Sunday, October 16, 2016

a lifelong love letter

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.

It's so strange to sit here.

To write a blog post that I intend to be a bookend to a season of searching and discovering God's immense grace. It hurts to want to say goodbye because I've poured so much of my heart into these 'pages' of the internet. I've been raw and real with you. And you've faithfully read along and understood that I just needed a place to process all the things.

I sometimes shared things that terrified me. Other times I shared my immense joy and love for all the ways God is moving in my life. At moments of weakness and duress I may have said words that were more emotions than truth. In some ways my words were mistaken, loved ones feeling like I slayed them with my ink. But for the most part, there was such a great freedom here. A space that was mine.

So it was safe albeit scary. I opened up about things that I hadn't verbalized ever as well as recounted a lot of my past and how it's all weaved it's story into who I am today.

I hope that in these posts you have seen not just me. If you have, then I have failed. Because although I've made this blog for me first, I shared it because I hoped that somewhere in the world it encouraged someone. I prayed that my gut wrenching honesty would reach the hurting and maybe someone would feel like they aren't so alone in this world. Further more, I hoped that they would see God. That they would know what it is to find hope amidst the storm.

"I plan on being as honest and open with the details as I can because I believe that if I do that it will encourage you, that whatever your storm looks like, that it's worth trusting God through it."

So that was my statement in my first blog post and now I sit here and I write what is the last post on this site. And I hope and pray with all my might that in my discovering grace, I served you well. I hope that I was relatable and that you forgive all my moments where I was grieving the situation at hand and all the ways the past held me hostage while I tried to bargain with the captor.

I feel like it's time now to close the chapter on this book. There's a lot here in the depths of this blog that make me very vulnerable. Funny how I'm more vulnerable on the other side of my story than I was in the midst of the storm. I don't know why that is. But lately I feel like I need to close off these parts of myself. These words, they are sacred and they are me. But right now, I want to learn what it's like to stay private with those parts. I don't want the wrong eyes to stumble upon my words before I have a chance to know them. Because I want them to know me by who God has made me now. I want to share the dark places where i've often wrestled, in person, not via text. I want those sacred intimate moments back in my relationships. Whether it's with friends and family I've known my whole life or with my future people. Whoever it may be.

My goal is to eventually have a new place to invite you into. I want it to be more like insight to my favorite scrapbook. I want to share all the fun exciting places I'm discovering, things I'm learning, and things of that nature. Of course, I will probably still share parts of my heart, mostly because the desire to share is knit into the fabric of my being, I just want it to be a fresh start.

I have been given new life. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old is gone, the new is here! 

And with this new life, I feel like we need a new book. A new jumping off place. This blog holds so much of who I've been, not only in the past few years but also my whole life. Yet, again, that girl is not me anymore. As I write this I already have so many things I want to say about this, so I guess I will be sharing my heart in my new space. Thanks for journeying with me. Whether you've been here from the beginning or just are jumping in for the first time, I am so grateful for you. I may have still wrote if I didn't have readers, but it meant the world to me to know I had you reading. I don't know who you all are. If blogger is truthful, I've had almost 11,000 views total on this blog. You guys, that's amazing and crazy to me. I truly can't even comprehend it, which is why I want to say that the counter is wrong, but I think some guys get paid a lot to make sure these things actually work. So, either way, thank you.

It's been heart wrenching and joyous sometimes simultaneously. I'm excited for the fresh start. I'll leave you with the lyrics that started it all. The ones that gave me my blog name. They are the balm to my heart and soul and they hold a much more profound meaning to me than just being a Sara Bareilles love song. Til next time, friends! Xo

I'll unfold before you, what I've strung together
The very first words of a lifelong love letter
There was a time when I would have believed them
If they told me you could not come true, just loves illusion
But then you found me and everything's changed 
And I believe in something again
My whole heart will be yours forever
This is a beautiful start to a lifelong love letter

Saturday, September 17, 2016


Okay, this blog title is ridiculous.

I know that fully well.

But how do you blend Summer and Fall into a catchy trendy word? For all the words I am good at writing, I'm not good at catch phrases. I delight in hearing all my families fantasy football names because they are so witty and clever! I could sit here and list them all, but that'd be silly. Plus my memory fails me often. I can tell you my favorite might be "Discount Belicheck" - way better than when I played and my team was simply called Sheri's Boyfriends. Until they lost one year and then they became Sheri's ExBoyfriends with Sam the Eagle as their mascot. Ha! :)

Anyywayyys. I want to do better at writing and sharing in this space. I do have a hope that sometime in the near future I can have a new site that encompasses all of my hand lettered adventures as well as a branch off of my personal blog & RI love. I really want to share more about my local discoveries within the state. I absolutely love this state, have always been in love with trying new places and then I love to send everyone in the direction I came from, because sharing is the joy in my heart.

