Our 2014 was um, interesting and humbling to say the least. I’m pretty sure I cried more in 2014 than the previous 9 years combined…and I can’t even use pregnancy to justify it! Not one to be undermined by previous years, 2014 ranks right up there in “eventfulness.” There were many challenges, but many blessings and celebrations as well. God has been faithful and good to us. He taught us a lot this year. It was a year of refinement, self-discovery, and growth. It was a year we became intimately acquainted with our human failings, and experienced what a mess we really are. It was terribly painful at times and there were plenty of moments I wanted to give up, but I know we are better, stronger, more Godly people because of the difficulties. Above all, it was a year our need for Jesus was made abundantly clear.
We wrapped up 2014 the same way we entered it…feeling broken and burnt out. Yet despite these feelings, I am filled with so much hope and excitement for 2015, as well as an appreciation for all that 2014 was. “We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:7-9…our theme Bible verses for the year).
Since a lot happened this year (and none of which I blogged about previously), this post is long. If you are interested in all the details and up for a challenge, be my guest to read the whole enchilada 🙂
Evie was still recovering from surgery. Even though we were five weeks out and she had mostly healed physically, I’m certain she was still experiencing psychological and emotional trauma from it (as were we, ha)! She continued to be quite fussy, and also decided napping was for weaker babies. With no breaks or alone time during the day from caring for an irritable 5-month-old and a “spirited” 2-year-old, and enduring week after week, after terrible week of doing the cry-it-out method (literally the worst thing I’ve ever had to do as a parent so far), this introverted mama was exhausted, overwhelmed, frustrated, and beginning to go a little wacky in the head.
I couldn’t get through a day without crying (which is super unlike me), and I felt so anxious all the time from listening to Evie scream. It reached a tipping point one afternoon, when the intensity and relentlessness of the previous five months caught up to me and resulted in a panic attack (for the first time in 9 years). It was rough, and I felt SO helpless. I had tried every trick in the book with no success, and was at a total loss how I could help her. I felt incompetent as a mom and at my wits end.
Just as I was coming to terms with the probability of an eteFELKERrnally no-napping crabby baby, I figured out at the end of January (by nothing short of divine intervention!) that Evie would nap in her car seat in her room. In my personal opinion, this discovery was on par with electricity or gravity. Maybe even better. I regained a piece of lost sanity back at that point, which was such a relief! My younger sister also visited in January, and she was an amazing help:
That piece of sanity I regained was short-lived, when at the beginning of February,
we found ourselves in a messy situation after attempting to show the love of Christ to a woman by allowing her to stay in our extra room. This story could be three blog posts by itself, so I will attempt to keep it brief. In October 2013, we were connected to a woman in need of housing via a mutual friend, who knew we had offered a room to someone in need before. Despite the awful timing (Evie was about to have surgery), we agreed to it because we felt bad for her in her current situation and wanted to help, so we offered the room at a low rate.
The first time she owed rent, it was late and short. We agreed to excuse it, provided she work with us on learning how to budget and develop better financial habits. She agreed, so we created a budget with her, helped her fill out her w-4’s correctly to adjust her tax withholding, offered suggestions on how to spend money more wisely, and encouraged her to get a second job (all in the midst of the insanity of Evie’s recovery from surgery)!! Despite this assistance, her irresponsible behavior, deception, and outright lies continued over the next couple months. It became apparent to us she had a mentality of entitlement, and eventually unearthed she had a history and ongoing pattern of taking advantage of caring people.
Long story short, we asked her to leave in the beginning of February. Over the next week, she sent me a barrage of text messages accusing me of all sorts of terrible things, refused to leave, refused to pay money owed, threatened to sue, and challenged me to try and have her removed. I kept my responses short and civil, we filled out all the proper legal paperwork, and gave her until March 3rd to vacate. Fortunately, she ultimately realized she had to comply, but it made for an extremely stressful month. Sean and I had difficulty sleeping knowing we had a hostile housemate and two young kids in our home, we felt incredibly uncomfortable in our own space, and I felt like a terrible mom because I was so distracted and consumed by the situation. It was the biggest relief when she moved out!
