2016, you've been a whole mixed bag of crazy.
Exciting things on the career and ministry front.
Milestones for the family.
And a whole lot of really, really hard and difficult.
2016, you'll definitely be one that will be remembered.
Oldest baby girl Madison up and moved to Chicago.
But rather than processing that momentous event, I met up with my brothers in Oklahoma a few days later and we cleared out my mom's house. Which was one of the more hilarious, heart-wrenching, memory exploring and building things I've done. It was five days of non-stop nuttiness. And from start to finish, I couldn't have adored my brothers more as my cohorts in the dismantling of the nest.
We moved my mom to a wonderful senior living residence complex in Indiana just around a couple of corners from one of my brothers. It was definitely the right decision. As of this writing, she is doing much better. A few months later, my 98-year-old grandmother moved to the same facility, which meant another house to go through and get on the market. My brother Rob and his amazing wife Jill get all kinds of bonus points and stars in the their crowns and extra helpings of everything for all they've done this year for my mom and grandmother.
And I started writing for All Mom Does. It's a great treasure, the writing friendships I've developed with the AMD team. They are all in the Pacific Northwest, I'm here in ATX...but we've bonded and connected and the team has become a true joy to me.
Then McKenna, Baby Girl Number 2, moved out. So we had three moves in three weeks. Which was awesome since I love moving so much.
Legacy of Hope/2dance2dream turned 5!
(photo credit Shannon Lafayette Photography)
It's hard to believe that we've been serving families with special needs for over five years now. The annual recital and fundraiser took the stage in February and was our biggest yet. This was one of the finer moments of the year and it was such a joy to realize how far we've come!
Maesyn and I got to have a joint speaking trip, as the keynotes for Hearts For Hearing's annual fundraiser.
It was the first time Maesyn had publicly spoken about her hearing loss journey...and she was incredible. She spoke with passion, wit, humor and heart to a room full of state senators, legislators, public officials and corporate A-listers. And I tried to not to cry too loudly.
We ran by my in-laws' home as we made our way back to ATX. My father-in-law hadn't been feeling too well in January, but all his tests were clear and we thought he was on the mend.
Just a few days after we got back to ATX, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. And an already tumultuous year turned upside down.
We made the trek to Tulsa in what I expected to be the first of many trips for the year, wanting to soak up as much time as possible with my father-in-law. I took tons of pictures. We laughed and laughed and laughed. We said all the things. All of them.
And after a few days, we headed back to Austin.
I truly, truly thought we'd be back with him a few more times.
Right after we got back, I led the memorial for one of the precious kids we had in the 2dance2dream program, our beloved Casey.
And a couple of days after that, I produced the Good Friday service at the Frank Erwin Center and McKenna danced. 2016, that had to be one of the weirdest, most emotional, most exhausting and exhilarating and wrenching and numbing weeks ever.
(photo credit Shannon Lafayette Photography and Kelly Smith Photography)
We did make the trek back to Tulsa.
But it was to say goodbye.
Michael's dad passed on April 4th.
It was fast. It was peaceful. He was at home.
When he went home.
The number of people who turned out was simply incredible. My brothers swooped in, as did my pastors. People were incredible and loving and generous and kind.
My father-in-law's passing was a huge crater, a muffled blast that shook everything. But his passing came in the middle of multiple losses. Two passings in our church family, one a baby, another one one of my women in LifeWomen. Casey from our 2dance2dream family. And Jeanne Hornsby, a long-time mentor and friend in Tulsa. And a couple of months later, Nancie Magnusson Brown, a much beloved friend. And then one of my best friend's mom, Gladys Faulkner. I went to and/or spoke at four funerals in about four weeks.
And I ate my feelings. A lot.
A lot of feelings.
A lot of eating.
And very quickly got into the worst weight and shape of my life.
In the middle of all of this, the final edits for the book were due.
So I ate some more.
Maesyn graduated. Such a huge accomplishment.
McKenna and I also got to have a joint speaking trip this year, as keynotes for a young women's dance leadership camp, where we were able to take about leading well and the message of inclusion and community mission.
And we released the second online Bible study, ASK. So many of you participated and it was an honor to take the journey of several questions in the Word with you.
As I went through all the video shoot of the Bible study and post production, I couldn't deny any longer that this eating my feelings business was getting way out of control. With the book launch just a few months away, I knew I needed to begin the hard work of dealing with the stress of the year in a different way.
We started principal photography for the book trailer. Because nothing is more refreshing than outdoor video shoots in July. In Texas. Justus did an incredible job, truly capturing the heart of the book with exceptional footage. And I got to work with my son. So win win.
I also launched myself headlong into a fitness and nutrition regimen. I talked with my fitness mentor. I gave myself no cheats, no wiggle room.
It was hard.
And no one could tell for a long time.
And it was worth it.
Merci danced in front of a whole bunch of people.
At the end of July into early August, we headed for one of my favorite places on earth.
The lake house in Indiana.
We got to spend time with my mom and grandmother, whom we hadn't seen since their moves to Indiana.
We got to breathe a bit.
As much as you can with 17 hour road trips either side.
I was again reminded how far ATX and Indiana are from each other.
Madison drove down from Chicago and last minute, we flew Justus in, who had been traveling and hiking all over the west.
McKenna's work and school schedule didn't have any room for travel, so we had to pout a little about that.
Various interviews, articles, and podcasts for the pre-launch were sprinkled throughout these weeks, along with deadlines for new project proposals. There wasn't a lot of sleeping going on.
Raising an Original launched. A multi-year journey.
One of the biggest moments of my life. In one of the weirdest years of my life.
This cute guy started soccer again. Jake is simply the sweetest. With the best freckles. The perfect person to be the baby of the family.
Multiple interviews and articles dropped.
I had to pinch myself.
And this happened.
Lots of dancing.
Jairus and Journey are upping their game.
Somehow, the calendar had already clicked to December.
And I finally got to have all my birds back in the nest for a few days.
On Christmas Eve, I produced three services, including one at ACL.
(photo credit Kelly Smith Photography)
And came home this kind of tired...
And so very thankful for Michael.
And his weird kids.
So, 2016, I bid you adieu. It's been a year of tears and thrills. You've taught me a lot. There have been many days I haven't liked you at all.
There have been days I've loved you.
I suppose that's the job of a given year.
And in the adventure and the crisis, in the sun and in the storm, you ultimately did what you were supposed to.
You reminded me afresh that my hope is not in a predictable set of days, but in the Lord who has already seen and who holds them all.
And so I leave you, 2016, with that.