I don’t know about you, but this past year has been a crazy roller-coaster ride. Perhaps that’s why last January I felt God calling me so strongly to simply “Abide” in order to navigate the coming adventures.

Like I blogged about to start the year, I wanted to stay connected to the source of Life. Not just to get filled up when circumstances and stress drained the energy from my very bones, but also so that His Life could flow through me and my words. That I would bear fruit. That in the seasons of drought, I could continue to be like a tree planted by the rivers of water.

In fact, I pictured my life as a tree with six big branches with smaller, mini-goal fruit hanging on each limb. Faith, family, fiction, fitness, finances, and friends all became points of emphasis. And I finally fell into weekly rhythm with built-in daily habit chains that guaranteed I would make progress in every area regularly while maintaining a healthy balance between focused times of productivity and regular opportunities to refresh my internal batteries and connect with the people who matter most.

So, as I typically do this time of year, I’m pausing to reflect on the past twelve months to see what goals I accomplished and celebrate the victories. I’ll also be spending time evaluating what worked and deciding what to change in the coming year. (Stay tuned for 2018’s goals in a couple of weeks.)

As I wrap up the year and tie a bow on it, here are a few of the highlights:

My faith had plenty of opportunities to stretch  and grow. Trust is always an important lesson to learn again and again, especially when trying to abide instead of strive. I cut back several volunteer positions in order to free up time to focus on the important things. Not to mention I was stretched to pray for miracles and leaned in hard to hear wisdom as I prayed for direction in other areas.

Why so much prayer? Because my kids each have faced hard challenges over the past year. (Thankfully one at a time instead of all three at once!) The youngest had to navigate a few sports-related school issues at the beginning of the year including knee pain that hindered his love of running. About the time he got healthy and happy again, his oldest brother developed knee problems that required surgery and a lengthy rehabilitation process. Big brother is back on the court despite some lingering pain and beginning to get more playing time after his late start to the college season. Then our Princess is aging out of the school system and transitioning to a real job. Change is always hard for her, especially when I didn’t have clear answers about what her new routine might look like. Not to mention, her new schedule will impact the number of hours I have available to work or write, making it critical for me to prioritize my activities better.

On the writing front, I wrote and published a non-fiction book for authors in addition to teaching an online course this past summer. I got the amazing opportunity to teach and mentor young writers at a castle…and have since plotted out a castle series of books that I can’t wait to write. While working on the publication process for book 2 of the Wardrobe series (coming in February 2018), I wrote the final book of the series. While a few revisions remain, I’m happy to be turning the corner to a new setting in the new year.

Financially we became stable enough to handle the hiccups when Murphy took out our refrigerator, van, and washing machine in addition to cash-flowing a son in college and saving for the youngest son’s braces and upcoming trip to Washington D.C. Of course we’d love to see a bigger balance in the emergency fund, but progress felt good.

Physically, I actually dropped almost twenty pounds over the course of the year and figured out an exercise routine that worked around the Princess’ schedule. In fact, she dropped a few pounds too! Perhaps the biggest change is kicking caffeine and diet pop to the curb. I had been drinking almost a two-liter per day and relying on the caffeine to deal with stress…but now, I’m guzzling a lot more water and feeling better overall.

Last but not least, I got deliberate about connecting in person with my friends. I’m now meeting monthly for lunch with a bunch of other eighth grade moms. And in addition to monthly writers’ group meetings, several of us took the first of many weekends away in the mountains to simply write. All because I got intentional.

In looking back at these gift-wrapped areas of growth over the past year, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude at the grace of God. Why? Because I didn’t actually *do* much of anything to see this progress. It just happened as I stayed close to Him and let His wisdom direct my steps. All because I learned better how to abide.

And that is the true gift to celebrate this Holiday season.

What about you? What goals did you accomplish this past year? If you had a word for the year, how did that theme play out over the months? What precious gifts did you receive in 2017?

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