Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Greatest Gifts of All of my favorite things about Christmas.  Finding the perfect, each uniquely chosen, gift for the people who mean the most to me, and bringing joy to those who are less fortunate.  This year, during the Christmas season, I have spent time reflecting, particularly on the last year, and am overjoyed by all of the gifts I have been given.  Not gifts wrapped with bows, placed under the Christmas tree, but gifts from God. Gifts that continue to bless me beyond what I ever imagined, every day of my life. 

Allow me to unwrap and share my 5 favorite gifts from this year with you:

THE GIFT OF FRIENDSHIP: This year has been filled with new unexpected friendships; the real, genuine, feel like we have been friends forever, would-stop-and-do-anything-for-you kind of friendships.  I have also been overwhelmed by the love, support and genuine friendship from those whom I have known for years.  I am blessed to call so many wonderful people friends.

THE GIFT OF HOPE:  At the beginning of this year my first CASA case closed...a case that started with doubt and minimal hope for a positive outcome.  But I saw HOPE, and provided the mom and children with the vision of the HOPE & FAITH that they were not only capable, but worthy of so much more in life.  A story that started out with a little boy who spent hours a day in a padded isolated room while his mom struggled to navigate her way through parenting, sorting through anger and behavioral issues of her own, ended with a boy attending school on a full day schedule, forming lasting friendships with his peers and playing on a soccer team with other children, and a mom who is a mentor to several others and a testimony of success who shares her story at weekly rotary meetings.  I never imagined something so trying and difficult at times could also be so rewarding. 

THE GIFT OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Have I mentioned what an amazing year this has been!? I didn't race cross country in high school or run in college; my running career started when I trained to run a local race with my dad, and then quickly signed up for a ½ marathon in Nashville {it was ALL about the country music every mile}, but has since taken me on journeys I never imagined possible and pushed to me places I never dreamed of.  This year consisted of 4 half marathons {one of which I finally broke the 2 hour mark}, a half ironman, 2 ULTRA relays, and 2 other relays, including running Hood-To-Coast with NUUN.  Along this journey, I have been beyond blessed by and thankful for two companies {NUUN & Oiselle}, who believe in me, and have challenged, encouraged and motivated me to continue to better myself while pursuing my goals and dreams.  As I accomplish one goal, I always have my eyes on the next, and now know more than ever that the only limitations we have are those we place on ourselves.

THE GIFT OF DANCING: To say I was excited when I was asked to be a star for Southern Oregon Dancing with The Rogue Valley Stars {benefitting Southern Oregon Sparrow Clubs} would be an understatement.  The entire experience, from our first practice to the finale as a Shining Star, far exceeded any expectations I had.  I was blessed with the most incredible partner and choreographers, overwhelmed by the generosity of friends, family and the amazing community I live in, and learned to dance while making the most out of every {triple} step along the way.  For eight weeks, I spent every day looking forward to dance practice, where I would laugh, de-stress from the day, overcome fear, anxiety & insecurities, all while doing something that I love.  Though I was giving of my time, energy and resources to a phenomenal cause, I personally received far more.  Numerous times I texted Matt, the director of Sparrow Club, thanking him for choosing me, as I was beyond blessed by the experience. 

THE GIFT OF STRUGGLES:  You might be asking why struggles are one of my favorite gifts from the year.  My struggles have reminded me to pray more, spend more time in The Word, and truly trust God, resulting in me growing closer to Him.  As this year comes to an end, and a new year begins, I meditate on the verse:

Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give me a snake.  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!  Matthew 6:9-11

Laura Story says it best, sometimes Gods blessings come through raindrops, sometimes His healing come through tears.   But that is how our lives get watered with hope and how we grow our accomplishments.  The year was blessed!