When Thriving Doesn't Go as Planned

When 2017 began, I picked the words trust and thrive to be my focus for the new year. I envisioned a year of growing deeper in my relationships with God, my husband, and those around me. I wanted to have a different outlook on the trials that would surely come to pass in the 12 months ahead of me, and I decided to thrive, instead of worry and stress, my way through whatever life decided to bring. 

As this year comes to a close, it's funny to look back on what those words have really come to mean, amidst a variety of experiences that I never planned on encountering. I can honestly say that I've grown in my ability to trust and rely on God, but it wasn't because I wanted to; it was because I had to.

Life is like that. so often, you end up getting exactly what you wanted, in a way you never expected. 

When I decided to thrive, I defined the concept as being my best self, all the time, no matter the circumstance. I didn't want to be phased by the little things. So much of my early time in Colorado was spent fretting, complaining, and playing the "what if" game. I was tired of counting my problems and felt ready to count my blessings. I wasn't anticipating anything to get harder; I wasn't anticipating the unexpected. 

This year has absolutely been one of the hardest years, if not the hardest year, of my life. It seems that every family, financial, marital, and entrepreneurial stress that could happen did happen, without any light at the end of the tunnel. You probably didn't glean that from my smiling Instagram photos. In fact, some of my closest friends may be reading this right now and feeling surprised, rightfully so, because I've shared the details of this year with very few people - something out of character for me. While I'm an external processor by nature, I've found myself tempted to pull away from those that know me best and avoid anyone who could ask a knowing question. This was supposed to be my year to thrive, and for much of it, I felt barely able to cope.

I wanted thriving to look like my strongest self, but I often found that the best I could do was keep my head above water. Some days it looked like giving my attention to a client or a friend when I wanted to wallow. Other times, it was about being intentional in seeking wise counsel from the right person, instead of the first one who offered to listen. This year has been slow and stretching and exhausting, which is the last thing I want to tell you because those aren't adjectives I want to embody.

Last weekend, our pastor preached on the fact that so many people find themselves in a place they never expected at year's end. A place that makes them look around and ask, "How did I end up here?" On the outside, I sat quietly, while on the inside, I felt like jumping up from my seat and saying, "YES AMEN BUT REALLY HOW?!" 

To be frank, it's been a long and complicated how, but in this process, I've also learned that God has given me the tools to thrive, even when I don't want to use them. They're present in the background, inviting me to lean in, when my greatest desire is to pull away. I could tell you a lot about the nitty gritty details of this year, but instead, I'll leave you with the biggest takeaway I have from 2017:

We learn what it means to thrive in the presence of pain, just like we learn to how to hope when we most need something to hope for.

Yesterday, one of my closest friends, who has been a rock in this season, told me that her word for 2018 is abundance. I was in the middle of venting about something and mumbled about how I failed at "thrive" this year, so I don't have a word for the next one. Without missing a beat, she said, "Well, I'm going to claim abundance for you, too, okay?" 

Okay, I said.

Because, sometimes, thriving looks like believing that God's good gifts for His children haven't run out. Thriving did not go as planned, but I do believe that God will use even the toughest things for His glory. While I don't have a pleasant way to tie a bow on this chapter and make the hard things okay in the short term, I truly believe that is because this season isn't over, even though the year might be. And in that, I find the promise that we can keep persevering, keep thriving, and keep believing for the Hope that isn't going to run out.