A few days after our housemate left, I applied for a job managing the database at our church, Cornerstone Fellowship. Prior to having kids, I wasn’t sure if I wanted or would have the “right” opportunity to work outside the home while my children were little. After Caleb was born and we left staff with Cru and moved to Livermore, I had periodically considered working at our church, but the timing and job availability wasn’t right up until that point. There were many factors involved in the decision to apply for the position at that time, and after a thorough evaluation, I decided to put myself out there and go for it! I actually wasn’t confident at all I would get the job, since Cornerstone is a big church and there were a lot of applicants (and I had not worked outside the home in a few years).
We also enjoyed a visit from “GG” (Sean’s grandma) this month:
I continued the interview process for the database position into April, and after five (!!) interviews, I was offered the job! Over the previous 5 weeks I had wrestled with the decision and prayed a *ton* for God’s guidance, especially since it was a 40-hour-a-week job and would be a huge change for our family. I asked God to simply take me out of the running if it was not His will for us, which seemed easy enough for Him to do. He never did – even with a very large number of applicants – so I felt that was confirmation of His approval and provision, and I took the job! My first day was April 15th:
My “commute” is 8 minutes, my kiddos are cared for on-site as part of the children’s ministry, both of them have bonded with the other staff kids, I work with awesome people, I get to play a role in something that is super meaningful, the job is less boring than it sounds, and I have since been able to reduce my hours to 32. …And my unofficial title is “madmin” (master admin). A pretty sweet gig, I would say!!!
Aside from beginning to work outside the home, my crazy boy turned 3 at the end of April! We had fun surprising him the morning of his birthday:
And he had a super fun birthday party:
And got a trampoline as our gift to him:
…And he took his first trip to the ER (for an injury) on Easter, after puncturing his head down to the bone on a sharp point on our banister:
May and June were somewhat less eventful months, mostly characterized by the adjustment to working outside the home full-time after spending the previous three years staying at home with the kiddos. We all got sick a lot over the summer (I guess a fun side-effect of your kids being in child care)…one time of which involved vomiting *all over* the bathroom of our best friends’ hotel room, after assuring them I was feeling better and up for a visit. It was pretty embarrassing. Fortunately, they believe in forgiveness and we’re still friends 🙂 I don’t know why I have a knack for such things…I think it must be genetic. Sorry I don’t have a pic of that.
These months were also really fun with adventures in potty training…sorry I don’t have a pic of that either. Best advice I was given: this is no time to be cheap…just throw out the underwear!! Three months and countless poo clean-ups later, we were finally victorious! I would definitely say potty training is my next most despised parenting duty, right after baby sleep training.
In less bodily fluidy news, Sean turned the big 3-0 on May 7th:
And in June, we celebrated my brother-in-law graduating from our Alma mater, UCSB:
It was fun to visit, but also bittersweet considering the tragedy that happened there a few weeks prior. It hit close to home, since UCSB and Isla Vista hold a very special place in my heart – it’s where I became a Christian, met Sean, and made a lot of great friends.
Evie also began walking at the end of the month:
In July, we went down to So Cal to visit my fam for a week, which was great and better told in pictures:
Evie also began sleeping through the night this month (at nearly a year old), which was a much anticipated milestone! And just to balance out the awesomeness of getting seven straight hours of sleep again, at the end of the month, Sean had an extremely stressful situation happen at work, which triggered an intense battle with anxiety over the next several months. Those months were a really, really hard time for our entire family, and many tears were shed as Sean dealt with the situation and personal difficulties it sparked. As an unforeseen side effect, it also brought some relational issues to the surface, and it was our toughest season in 7 years of marriage (actually, the only tough season maritally I can recall).
Throughout this trial, the Lord was right there with us showing us needed areas of growth in our relationships with Him, each other, and individually. During those months we were forced to simplify our lives, as God brought us back to some basics. We learned so much during that time, and I am so thankful God carried us through and ultimately drew us closer to Him and each other. He is faithful and awesome like that! (And I am so glad to be past it now).
Evangeline Love turned 1!
