Overtime.

I love reading through old blog posts and journal entries. I laugh. I cry. I roll my eyes. I’m convicted. I’m challenged. I have found myself frequently saying, “Wow, you are adorable”. And not adorable as in the “Oh your outfit is on point” kind of way, but the “You sweet, sweet, hopeful girl” kind of way.

This is where you should read (or reread) The 4th Quarter., which I wrote a year ago and although a few things have changed, but my closing thoughts from that entry are below:

Even when you feel like you can’t keep climbing up all the dang stairs – be strong, take heart, and wait for the Lord. Even when you can’t see some of the playing field – remain confident that a provident God does and knows what is going on. Even when the game looks over – remember that God has great plans for you & seek Him…seek Him with all of your heart. Even when you feel like you are #winning – remember He is sovereign and always give thanks in all circumstances.

Let this be a year of pursing God relentlessly, of chapter changes and brink breaking, of living intentionally and in community, of loving others unconditionally, of being wise in our actions and with our words, and of giving praise to Him who is faithful.

I’m calling it now, 2016: Best. Year. Ever.

This is where the sweet, sweet, Bethany part rolls in. Yes, 2015 was a year of significant challenge, heartache, heartbreak, frustration, letting go, and allowing God to reign. But I had no clue how much it was preparing me for what was to come…2016. Oh boy.

Overtime.

I have a love-hate relationship with overtime in sports. I love the rush of watching my team (or any Cinderella team) stay alive and fight to the finish. I hate them because what if my team falls apart? Gets hurt? The calls are bad? A loss ends the season? I’ve been known to watch games under an afghan blanket since they have built-in eye holes and no one has to see me sulk if my team loses. (Yes, that is true. I never said I wasn’t weird.)

When your 4th quarter finishes strong, overtime will still be hard but you have an advantage: drive, adrenaline, focus, and passion.

Drive: When the 4th quarter ended, I thought the game had been won and 2016 was a brand new thing. It was actually Overtime and the opening drive was identity theft. I had just come out of [one of] the most difficult seasons of life, but I was determined to not let anything slow me down. I wanted that chapter change.

Adrenaline: Since start of 2016 left no room for idleness with my identity being stolen, I had to hit the ground running. When everything gets “frozen”, there is no time to lolly-gag. Between reconciling accounts, unfreezing accounts, calling and proving my identity to the IRS and just about every other institution, I was [legally] taking names and kicking down doors. Don’t mess with me; I’ve got this.

Focus: My ‘Word of the Year’ was Vulnerability. I figured, if I could get through 2015, I could get through anything. I wanted to be vulnerable and give God the glory in the process. That was scary for me as I was a pretty private person (still am in a lot of ways) and I wasn’t sure I was ready to invite people in. But when you are led to do something – you should do it. Even when you don’t know what the future holds.

Passion: God has always done amazing things. Always. I don’t know why I was often taken aback by His faithfulness and goodness last year, but I was. Surrendering my life and trusting Him in everything was a game-changer. This cultivated such a deep faith and confidence that anxiety and doubt melted away. Oh the freedom that followed, even in uncertainty.

The identity theft thing was merely the tip of the iceberg. As the months of twenty sixteen would unfold, there were things not in plain sight causing a breakdown. But knowing how far God had brought me, I knew I could accept the days to come – whatever that meant.

It was Overtime and I had been training for this.

Long story short (or read The Binder.), I had not been feeling well. To this day, I don’t really know when my decline began. I thought it was stress and age, but when people close to you are telling you your rapidly developing symptoms need to be checked out, you do so…eventually. April’s doctor appointment led to a discovery: a co-co-copious amount of benign tumors were growing in my body and I needed to have surgery to remove them. The first surgery was two weeks later. Over the next few months, it was obvious a second surgery would be necessary due to worsening pains and side effects.

