Blogging seems to be a low priority. 9 months later I wonder why I even keep this space alive. It hangs over my head a little … like a mobile of unspoken words. Part of me wonders, is this an essential part of my life that I should allow to hold a space? In the interest of a simplified life … is keeping a blog simple? No. It’s not. It requires time. And thought. And a little bit of Brave. Because if I’m to write in this space, the only way it makes any sense to me is to open up my heart. To process in words what my inner life observes. I’m not interested in fluff and superficial. I’m not interested in surface issues and meaningless banter. I’m interested in making a difference. I’m interested in inspiring change. I hold the same truth for the things I post on social media. Do my words build up those who will encounter them? Do my words inspire big things like growth or change or maybe something as simple as openness to a different perspective? So … I’m testing this blog space in 2017 … once a month I want to share something of my observations and experiences to encourage, build up, encourage, inspire, change. Once a month feels realistic to me.

For this first post of 2017 I want to first speak to 2016. My year of Brave. I shared with my small group last night my wrestling with the word a bit. Through the year, I thought of what Brave really looks like — men, women, and children fighting for their lives, for their marriages, for their belief systems, for their soul. Brave can be super raw.  My “Brave” here and here seems so trite compared to the real battles going on out there.  So I want to acknowledge that I feel an aching for those whom I know and those I’ve never met who are fighting a true battle of one kind or another.

What Brave looked like for me this year was more about living without regret. There were some things I’ve wanted to do for 20 years and it was time to step into them. These were a couple of things that I thought, “If I were lying on my death bed, aside from relationships and important things like that, what would I regret not having done?” These thing were brave for me because they were wrapped up in the fear of failure. I think one reason we put off dreams is because they seem impractical or we’re afraid we’re going to suck. The fear of disappointment is a heavy and paralyzing fear.

Brave looked like investing in a cheap pottery wheel and finally throwing pottery after 20 years of wishing. The remainder of 2016 was spent honing my skills, experimenting with glazes, finding my groove, and loving every second of the process! The beautiful thing about this process is that my kids totally celebrated my time spent at the wheel. When I would wonder out loud if I should throw clay or do something “more responsible”… they always piped in for the clay “Because you love it, Mom!” I did it just for me. (Though through the process of learning I did accumulate quite a collection — a few of the pieces I’m most proud of are on sale here if you’re interested!)

Brave looked like learning to play the guitar after years of watching it hang on my wall – taunting me with it’s own unspoken potential. I’ve learned the kids love this too (now that I can play a tune)! The younger two hang around quietly listening to the learning process. And I even learned how to play my 2016 theme song! One of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. (Click on the photo to view a 10 second video of this song – I was really proud of myself!)

Perhaps the greatest act of bravery took place at the very end of 2016. The choice to forgive. I have allowed unforgiveness to brew and bubble in my heart over the last two years. There came a point in my life when I was made aware of something, and it rocked my soul to the core. It flipped a switch in me of deep anger at the injustice of every hurt, every wound, every moment of rejection.  I allowed my anger and my pain to become something I held onto way too tightly. Forgiveness doesn’t mean I wasn’t hurt and it doesn’t mean what’s been done was justified. It just means that I’m letting it go. It has taken a LOT of prayer. I’ve found myself forgiving again and again the people and moments that trigger the old feelings of pain. Forgiveness is a choice and it’s one we have to make over and over again until we are free. At the end of my life, I KNOW I would deeply regret holding onto unforgiveness. No matter how many times the old feelings are triggered — I choose not to live in bitterness or regret. That … my friends … is Brave. But I absolutely cannot do it alone — the ONLY way I’m able to forgive is by the power of the Holy Spirit in me. I believe that to my very core. Left to my own devices … I would still be sitting here massaging my right to feel hurt and the unforgiveness that accompanies that.

So … that was 2016 … a good year I think. 🙂

In my next post I’ll share my word for 2017 … it’s related to how I closed out 2016 but it’s not what you think!

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When you reach the final days of your life, what will you look back and see?

What if your last day was tomorrow, would you wish you had made different choices today?

These are questions I’ve been asking myself the last couple of years. Why do people wait until their last days or a health scare to really start living? To change their perspectives and reprioritize? To become who they wished they’d been all along? I’m guilty too. Of not really l.i.v.i.n.g. right now.

Over the last few years — I’ve learned we make tons of choices everyday about how we will live our lives. We make those choices. I have a deep desire to make daily choices as though my days are numbered because I know it’s those little choices every day that add up to who we become in the end … but it’s harder than it sounds! When I spent time to reflect on 2015 I noticed many of my intentions had not been lived out. I said No to a lot (my 2015 Word) but I hadn’t taken action on the things that really pulled at my heart. My intention to get strong physically had passed me by another year. My desire to live a life of forgiveness & free of bitterness  was elusive because I still entertained resentment from recent and not-so-recent hurts. Or my dream of becoming a visual artist with a unique style all my own … was still just a dream. I wasn’t putting in the time or taking the action needed to move forward in these areas. I want that to change.