There's so many memories I want to share here. My desire is to start posting here more and less on my Facebook and Insta. I want this to be a catalog of my life and experiences and in a space that I don't have to compete for attention like you have to do on those social media sites.

Okay, so the moral of the story is I need to post more and aside from my HP post last week, I haven't updated you since Analog August.

So mid-August through now has been quite exciting and beautiful and all the good things.

I mentioned that we made an amazing new friend at the concert earlier this month (Eric Hutchinson, Matt Nathanson & Phillip Phillips). Well, this friend came over at the end of August. We ate pizza on my deck at my new patio set & drank wine and just shared all about our life and loves. Then we ventured over to Providence's own Waterfire. It was lovely!! I just love seeing a community of people come out and sit together around some quiet music, gondolas, and some fire. We watched this flash band (can I mark that as a new thing, instead of a flash mob, when guys with tubas show up out of nowhere and have a mini jam session?) and it was so great!!! Came back and ate dessert with wine and it was just the most perfect night!

Aug 20 - Starry Starry Night

I also got to make it to a Pawsox game at McCoy Stadium (in Pawtucket where it belongs and needs to stay thankyouverymuch). It had been on my summer to do list, so CHECK! I was so grateful my friends asked, it was the most perfect night for a baseball game!!! There was hot dogs and ice cream and gosh, I just love McCoy!! It was the best!

August 24 - McCoy Always has the best sunset skies!

Other remarkable things to note, sunny days in the pool with my littles (nephews) tossing a football and making up games. Surprising my friend for her birthday with goodies, Root Beer floats and a movie with a friend, discovering Trader Joes flower bouquets (i MAY have spent a small fortune, whatevs), Breakfast and the Hope St Farmers Market with my mama. Finishing reading Harry Potter during the Harry Potter Hurricane (Hermine), Farmers Market and brunch at Duck and Bunny and pop up shopping on Wickiden St with a few favorites, laughing with my grams and the ladies in the nursing home, and a few blissful nights of sitting under the stars with friends.

Lettering Love. Eep!
Hermione & Hermine, BEST DAY
This past month has been so beautiful. I feel a little boastful to share all of these things. But I don't boast for my glory but I boast because this is all God. All of these moments and so many more that would take forever to list here. It has taken 3 long long years to step to this place and finally open my heart to this new life and it's so wonderful.

Hydrangeas in one of the only things of my grams I own *heart eyes*

In my spiritual life God has been doing a number. Acceptance and Forgiveness have been working their way through and that's so amazing because I never thought I'd be able to get to this point. ESPECIALLY the forgiveness part. Because, you guys, that's stinkin hard! I have no desire to hold onto the past and by harboring unforgiveness in my heart, a piece of the past stays with me and holds me down. I know the past will always be with me. Maybe I'm romanticizing the past by saying I just want to look back with misty eyes and say thank you. Because the past paved my way to where I am today. All of it. I've finally realized as of late, that in my heart there's this part that holds love. Not a crazy infatuated or desperate love. Nah. But a small sweet piece of thankfulness and goodness and the truth that says those lies from the past few years that said none of it was true, well, it was all a lie. It was true. It was real. It was what it was and it wasn't perfect, but it was the perfect catalyst to my today and my tomorrows and I hold an immense amount of gratitude for it all.

My Flowers Matched The Half Blood Prince! 
Crafty Birthday Desserts :)

I will share more on all of this soon, I promise. But right now I need to go have a dance party to the new Eric Hutchinson album. ;) Catch ya later dudes!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Harry Potter and The Girl from Rhode Island

Man. I've been reading this book series {for the first time ever} and it is wrecking my heart like crazy.

I've just finished book 5 (Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix) & I can't even right now. *

I didn't particularly love this book. It's darker than the others so far and reminds me a lot of the 3rd book in the Hunger Games Series (Mockingjay). I didn't love that one either. But as my friend reminded me, this is always a battle of Good & Evil. So I suppose my dislike rests heavily on the fact that I hate Evil. But I powered through and read it because this friend of mine says it's his favorite one. Plus, there ain't no stopping now.

Well, this book has wrecked me. I must warn you, if you have not read the books and plan to, do not read further if you don't want any spoilers.

I have been crying on and off since I've finished this 5th book. Literally, grieving, over the death of Sirius.

For those of you who don't know - Harry Potter grows up in a home with his horrible aunt, uncle and cousin after his parents are killed when he's a baby. They treat him poorly. They make him sleep in a cupboard & pretty much stow him away 90% of the time. They constantly punish him for things that are not his fault and pretty much do whatever they can to show that they hate Harry. It's awful.

Then one day, Harry finds out he has a Godfather, Sirius. A man who was his dads best friend.

Harry gets to know him. Dreams of living with him. Finally has someone who is protective over him. He cares about Harry more than he cares about anyone and it's just so beautiful. He is the knight in shining armor as far as HP's family goes.

