Dear 2015,

Dear 2015,

I can't say I'm sorry to see you go. I'm a positive and optimistic person by nature, but you really put me to the test. You brought challenge after challenge, low point after low point. Don't get me wrong – you sprinkled in many bright moments within the darkness. There were moments of joy, incredible joy, that kept me going when I was feeling low. Yet when I look back on you, I can't help but remember you as the hardest year of my life.

Several years ago, my best friend and I were participating in a Bible study about the book of Jonah. The author kept prompting us to recount our "Jonah moment," which I interpreted as a really hard moment in your life that had to be overcome. I remember that we were driving home from the study, both of us filled with 24 years of life experience, struggling to figure out what our "Jonah moments" were so we could answer the questions in the Bible study more effectively. I said something to her along the lines of, "I don't know if I've had my Jonah moment yet. I've faced some small challenges, but the majority of my life has been happy and blessed."

Now that I'm five more years down the road of life, I was right. My Jonah moments were still to come.

This blog is a place for me to talk about matters of the home – decor, renovations, crafts, parties, etc. And I love that stuff, don't get me wrong. But when life hits you in the face, it's hard to chat about curtains and throw pillows when really you're just exhausted. And so I took a step back, posting less and less, not wanting to pretend to be something I'm not. It's so easy to fake a smile on the internet.

But back to you, 2015. You were a challenge from the very beginning. A series of circumstances at work left me doing two jobs at once, and I felt like I was struggling to stay afloat. As they say, the struggle was real. At the same time my sweet husband was dealing with intense stress of his own, and we had to work hard to help one another while fighting our own battles.

Personal circumstances found me pumping my body full of hormones and medicines, the next phase in our ongoing efforts to start a family. The needles, the pills, the endless appointments... I clung to the hope that it would all be worth it in the end.

Once the dust had settled on the work and health stress, we gave thanks for the month of April. It felt like things were returning to normal, and I was relieved. I relished the small moments – nightly dog walks and great conversations with friends.

And then it happened. They tell you that everything can change in a moment, but you don't truly understand until you experience it firsthand. My dad was gone – so suddenly, without warning – and there was nothing we could do about it. This was the moment when you, 2015, broke my heart into a million pieces.

While you were breaking my heart, you were pulling back the curtain on elements of the human experience that I never truly understood. I had never known real grief. I could have never predicted how I would react to that terrible news and the subsequent life changes that followed, but I thank God for providing the strength to persevere. I thank God for the amazing stories I heard about my father and his strong character that I probably never would have known about without his passing. Amid our tears, you provided priceless memories that provoked us to laugh when it felt like we never would.

You revealed the value of true friendship and community. Our family's tragedy was followed by friends and family rallying around us, finding so many different ways to help. Those special people who gave their time to encourage us during our time of need really restored my faith. I watched them serve our family with so much love and kindness, and I vowed that I would return the favor during their times of need. I was so naive before, and I never knew how to help those who were truly struggling. But now I had experienced a devastating loss firsthand, and I was – and still am – forever changed.

Right after my 29th birthday, you brought more sad news. After all those shots, hormones and medicines and appointments, the test result was still the same: Negative. I felt like the remnants of my broken heart continued to crack just a little bit more. At the same time, I knew my fall was cushioned because it hurts less to fall when you're already low. I could give thanks for that.

By now it was June and you were halfway gone, 2015. We were picking up the pieces. We did our best to establish a new normal. Something silly would happen to make me laugh, and I'd be filled with guilt. Was I allowed to be happy after all of the unhappy news we'd been through those past few months? It felt wrong.

You taught me about resilience. I learned that we are stronger than we could ever know. I realized that life will eventually put us to the test, and we might surprise ourselves. We can overcome. It's impossible to imagine before it happens, but life continues. My conversations with God took on a new depth, and He helped us place one foot in front of the other. Sometimes that's all you can do.

You brought us back full circle to the doctor's office again, and we gathered up our hope to try again. More shots, more hormones, more agonizing waiting. It felt a little different this time, though. The sun was started to shine again, but I still felt like I needed to contain my hopes and dreams for fear of another devastating disappointment. I wrestled with concepts of hope and faith, coupled with my firsthand knowledge that He does not promise smooth sailing or earthly prosperity.

We finally received our positive test and felt the incredible joy of dreams realized. So while you brought us intense struggles, you supplemented with profound happiness. I was truly grateful for the positive news, something for my entire family to grasp on to as we continued to grieve.

Your last several months brought many different emotions and experiences. There have been highs and lows, moments of hilarity followed by feelings of anxiety. In the esteemed words of Ron Burgundy, "I was in a glass case of emotion!"

The end of a new year is the perfect time to reflect. As I think about you, 2015, I will always remember you as the year I grew up. I thought I was a full-fledged adult before, so wise and seasoned, but some things can only be earned the hard way. You took some of my innocence and naiveté, but you brought me new maturity and wisdom.

I love the smell in the air after it rains, the way the sun peeks through the retreating clouds. While I don't know what 2016 will bring, I am so ready to put away my umbrella and start fresh.

Goodbye, 2015.

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