One of my favorite blogs to do is always a wrap-up of my year. The older I get the quicker a year seems to fly by and sometimes, until I begin to write it all down, I forget all of the many things that were packed into a years time.
2017 was a very transformational year for our family. When I compare our 2016 to our 2017, very few things remain the same. If I had to call this year anything I would call it a rebuilding year. After Joel's death and Ellis' illness, for years and years we were just kind of healing. The only thing on our "to do list" so to speak, was keeping our heads above water. Then last year my book came out, and I fell in love with the man I knew I would marry. If 2016 was the start of a shift down a new path and 2017 sent us flying down the path head first.
This post is a little lengthy-so hold on tight!
Moving: In the first week of being back together, my then-boyfriend and I started talking about getting married. Crazy to think about now, but then it seemed pretty natural and we both just knew. We'd decided the wedding would happen sometime in 2017, so in 2016 we started making plans for how we would merge our lives/homes together. He was renting a small place, and I owned my home that wasn't small-but not nearly big enough for a family of 7. I put my house on the market, the week before Christmas, and it was under contract in a few weeks. In February we moved to a smaller neighboring town, to get a house on land (a dream of both of ours) and to be in a smaller school district. We weren't all under one roof until our wedding in the fall, but we worked together for months getting the house unpacked and putting the kids rooms together in preparation for what was to come. We've all absolutely loved our home. It's perfect for our family. And while it has been an adjustment living in a town with no WalMart and very few food options (literally, the hardest part!) it has been worth it to live a simpler life in a neighborhood where we pass cows daily on the way to our home. When the weather is great we kick the kids out of the house to hang out on our land. It's been so rewarding seeing them off their electronics and jumping around on hay bales for fun. Our favorite family activity is turning on music and hanging around our fire pit out back. Our life in our new town brings peace to my heart and I know the move was absolutely the best thing for our new, big family. We took a leap on this move, and I'm so glad we did.
Milo Turns 5: My first born turned 5 this year. Wow. This was, by far, the most transformational year Milo has experienced thus far. We homeschooled him for Pre-K, but for Kindergarten he was really wanting to go to a school with other kids full-time. After our move to a small district I felt comfortable in letting him go. That doesn't mean it was easy! I cried all day his first day of school (total Mom thing to do) but every bit of the tears were worth it as he's blossomed so much since starting school. He went from being quiet and timid in new situations, to confident and bold. He's got lots of new little friends who we're always bumping into while out running errands. He's learned so many new things and is even starting to read. It's incredible what a little sponge he is. Milo decided to take a break from Karate this year because he wanted to try other sports. He played soccer and loved it. My husband helped Coach the team and they went undefeated, which was so fun. He's now enrolled in basketball and I'm hoping this is the one sport that makes his heart soar, since it did mine as a kid. But really, as long as he's happy and healthy, there's nothing more as a Mom I could want. I'm very proud of my Milo, he's been so brave in all the new that's come his way, and handled it like a pro. Having him walk me down the aisle was one of the most special moments of my life and definitely a highlight of this year.
Ellis Turns 3: My little Ellis Claire turned 3 this year, which is so special. I talk about this often, but her life is just so incredible. Every year with her seems like a bonus year, because we weren't supposed to have them. In that same mind-frame, every single thing she accomplishes is beyond special, because we'd been told she'd never do them. And while progress has been slow, it has been steady, and that's the most encouraging part. This week, for the first time, Ellis starts school. She will be in special education for the next two years, and at the completion of these courses she will be integrated into regular Kindergarten classes. The best part is, at school not only will she learn to be around other kids in a class-room setting, but she will also receive Physical, Occupational and Speech therapies as well. So she will now go from receiving weekly therapy, to having therapy almost every day of the week. We've been told, by numerous people, once kids begin this program they start to see them truly take off and soar. We are continuing to boldly believe big things for our girl, and for her life to come. It's exciting to think of the next year of her life and all the impossible I believe we will continue to see her live out. For those who pray and stand with us, keep standing. She's moving forward, growing and learning new things every day. He's not finished with her yet.
Choose Joy Project: This year was our 4th annual Choose Joy Project. I will be honest and say our sign-ups for the project have stagnated to a degree. Which is why each year I am beyond grateful for the faithful hundreds of families who do participate with us. As for our family, it is always something we will do to honor Joel's life. I feel like every year it's life-changing for us. The interactions we have with strangers move me to tears. It's incredible to see the difference a day of kindness can make in the lives of someone we only encounter for a moment. This year, my husband and all 5 of the kids came along. And let me tell you, our kiddos were LOVING it! Seeing them on this day, approaching people with huge smiles and hugs-made my heart swell. I'm so grateful the Choose Joy Project is a part of our lives, and will forever be.
