, I have gone back and read my journal of the past two years. Interesting! Oh, the journey I have been on! I can now see the road map clearly as I read what was not in focus at the time of my writing. I re-live the smooth paths as well as the rocky ones, the sunny days and the stormy ones, and feel the scrapes on my knees as I recall my falls and miss-steps. I hear the laughter in my voice over joyous days, and the gut-wrenching sobs over days that brought anger, fear, loneliness, and confusion to my life.

What is eye opening to me as I recall the days of the past two years are the changes in me and the growth that has taken place. When I began the journal, I was at the end of a 20-year marriage that had left me reeling from personal tragedy and loss, unsure of who I was or what my purpose in life was. I was testing the waters on a new relationship, one just as toxic and dangerous as the one I had just been freed from. I didn’t see it as 2014 began, but as those first journal pages turned, I saw myself quickly realizing the darkness bearing down on me, and ending the relationship within the first month of the year. It was tough and venomous-appearing, but deep in my heart, I knew it was what I had to do. It was at that moment in January of 2014 that the little girl who once had stomped her foot and declared to her mother, “I can do it myself,” returned and took control of her life.

As 2014 and 2015 unfolded in my journal book, I saw threads of growth and transition within myself. Frustrations repeated themselves over and over, as I maneuvered my way through my days, figuring out the best way to travel through them. Joy returned to my heart, in many different forms; I let go of the old and embraced the new. I saw patterns of growth, spiritual and mental, as I read my own words from the days of these two years. Indecision and confusion led to answers and revelations. I could actually see myself “becoming” – change was written on almost every page. These two years have been pivotal. I grew up. I accepted myself for who I am and where I’ve been- scars and all. I discovered and owned up to myself as a flawed, bruised, and damaged person, but also as a flower opening up to bloom. As Fran, the main character in the novel I wrote, kept harping on, I learned how to “bloom where I am planted.”

The end of 2015 is days away. My journal book is completed. These two years are over, and I will tuck this book away in my drawer of personal treasures.

A new collection of days eagerly awaits my footsteps. My new journal book rests next to my bed. Her pages are blank today.

I am ready.

NOTE: If you haven’t read my novel, Fishbowls and Birdcages, I invite you to take a look. This has been one of my most fulfilling accomplishments of these past two years. It is available in paperback and Kindle version on Amazon.com.

It’s Just Another Day – Or Is It?

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When you think about it, New Year’s Day is just another day. It is kind of like a birthday, when we really aren’t a year older than we were the day before, but just one day older. But, like a birthday, New Year’s Day is special.  It represents a milestone, a road marker, a blank page, a chance for a new beginning or fresh start.

Last January I bought a journal book – you know, the kind of book that has blank pages and no writing. While I didn’t write in it every day, I recorded most days, writing my thoughts, feelings, observations, and other items of interest at the time as the days of the year ticked by. I really tried to be honest and truthful in my writing. I remember keeping a journal many years ago where I wrote what I thought people would want to read if they were to stumble across it after I left this life.  I happened to find the journal among some of my possessions that made their way to my new home, and was astounded that I actually wrote some of the things I did. I didn’t remember thinking or feeling the way the pages described my life at that time. I didn’t even recognize the author! How could I have been so dishonest? In a display of setting things straight, I threw away the old journal, knowing that it definitely wasn’t something I wanted another person to someday read, and began on a new adventure in journal writing.

On New Year’s Day morning, I sat down with a cup of coffee in a spot of the living room that was sunlit, letting the sunbeams warm my back, and wrote down my thoughts for the new year. I then went back to Page 1 and began reviewing 2014. As I read, I remembered my feelings as I had written them down, and laughed at some of the funny things I chose to include in this compilation of days. I also began seeing the growth and changes that happened day by day to me as I traveled through 2014. I entered the year badly scarred and battered from the worst two years of my life. I was newly divorced, setting up a home for myself and my little dog, Sunshine, and trying to make ends meet on a very limited budget. I had tried my luck at a new relationship, only to come to the realization at the beginning of the year that it was not what I wanted, he was not who I wanted, and the relationship wasn’t a healthy one. As my journal reminded me, January was truly a month of endings and beginnings. Continuing reading, I saw myself with fresh eyes, as I recalled the days of loneliness and fear, as well as the days of serendipitous discoveries and surprises. I witnessed through my own words my healing and centering. As I finished reading my journal, I closed the book and my eyes, and contemplated the blank pages that would be filled with my words and thoughts in this new year.

Yes, it is just another day. But New Year’s invites us to examine where we have been, where we are, and where we are going. Like every day, it begins with a blank page that we will fill with life and with living.  It is a time to pause to examine our course, make adjustments if needed in the direction we are pointed in, and to plan for this next leg of our trip. It is indeed a milestone and a road marker. It is a day to take a deep breath and set our course.

I am going to continue my journal. There are still plenty of empty pages in my book. It will be interesting to see next January where my path has led me during 2015.

A new year, a new day, a blank page, and honesty. It’s going to be interesting.