The past two years or so have been some of the most difficult in my life to date. I often refer to it as my desert experience. It’s been lonely, scary, and painful as I have navigated change, loss and brokenness on every front – marriage, health, finances, family, and friends.
And yet while it’s been hard, I’ve learned some extremely valuable things…
1. I am considerably stronger than I used to be. Even on my worst days, the glimmer of hope and faith has never been completely absent, and I find that my tears don’t flow as often, or for as long. Like exercise, trial brings strength over time.
2. I have far more grace for others – especially when they are acting in a way that some might find offensive or rude. Far too often I used to interpret a person’s tone, action, or distance as directed towards me. Struggling to even breathe some days has brought me to a place of far greater self-awareness and ability to let others be who/where they are.
3. In balance with #2, boundaries come far easier now than they ever have before. I can love someone where they are, but I can also decide what behavior and attitude I allow in my life – from myself as well as others. When I lose it, I correct more quickly. And I no longer allow others to determine or influence, my environment. A positive atmosphere requires a decision to be intentional.
4. We don’t have to agree to love. But we do have to love to be in relationship.
5. When they say “life is a journey,” it’s not a joke. More often than I had dreamed, I need to pick my battles and keep each value in check with my long-term goals and dreams for myself and my family. Sometimes we have to let go of things we want in order to continue to move towards where we are going. That is not always easy.
6. At the end of the day, I alone am responsible for my attitude, my beliefs, my decisions. I can never control another person, but I am wholly responsible for my reactions to them. (This rule applies to parenting on a nearly-daily-basis with children ranging from 4-15 in ages… teens and toddlers… oh my!)
7. God’s plan is WAY bigger than we imagine. And He is WAY bigger than we comprehend. Sometimes, that’s just what we have to hang on to. Period.
8. What we are we will find. If I love, I find love. If I extend grace, I find grace. When I choose to believe that others are a certain way, I will always find evidence to support it. If I choose to see good in all…
9. I really like who I am.
10. Life is so vast and uncertain and beautiful and confusing and… amazing. What I have learned most of all in my desert experience is that above and in all things, God exists, and He will never let anything we face, any mistake we make, any loss we experience, or even joy we share, to happen for nothing. He works all things together for good to those who love Him…I am just so very glad He loved me first.