The second surgery was a big one. Like a real big one. Like the biggest one. In order to regain my health, I needed to have these tumors, and the organ they were setting up shop in, taken out. The good news – no more tumors. The bad news – no chance of bearing children. I had to make peace with what my future would now look like. Although I hadn’t thought too much about it, I just assumed one day I would meet someone, get married, and have kids. Isn’t that what good, Christian people do? I’ll get back to this.

The Team & the Field.

Remarkably, God was doing a work in my heart that would allow me to grieve and accept the August surgery as well as people to support me the entire way. Part of this work happened in Colorado the week before my big day. In January 2016, a friend and I had planned a trip out West to see a concert at Red Rocks and go explore Estes & Rocky Mountain National Park. Little did we know what the next eight months would bring for each of us. As the day approached, I wasn’t confident I could even make the trip with how much my body was struggling. But I was determined to go. I needed to go.

I love the water – the lake, the ocean, the sound of the waves, the relaxing rock of the boat, and the warmth of the sun. But I am moved by the mountains – the splendor, the grandeur, the vastness, and the healing.

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life. Awakening from the stupefying effects of the vice of over-industry and the deadly apathy of luxury, they are trying as best they can to mix and enrich their own little ongoings with those of Nature, and to get rid of rust and disease.”
– John Muir

John Muir, man. Pick up his stuff and I dare you not to be moved.

So we went. We walked up 23,085 stairs at Red Rocks. Albeit revised, we hiked trails in Rocky Mountain NP. We sat outside and drank coffee. We had vulnerable conversations. My friends spent time comforting me, loving me, and encouraging me. I had time to be still. To be in awe. To be thankful. To be well. I knew what I was going back home to and I was ready.

Because I work at the best place ever, the day before my surgery was “BA Day” – filled with a Mexican fiesta, a bacon donut cake, a Darth Vader piñata (I have never seen Star Wars so that makes the piñata even better), and prayers out the wahzoo. That evening, my family came over and showered me with love, dessert, laughter, selfie-stick shenanigans, and a new TV for my birthday (mine was 16 years young and needed to go).

Most of my family was at the hospital the next day, too. Everyone crammed into the pre-op room and things only got more crazy when one of my best friends and second mom came by. We were now the party room. The nurses and hospital chaplain were at a loss with what to do with us, which made for awkward moments that I treasure. What is even more precious to me is that all these people took off work to be there for me. My friends weren’t even planning on seeing me, they just wanted to be there to keep my family company. I mean, who does that?! They were loving me well

The days and weeks that followed my surgery were painful and hard, yet beautiful. I was surrounded by a host of people who wanted to love me, help me, take care of me, feed me, and encourage me. My sister [in-law] stayed with me for two weeks and made sure medicines were being taken/weaned off and food was being eaten. I had regular meals delivered by friends. I had flowers all over the house. Daily cards in the mail. And prayers being lifted up around the globe.

On the work front, I didn’t even think about it, which is a miracle in itself because I could be considered a “workaholic”. I knew I had extremely capable and trustworthy people in place. I was able let go because I was confident they had it under control. Probably even more than I did.

You can’t win if you don’t have a team. And I have the best team(s). I did nothing to deserve it or form it. That is all God. He has given such deep and beautiful relationships that have made such an incredible impact in every facet of my life. I stand back humbled at who surrounds me, invests in me, challenges me, and loves me. Whoa. And He was doing the same – pursuing me and loving me fiercely.

But like many overtime experiences, there are moments you don’t want to happen.

Doubt.

After six weeks of “vacation”, I had to get back into the swing of reality. Meals and frequent visitors stopped coming (as they should). Time to be still waned since work picked back up. My body was still healing and hurting. I still wasn’t up for being social. And I began to forget how good God is and how far I had come, which led the way for doubt to creep in. It amazes me how quickly I forget.

I doubted I made the right choice with the surgery because my body was continuing to be a hot mess. My incision was crooked. My core was nonexistent. My belly hurt and continued to be very swollen. My jeans weren’t fitting. And as a woman who lives in America, images of the perfect body are thrown at us every day. Oh to be a size ‘#’. Oh to have a flat stomach. Oh to not have an 8″ blemish/scar. And the list could go on. Was the self-image pain now better than the physical pain before?