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As I thought about what 2016 might look like – I wondered – if I could put a deadline on my days maybe that would help put my choices into perspective and be more bold in living out my priorities. So … the ‘Part 2’ of my Brave is — to live like 2016 is my last year on earth. This has nothing to do with bucket lists or travel or life’s luxuries (although lovely). This is much more about a lifestyle of intention. If I have one year to live my days well, how will my choices be different?  How will I respond differently to my spouse? How quickly will I forgive? Will I have more clarity regarding what’s really important? How will I parent my children? How will I spend my time? How will I invest in my family … and myself … and the people around me? Will I be more intentional about my need for friendship, connections, relationships? Will I eat differently? Will I pray differently? Will it change how I manage my finances? What will my legacy be at the end of 2016 — if I were to leave everything behind — and leave only how I lived?

People freak a little when I share this. But I don’t think it’s scary at all. It’s an adventure of awareness. It’s a listening exercise. It’s letting go of the small stuff as well as what feels like big stuff but is really small stuff when you only have one year left. It’s following through on the little tugs on my heart that continue to tug year after year. It’s really living my values and adding value to the lives of others.

I started exercising this mindset on New Year’s Day. The photo above is the “sunrise” on 1.1.2016. I knew I wanted to launch 2016 watching the first brand new sunrise of the year rather than end the previous year with noisemakers and fireworks. So, I slept while the world partied. Kiana and I set our alarm for the wee hours of the morning, packed up our hot chocolate, gathered a few brave friends, and started 2016 with the fresh brisk cold air in our lungs and the familiar grey of our midwest skies. Though it was overcast and cold, it was also calm and beautiful and quiet. I hope to make this an annual trek – watching the sunrise on the very first day of every brand new year.

This feels like an adventure. This intention for 2016 is more about an attitude of the heart than “living it up” and 2 months into 2016, the results of this new mindset are undeniable!

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

 

  • Tam - Julie-I love the idea of living my days, weeks, months, year, as if they were my last. I hadn’t considered the idea of living a fulfilling life with this perspective. Truly, if I lived this way, I know I would make more time for the things that brought me joy and spend less time on the mundane, little things. Thank you for giving me something to think about. Also thank you for being so open with your journey, you are such an inspiration to me. Have a great day!

  • Jessie - I borrowed your word for the year. For me “Be brave” was about embracing my God-given dream, facing the future as scary as it is and standing up for the people in our world who don’t have a voice. It’s hard and scary, but bravery is acting even when we’re scared. Thank you Julie!

  • Julie - Yay for Brave! I know you can embrace the scary, Jessie — there’s too much to loose if you don’t! 🙂 Right?

  • Julie - Thanks for your comment, encouragement, and feedback Tam! There is just too much life to live, I think. Hoping to live without regrets!! 🙂

  • Looking back on 2016 » Julie Kittredge - […] for their belief systems, for their soul. Brave can be super raw.  My “Brave” here and here seems so trite compared to the real battles going on out there.  So I want to acknowledge that I […]

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Sometimes there are things in life that find you. I have to say I’ve never before experienced so much confirmation of one of my “Words” for the year than I have this January. From a little gifted book, to online encouragement, to a side comment on instagram naming a song that spoke to another artist — this song, “You Make Me Brave” I had to look it up. She was listening to a version by Amanda Cook, but I prefer the more acoustic version by Sarah Reeves. You have to listen to the whole thing …

I can’t say I’ve ever had a theme song for my “Word” before … but … there’s a first for everything!

It’s SO perfect!! I tried to embed it here but have not been at all successful.

You Make Me Brave, by Sarah Reeves

I love her voice. I love the piano. I love the tune. Today, this is so moving to me.

Listen Here on Spotify or Here on iTunes.

Here are the lyrics:

"You Make Me Brave"
I stand before You now
The greatness of your renown
I have heard of the majesty and wonder of you
King of Heaven, in humility, I bow

As Your love, in wave after wave
Crashes over me, crashes over me
For You are for us
You are not against us
Champion of Heaven
You made a way for all to enter in

I have heard You calling my name
I have heard the song of love that You sing
So I will let You draw me out beyond the shore
Into Your grace
Your grace

You make me brave
You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the love that made a way

You make me brave
You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the promises you made
You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the love that made a way
  • Looking back on 2016 » Julie Kittredge - […] two hang around quietly listening to the learning process. And I even learned how to play my 2016 theme song! One of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. (Click on the photo to view a 10 second […]

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