Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Finishing Strong

It's December 31st. The last day of the year. The day everyone reminisces on the year that's passed and dreams of the year that is coming. (Or this year, the day that everyone posts "Flipagrams" on Instagram of 2013 and makes outlandish weight loss goals on Facebook.) And me? I'm right in there with everyone doing similar things. (I even made the Flipagram but haven't gotten up the gumption to post it yet.)
The other thing I did on the afternoon of the last day of the year? I went for a jog. A 3 mile jog. I overcome the feeling in my belly that felt like I couldn't do it. I fought like hell against the words in my head that were telling me that I'm not a runner, I'll never be a runner, and I shouldn't even bother. And I went. To you, maybe that isn't a big deal. To me though? It really was. You see.. I set out to only run one mile because… well… I haven't technically run (or really exercised at all) since the first of the month. And while I was out, one mile turned into two and two turned into three. Don't hear me wrong. Miles don't just add up easy for me. I'm no athlete. And quite frankly, I'm about as weak physically as they come. But I fought for it. I wanted it. I pushed myself. And as I was finishing that last mile, I heard a different voice in my head. I don't know if it was my own or my imagination or someone much greater than me, but it almost felt like it was God. And He was saying, "That's my girl. My April. Do you see her, guys? She has had the hardest year of her whole life, and this is how she is finishing it. Good grief, I'm so proud of her. I told you that you could mess with her, Satan. But I told you that this was how her year would end. I knew she wouldn't give up. Man, I'm so proud of my girl."
And so I cried as I finished that last mile. Because if I'm honest, I did almost give up once or twice along the way this year. It was painful and miserable and hard. And I don't mind saying that I will gladly never relive another day of 2013 in my life. But I'm sitting here proudly on the last day of the year knowing that even while things are still not perfect, I still don't have answers, and life is still freakishly hard some days, I made it this year. I showed up every day, never fully threw in my towel, and I'm five hours away from starting a brand new year full of brand new memories and struggles and joys and pains. And that's enough. I'm enough.
So bring it on, 2014. Throw at me what you will. I've got a power greater than you that knows I'm gonna make it through.

(On second thought, bring on what you will 2014, but let's make this year a little easier and more fun, shall we?)

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Washing Dishes with Jesus

Tonight my in-laws came over for dinner. We ate some chili and cornbread, munched on sweets, played a little cards, caught up on each other's lives, and laughed on days gone by. I love having them over. It's relaxing and easy, and because of the way they love each other and us so well, I never feel like I have to impress. And then they leave and go home, and I feel kinda peaceful. It's lovely, really. I wish that everyone felt that way when their in-laws come over.
Anyway, tonight was no different. They left and with a little bit of chili and a little bit of peace in my belly, I started on the dishes. Josh and his baby brother left to start on a project, and it was just me and the dishes left to work on each other. I caught myself half daydreaming, half praying as we worked on each other too. I thought about my friend whose baby boy was born at 26 weeks and wondered how her first Christmas was as a wife and as a new mommy to that tiny little boy. I thought about my friend whose mom moved to town today and wondered how unpacking the truck went and how their new life in the same town will be. I thought about my friends from high school and about when we'd be able to all get together again soon.
And then my thoughts drifted to one friend of mine and stayed there for quite some time. And because of the life she is living and the proud feeling I feel as she conquers the world, it almost felt like I was washing dishes with Jesus. You see.. my friend Autumn is one of the bravest, most amazing women I know. She's on a mission this year to reach people all around the globe with love and Jesus, and I don't think I've ever been more in awe of her in my life.
When we met, she was fifteen and I was eighteen, and we had an instant bond. I just didn't know the sassy, don't-touch-me, braces faced freshman in high school was going to become the woman that she is now. Oh, don't get me wrong. We hit it off and were instant best friends. But now? As she fearlessly travels from country to country and courageously faces her biggest struggles in life in order to become the best version of herself that she could possibly be, I'm truly floored. You see, her heart of pure gold is showing now more than ever before. She is selflessly inviting people into this journey with her, even when it's hard and brings her to tears. And then she does the unthinkable… She lets the tears out and works through them with others and with God. It's unreal.
She's my Autumn. My best friend. My little sister. But if I'm honest, right now it feels more like I'm looking up to her. Like maybe for a little while, she's the big sister. The one with the simultaneous wisdom and faith like a child. The one with the beautiful smile in the picture below whose laughter I miss every day lately. The friend whose heart and life is so rooted in faith right now that when I wash my dishes all alone at the end of a night and I'm daydreaming of her, it feels like maybe… just maybe, I'm washing my dishes with Jesus.