For me, 2019 was full of loss, change, and uncertainty. Honestly, I thought 2018 was hard and I had all these wonderful expectations for 2019 to be so much better . . .and yet, it didn’t deliver. But, truth is, God doesn’t waste any of our days . . . months . . .or years. He’s always working, always moving, and always teaching us. So, as we come to the end of 2019, I’d like to share with you the 19 lessons I learned in 2019. These are my biggest lessons from the year.
I wonder how many of these God taught you as well? I’d love to hear from you here.
1. Without Joy, We’re Missing Out.
The staff at our church started the year with a week of fasting, prayer, and sermons on joy. It was an amazing way to begin 2019. I didn’t realize how much joy I lacked and how I’d allowed circumstances over the past year to dictate my joy levels. I talk all about what I learned about joy in this episode of the podcast.
2. You Can’t Take Your Stuff With You When You Die.
So after I got all filled with joy in January, February brought the news that my aunt, my dad’s only sister, had cancer everywhere. All over her body. She entered the hospital the first week of February and passed away in hospital hospice a few weeks later. She never married and that meant the responsibility of taking care of her affairs fell on my immediate family.
It’s a surreal thing to go into someone’s home after they’re gone, especially if they’re departure wasn’t expected. Everything she owned was right there, in its place. Just as it was the day she left for the hospital. She didn’t take anything with her. There were things she’d ordered online, still in their packages. There was food in the fridge. And there were books—thousands and thousands of books.
This was a good reminder to me that my stuff, ultimately, doesn’t matter that much. Some day, someone’s going to throw away half of what I have and sell the rest. It’s just stuff. And, yet, I spend so much time thinking about it, taking care of it, buying more of it when it’s on sale!!! Sigh. 2019 has reminded me to get rid of what I don’t need or use!
3. Sometimes You’ll Feel Left Out, And That’s Okay.
Between moving to a new place, four children and their activities, and being consumed with extended family health issues, 2019 wasn’t the best year for making friends. But, 2019 taught me that to have friends, I have to be a friend. We didn’t have a lot of time this year to invite people over, it felt like most weekends were accounted for, but I’m reminded that this is what it takes.
Intentional effort is the only way to have friends. I can’t worry about whether or not the invitation is reciprocated. I can’t worry about whether or not someone turned down my invite for coffee because they really are “busy that day” or because they just don’t want to get to know me better. I just have to keep asking. (I talked about this on the podcast here.)
Community doesn’t happen in a week, or even a month. In fact, someone told me that it takes upwards of 70 interactions with someone before they can be counted a friend. I’ll keep working on this in 2020. Have you made an effort to have more or closer friends this year?
4. God Can Even Use Cancer.
One of the hardest moments of 2019 was the day we lost my husband’s step-father, Tim. He was diagnosed with colon cancer right before Thanksgiving and passed away Mother’s Day weekend. This was my first face to face interaction with cancer. I watched Tim’s size morph from a man who could play Santa Claus, to a man who could share clothes with my nine-year-old. Cancer wreaked havoc on his body, but fortunately, we’re more than just a body.
Not long after Tim was diagnosed, he started talking more about faith. He started asking more questions. Early on, he still seemed uncertain. But, the day before he died, I stood at his bedside and asked him if he needed anything. Tim replied, “I have Jesus, I don’t need anything else, do I?” I shook my head no. Tim died peacefully the next morning. We believe he’s with Jesus now, but we’ll miss him dearly this Christmas.
5. Your Friends Have Good Ideas (So Ask For Their Input!).
This summer I finished my second book and sent out a bunch of copies to friends for feedback. It was such a good reminder that we all work best when we work together. It’s embarrassing to let anyone see an early draft of your writing. But, the input from my early readers had a huge impact on the book and on me personally. In fact, my friend Erin Kerry even came up with the title: The Burden of Better. I love it and love even more the fact that she came up with it!
Watch for it September of 2020!
And on the topic of good ideas, wouldn’t it be really interesting to read a fiction book with a Christian perspective on body image? My friend, Sean Coons just released a book titled: Body and I was pleased to endorse it. If you like to read fiction, check this one out. It’s engaging and insightful! I read it in a few hours because I couldn’t put it down!
6. Stop Waiting for The Time When Everything Will Be Settled.
I don’t know if you do this too, but I’m always waiting for things to “settle down.” This year I learned that this marvelous and euphoric period in time does not actually exist. There will never be a time in my life when “nothing” is going on (or if there is I should move out of the cave and return to my family, haha!).
