Most years, I complete a sort of informal “annual report” for my life. I love to reflect upon the high and lows of the previous year. It helps me to digest some important lessons, put a finger on the pulse of my goals, and look ahead to the next year with anticipation and focus.
As 2016 winds down, not only has another year of life passed, another decade is winding down for me. Twenty-sixteen is my last year in my thirties. Closer to my big day, I may even do a ten year reflection…a look back at life’s most significant experiences, lessons, and events during this decade.
Some years, I use a prescribed list of questions and some years I do a highlight reel of each month’s top event/experience. This year, I want to do a little bit of both: Q&A and photos.
What did I learn?
I learned a lot this year. Mostly, I learned that my time and energy is a finite resource. I learned that I can’t over-extend myself or else I leave little reserve or margin for what really matters. I can chase, hustle, work, and stay in a frazzled frenzy or I can admit, “I can’t do it all and won’t even try.” That felt pretty freeing!
What did I accomplish?
This year I don’t feel like I “accomplished” much of anything. I didn’t have a set benchmark of what I thought the year would hold. During the first part of the year, we finished our co-op which felt like a huge feat of mental strength. I also completed a full calendar year as a full-time college English instructor. I loved it but knowing that it had a time limit, I just enjoyed it while I was there.
What would I have done differently and why?
One of my biggest regrets while working was not ever feeling like I could keep all of the plates spinning. Things like quality alone time with the Lord, regular exercise, and feeding my family well seemed to allude me. I could never get everything under control at once. Maybe the lesson to learn during my season of working outside the home was one of simply needing a reminder of what is most important to me.
What did I complete or release?
I think this year was more of a “release.” During a grueling physical climb in Hawaii, I kind of had an epiphany about my need for control. I would like to think that in that moment and in the days following, I have let go of some of the feelings of fear and anxiety that have ruled me for a long time. I know I may deal with this issue for life, but it did seem that after talking with Ryan and really getting to the root of some issues that it was a moment of deliverance.
What were the top three most significant events of the past year?
(1.) Getting to travel to Hawaii with Ryan was a trip of a lifetime. (2.) Being honored with the 2016 EGSC Distinguished Faculty of the Year (Humanities) award. It was unexpected and professionally fulfilling. (3.) Joining the Daughters of the American Revolution.
What did I do right? What do I feel especially good about?
I’ll admit, I have had an ongoing difficult relationship with attending a military chapel instead of a regular church. Despite my own feelings and occasional bad attitude, I have gone faithfully each week in support of Ryan, our calling, and our family. It hasn’t really been anything *I’ve done* but rather God, has softened my heart. I’m learning that “today” is most important. I wake up each day and focus on what blessings “today” brings, what people God places in my path “today,” and where he has us “today.” This mental habit is becoming more of my second nature.
To me, knowing what you did right is one thing. Knowing that you did it despite the struggle…an even bigger feat.
What were the fun things I did?
Gosh, this year seemed like a lot of fun when I look back on it. I felt moments of cutting loose and enjoying myself maybe more than I have in more recent years. This response and corresponding pictures/collages is a long one. I have grouped this answer into categories.
***** Travel *****
Hawaii, Williamsburg, Fort Myers, and Hilton Head are sure highlights of the year.
***** Family *****
I got to meet a new nephew and a new niece this year.
I also hosted Camp Claire for my other nieces and nephew and it was a blast. I hope to make this an annual event. Why not?!?
Both of my parents officially retired this year and it was fun celebrating all of their hard work. It’s awesome that their time is now truly their own. We love it!
We were able to host Ryan’s entire family for Thanksgiving; his brother this summer; both sets of our parents more than once; my sister over part of fall break.
Ryan had some fun work travel we were able to join him on; he got to go see the Masters; he got to meet one of his preaching heroes, Dr. Tony Evans.
Kate loved celebrating her birthday at the drive-in with her buddies; is *like the sweetest* with all of her cousins; she almost got a rabbit.
Mae excelled in her second soccer season and has read more books than almost everyone in the house; she’s also an all-star at wearing her retainer.
Thomas enjoyed a week away at Trail Life camp, has learned to dance, *really* got into the Olympics this year, and he took the ACT this fall.
