Wednesday, December 31, 2014

reflections on New Year's Eve

Good Morning everyone!  Here we are on the last day of the old year about to embark on a new one. For many, many years, I hated New Year’s Eve, partially because it was very likely that I would be spending the night alone and I had little hope that the New Year would be any different than the old. I assumed….and for most of my life….it was…. just the continuation of the same type of existence that I knew, not always bad, but mostly just an existence without much purpose or meaning.  My, how things have changed! If this past week…which perhaps may have been one the best of my life….is any indication, then I have hope that this new year will be one of great joy. Time will tell, but in the meantime, I face the end of this year with complete and humble gratitude, and an anxious, but somewhat nervous, excitement about what may lie ahead.  What a blessed year it has been for me.  My hope and prayer for you today is that at this time next year, you will be saying the same thing!

This morning as I sit and reflect, I can’t help but be grateful for all the new and exciting experiences that happened to me this year, many of them a direct result of this journey. Obviously, the media coverage has been amazing and honestly, completely unbelievable for a small-town girl like me. I still can’t really understand all the fuss….and just shake my head when I think about it all.  Interviews, radio shows, appearing in five magazines this year, traveling around to share my story, appearing on stage in front of more than 1000 people at the casino, more than 2000 group members…..WHY….have I been chosen to be so blessed and WHY do people really care what I think, do, say?  It is a mystery….and yet… I KNOW….that each of us… (Yes, YOU too)….have been given gifts that God wants us to share with the world.  Mine just happened to come in the form of a physical and emotional transformation, and I simply must say, “THANK YOU, God for the ways in which you reveal your presence to me.” 

As amazing as all the excitement has been and the opportunities that have come my way has been,  it is in the day-to-day things in which I have been truly blessed. It has been the one-on-one conversations….the people I have met, both in person and via phone, text, or e-mail, those who have heard me speak and shared THEIR story….…..YOU…each of YOU in the group or on this blog, that has enriched my life and empowered me to continue to keep on track.  I seriously do not know what I would do without each of you; your prayers when I am hurting or weak, your support and encouragement when I am weary or insecure, your friendship and love….and the privilege of sharing my heart, my crazy, somewhat mixed-up thoughts, and my fears with you. You have all empowered me to strive to be better, to keep fighting the fight when I want to just give up, to keep writing, and to embrace the new life…joys and challenges alike…that I have been given. You are awesome….and I thank you today! 

I have said this many times before, but I sincerely mean this: Changing your life is so much more than changing your diet or losing weight. I involves changing the way you think…the way you respond…the way you look at every little thing that happens to you each day. It involves letting go of old hurts and past failures. It involves rewriting your story and beginning a new chapter. It involves surrendering yourself, your life, your body….all of it…to your God (or to that which is your higher power) and believing in your ability to face challenges, push yourself beyond you comfort zone, and embrace life in a new and healthier way. The weight and other physical things will take care of themselves. Mostly, it is about waking up each day and recognizing that the day is a gift and a new opportunity to make a difference for someone and to make the choices which will lead you to a happier, healthier (not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually) life. It is about deciding each day that you want to feel better; look better; act better and be happy and peaceful….regardless of the storms that rage around you. When you truly believe that things can be different, then it becomes easier to make the choices that will lead you to a new way of thinking, living, and being….even, no not even, ESPECIALLY, when you face new things.

I have shared many times and in many venues that it is much easier to change your body shape/size than it is to change your attitude or thoughts. Weight loss is simply making choices about what goes in your mouth. A true life change is much harder because it involves what comes “out” of your mouth; how you speak to people, what you tell yourself, how you react to life. It is often a lot easier to pass up a donut than it is to pass up an opportunity to gossip or insult someone. It is easier to eliminate calories than it is to eliminate negativity. It is easier to take a walk or bike ride than it is to take a hard, honest look at your actions on a daily basis. At least for me; and yet…one without the other….will get you a thinner body, but not necessarily a happier soul. Weight doesn’t make one ugly; attitude and selfishness does.

Even with all the excitement of this past year, this past week has been one of the best ones of the entire year. With the support and encouragement of a friend, I managed to experience….and enjoy…many things that are “out of my comfort zone.” Things that normal people do every day without thinking.  I was surprised with my very first manicure at a salon!  I shared about 6 weeks ago that someone had given me a gift certificate for one, but I’ve been carrying it around in my purse unused since then….but I won’t be afraid to use it now because a friend took me to the mall this week and sat beside me as I got new nails. Not a big deal to most of you….but for me… it was new…and it involved allowing a stranger to invade my physical space and touch my hands.  What a treat….but I can’t type or text very well now until I get used to them…LOL.  It made me feel girly and pretty….and the gift meant so much because my friend was at my side. It’s easier to face challenges and do new things when you have companions on the journey who say… “It’s okay”… I’m here.  JUST like you do for me each day…and I want to do for you on your journey. 

I also went to the movie theater for the first time since the 1990’s. The last movie I saw was Titanic.  Again…not a big deal for most….but for me…it was…because the last time I was there, I hardly fit into the seats and always had to have an empty chair between me and whomever accompanied me.  Not anymore!!!!  Of course, the new theatres have reclining chairs that are like lazy boys!  WOW!   I went to the casino for a little visit…not really to gamble much….but for the experience. I danced in public without fear of total embarrassment. I went out to lunch and dinner several times. Last night I had a “girl’s night” out with old friends from St. Mary’s (where I used to teach/minister) that I hadn’t seen in nearly 10 years.  I slowly let my guard down and am learning to trust, to experience life, to be open to new things and new people….really, just to be open to possibility.  It has been a wonderful vacation mentally and emotionally…..and I will return to reality/routine in a few days as a new person. Stay tuned...there will certainly be more to come this year!

I have some difficult days to come and this New Year will bring its share of challenges as well as joys, but for today… I am grateful….happy…..hopeful……and at peace. I will face the rest as it comes….confident that God is with me…and He will help me to stay focused and on track. Come Monday I will back to work; to eating at regular times; to waking in the early morning; to writing as often as I have words; to ‘real life’…but for the next few days, I will continue to celebrate and enjoy the company of friends and family…and if I can stay awake until midnight, will ring in the new year surrounded by my family.

My friends….it is a true privilege and honor….to journey with you this year; to support and encourage you as you do me; to pray for you as you do me; to share my challenges as well as joys as you do with me; to be a part of your miracle as you are mine.  What a wonderful gift you are! 

I encourage you this week to find some quiet time to think about this past year and to imagine what your life could be like next year this time, and then in the coming days to ask yourself what things/choices you have to make in order to bring that hope/dream to fruition.  It won’t be easy….for you or for me…..but it will be so worth it.  I wish you joy; I wish you peace; I wish you hope in the coming year!