Then something terrible happens and HP thinks that his Godfather, Sirius is in danger. HP runs to rescue him only to discover he's been horribly tricked into a very bad situation. Long story short, is that rather suddenly, Sirius dies in this magical duel he's in while essentially him and his friends are trying to fight to save HP and his friends.

HP then enters a few stages of grief.

Prominent are the Denial and Anger. He rages and shatters anything around him. He's so angry he wants to run forever and never stop and never look back. He tries to find ways to still talk to him, thinking maybe he could turn into one of the ghosts that hangs around Hogwarts.

Oh my heart breaks for him. In those moments, I was there. I was Harry. I could feel his anger, his disbelief, his desperation to change things.

For days I've cried whenever I think about it. But why? Why am I so heartbroken over a fictional characters death?

So I prayed about this. Asked God, why does it bother me so much?

I think in some ways, HP and I have a lot in common. I know that desperation to have a loving family of your own. The desperate plea to hope against hope that something will change, maybe things will get better. I know what it's like to feel like you finally have that. Support. Encouragement. Protection. Only to have it stripped away.

But God showed me something else. I have a hope. I have something I can believe and trust in even when everything I love gets stripped away. HP doesn't have that. HP doesn't have faith in a God higher than he. Then it hit me that perhaps that is why my heart aches. I remember the days when I didn't have that anchor. That hope.

I had experienced something really unusual on the 11 year anniversary of my dad's death a week ago. Normally facing the day with a strong determination to not be sad, not miss him and not romanticize our relationship for more than it was - I actually felt grief. I cried hard tears wondering why he couldn't get his ish together. How could he continually look at us and still bring himself to drink or do drugs, knowing it turned him into an evil person. He sacrificed keeping us safe in his desire to just have fun. It was selfish and reckless. We suffered deeply because of his sin. So I cried. Tears of looking back at that little girl who was scared and just wanted to protect herself, her sister and her mother. The deep remorse I feel now that it all fell apart and my desperate attempt to hold it together failed. My mother turned to drinking to console her deep depression. Eventually losing her life to a heart attack. One I consider to have come from her failing health and her depression, both I'm sure amplified by the nightly drinking. My sister now full of hurt that spills out into hate. I see how her hurt has caused broken relationships in her life, which also places a burden on me because some of those relationships are with people I also love and care for. I see her in a position desperate to know she's loved but also not wanting to leave the position of victim because she's afraid if she's not a victim, how can you be sure people will care about you and protect you? I can say this, because I recognized this very destructive pattern in my own heart a few years ago.

The absolute most heartbreaking part of the loss of Sirius though, was when Harry finds a gift Sirius had given him but he forgot he had. This gift gave him direct access to his Godfather, and if he had remembered he had this gift, well - he would have never made the mistake of ending up where he shouldn't be, and his Godfather most likely would still be here. Heart Wrenching.

I cried for Harry because I cried for me. Because it's all too familiar. HP and I may live very [obviously] different lives, but emotions are emotions and these emotions are the same that I've faced and tried to forget for so long.

I'm crossing my fingers that JK Rowling finds some way to bring joy back into my life. To redeem what she has taken from me and Harry. But even if she doesn't, I remember that my hope is secure in God. He does bring joy and redemption into our lives, of that I am certain. That is a fact I can put all of my trust in.

*EDIT: I've finished the entire series. Possible future post coming on the remaining pieces of my broken heart.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

August - The Beginning

Hello, August. You have been so lovely. You have been full of adventure, and slowing down, and embracing the hot humid RI weather.

For the first time ever, I got to go to the {Rustic} Drive-In! We saw Finding Dory & Pete's Dragon. Thunderstorms played the entire length of Pete's Dragon. Sometimes it even torrential downpoured. There were even a few lightning strikes that were a little close for comfort but we (okay, I) focused on the movie and didn't let it get us me upset.

I have read a lot of Harry Potter. There was one particular day that it thunderstormed like crazy while I sat and read HP in the humid hot hot air, and it felt exactly like being a kid again. When stormy summer days were met by sitting in the hallway at my grandmothers reading by flashlight. Sometimes with a blanket over my head. ;o)

I've even met some financial victories (through the grace of God!) that have been burdening me for some time. Paid off the hospital bill from my surgery (slow & steady won this race), replaced my broken windshield, renewed my registration, paid off back taxes (that I didn't know I had), and FINALLY got my car inspected! YAY! These adult tasks really were weighing me down. When I drove away after the inspection, I literally cried tears of joy. I'm not sure if I ever believed this day would come.

The view from my new uncracked & clean windshield!