I doubted my worth. This is where I get back to the question, ‘Isn’t procreating what good, Christian people do?’. Well, I can’t so…what does that leave me with? I was never one to dream about being a mom, that is for sure. But the idea and goal to bear children was an unspoken expectation. I don’t ever recall being told by the church, and definitely not by my parents, that a woman’s duty in life is to have children, but it was almost like a given, “this is what you do”. So not being able to feels like I messed up along the way or that something is now wrong with me.

Truth.

Although I had acknowledged both of these doubts before the surgery, going through them was very different. And very difficult. And felt very real. And they were not true. Because God created me in His image (Genesis 1:17). I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). Jesus has scars (John 20:27). My body is temple and I was bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). I am created for His glory (Isaiah 43:7). Yes, be fruitful and multiple is in there – but it isn’t the only thing. I am to make disciples (Matthew 28:19). Be salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13). Be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:9). Sing Him praises (throughout the Bible, especially the Psalms). Trust Him (Proverbs 3:5-6).

So what does that leave me with? Everything. It leaves me with everything. And anything. If I can make it through last year, I can make it through anything and everything.

It is so hard to cling to those truths, though. So hard. I still struggle with it too. But His mercies are new every morning so when I fall – I give myself grace, pick myself up, and continue to walk. But even that isn’t totally true, because I also have a team that picks me up and walks with me. And when we are walking or even when I am down in the dirt, the view is spectacular. God has called me to something new. Something different. And I am excited and encouraged that my story has taken an unforeseen turn.

I am not sure 2016 was the best year ever, but it was the biggest year ever. I had to trust Him and others more than ever. Humble myself more than ever. Experience new things more than ever. And get a better view of life more than ever. My duty in life is to give glory and honor to God – He created me for that purpose. Whether that happens by raising [someone else’s or adopted] kids or no kids, overcoming hardships, starting a business, climbing mountains, having spontaneous adventures, creating art, or making coffee without any issues – it is all good and He deserves the praise.

Okay, so 2016 was the best year ever, because it was distinctly good and made way for this year. And this year holds even bigger things. I am c-e-r-t-a-i-n.

2017.

My goal for this year is twofold:
1. Avoid sudden death. (Get it?? 4th Quarter – Overtime – Sudden Death? Bad joke, I know. But also plausible. I’m an accident waiting to happen.)
2. To be well.

My 2017 ‘Word of the Year’ is Wellness. I long to be emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually well. Not that I am not “well” now, but I can definitely be better. So far, that has taken some surprise turns, which I will write about later, but oh does vulnerability and honesty have everything to do with wellness. As does drive, adrenaline, focus, and passion.

Drive (emotionally)To be transparent. To be self-aware. To let love and grace guide me.

Adrenaline (physically): To train. To get stronger. To eat healthier.

Focus (mentally): To be disciplined. To dream. To risk.

Passion (spiritually): To know Him more. To bring Him more glory. To have less of me and more of Him show up.

I desire for all things to be well with my soul.

So even when you feel like you can’t keep climbing up all the dang stairs – be strong, take heart, and wait for the Lord. Even when you can’t see some of the playing field – remain confident that a provident God does and knows what is going on. Even when the game looks over – remember that God has great plans for you & seek Him…seek Him with all of your heart. Even when you feel like you are #winning – remember He is sovereign and always give thanks in all circumstances. Even if you struggle with self-image or question your purpose – remember you were created with worth, value, beauty, meaning, and significance.

Let this be a year of pursing God relentlessly, of chapter changes and brink breaking, of living intentionally and in community, of loving others unconditionally, of being wise in our actions and with our words, and of giving praise to Him who is faithful.

I’m calling it now, 2017: Best. And. Biggest. Year. Ever.

“I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
– Ephesians 3:16-21

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