Wedding: This year I married my high-school sweetheart. My dream guy. Met him when I was 14. Have always loved him. Have always wanted what's best for him. Turns out, that included me. Most nights I'm still trying to wrap my head around that one. Our wedding was amazing and hands down, the best day of my 2017. It was an intimate event, with only our nearest and dearest. We kept everything simple, gorgeous, family oriented and just-us. I did a full wedding wrap-up HERE if you're wanting to see all of the pictures and videos. I'll just say this, I never in a million years, thought I would get married again. I never in a billion years thought I would marry him. Yet now that it's happened, it seems like the most natural thing in the world, like it was always meant to be. Even though marriage was never in my plans, I'm overwhelmed with gratitude it was His plan for me. Merging our families/lives has been one of the hardest yet most beautiful things I've ever done. Our first holidays together were magical. I adore him, our life together and the family we've created. Grateful for it every day.
Travel: As a family we didn't travel as much this year, as we have in years past. I love to travel, but for many years after my loss, I kind of did it as an escape. For one, I never wanted to be home, where reminders of my pain were everywhere. Traveling made me feel alive. In some ways it always will. But as my heart has healed in big ways this year, I've found it's not something I need to be happening as constantly, rather, it's nice to get away every now and then. We took a spring break trip to San Antonio as a family, which was so fun. The biggest trip I took this year though was my honeymoon, which my husband and I decided would be a fun road trip. We hit 6 different states in 8 days. My favorite places to visit were Chicago, because it was like a mini-NYC and Memphis, because the city had so much heart and soul. Getting to see and experience new things with my new husband was an experience I will never forget.
Writing: My complicated relationship with writing continues. I say complicated because at heart, I love to write. But if I'm being really honest, it doesn't pay the bills. For the last few years I have continued to write while living off savings. This year I am headed back to work full-time, on top of writing. I haven't narrowed down what I will do quite yet, I will just say-it won't ever be simply sitting behind a desk, again. It will have to be something that makes my heart come alive. I have come too far in the last few years to go backwards on that one. I've started work on a second book, but between the wedding and the move, a whole lotta life got in the way of getting as far into the process as I would've liked. In 2018 I still plan to write as often as I can. I also have several speaking engagements coming up, and would love to do more of that. But for now I'm still in a season where writing is just a part of the many other things I do. Most writers are in that place, as people don't really read books like they used too. It's not a profession for the faint of heart. My goal has always been to simply tell our story, and share hope with as many people as possible. That will never change. What capacity I do that in? Time will tell. I guess we will see what 2018 has up its sleeve.
Before I sign off, here's a few answers to questions I get asked ALL the time, but never get a chance to fully respond.
Will I have more kids? I really don't know. That's something I hold onto with an open hand. I've had infertility issues in the past so I'm not really sure what my body is capable of, honestly (plus I'm 36 years old at this point). I will say, if it happens, it happens. We are open to whatever comes our way, while also being oh so grateful for the five we have.
When will the documentary come out? If I'm being honest, I don't really know. I do know that it WILL. I just don't know the timing yet. Since I am the subject and not the producer, I don't have much say in that regard. But I have been told the footage will be released, I think the date is still open-ended. With many documentaries, they follow their subjects for years and years. I think, at this point, that is the more likely path that will be taken.
What will your next book be about? That, I don't know either. I'm a few chapters into a book that I haven't yet finished. Yes, my year was busy, but I also question my excitement level about it all, seeing as how I've been sitting on it for awhile. I might just scrap it and start anew. We will have to see. Writing is an art, and I have to feel inspired by whatever project I move forward on. The one thing I do know: it won't be a memoir part two-although somewhere along the line, I'm sure that will probably happen. My life story continues to be so crazy, how could it not?
Do you speak at events? If so what kind? I speak at a lot of events. They are all over the map. I've done church events and non-church events. I am speaking at a fund-raising event in the Spring. I really love speaking. It comes naturally for me and it's something I would love to do more of. There is something about telling my story, and the lessons learned along the way, that is even more powerful than words on a paper. I love to share any opportunity I have. If you are interested in having me speak for your event, here's how to make it happen (Click HERE).
Are you still Vlogging? Yes! We do still Vlog. I just posted a Vlog a few weeks ago. We were doing them weekly, but it's a ton of work to come up with an idea and execute it weekly. Our lives were just so crazy busy this last fall/winter, I didn't want a camera in the mix to add to the craziness. I do want to start doing it more consistently again, but making it happen weekly, with our family size, is tough. If you guys still like it though, I'll keep going!
Thanks for reading this lengthy post and for your great love for our family. We feel it in the sweet emails you send and comments you post. As much as you love us, we love you back. Thank you for the way you lift us up, encourage us and believe along with us. Thank you for reading my book. Thank you for reading my blog. It means more to me than you'll ever know.
May many treasures and good things await you in the year to come. A fresh start, new beginnings, and new chapters to all of our beautiful stories.
Much Love, Sarah