There was the Eric Hutchinson, Matt Nathanson and Phillip Phillips concert at Foxwoods. It was amazing. My friend and I went early, kept a good look-out for the guys & grabbed dinner at the Hard Rock. Afterwards there were drinks before the show. We got to meet Eric Hutchinson (much to his dismay, because he was being pulled away and I wouldn't let him go without taking a photo with us. ;o)). && We made a sweet sweet new friend who was concert going by herself. She even snuck us onto her floor seats so we could watch Phillip with an even more amazing view. It was so much fun, we danced & sang a ton!

When it was over, we walked over to the dance floor inside Foxwoods with our new friend and danced some more! I may have even danced with a cute boy. Who may or may not have just been checking me off his bachelor party scavenger list. But I guess we'll never know! Retrospectively, it was freeing to know that everything in the past that I thought was going to crush me, didn't. It was a small slice of proof that God might not be done writing my 'someday love story'. Not that I had a crazy desire to marry this guy I just met, so don't read that wrong. It was just confirmation that my heart is ready and accepting of the possibility of someone new & that there may be someone out there who feels the same way towards me. & in the meantime, i'm just going to have fun and not worry about it. What a concept!

Eric Hutchinson :) 


This is just a small glimpse of the many ways my heart has been exploding with joy this month already.

I did find out a bit of sad news as well. My very favorite neighbor, Richard (who lived across the hall from me) passed away at the beginning of the month. He was the sweetest guy, he always addressed me by my name "Hello, Sheri! How are you today? What are you up to?". Always happy to see me (and I was always happy to see him, too!). I found out after he passed that he's been fighting Leukemia for over a year and has been receiving blood transfusions. I never even knew. His demeanor was always pleasant and upbeat. He seemed perfectly healthy to me. I'm definitely in shock over this news as he was a young 74. Of all the people in my building, he was hands down my favorite and I know I'm going to miss opening my door and seeing him.

Overall, August has been quite beautiful so far. I can't wait to see what the second half of the month holds. Being away from social media has definitely made me more attune to what's going on around me. The grace & goodness of God. The way He abundantly blesses us even in the trials. The way summer feels when we're able to reach out and touch it. I miss some of my friends on social media, but I don't miss it as a whole. There's a large part of me that would be completely satisfied to walk away from it for good - but I don't think that's the answer either. When I finally come back to it, I know balance will be key. And by balance I mean minimal social media and large doses of real life experiences.

Friday, July 22, 2016


& We will sing of your goodness and mercy all of our days.

So there's a lot going on around here lately. A lot I haven't shared yet - and there are reasons for that. I would say over the course of the last six months God has been doing a mighty work in my life.

In the past few years, when my world was seemingly falling apart, I prayed for community. Not just a sense of community, but real life friends who would care as much about me as I do about them. Friends who ask questions to see into my heart and friends who share their heart with me.

It took years, but God has answered.

I've been doing some examining of my heart and realized there's a few reasons I haven't shared this good news with the world. But I also believe that as much as I can testify of how God was with me in the darkest moments of my life, so He is still with me and answering prayers when things aren't so heavy as well. Maybe it's even more important to share this news. I know without a doubt that God is with me when I'm not in a good place. There's peace, a sense of His comfort, that is not always as obvious when the sun is shinning and I'm singing Justin Timberlake in my car with the windows down.

I'm afraid if I speak out loud about what He's done, that I will somehow jinx it and this thing will be taken away. Or perhaps it won't be taken away, but it will fade away. I'll come to discover that it was never really as I thought it was. Lord knows, there have been a lot of moments in my life where I thought I had been on the receiving end of one of His promises only to find out that what I encountered was not for me to stay in. What if I speak these words and then things fall apart? Maybe it's better not to speak at all and not risk proving that once again I lost what I thought was for me.

I also feel that I haven't shared because I'm afraid to be open. When I was at my most broken, I could cry to most people and share my heart. Now that I'm actually sharing community with people that I consider my friends, it's scary to be open - because there's this sense that it could scare them away. There's obviously a deeper seeded issue in my heart that expects that people will come and go based on how well I behave or how dark my past is. What if I'm too much? What if I'm not enough? How do I become more without becoming too much?

Yet, in all of this, the greater more overpowering thought is this: God is good, always. He is for me which means that when I seek for Him to provide for me, that He is joyed to answer. All the ways this community came to be, could only be because of God's hand shaping and forming it just perfectly. I'm overwhelmed with gratitude to be able to see life take shape and begin to unfurl in His perfect timing.

So I wanted to share this little glimpse about why I've been so quiet and what's really going on in this heart. To anyone that is struggling and longing for community, I say, keep praying and don't give up. I can testify that this is a prayer that God will answer.

As I mentioned, there's so much happening lately and I can't wait to share some other good news in posts to come. Stay tuned, friends!


Sunday, June 26, 2016


To my past self;

Thank you for not settling for anything less than God's best and for waiting on God instead. His fruit is far sweeter than what I had ever tasted and I would be missing this if you gave up hope..even I'm so glad you didn't quit. Every day persevere. Trust. Walk in the Hope that the God of the universe has a great plan. Trust Him. Have the courage to believe in His brilliant love, that it surpasses what you could ever know.

