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.