I’m in the sandwich generation, smacked between aging parents (and even some grandparents nearing 100!) and children-at-home. My to-do list is not going to clear, ever. But, I have to make time for regular rest, and give up my idol of “settledness.” My circumstances aren’t what gives me peace, Jesus is.
7. Two Different People Can Write Two Different Books on Exact Same Topic.
One of my favorite lessons this fall has been from watching a new friend publish a book on comparison. Can I be honest with you? It’s hard to not compare yourself to other people, period. But, then write a book on comparison and watch someone else write a book on comparison and try, really try, not to compare the two comparison books. (Did you follow that??!!?)
But, this year I learned (once again) that God can give us each dreams or books or projects! Even when you’re in the same “space” or talking about the same things, there’s no real need for comparison. God can (and will) use ALL of it!
If God has called you to do something, he’ll make room in the arena for you to do it too. Don’t give up on your purpose because someone else is “already doing it.”
If only the best singer sang, what a quiet world we’d live in.
8. Aim to Bless Not Impress.
When I interviewed Richella Parham, the author friend I mentioned above, about her new book, “Mythical Me: Finding Freedom from Constant Comparison,” there was one topic we discussed that really left its mark on me. “Aim to bless, not impress,” is an actual quote from her book. Wow!
Friend, how many times do we entertain people hoping to impress them, rather than bless them? How much freer would we feel if we tried to bless people rather then impress them everytime we interact? I love this concept and hope to make it my motto in 2020! You can check out Richella’s book on comparison here if you’re interested. Or, you can win a copy on Facebook here.
9. Hustling is Way Over Rated (and may be unbiblical)
I sat on my spin bike (an inexpensive alternative to Peleton which I highly recommend) and realized, I was headed no where. Seriously. No where fast! In the era of hustle—when we’re all supposed to work our tushes off to get ahead, and when we’re supposed to “stop apologizing” and just go for what we want, I wonder if God isn’t say, “Hush the hustle.” I talked all about what he’s taught me about hustling here.
The story of the Tortoise and the Hare really spoke to me in a new way when I was thinking about all the hustling I do. I feel like my life is sometimes a series of sprints and naps. Do you ever feel this way? God showed me how Hare-like I am and reminded me that the tortoise wins the race. You can hear what else he taught me, here.
10. Grief Happens After All Kinds of Loss. Process, Pray, or Stay Stuck.
In the Spring I read an amazing book by Paul Miller called, “A Praying Life.” It’s a seriously awesome book that will change your life. Dramatically!
After reading it I created prayer cards and listed specific prayer requests for each person I’m praying for. Guess what, if you’re reading this message, you’re on my card!! Yes, I pray for you!!!
But, sometime after my father-in-law passed away, I began to feel overwhelmed with grief. Two losses in my family within 2 months was a lot. But, other things that I had “lost” over the past few years–like relationships, positions, and dreams–weighed heavy on me all of a sudden. It was like I needed to grieve those losses as well. And, so I did.
I created a prayer card and titled it, “Things I’m Grieving.” On it I listed the loved ones we lost, but I also listed friendships that had ended and the loss of my “job” as a pastor’s wife when my husband moved to a different role at our new church.
As I prayed through my grief daily, I started to feel the heaviness lift. I still have moments of grief, sure. But, facing those losses, listing them, naming them, and then praying over them was a huge help to me. Are you experiencing loss that you haven’t faced yet? Can I suggest you also take the time to grieve?
11. My Hair Still Matters Too Much.
Last month I got my hair cut. It felt weird. I’ve always been a long-hair girl. There was a lot associated with my long hair that I hadn’t really processed in terms of my body image. But, God used my haircut to show me I still have some areas to surrender in the body image idolatry arena! I talked about it on the podcast, here.
12. I’m Older Than I Feel.
Last summer I had the opportunity to take 12 college girls through a body image course based on my book, Compared to Who? I learned that I’m old. Yikes! When I asked them to give me the name of a model or a celebrity they admire, I didn’t know who half the people they named were! But I also learned was that college-age girls have a much harder struggle with body image issues that I ever did. Comparison, eating disorders, the whole body image bag of bondage is very real for young women.
If you know of a younger woman who’s struggling with the way she looks or comparison issues, I hope you’ll consider getting her this book. Of course, if you’re the mom of a girl this age, I always recommend putting your own oxygen mask on first. You read it, then pass it on and discuss it together!
13. Anxiety is Sneaky.
I didn’t know I had anxiety issues. But, this year I had anxiety sneak up on my on several occasions. My friend, Dr. Michelle Bengtson wrote a book on anxiety called, Breaking Anxiety’s Grip and, honestly, it’s been a huge help in our house.