Beautiful girl, He's not done writing your story. Far from it. This is just the beginning.

This is a beautiful start to a lifelong love letter. 

Saturday, March 12, 2016


It comes in flashbacks lately. Small moments, little memories. They come in the most random places that are not at all related to whatever I was thinking about or what I was doing.

The moments and memories I find are mostly sad. Instances of times where my heart was aching in a space where it had to pretend it was happy. Times where it was clear that what we were, was not connected. Where I did or said things because I knew it's what he wanted and times where I didn't say anything when it meant standing up for my feelings.

I remember times where I had a burning in my chest, a incessant need to speak up about something that was eating me alive and I remember his nonchalant conversations when I did. When I opened up about something from my past that really bothered me. I remember the first time I shared with him that I was abused as a child. My delivery was awful. It was still pretty early into our relationship. It was a chilly day shifting into night and we were in his jeep with the windows up, a little drafty but the heat on high to warm us up. I remember we had just picked up our coffee from Dunkin and I broke the silence as I confessed I needed to share something that had been on my heart, though I didn't know why I had to. I guess maybe God was prompting me. I said it plainly, bluntly, nervously. But instead of a conversation, it was just a kind of thanks for the heads up. Not in those exact words. I don't remember his exact words and to be honest, there may not have been any.

Confessions never gave me peace. Instead I felt shame and guilt and this thought that maybe I should keep these things to myself. So I did. For days and weeks and months and years. YEARS of not saying, hey my heart really hurts when you do "X". YEARS of denying myself the things I really wanted to do, from something as simple as watching the Grammy's or having something specific for dinner to bigger things, like hopes and dreams for where I saw us. I folded into myself more often than not and gave away everything and then some to sustain us. I didn't see it as that at the time of course. At the time I saw it in a less educated version of dying to self - denying my own desires to meet the needs of the man who once whispered in the dark that he'd marry me one day.

And that's ultimately what I wanted. To be had and held for the rest of our lives. Safety. Comfort. Assurance. It didn't matter if my feelings sometimes hurt as long as we were together. They say girls who grow up with abusive fathers often repeat the cycle in their own lives. Maybe in a weird way I was too.

I hate all of this. Because in reflection and retrospect I see a lot of sadness and heaviness that overshadows all the joy, fun, happiness, and love that we shared. Many of my favorite memories happened with that guy by my side, usually when we were both free from work pressures and social influences. But it was a piece-meal kind of relationship. Mostly charred by my inability to communicate. Can I say it was both of our fault? Because I never felt able to open up and he just never did.

What a mess.

Walking through this next phase of my life, acceptance in place of sorrow has been moving and eye opening. For months I've been telling myself I'm ready to jump into the unknown future, but truthfully I think I'm still tippy toeing out of the past. It's like a long road trip, when you're within an hour from your house and all you want to do is be there. All you want to do is just be done with the driving.

So here I am, an hour from being where I truly want to be. Open to where the Lord will speak and facing the past with my eyes and heart open, even if it hurts like hell to do so. I want to do better and I think this is something that I've really been refined in over the past few years. It's been easier to speak out and less and less do I feel shame when I finally do. I really want to get better at this because I know that the openness gives way to true relationships. This is what my hearts desire is. To know others intimately and to be known truly. So I will approach the past as a place holder to mark how far I've come. I will look on the past not as a stumbling block but as a building block for my future. I will allow God to take me back to where I was so I can see how He's lead me through. So I can see how He took me from a land of bondage, fear and hurt and brought me on this journey that promises to reconcile all things together for good. Whether that happens on this side of heaven or not, I don't know. But I am thankful for the ability to recognize that this is in fact a journey and not a time machine where I can transport to the future in the blink of an eye. It's a process. It's my story and I'm finally starting to feel okay with that.

Monday, February 15, 2016


: to stay in a place until an expected event happens, until someone arrives, until it is your turn to do something, etc.
: to not do something until something else happens
: to remain in a state in which you expect or hope that something will happen soon

I hear the word wait and immediately grow impatient. Lately I find myself restless and not even sure exactly what I'm waiting for.
A relationship? But I don't even know if I want one anymore.
Marriage? But I don't really see myself ever sharing my life with someone again.
A new job? But I don't want to learn a new job.
To pay off my debts? It doesn't feel like that will happen anytime soon.
A new hope? What is there to hope for that I haven't already hoped for?

You see, I'm restless and conflicted. Even my emotions can't decide what I want. Part of me wants each of the things above and part of me wants nothing to do with it anymore.

So I hear over and over again the command to wait and I'm growing impatient of waiting for what I don't even know I'm waiting for.

