Each year on my birthday for the past several years, I’ve done a post reflecting on the growth of the previous year and setting intentions for the year ahead. While the intentions and the growth don’t always match up, it’s fascinating to follow along and see that that growth usually DOES come…eventually.
For example, in my birthday post on the day I turned 34, I set intentions that the year going up to 35 would be all about making self care a higher priority and getting my health back, specifically when it came to figuring out how to fix my back and being able to exercise again. While that didn’t really happen in the timeline leading up to 35 as much as I would have liked, I’ve made HUGE strides on that goal this last year, culminating with me finally (finally!) starting to pick up running again (slowly, slowly, slowly) for very short distances in the past month and a half or so. I also had intended that same year to lose the baby weight, which didn’t happen. However, in the past couple of months thanks to the aforementioned return to basic exercise coupled with cutting down on sugar and going off gluten (again), I’ve finally returned to my pre-pregnancy weight and am now about 12 pounds lighter than I was on my birthday last year.
The intentions I set on last year’s birthday weren’t super specific, but there were a few things I wanted to keep top of mind: namely, keeping my heart open to new people and experiences, and building up a better sense of community around here. I’d been feeling like the pandemic had sealed us off in our own world for so long that it had become difficult to want to reach out again, to trust and to be vulnerable. I’d convinced myself that because few people had reached out to us first, we were always going to feel like outsiders and like we would never truly belong here in this small town where seemingly half of all the households are related in some way.
This last year has not been easy–between back-to-back miscarriages (in January and in July), long bouts of sickness (three weeks of COVID in January, three weeks of flu in March), and a maddening out-of-the-blue panic attack in August when I thought for sure I was totally done having them forever, there have been plenty of opportunities for me to work on self-growth during adversity this year.
However, despite all the hard, there have been some pretty amazing things about the last 12 months. First of all, with the exception of the last month and a half since the panic attack, I was able to live basically free of Anxiety-with-a-capital-A, medication-free. It felt amazing to feel like I had control over my mind and body again, and it gave me hope that as long as I don’t ignore self care during stressful situations and continue trying to practice healthier thinking and emotional patterns, I CAN and DO have the ability to be mentally well most of the time, despite having dealt with severe anxiety and panic attacks in the past.
As much as I love control and feeling like I’m in control, however, it was just as important for me to recognize this year that my tendency to want EVERYTHING to be in my control was not serving me well, but rather creating unnecessary stress and strain and also not allowing my children to gain a better sense of autonomy. It also was a gentle nudge that my faith in a loving Heavenly Father needed some work — not because I ever doubted His love or His ability and desire to help me, but because I had so much fear around all the What Ifs of the future that I wasn’t allowing that trust and faith to fully take hold of my own life and my own feelings about the future. So while I will still always be the kind of person who loves a good plan and who sets goals regularly for fun and for personal progress, I’m trying also to be the kind of person who trusts fully that no matter what the future holds, 1) I don’t need to worry about it now, and 2) my Heavenly Father has a plan for my life and will take care of me and help me through whatever may come. I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone else, but there you have it.
Another really positive win this year actually came out of what certainly felt like despair at the time. Matt and I were driving back from the hospital after my second D&C procedure at the end of July, and I felt emptied out in every way you could. I felt bereft for the loss of my second pregnancy in a row, and because we hadn’t confided in almost anybody who lived locally about the miscarriage, I felt a distinct lack of support and comfort. In the car ride home, I cried and cried, and I confided in Matt how unhappy I was with where we were living, and how for nearly two years, I’d just longed to move back to Cache Valley where I knew our support system was wide and deep and where we were a much closer drive to our families.
What followed next is hardly the end of the story, but it did set into motion a pretty incredible chain of events. During that car ride, we decided to see if we could swing a move back to Northern Utah. Matt started applying for jobs, I started going through our house and drastically paring down our belongings (both for the possibility of needing to stage our home and because I didn’t want to pack more boxes than we had to), and we even had our realtor friend start pricing out our current home as we looked for properties back where we used to live. Everything felt right about it, right down to the first job that came up under the search parameters for Matt’s expertise and experience. With how “right” everything felt, I was sure we’d have a job offer and be listing our house within a month or two.
What actually happened was nothing of the sort.
While I had one foot out the door, a barrage of curious circumstances starting coalescing together with such rapidity that I can only label it as a sort of miracle. First of all, our flower farming business started taking off. We’d always had more success than I’d ever anticipated when I started it up last year, but all of a sudden, I was fielding all sorts of custom orders and florist requests and sold-out pop up sales. When we’d done the farmer’s market during our first season, we’d almost decided to never do it again because it was so unprofitable, especially when you considered how much time the prep took. This year, we nearly sold out every single week, sometimes rapidly so. And it wasn’t just the success of the business that gave us second thoughts — it was all the people coming out of the woodwork to say how much our flowers meant to them, how they’d been inspired by our business model, or how someone they knew had been affected personally by our farm’s pay-it-forward program.
However, we planned to flower farm wherever we moved next, so that was never really the issue–we just figured that these business successes could only help us in our future farm down the road at our next location. But then, after feeling distinctly “other” and largely neglected for most of our two year period here, we had a few wake up calls. First, we realized that we ourselves hadn’t exactly put forth a stellar effort in actually making friends. Second, we started seeing distinct signs that maybe we were exactly where we were supposed to be after all.
It wasn’t just one thing, but a lot of things — getting our first dinner invitation. Receiving a ministering assignment from church that led to service opportunities, which led to friendships and a definite sense of finally having a local safety net. Long conversations with new neighbors. Deepening friendships and a sense of reliability on the people who’d been there for us from our first weeks here. Needing to reach out for help with our children or our puppy and finding that help had been willing all along. And with each experience, we have been left wondering — “Why the strong feelings about moving? Was it simply to open our eyes to what was already here? Or was it to prepare us for something totally different than what we’d ever had in mind?”
Here’s the truth:
We have NO IDEA what our future is going to look like. None. We don’t know if we’ll be in this house for six more months or 60 years. We don’t know if we’ll sell this house next year and move down the road to a larger farm to try flower farming much more full time. We don’t know if Cache Valley will be our ultimate destination after all, and if it is, if it will feel like we’re coming home or leaving it.
Here’s what I do know:
I want this next year to be less about ME being in control, and more about allowing God to be in control. I want this next year to be a whole lot less filled with fear because I can’t control everything and instead filled with faith because I know everything will work out for my good if I keep my eyes on my Savior Jesus Christ. I want to be less concerned with the anxious What Ifs and a lot more concerned with noticing the beauty and wonder of What Is.
So here’s to 36…whatever it may bring.