***** Ryan *****
This year, Ryan and I had some spectacular meals at very nice restaurants. I think we’ve both decided we are foodies and honorary members of the Finer Things Club. My top four meals/dates with him would be:
(1) The Pig and the Lady, Honolulu
(2) The Fat Canary, Williamsburg
(3) Craft and Vine, Augusta
(4) El Patron Taqueria, Augusta
Honorable mentions would be:
(5) trying the Pho place in Evans
(6) eating at a too-crowded, too-hip Mexican place in Nashville
(7) trying the local hibachi/sushi place
We also powered through some major Netflix and Chill moments. Some of our top shows we watched together in 2016 are:
- West Wing
- Stranger Things
- OJ, Made in America
- The Crown
- Making a Murder
Additionally, we kept up with our regular network shows too:
- Blue Bloods
- This is Us
- Shark Tank
- The Middle
- The Grinder
***** Just for Claire *****
I read some great books this year. Some fiction, some self-help, some spiritual formation. Some books dealt with motherhood and some with marriage. I also read a lot of memoir this year. My full list for 2016 can be found here.
I enjoyed being organized and efficient around my house. Keeping the house clean and purged of junk is one of my hobbies. I don’t fight it any longer. One of Gretchen Rubin’s Commandments of Happiness or Rules for Life or whatever is “Be Gretchen.” I’ve tried to make that my own mantra; except of course I tell myself, “Be Claire.” And Claire loves order, tidiness, fresh flowers, celebrating when possible, and baking.
I had fun with my sister at my first ever homeschool conference. The conference was interesting. I met one of my Homeschool Heroes, Sonya Schafer, of Simply Charlotte Mason. Mere was swooned by a dork at Medieval Times. We took a renewed interest in Marathon Kids. But mostly, it was an excuse to have some kid-free one on one time, eat out, go to IKEA for some “homeschool supplies” and stay up late.
I loved teaching my students at home and at college. I’m so grateful the Lord allowed me the opportunity to do both in 2016.
I was interviewed for a fancy podcast and was honored to have two PWOC speaking engagements. I’ve been the worst about publicizing my book, but it seems that it has found its way into some circles that have provided opportunities for me to share my own testimony of God’s faithfulness in military life.
We were able to celebrate with some wonderful friends; new and old.
What were my biggest challenges, roadblocks, or difficulties?
It may sound trite, but I had a nasty bout of food poisoning this summer. That was a downer for the year.
It was a weird year for my extended family: my uncle David died; Ryan’s aunt died; my sister had a difficult/tension filled pregnancy/delivery; my dad had a doozy of a case of shingles.
I also experienced a lot of mental stress with my job. As a contract employee, both semesters it came down to the literal last minute before I was offered my full-time contract. I lost a lot of sleep worrying about how that would all work out.
The election was also a bit stressful. The media coverage was nearly debilitating. The uncomfortable family discussions were often maddening. The feeling of having no good choice was draining. But God Bless America. We all live to see another day.
Thankfully, God has sustained us all. Every situation that felt heavy or unbearable in the moment has been one where we haven’t walked alone. God has been there to guide, strengthen, and protect us.
How am I different this year than last?
Funny thing is, I don’t know that I’ve changed significantly. I’ve had no new insights into life. I’ve had no new struggles. I’m just ticking right along. It’s not that I don’t have areas where I can improve, it’s that I think we have all been too busy living life to sit back and think too deeply about change.
For what am I particularly grateful?
All of it. I am grateful for so much. I’m grateful that we have had a really, truly great year. We have been in good health. We have had some wonderful family time here at home and with our extended families. We have been able to travel and see some great places. Our marriage feels strong. Our kids are in a good place (spiritually, physically, academically, socially). All of our needs and many of our wants are met. Even on the down days or in the moments when life feels overwhelming, I can look back over the many, many moments of this year and I am simply astounded at the goodness of God.
Life isn’t perfect or always smiles and joy. I’ve learned that when I take time to reflect on the good, see the joy, relive the highlights, something shifts in my mind. Suddenly I’m filled with gratitude and the realization that for all my moments of worry, anxiety, and concern about all the things…God has been right here in my midst carrying us all and showing us his abundant love.