Check it out if you struggle with anxiety in any way and listen to my interview with Dr. Bengtson here where we talk about the connection between body image issues, anxiety, and depression!
14. The Enneagram is Informative.
Where are my enneagram friends? No matter what you think of the Enneagram, I’m telling you, it’s really helped me sort out some of my motivations. Why do I do certain things and avoid certain things? Why do I hoard clothing? Why do I prepare enough food for a small African nation when we have people over? According to the Enneagram it’s because I fear lack. So. Spot. On.
It’s come to my attention that the roots of the Enneagram are controversial. So, please, follow your own conscience. I believe it’s a helpful tool for understanding personality –like Myers Briggs or “What Color is Your Parachute” . . .but I’d caution any use that goes beyond informational purposes. If you are curious about your type, I liked this book. There are several out there but, my counselor suggested this one. Though it’s not a uniquely Christian book, it reads more like a textbook and was very informative.
15. What I Think About Other People Matters.
One day at church I saw a woman who was totally put together. Near perfect in appearance, I promise you. And, God reminded me that what I think about other people matters. If I look at someone and decide things about their life based on how they look, then what I’m really doing is objectifying her. And, I’m saying that somewhere, deep down, I still believe that beautiful people have it better.
In other words—if I believe this about other people, have I really and truly released the idol of beauty? I talked all about this in this podcast episode called, “What You Think About Other People Matters.”
16. We Don’t All Have to Be Busy All the Time.
I spent the last part of 2018 resting and recovering. So, I assumed that 2019 would be a super productive time for me. But, as the holiday season gears up, I’m feeling the need to remember the importance of rest. God is reminding me, gently, that many of the reasons I keep myself SO busy are not necessarily honoring to him.
So, I did a two-part podcast on the topic of busyness, including God’s prescription for busyness and the heart motivations that keep us trapped in busyness’ lair. I hope you’ll take time to listen to this one before the holidays are over!
17. Discipleship Takes Discipline.
This year was the first time ever I’ve gone through an intentional discipleship program where I was the disciple! Our church calls it “Fully Formed Follower.” It’s been an amazing experience and helped me formalize some of my thoughts on discipleship and how to make it a regular rhythm in my life.
Plus, I also had the opportunity to disciple some women this year through my Body Image Personal Training course. During one session, I only had one participant. And, I learned something. One-on-one training can be really awesome. Being able to walk with one woman and help her see things about herself and her body image she’d not been able to see before was truly amazing. Next year I’ll offer this opportunity to anyone who wants it.
Maybe you don’t want to do a full six weeks with me, but you want just one or two sessions? I’m going to offer this in 2020 as well. I’ll also offer group training, which is a fantastic way to meet other people who are seeking freedom. Stay tuned for more details or send a message here to pre-register.
18. Never Say Never.
Have you ever said, “I’ll never . . .”? Well, my husband told us we’d never have a dog. In May my daughter prepared a presentation on the benefits of a dog and exactly how much a dog would cost over the course of each year. He still said, “No way! Not going to happen.”
But our God is one of miracles. So, I’d like you to meet Violet. She’s a four month old Cavachon. She does all the typical puppy things: peeing on my favorite rug, chewing on Christmas tree ornaments, and stealing socks. Yet, we love her dearly. Never say never. If there’s something you’ve been begging your husband for . . . just keep praying. (That was my daughter’s strategy at least.)
19. Better is a Burden.
As I think forward to 2020, and hope it will be “better” than 2019 in many ways, I wonder if I’m not deceiving myself . . .blindly hoping in something that can’t deliver—that is, better.
Always aiming to be better, do better, have better . . . it’s such a burden. Better—at least when it comes to anything in this life—is elusive. My better isn’t the same as your better and, chances are, someone else’s better tops both of ours!
The road to better has no rest stops. And, along that road we carry this heavy burden of better . . .We wear this feeling—condemnation really—that we have to keep striving to get there. Better, as culture defines it, never arrives permanently. That’s why we decided to title my new book on Comparison, “The Burden of Better: How a Comparison-Free Life Leads to Peace, Joy, and Rest.”
The only better that lasts arrived on earth about 2,000 years ago.
We celebrate this at Christmas time. Jesus really is the only “Better” that brings rest. Jesus is the only “Better” that fulfills us. (Today I learned that Jen Wilkin has a new Bible study book coming out called, “Better.” I’m sure it’s awesome! Check it out!)
Merry Christmas, friends! Here’s to a joy-filled Christmas holiday and end to your 2019!
What did YOU learn in 2019?