Yet in all my tossing and turning, I read the definition of wait and I can see a little more clearly now. To stay in place until.... To not do something until.... To remain in expectation until... Perhaps, I think, I'm simply being asked to wait until something happens. To stay in place, to let God work my fate, to stop chasing, pursuing, forcing, overthinking, list making, seeking... and to just wait on God. Wait.

And in a lot of ways this lines up with what I've been praying for. A hope and a future. A means to an end. Something different. To not feel so alone. To not feel so restless. To feel content and secure. Happy. Loved. Sought after. Chosen.

So again I'll look up and again I'll walk through my typical rotation of days. I don't need to worry because the Lord of the universe, who sets all things into motion, is working all things out for my good. He is doing it. Not me. I don't have to do a thing. He knows what I need before I know myself and I can rest assured that He's on it. So until it is my turn to do something, I will be over here waiting and I will wait by simply enjoying my life and not dwelling on the "when is this" and "what if this" scenarios. I will embrace my days whether they be full or empty and I will see God's loving hand in it all because His eye is on the sparrow so I know He watches me.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

thirty three.

Sunday was my birthday (hooray, cake!).

I thought it would be fitting to share a little insight. A little encouragement for a weary soul that's tired of holding onto hope that feels like the things you desire most will never come to pass.

A year ago I really didn't want to be alive anymore. I couldn't see how things would get better. I knew I needed to trust God but it was so incredibly hard to trust the One I believed had the power to have changed things, but didn't do it. I couldn't imagine my life being so radically changed as it would be and I couldn't imagine how any of that would be good. Better yet, fulfilling.

Nothing really ever happens overnight. If it does, I'd challenge that it's slowly been coming to pass for a while, but to the naked eye it looks instantaneous.

In God's beautiful timing He has revealed a new greater plan and purpose to me. It's not anything that sends me overseas on mission fields. It's nothing that has me selling all my possessions and moving into a tiny home. It's nothing that would seem to be life changing at all. But it is.

To anyone who is struggling, I just want to say to keep holding onto hope. To believe in the unbelievable and to expect the unexpected (in a good way, don't be a narcissist like I was with this saying ;) ). God is always in the impossible. I could give you examples from the bible, the Holy Word of God and I could give you real life examples as well. If you're desperate and searching for encouragement in seeing God's greater plan I suggest reading Laurie Shorts, Finding Faith in the Dark. I loved it so much and found so much of God in the way she weaves all these real life stories of struggle together and always for a better and greater purpose. Don't we always wish it was that easy to see God at work?

But life isn't that way. We don't get the manuscript before we live it and so we have to walk by faith and not by sight. We have to set our eyes on Jesus and trust that we can step into the uncharted waters and be held up safe in Him.

This past year my life has changed so much. I've begun to make new friends and become a part of a local community of beautiful people. I've begun to believe in myself and find so much greatness in the others around me as well. I can say that God has healed my heart, not because of any great revelation and certainly not because of anything I did on my own. But because I woke up a few days ago and didn't think about it anymore. The day that held so many memories for me, and I woke up and did my thing, thinking about my future and my hopes and goals and never once did I think about "what I would have been doing" until almost lunch time. And even then it was more just a "hmm, that's funny I didn't even think about that" versus an "I'm so sad that I'm missing that" way.

In the past year God has shown me more of who I am. My identity that is rooted in Christ and not in man. I would have never truly learned this, if I had not been separated from the one I loved the most. After I wrote these words I came across this quote by Elisabeth Elliot in "The Path to Loneliness"
"I began to go deeper into the lesson of college days - that of finding satisfaction in Christ, apart from the man I hungered for. That was a gift I could not have received in any context other than the loneliness of being single. Now that Jim was dead, I had to repeat the lesson. It was more difficult this time, for there was no hope of my having him."
As I read these words I shook my head in total agreement of what Elisabeth says. Like her, I never would have find myself outside of simply being alone. Since God is always after what is absolute best for us, I have no doubt that these growing pains and the glory thereafter outweigh that joy of granting my prayers.

So instead I've learned that there's so much more to life. So many dreams to dream and so many good moments ahead. I've experienced true joy while standing in the middle of grief. I've been able to not only return to the girl I used to be, but also become a much better version of myself than I ever was before. No longer do I allow myself to get tossed around by other peoples plans. Now I have my own! I make decisions, I set goals, I work hard to make my dreams come to life. Life is much deeper and more beautiful than ever before.

So I say, keep trusting God. A year ago today my world was absolutely crushed. I was a hot mess express on the fast track to doom and gloom. I didn't change by any power or strength on my own. But slowly, day by day, God encouraged me and showed me glimpses of His love. I wasn't always aware of it. I didn't always press in to Him. I still have so far to go to continue becoming an amazing version of the Sheri Hooton I know God intends me to be. But I feel so radically different. I feel so changed. Full of hope and joy and great love that I want to share and pour out to others.