Caleb started preschool:
We began a new Life Group/Bible study with our good friends, the Shooks:
I also weaned Evie this month, which was pretty huge and freeing for me since she refused to ever take a bottle. I used a baby app to log almost every nursing session (I don’t really know why, I guess I just got in the habit), and the stats the app generated still blow my mind! In 13 months, I nursed her 2,481 times, for an average time of 1 hr and 40 minutes per day. This amounts to a total nursing time of close to 28 days, or 672 hours. That’s nearly an entire MONTH in 13 that I solely spent nursing. That’s pretty incredible!!
In September, I also learned my Myers-Briggs personality type – INFJ (less than 2% of the population, the rarest type). I’m sure you’re wondering why I thought this was significant enough to include here, and I know this sounds crazy, but this discovery seriously revolutionized my life. As I delved into reading about this personality type that describes me to a T, I learned so much about myself that my brain was constantly exploding with epiphanies. Why I do the things I do, think the way I think, or struggle with the things I struggle with finally made so much more sense to me.
It was also helpful for me to realize there aren’t many people who share my personality type, which is why I often feel “abnormal” and misunderstood. Conversely, it was encouraging to discover there are at least some people out there like me, which was normalizing and made me feel known and understood. This self-discovery has empowered me and changed how I view myself, and has helped me be more comfortable in my shoes and who God made me to be! And now I feel slightly less insane 🙂
At the end of October, I celebrated 10 years of being a follower of Jesus. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long…I can still vividly remember that time of my life and the circumstances that led me to make that decision a decade ago (which you can read more about here). I think it was the only time in my life that could match 2014 in tear drop count. It was a painful decision that came at high cost (in my perspective at the time), but it was the best and most important decision I’ve ever made in my life.
From time to time, I think about who I would be now and what my current situation would look like had I not made that life-changing decision, and I am so glad I made the choices I did, despite hardship and opposition. Philippians 3:7 – “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Knowing God and choosing to follow Him is a game changer – if you don’t know Him, I encourage you to read the book of John in the Bible, get acquainted with the Gospel, do some research, and make a choice for yourself!
In November, Sean’s anxiety struggles finally began to subside after a very long and trying few months. It was a huge relief and burden lifted, all praise to God! No sooner did that happen, did I encounter a stressful situation at my work. I won’t go into detail about it, but it was super overwhelming and anxiety-producing for me, and greatly impacted my emotional, mental, and physical health.
As a much needed and encouraging break from the tough things happening at work, we visited my family for Thanksgiving:
And I was especially blessed to meet and spend time with my 3-week-old niece, Eden Nazir’ah, who honored me with the brand new title of “Auntie” 🙂 Grammie couldn’t keep Eden and Evie’s names straight 😉
In the first half of December, I continued to be all-consumed by the difficulties at work. To my relief, the situation improved by halfway through the month. I think I had a 2-second breather from that, when we were surprised by the discovery at Evie’s first dental appointment that it’s likely she’s missing her top and bottom lateral incisors on her cleft side. We will know for sure by the time she turns 2, but if this is the case, she will wear retainers with false teeth until she reaches a certain age and gets permanent implants. I was pretty upset and sad for her at first, but I am still hopeful and praying they will come in. And even if they don’t, I realize it’s not the end of the world! Thankfully we ended this month by celebrating Jesus’ birth, which redeemed it 🙂
…Oh and in the midst of the year’s never-ending chaos, we somehow thought it would be a good idea to do work on the master bedroom, downstairs bathroom, and living room, plus build a shed and huge play set. Why!?!? Because we’re straight up ridiculous, that’s why.
My hope and prayer for 2015 is a slower, restful, less crises-filled year. We decided to step down from all optional commitments, and plan to focus on our personal health this next year. It sounds pretty selfish, but I think experiencing periods of focused rest is important. We can’t expect to pour into others if we ourselves are running on empty. With that said, here are my 7 goals for 2015:
- Pursue well-rounded health and achieve consistency with essential spiritual and physical disciplines (this is really 10 goals wrapped in 1, ha)!
- Kick some bad habits I’ve had since childhood (this will probably be the toughest one to master on the list)
- Improve in disciplining consistently and following through with consequences
- Pursue a dream of mine
- Invest in friendships
- Find a mentor
- Get better at relaxing and having fun…seriously