A Happy New Year

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In recent years New Year’s Days have been far from happy. January 1, 2013 was branded as the day I discovered my ex-husband’s affair. January 1, 2014 he left our family for good. Our white Ford Ranger packed to the brim with all of his belongings, drove away. He waved to our neighbor with a smile, acting as if he was simply running to the store and would swiftly return. There was no swift return. I had known for a couple weeks that this was the day he was leaving, but there’s no real way to prepare for such departure. We filed for divorce shortly after this day, not the most uplifting way to start a new year. The following year, January 1, 2015, we were still in the thick of our divorce. Working through who would get what and how to properly distribute the blood money. I had hoped upon hoped that the divorce would be final as I welcomed 2015. No such luck.

Which brings me to 2016, a year that finally warranted the “Happy New Year!” greeting. For the first time in three years my January 1st  was not a painful one. I mean, physically I was hurting because drinking at 30 is just rough, but emotionally I was full of gladness. I spent the day with a man who welcomes doing things God’s way. His love for others (especially me) is refreshing. This lazy first day of the year with him and my daughter symbolized not only a new year, but new bonds forming. (Tangent: I will be writing an article on dating as a single parent. The ins and outs of discerning when to bring children into the mix and what I’ve learned, but that’s for another day). I spent the day reflecting on how much I have always believed in God’s faithfulness and provision, but seeing it pan out feels surreal. Meeting a man who exceeds what I thought I wanted and doubles what I felt I’d lost is nothing more than God’s care for His own. Not to be all sappy, gushing about my new boyfriend on a blog that stems from divorce. Well, divorce and the hope that comes after, so I am not that far off with all the sap.

Back to 2016. In years past, I have had long, extensive lists of what I hope to accomplish in the year to come. The older I get, the more I value a simple life and the less I have to prove. Pruning relationships and habits out of my life in order to focus on what really matters. I put together a top five of what I hope to (but will not kill myself to accomplish) this year.

Faith: I find that more often than I would like to admit my faith turns into a self-righteous list of good vs bad things I have done and the emotions of pride and disappointment that follow. There is no fault in striving for obedience and benefiting from the closeness to God it brings. However, there is another dimension to that closeness that comes when you ditch the checklist and surrender to accepting God’s unfailing love and the grace He extends. I want to basque in God’s mercy and whole-heartedly believe that His love for me is real.

Family: I read this quote the other day and it sparked some inspiration: “I would say to any single parent currently feeling the weight of stereotype or stigmatization that I am prouder of my years as a single mom than of any other part of my life.” -J.K. Rowling. I waver on how I feel about the label of single mom for myself. My daughter’s dad is in the picture. He provides his time and finances. I have two sets of very involved grandparents and an entire tribe of aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends who all adore her and offer help to me. It does take a village to raise children and I gladly make use of that village. The moments where I feel that I do deserve this title are ones where no one else is around. Where I am handling a tantrum, trying to decide what form of discipline is best and there is no “dad voice” or any other voice at that, to back me up. Those moments are the hardest. And when I handle them the best way I know how, I am proud to be called a single mom. On the flip side, these moments sometimes bring me to a point of frustration that I am not proud of. One word for this year that I would like exemplified in my parenting is: unburdened. My daughter is my top priority at this point in my life. I never want her feeling that she is burdening me. As exhausting as parenting can be, the best gift I can give to my daughter is for her to fondly look back at the blissful, imaginative days of childhood as just that, not on my annoyance and impatience. She is not my burden, she is my greatest blessing. On the topic of family and priorities, I am learning and striving to wear the girlfriend hat well. It’s a balancing act, really. Full-time mom, full-time teacher, full-time girlfriend. At times, I feel spread thin, but wouldn’t want it any other way. I love giving the best parts of myself to the people who most deserve it.

Work: I feel like I never fully recovered from being forced back to work after the divorce. I loved my life as a housewife/stay at home mom. I felt like it was what I was made for. When I was offered a full time teaching job again, I knew I had to accept it as the money I was receiving from my ex-husband, while significant, was still no way to live. I needed to be wise with the opportunity presented and the life I could financially provide for my new family, my daughter and I. While I feel 100% fortunate for the job that pretty much landed in my lap with zero effort on my part, the shock of it is something, a year and a half later, I am still getting used to. My goal for the new year is to have a happy attitude about working and get over the shock that my life didn’t go according to plan. Also, in speaking of my other work (that has yet to pay the bills), I plan on finishing my book this year. This will take intention. I wish all of my writing came as the result of an inspirational thought on a beautiful, long drive or a mind-blowing something discovered in a good book, but that is not real life. Writing is a discipline. If you are always waiting for the next bout of inspiration, the art will not improve and for me, my book will remain half done forever.

Money: When being blessed with so much financially, how does greed still sneak in? Ugh. It’s the worst. I am embarrassed of how little I gave last year and how I was continually provided for. Well, I have deemed this year as Dave Ramsey-cash envelopes-disciplined-contributing year. There are causes I feel strongly about and want to contribute to financially. If that means one less beer and not so many new outfits, great. I have the means and we are all responsible for giving based on what we have been given.

Health: The strong causes I speak of come mostly from seeing people I care for suffer from disease (insert shameless plug here). I vow this year to not take my health granted. Also, to get in a more consistent routine of working out and eating healthy. As you read above, I am 30 and probably the most comfortable in my own skin as I’ve ever been, but caring for this body is still on me. So wellness in 2016 means thanking God for my good health and (possibly) less California burritos.

So there you have em. The recap of my past years and why I am pretty stoked for this one. My prayer for you is that you wouldn’t overwhelm yourself with the pressure of becoming the new and improved, best version of yourself this year but rather line up some attainable goals that stem from what you’ve learned in past years. Cheers to 2016!

Image by Mallory Dawn Photo

4 thoughts on “A Happy New Year

  1. wacoadventurer

    Glad to celebrate a good “happy new year” with you! I claim your “Writing is a discipline. If you are always waiting for the next bout of inspiration, the art will not improve and for me, my book will remain half done forever” and refuse to allow this to be true for either of us!
    Good to hear an update and glad to hear you’ve found new love!

    Like

  2. Heather

    Thank you for writing and I wholeheartedly encourage you that the book be finished this year as you already have one buyer lined up. Looking forward to reading your post on dating while a single parent. I am in the midst of your last year trying to work through the divorce I didn’t plan for and accepting my new family. Reading your blog has been a soul healer for me too.

    Like

    1. Lauren McKinley

      Thank you for the kind words of encouragement! I will be praying that your heart is healed and that you have much peace moving forward in the future.

      Like

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