my not-so-typical year recap: the burdens I carried

I carried Cannon Murray a lot this year, but he is not a burden. 
I've read about six hundred 2013 recap posts and I'll tell you what - I'm better for it. I love reading about people's years, I love getting to know them better and seeing what stood out for them. I love hearing other women get introspective and quiet and reflective. I completely agree that before we move forward, we've got to get honest about where we've been. Celebrating the wins and accessing the hardships is an important and valuable process. Introspection is like the native language of my heart - so I feel right at home in the masses of the recap posts, but I haven't quite known how I want to write my own. 

The other day, I was talking to a sweet friend and she told me that one of her greatest fears is being misunderstood. I have to say, I don't operate out of that fear most of the time - but there is something stirring in my heart concerning online life that resonates with that desire to be fully seen and understood. 

When I post on instagram or hit publish on the blog - my main goal is almost always to speak life and encourage. I've said it before - I want to write to the woman in the thick of it, and spur her on to more. But occasionally, I long for the ability to be a little more vulnerable and to let people see the process the Lord takes me through to get me to where I feel like I HAVE to speak life. I don't wake up feeling motivational and I'm not an overtly cheery person. I am, however, a feeler and passionate to a fault at times. So quite honestly, when I perceive a problem or an issue or hurt amongst community or the people around me - my thoughts + the intensity of which I think about things = a strong desire to want to get outside of myself and help. 

There were lots of nights in 2013 when I went to bed beyond burdened and broken for the things women around me struggle with. Shoot, almost all of the time - I struggle with the issue too, so I'd go to bed broken for all of us. On those nights, I laid super still and would pray and focus on begging God for hope. Sometimes I'd ask Nick to just lay his hands on my face or pray for me or give me some words that would help me buoy up to that place of feeling like it was going to be ok. I wanted to know God cared and would heal whatever hurt I was focused on. 

So I thought I might share some of those. The burdens that I felt (and still feel) and the pangs which kept me up a little later and brought me to prayer a little earlier. These are the hurts and the broken bits that I held up to the Lord from my own heart, asking Him to help me and use me to encourage others - because if I was struggling, maybe others were as well. This is my recap of 2013. 

I started the year fighting, very hard, to stay present during a beautiful season for my family. We were welcoming Cannon into the world, but there was tumultuous stuff happening online and in my business life that constantly fought for my attention and my joy. There were so many days when I stared at our sweet new baby's face for minutes on end and reminded myself - THIS is life. THIS is joy. I knew I'd look back on the beginning of 2013 and remember a sweet baby, but the momentary trials of what was happening on twitter wouldn't be what I wanted to remember. But choosing that daily felt like a huge fight for me. 

As I wrestled to reconnect with who I was after having a fourth baby, I had lots of days where I hurt for all the women I know who feel like they've lost a spark to their life. When I looked into the mirror, all I saw was a shell of a human with sallow skin in a dirty sweatshirt. I knew that Christ in me was more than that and I knew He'd created desires in me to live past that, but it didn't change the fact that my daily rhythms of newborn life and online business left me with little time to try and let those passions out. And suddenly I saw it in women all around me, a desire to live wild and refresh to get back to who God made them to be. If I'm honest - this is one that still keeps me up at night. 

In our family, we wrestled a lot with what it looks like to have a life that includes both of our dreams and desires. We talked hours on end about complementarianism, what it looks like to be "we" instead of "you and me", and what it means to be truly on each other's team. I found myself longing for a positive and hopeful view of this for myself and the women around me. I want to know and believe that ultimately God gave my husband and I to each other - for His glory, He gave us both dreams and desires for His glory, and He will help us work together and bless one another, for His glory. 

I spent more than a little time broken over how women in our culture use their words. I saw lots of negative tweeting, calling people out for menial things, I overheard conversations at coffee shops that were less than encouraging, and I walked away from events knowing that I didn't give abundantly and freely with my own words to push people to Jesus. While I've talked a lot in the past about speaking life, I realized that most of the times when I say "speak life", I mean "don't say negative things". And I think there's much more to it than that. I'm teaching a class on this in January that I'm excited about. 

Watching my five year old daughter, my own heart, and the women around me made me feel stormy about comparison. I watched Glory, in all her sweet little girlness, measure her worth by watching the girls around her. If they were treasured, she must not be. If they were special, she must not be. I watched grown women do the same. I saw it in my own heart. I had women tell me that they wished they were doing something someone else did or even something I was doing it and it broke me. It's beautiful when the Lord ignites passion in us to do THINGS but it's terrible and breaking when we're measuring our worth against how things they happen for other women. I also learned that comparison doesn't just hurt us and the Lord, it really hurts the people we're comparing ourselves to. It robs them of the beauty of just celebrating for them - for praising God about what He is doing in them. 

I went to bed more than a few nights burdened with the knowledge that I didn't love my family first or that my own weird little heart burdens were keeping me from loving them fully. And I learned sometimes you just have to try as hard as you can to turn off your strange introverted burden button. 

Lastly, even last night, I went to bed broken and burdened for the woman I write to on this blog. I went to bed asking Nick (and the Lord) for encouragement and prayer and wisdom about how to help the woman in the thick of it. I started blogging way before it was a business and way before I even knew what a print shop was. And I have always wanted to talk to her, to talk to you. To make it better. To the woman in the thick of motherhood, ministry, marriage, and small business. The one putting on the happy face before she walks into church or the one who looks at blogs wistfully - believing that the insides of her heart and home are too broken to ever measure up. I don't have an answer for this burden, but I've got a two hands ready to type and a heart crying out to God. And hope. Lots and lots of hope. 

Please don't get me wrong - 2013 was full of all kinds of joy for me too. I'm making my scrapbook now (what? Me? a scrapbook!) and all I see when I look back is sweet memories and funny family pictures. Those are the bits that I'll most likely remember and share and that is good and wonderful. But I know somewhere in the back of my heart, my introspective little brain will hold on to the quiet nights and the heavy tears and the burdens. And my prayer is that when I look back, I'll see how the Lord was using my hurts, faults, pain and hopefully my words to bring growth to my own life and the women around me. 

Here's to a new year of fresh joy and fresh burdens. 
All to the glory of God.