I'm not focusing on the number or the fact that I'm still single and now at an embarrassingly old age for marriage. Instead, I'm focusing on God. That He loves me and has a perfect plan for me. I don't feel whatever "33" is supposed to feel like anyways. When I look back now I simply can't imagine how ridiculous it would have been to have been married to the guy I loved. Just because I so wasn't me and apparently, he wasn't himself either. Yeah, it still upsets me but God's grace is so powerful that it can even wash this messy past clean. I'm made new, I have a new heart, a new perspective and 2016 is going to be a year unlike any others. I'm sure of it. I know it'll have it's hard times, absolutely no doubt about that - but I know God is working in my life. I will sing Mary's song and say "For the Mighty One has done great things for me. Holy is His name." Join in singing with me!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Year in Review: 2015

It's so easy to look back in a moment of weakness and see nothing good through the fog. My memory is so fickle. So I'm calling to mind all the great from this past year (and the hard because I can see where the great has or is emerging). It's been really truly incredible to see how much God has moved in my life.

This is very non-traditional in it's layout and writing but it serves the purpose! I hope to continue with this tradition each year to create a place to reflect on all years past as I get older (God willing).

- New Years Word of the Year: Trust
- New Years Resolution: Sell a piece of my art by the end of the year. Go to the Influence Conference.
- Attended the Return to Rest Retreat. This was so good for my soul. Something that terrified me but has been a turning point in how I would be able to open up and socialize with new friends throughout the rest of the year. Plus it was beautiful. So, so beautiful.

- Desperately searching for a new place to move. Deciding if I can trust God with my finances.

- Moved back out on my own. The help that came through left me speechless. I've never had such a quick or easy move. Literally everything was done by 1:30 and I was laying on my mattress thinking about how God brought all these people into my need to lift the burden. Beyond grateful.
- Emotions about being alone were a mix of sad, stressful, sorrowful but exciting and new too. This little town is a new-to-me town. Exploring it has been so lovely.
- Took a calligraphy class with Laura Hooper in Boston!

- Hard, sad, tough but so sure of God's presence.
- Started the Dave Ramsey, Financial Peace University.
- Another successful SENE Film festival! Each year just gets better and better!

- Started going to a new church in Providence again after attending this church during Advent season in December. They scare me. They are amazing and creative and young and super hipster. They are everything I love about community and everything I desire and it terrifies me.
- Kat Graham visted our office and we got to meet her!
- Attended my oldest nephews first ever baseball game! Can you say Proud Auntie?!

- Spent the night in Boston with my friend after attending the Ingrid Michaelson concert!
- Kayaking with the Rhode Explorers girls!
- Spent a lot of time outdoors, walking - reading in the sun - by the pool (my apartment has a pool!! what, what?!) - exploring Providence
- First ever Federal Hill Stroll! (SO MUCH FUN!)
- Providence night out with my friend, Waterfire, Providence's first ever International Arts Festival, and Block Party! We even got to check out the only rooftop bar in Providence!

- Went exploring local and new to me parks, felt like a road trip!
- Drove THROUGH a rainbow! (it was soooo cool!)
- Got to watch my sister say yes to her dress!!
- Explored a new-to-me beach side town (Watch Hill, RI), by myself. It was amazing + incredible and felt a lot like being on vacation. I ate an ice cream cone on the beach in the dark listening to the waves. It was awesome.
- Beach Pond, RI on a boat with a few of my favorite guys.

- Took the month off of social media. It was hard, gratifying, peaceful.
- Got to see Sara Bareilles musically composed Waitress. (spoiler alert: it was amazing and Jessie Mueller is incredible)
- Started reaching out and meeting friends at church. A beginning of something so beautiful.
- Spent most of the month indoors because it was so hot out and I didn't feel well at all. Increasingly more sick and in pain.

- Attended the last Influence Net Conference. Met so many online friends in real life. Hugged them. Met a few new great friends. Hugged them too.
- Finally, finally gave my heart over to Jesus. (not to say I haven't picked it back up a few times, especially lately). First time I've ever felt so sure of His plan for me and my trust in Him. (hello word of 2015 coming to life).
- Travelling by myself. (So much fun!) Drove from Indy to Chicago (I love rental cars!). I always say I'm going to do these fun road trip type things and something always gets in the way. Is it fear? But I did it and then I got to spend a week exploring the city and spending time with my brother and sister in law.
- God prevented me from getting sick this entire week and a half. I was so thankful for that! Knowing now what was making me sick, I definitely wasn't following the right eating regimen to prevent the pain. It was all God.
- This is the first month I start to feel like I can talk about my past, even though I'm holding back tears, I no longer think my life is over because of what happened. Now I see new opportunities, endeavors, and a brand new beautiful plan.

