Wow, 2014, you really took me for a ride! On the last day of this year, I reflect on a time of love, loss, and new beginnings. I mean, really, who could have ever known this year would be so transformative?
Every year ebbs and flows with new life and love lost, but this year, the grief and loss I felt was shocking and shook me to the core. Was it because those lives seem so irreplaceable? Was it because they did so much good in the world and the loss was so great for humanity? Was it because they were so close to my own age? Does that make me mortal? Yes…and mortality hurts. It’s amazing how much bigger a hole in your life someone’s presence makes than you could have ever imagined it would. We take people for granted, and we need to stop and cherish every relationship and every love we have.
Our Pastor of over 18 years retired and moved away. We knew it would happen someday, but change is hard. During his retirement process, we merged our church with another, so we not only got a new Pastor, we got a new church family, a new schedule, a new style, a new way of doing things, a new order, a new mission, and a new everything.
Sometime before this year, God began to whisper to me that my time in children’s ministry was shortening. He spoke to me over and over that it was not a forever gig. I LOVE working with children and my time spent with them at church is no exception. I trust God, I want to do His will, but I didn’t know how I could leave something I love doing so much. We followed God’s leading and stepped aside from the position of Children’s Pastors and stepped away from our work there, but here we are months later just waiting. It has given me the chance to focus on my writing which I totally feel called to by God as a ministry for Him, but I still have that awkward, “why are we not with the kids?” feeling. It hurts. I know God has a plan and it’s for my good. More than anything, I want to be in God’s will. I know His plans for my future are good. Check out Jerimiah 29:11.
Our only child graduated from college this year. That’s a huge milestone for our little nest. She also moved out on her own for the first time. And she brought Jacob into our lives. She went from our baby to a grown woman in a matter of minutes. She will always be our baby of course, but our roles have changed. She’s a full time worker. She’s on her own paying her own rent. She no longer relies on us for everything. It’s exciting, and we are proud…but it hurts. Our only nephew graduated with her and moved across the country. Change is so hard.
To celebrate graduation, we went to see Niagara Falls, a life-long dream for us. It was amazing. It was fun. It was great family time for us.
I lost some kids I have kept for a very long time. They were simply too old to keep coming. Its part of this job, but it never hurts any less. One of the kids who left this year was my longest ever student. For over 10 years I’ve seen his face daily. Change is not easy. I enrolled new kids as well and am getting to know them. The journey of loss and new love cycles over and over again in this job.
We expanded and gardened a much bigger area this year which gave us the freedom to grow and learn about many more things. We worked hard and put a lot of effort into it, and we are proud of it! We planted, tended, weeded, and harvested so much goodness this year.
I started the blog this year. As I worked on trying to find a publisher for my book, I was told I needed to have a market for the book. It’s a story about how I learned to grow food with my kids. Start a blog….hmmm…I don’t even know where to begin. So I have written and worked and learned A LOT this year as I try to get this brand new blog off the ground. I also started a Facebook page to link to it. Another big adventure.
This year I have grown tremendously, I have loved, I have lost, and I have started many new beginnings. I’m in awe of it when I look at it as a whole. Let’s talk about a few of my favorite things. One of them is the smiles of my babies when they exude true joy. The kind when their eyes light up and their face beams. Another favorite thing is the look of pride on their faces when they conquer a new skill on their own. The feeling and body language of “I did it all by myself”. It’s amazing. The look of concentration on children’s faces as they make a connection for the first time is another thing I adore. It’s the aha moment, you can see it click in their brains by the expressions on their faces. I am truly blessed to have a job where I experience these things.
What are some of my favorite things to grow with the kids? Okra-it’s so tall and prickly, there are some amazing sensory experiences involved in okra, right down to the slimy liquid that seeps out of them when you cut them. Tomatoes are a favorite for their bright red color and delicious texture. The kids learn so much as they learn to only pick the red, red ones. Extra tall sunflowers are a pure joy. They are amazing, they are food, and they are stately as they sway quietly in the breeze. Zinnias are a favorite because they have such vibrant color and are so resilient they can stand up to the brutal summer temperatures in Oklahoma. In the dead heat of summer, they are usually the only thing pretty still standing. And of course peas, my very favorite thing to eat fresh from the garden. I love those delightful little pods full of sweet tantalizing flavors. And the kids LOVE to pick them and “pop” them. Peas make us smile.
Some of my favorite products come from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Non GMO certified seed is all they sell so I don’t have to worry about getting the wrong thing. I love Annie Haven’s Moo Poo Tea to fertilize my plants with. I love Tom Copeland’s Tax Workbook and will be ordering my 2014 copy right away to help me do my taxes for the year. In addition, I love the Oklahoma Food Co-op. They are loaded with products I am looking for from wheat berries to grind for my flour, to meat that I am confident is from animals that lived a quality, happy, torture-free life. The Co-op sells chemical free home products, homemade dinners, breads, pastas, and cheeses, fresh produce, and so much more. I love getting my order each month and can’t wait to enjoy it.
I have many favorite blogs as well. I will mention a few. One of my favorite is Little Big Harvest where my friend Andrea is doing what I’m doing with her kids in the garden. I love learning along with her and her little charges. I love being encouraged that I’m not alone in my desire to teach these skills to very young children. I also love Square Foot Gardening 4 U, Gardening Jones, Vegetable Gardening, and Red Dirt Ramblings that I go to for answers to many garden questions. They are a treasure trove of great tips and information. Vegetable Gardening is really a Facebook page I follow, but there is a blog for the Average Person Gardening that has a super cool seeds of the month club that is linked to that Facebook page. I follow them both. I especially enjoy reading advice from Red Dirt Ramblings because she lives in my state and has a similar climate to what our garden has, so I know when she’s seeding, I should be seeding. I love that! Another favorite blog I love is Juggling Real Food and Real Life. This blog encourages me on my real food journey. What I mean by real food is whole, unprocessed, healthful foods like those I strive to serve and eat. She gives many great tips about how to fit that lifestyle of eating into a real, busy, hectic life. We all need help with that. And my all-time favorite blog to read is The (not always) Lazy W. Her writing is a lovely adventure of heart that transforms me with feelings of love and joy. She writes about running, gardening, food and just life. She is a blessing of goodness in a world that needs more of it. There are many more blogs I love, but these are my favorites today.
Finally, the favorites of my readers. My most popular blog posts for 2014 were: What Childcare Providers wish Parents Knew, What Parents wish Childcare Providers Knew, How to Throw a Gingerbread Party, 7 Inexpensive and Adorable Gift Wrapping Ideas, and How to Make Homemade Ranch Seasoning Mix. Those were your top picks with comments and clicks. I am more than grateful for each look someone gave anything I wrote. I love that anyone is interested at all in what I have to say. My hope with this blog is to encourage kindness, love, and understanding in people. To make the world a better place, more full of good food, and good times than it was before. I want to open hearts and minds to doing good, lending a hand up, helping others, and loving more. Be the best you you can be in 2015! Blessings to all of you, and thank you for a wonderful beginning and a wonderful year. I wish you a peaceful home, much love, a heart closer to God, and every need met.
I can definitely say on the last day of 2014, I am much stronger than I was on the first day. I wouldn’t trade what I’ve learned. It was God’s plan for me and I trust Him. 2015, here we come!
I would love to hear your comments and thank you again for reading! See you in 2015…