On 2016: Joy was worth the battle.

All too often, social media is an edited picture with a pretty filter over it. I’m not gonna do that today.

At this point a year ago, I was fairly certain 2016 would be at best a slog of drudgery, at worst a horrible year.

In Glennon Melton’s book “Love Warrior” (which I’m currently reading), she talks about sending her “representative” (that edited/filtered version of her) in her place, because the REAL her couldn’t possibly be good enough. That was how I felt so many days. I’m sure a lot of you saw it and just couldn’t say it, or maybe you knew something wasn’t right, but you didn’t know how to address it.

Rock bottom looks like a lot of things to a lot of different people. For me, rock bottom was envisioning my life going on the way it was – doing things I didn’t want to do, for reasons that weren’t healthy or beneficial for me, with my eyes and heart nowhere near focused on the things that truly mattered most to me. Outwardly, I had everything I’d ever wanted…why couldn’t I just get it together?

Jonathan and I decided something had to give, for both of us. In a leap of faith, we signed up for a class at our church – the church I didn’t want to fully commit to, because I was terrified they’d find out I wasn’t “one of them.” That I was far, far from perfect. This class was all about identifying things you need to change and taking the steps to change them. Could be little things, could be big things. It was a weekly exercise in transparency, and NOT an easy one. I had to divulge secrets I hated more than anything, and I had to face truths that shook my entire identity. More than that, I had to hear stories from people that you would never imagine coming out of them if you just passed them on the street, and THAT was when it clicked…that maybe I wasn’t the only one with some hurts, some wounds. Some really big mistakes. I also began seeing a therapist, something which completely changed my life. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to go back to square one and look at who you are, who you always have been, the little traits and bits of your personal history that shape who you are today. I don’t care what anyone thinks of me seeing a therapist. She is amazing and I am beyond thankful for the extra push she gives me to work on myself, and clarity she’s helped me find. You think things that happened when you were 10 or 11 don’t make a difference? Well then you’re kidding yourself. They make all the difference.

I left sales and left the full-time work force. I established my own business and began taking on clients. I landed an amazing part-time work from home gig with fabulous people who didn’t flinch when I told them I’d be taking a 3 week (LOL) maternity leave in October and hired me anyways, asking instead that I take as long as needed. Serious blessings, folks.

We also jumped from a family of 4 to a family of 5 this year. Everyone told us to brace ourselves. To be honest, people jump out of perfectly good airplanes all the time and I’ve never once heard someone regard that with the same level of foreboding that people often gave us when they realized we were expecting a 3rd child…didn’t that used to be fairly normal? Then we decided to change our typical path and use a birth center, forgo meds, and see what that was like (verdict: it’s hard work, but so is every form of birth, and I think C-section mamas are still the toughest of all). Everyone said “Y’all are crazy.” With our family’s growth this year, so many patronizing people would look at me woefully and say “That girl is gonna have her hands full.” But what they didn’t realize was that for the first time in my life, I didn’t feel like a “girl” with her hands full. I felt like a woman with her heart full and her eyes focused. I felt qualified and called by the confidence and capability my midwives, husband, and my amazing mother gave me. I felt humbled by the blessing of my headstrong, wild children. They are forces of nature entrusted to me by a God who knows my heart and is shaping me every day through them. I can promise you I learn more from them in any given day than they do from me. As I sit here on this last day of a year that I began in such a dreadful state of mind, I am so very thankful.

Not everything is perfect. But everything is beautiful in its imperfection. The messy house. The thicker waistline. The gargantuan pile of laundry that needs my attention…eventually. Absolutely nothing about this year was the version of “perfect” that your family, your friends, your church, or your Instagram feed might lead you to want to chase. But it was perfect for us. It was perfect in its challenge (paying off debt, getting very real about our goals as a couple, embracing the boundless energy of our kids, building walls where there need to be walls and making clearings where there need to be clearings). It was perfect in its revelations. In its pain, its tears, its trials, and its blessings, it was perfect.

My hope is that in 2017, if you’re throwing back a glass of champagne tonight because you just want to run away from something in your life, that you don’t run. DON’T RUN. Fight. Stay and fight. Joy is worth the battle, every time, every trial. Joy is worth the fight.