- Finally had an appointment with a GI doctor, after literally a year of stomach pain. Pain that has increased and become more and more severe and frequent. Pain so bad that it would wake me in the middle of the night and keep me up in excruciating pain. There were many tears. Towards the end I was throwing up from the pain. Dizzy. This sickness has caused me to miss so many days of work this past year.
- Trip to Florida with the rents. Got to spend time with lots of family + went parasailing for the first time ever! It was such a blast!! Also, I kinda saw a dolphin and saw rainbows almost every single day. Some really gorgeous ones!

- Joined with the doctors who created Proactive to start my own Rodan and Fields business.
- God moved quick. I had an ultra sound on 11/5 which confirmed I had a large gallstone stuck in the neck of my gallbladder. On 11/13, thanks to a cancelled appointment - I met with the surgeon for a consult. On 11/20, thanks to another cancelled appointment (all God), I had surgery to remove my gallbladder. In God's also perfect timing it was the week before Thanksgiving which spared me a few days of PTO that I didn't have for recovery.
- A few amazing friends really came through and helped me. Supported me. Loved me. When I needed them the most. My heart has never been so broken for what I don't have because it's never been so clear just how alone I am. People who should have been there, really weren't. But then again, people I didn't want to have to help me, showed up anyways and their love and support meant the world to me. I literally could not have done it without them. Recovery was hard. The first few days I couldn't even stand up on my own without severe pain. I was throwing up from all the pain medicine (and probably from the anesthesia). Apparently during surgery one of my incisions didn't want to stop bleeding. Just knowing this fact is so scary!! All the unknown that could have happened. After surgery while in the hospital my heart rate kept dropping every time I fell asleep. Those days were no joke and whoever said it was easy, they lied. I also can't believe this is considered one of the easiest surgeries. Sign me up on the list to never need another surgery in my life. Thanks! Gods grace, mercy, love, compassion definitely carried me through all of this!!!
- I became Auntie to another little nephew, my brothers little guy, I cant wait to meet him! <3

- For the most part, my stomach pain is gone. I still get occasional pain there but it could just be part of the healing process.
- On a whim felt the urge + desire to jump head first into selling my art. So one night at 9pm, I announced a 12 day art giveaway + sale. I remembered my desire to sell at least one piece of art by the end of 2015. So far I've sold 6 pieces and given away 12! I'm learning so much, it's growing me and challenging me and showing me just how much hard work can pay off.

(I finished, I won't list the ones I started but never finished.)
- Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers
- Scary Close, Donald Miller
- Freefall to Fly, Rebekah Lyons
- Finding Faith in the Dark, Laurie Short
- Let's All Be Brave, Annie Downs
- Wilderness Skills for Women, Marian Jordan
- The Best Yes, Lysa Terkeurst
- When the Darkness Will Not Lift, John Piper
- The Selection, the Elite and The One, Kiera Cass

BIBLE STUDIES: (Started quite a few but did not finish, see ADD with books, same deal.)
- Power of God's Names, Tony Evans

- Parenthood
- Gilmore Girls
- Friends
- Once upon a time

- Ingrid Michaelson
- Mat Kearney
- Ed Sheeran (guest; Chris Martin from Coldplay!)
- Lord Huron
- Big Daddy Weave, Jason Gray, Citizens Way
- Howie Day

- Waitress in Boston
- Newsies at PPAC
- White Christmas at PPAC

- Financial Peace University
- Laura Hooper Calligraphy
- Business classes with Whitney English (and team leader Amanda)
- How to make the most of your single life with Stephanie May Wilson
- Aromatherapy Mask Sewing Class with Mikala Cash
- Container Gardening with the Rhode Explorers.
- Makeup How To with the Rhode Explorers.
- Many influence net classes!

- NH (return to rest)
- Miami (art deco fair!)
- Indy (Influence Conference)
- Chicago (Andrew + Sara)
- Ft Meyers, FL (with the rents)

Other great things worth noting:
- Ingrid Michaelson concert and spent the night in Boston with a friend.
- Ingrid liked our photo on insta!
- Mat Kearney concert that rocked. the. house.
- Oh yeah, and Mat liked my heartbreak dreamers photo on Insta.
- Church started a women's bible study! YAY!!
- First ever real Christmas Tree as an adult, woop!
- Winter photoshoot with John Pitocco!
- Quiet walks in the many snow filled nights we had this year
- Painted my largest project to date for Refuge Church!
- Watched the sunrise in Miami
- Met Charity Dawson (from Waitress)
- Chicago Cubs game
- Federal Hill Stroll
- Nantasket Beach
- Busch Gardens
- Brookfield Zoo

I don't dare list any of this in a particular order, but simply as they come to mind. I'm sure I'm forgetting to include something so obvious in this list. 2015 was a beautiful mix or hard and fulfilling and standing at the end of the year I can see so much of how God has been healing my heart. I will be posting more in a separate post, but thank God for His mercies that are never ending and Thank God that He provides us all with the chance to live life abundantly. There was no shortage of abundance in my 2015, that's for sure.