I’ll be perfectly honest, when we left for the cabin to celebrate the holidays, I was 98% sure this post would be my last.
For the past few years, I’ve been sharing quick and easy DIY ideas, room makeovers, seasonal projects, my favorite organization tips, words of encouragement, and everything in between.
It’s been an honor of a lifetime to be able to write for you each week.
But the landscape of blogging has changed pretty dramatically since I began, and while I used to struggle with burnout once or twice a year, lately it’s been weekly – and sometimes daily.
Blogging is deeply rewarding and it’s also really hard at times.
Full-time bloggers are expected to produce the equivalent of a magazine each week publishing multiple posts, professional-quality photos, and videos across a wide range of social media sites, hosting and appearing on podcasts, writing books, creating content and product lines at the speed of lightening all while maintaining work and family life.
It’s a lot to keep up with and the demands can be all-consuming.
When we left for holiday break, my only objective, while we were at the cabin, was to get complete clarity on what our next steps should be for the blog and business.
I also wanted to be fully present for our Christmas activities.
In my mind, I was convinced I’d be able to squirrel away hours of uninterrupted quiet time on the back porch which overlooks the river.
It’s one of my favorite spots in the entire world.
I imagined myself spreading out my calendars and goal planners, dumping my big bag of erasable markers and pens out on the rustic wooden table, and completely immersing myself in designing an amazing year.
Instead, like so many of you, I was bombarded with constant interruptions, problems that needed to be solved immediately, grace-giving episodes I hope I never have to repeat, and managing expectations that had been building up for months.
Burnout and frustrated, I sat on the porch swing ready to wave the white flag and admit defeat.
Then the strangest thing happened.
I saw something sparkling in the trees across the river.
At first, I thought I was seeing things because I was so tired. I got up from the porch swing and walked to the edge of the railing to get a better look.
In the distance, I saw a Christmas tree with hundreds of brightly colored lights coming from our neighbors back porch.
I’m almost embarrassed to admit, I’d sat on that very same porch swing gathering my thoughts throughout the day and into the late afternoons off and on for over a week, and not once had I noticed the sparkling lights through the trees.
Lost in thought, I heard my phone ping.
It was a text from one of my closest friends standing outside the ICU praying for her brother-in-law.
Seconds after that another ping…then another…and another…three separate family members would have to forgo their holiday plans due to COVID.
“Why would you give up now when there are so many people who need encouragement? A gift you clearly have and so freely give?” I heard a voice say.
It wasn’t until after the conversation ended, I realized hope is a lot like the brightly lit Christmas tree in the woods.
A little light when you feel like giving up.
A spark of joy when your dreams need a pep talk.
A hug when you no longer feel seen or heard or relevant because tired has gotten the best of you.
Later that night we decided to head down the mountain for dinner which is something we hardly ever do.
The one-lane road is not easy to navigate during the day. But at night it can feel especially dangerous because there are deer, bears, and other wildlife that share the woods with the cabins and families who visit them.
I can’t say I was super excited to even go to dinner. It definitely felt like a pizza and ice cream kind of night.
I’m so thankful I went though.
As we rounded the first bend, in the distance I could see trees in every shape and size all across the mountain lit for Christmas.
There was no rhyme or reason to their color or placement.
Merely, tiny sparks of hope lighting our path.
All in jubilant song, as if kindly saying – keep going – you can make it – you were created for a time such as this.
I was so overcome with emotion I couldn’t even speak.
By the time we got to the main road, I knew my Word of the Year would be courage.
In the days that followed, every family member who had to pivot from their original holiday plans due to COVID would go on to make a complete recovery and celebrate a late Christmas with a fresh perspective and new sense of purpose.
We also received a Christmas miracle when an expert surgical team made a heart repair with just enough time to leave the ICU and spend a joy-filled New Year’s Eve at home toasting answered prayers with apple juice.
While I’ve managed to squirrel away some time to write down my goals and fill out my calendars and planners, I still have a way to go.
Especially, where the direction of the blog is concerned.
In the past, that notion would have caused such anxiety I wouldn’t have been able to sleep a wink.
But I know clarity will come.
And just like the sparkling Christmas trees that lit our path down the mountain, I know there will be tiny sparks of hope to keep me going when I need it most.
No matter what your goals and dreams look like this year, I know tiny sparks of hope will be there for you when you need it most too.
For sometimes the best way to kick off the new year is not with a long list of things to accomplish, it’s with the goal to quietly cause ripples in the tidal pools of our homes and our communities where the only true purpose is to have the courage to love and serve each other well.
With gratitude for each of you this year and always,