As I near completing one more trip around the sun, I think about where I have been in the last year. A year ago, as I was approaching 38, I was in a vastly different place. Different on pretty much all levels- emotionally, spiritually, physically, mentally, introspectively, and the list goes on and on.

Yeah. A LOT has changed.

I no doubt have been blessed exponentially in the last year. How does the saying go?? “Blessed and highly favored”?? Yes- that’s been me, BUT I have also been tested and walked, even crawled at times, through some major fire.

The famous Johnny Cash song,

“A Ring of Fire” …oh yes. The fire has been blazing hot at times. It’s scorched me red hot, but through this, a beautiful refining process has taken place.

As the Bible says, we are refined by the fire and purified by the water; it only made sense to solidify this process by rededicating my faith through baptism a few months ago.

Yes, my thirty-ninth trip took me to a place of being washed by the water again, and for that I am definitely blessed.

I’ve changed as a woman, a wife, a mother, a believer and as a human being. I have literally shed negative thought patterns and left them behind, just like a snake sheds its skin. And this is STILL a work in progress. Those old thought patterns, boy…they often like to hold on for dear life- they are stubborn mules. BUT, I have learned and found that I want to control my mind, not the other way around. So I’ll win, and those nasty, old habitual patterns will lose.

I’ve gotten stronger, physically, and mentally. I’ve made the connection that when I challenge my body, I challenge my mind. The outer physique is an added bonus to how the inner physique feels. Getting back to the gym has made me feel invigorated, happier, and energized. This is a daily practice I will keep doing until I’m old and wrinkled.

I’ve come to know myself in ways that I never have before. I can honestly say in the past year, I’ve listened to my gut instinct and the Holy Spirit more than ever. I’ve learned that the holy gut, as I like to call it, is always right. This is the inkling the Holy Spirit gives you through your gut- that “gut feeling.” You can trust it. It knows what it’s talking about. This past year…it’s been a holy gut kind of year. The kind of year where at moments I’ve just had to go with it and say, “Okay gut, if you say so.” And then, TRUST.

I’ve also realized that every additional year we are given to live on this planet, is an opportunity to do more work. Work for humanity, work for our families, work for our careers, and most of all, work not for ourselves, but ON ourselves.

What exactly does this mean?? An opportunity to “work on ourselves”??? A lot of self-help books and platforms like to throw this statement around, but what does it really mean? Well, to me, it typically involves taking a long look in the mirror, and I’m not talking about a make sure the hair and makeup is right kind of look.

This look in the mirror, if we are open, reveals a tremendous amount. Usually, it’s something we don’t want to see and that will often make us cringe. Let me just say this though- if this happens, take heart. You’ve found the place to settle down and do some good old-fashioned work…on yourself. This is always a good thing.

I’m not going to kid you, the “work on myself” has been beyond tough on me at times and I’ve cringed a lotThe inner torment of trauma, PTSD, anxiety, depression, bitterness, and pain capitulated this past January when my husband and I nearly ended our marriage. I can honestly say we were literally an inch away from taking our rings off and calling it quits. It really is amazing how trauma makes a permanent home in your soul and spirit (if you let it) and how it eventually seeps out some way, somehow.

A lot of people say, “Time heals”. Nope, I don’t think so. I think the more accurate statement is time heals if you use it wisely.

You see, with each year that passes, I’ve come to realize, there’s always going to be an opportunity to dig deep and do inner work. We can live in denial and suppression, and distract ourselves, or we can face the fact there is work to be done. This is using our time wisely. Facing the truth, even if the truth is plain hard. And those of you who think you’ve got it all figured out…well, I hate to say it, but you have the most work to do.

The simple truth is that having it all “figured out”, is coming to the realization you will never have it figured out. As soon as you think you understand the who, what, where, when and why of life, something else will come out of left field. You’ll be left scratching your head saying, “I didn’t see that one coming.”

We can let these left field moments discourage us, demotivate us, and even make us fearful. OR we can take the perspective that because we never really know where life will take us, we will remain curious, open and interested in what we can learn from these experiences. We will trust that God is doing always something for our good through the ups and downs of life.

So you may be wondering what exactly does all of this have to do with my upcoming birthday??? The answer is this- EVERYTHING.

I’ve reached a pinnacle where my birthday now represents another year I’ve lived, I’ve survived, I’ve won, I’ve conquered, I’ve learned, I’ve grown, and I’ve matured. Does this way of thinking mean I’m getting older? Haha…maybe, but I can honestly say I like myself SO much more now, at almost 39 than last year at almost 38, or even ten years ago at almost 28.

I think ultimately this is one of the goals, to like ourselves more and more with each passing year and to feel that we are growing as human beings. To know we are giving back to the greater good. Yes, I am doing this and it feels good.

And my marriage- it’s better than ever by the way. My husband and I are working on ourselves and learning together, and I’m proud of that. I’ve also been working on healing my soul and spirit from a traumatic, violent event. I’m taking what was meant for harm and doing something good and that makes me proud. I’ve been working on being the best mom I can be and showing my kids you can become stronger from your struggle. I think this is an invaluable lesson to show and teach them. I’ve started a business and become a life coach because coaching and helping others is good for my soul.

Most of all, I’ve been working on getting comfortable and okay with what life brings me. Knowing there is always a greater and bigger plan. Knowing that my number of trips around the sun has already been determined and already been written.

When is your birthday? What will you have accomplished and done since your last? What will you have conquered and won? What have you learned, about others, but most importantly about yourself?

You only have so many trips around the sun…spend them well and LEARN/GROW as you go.