I kinda, sorta made an unofficial New Year's resolution this year. And thirteen days into January, I'm doing great. I say unofficial because I have never made New Year's resolutions. I think it's a good way to set yourself up for failure, since most of us don't follow through to our own expectations.

Mine was more about making an effort to do something (whether I am 100% successful or not) and it went something like this:

I am going to make an effort this year to live in the present and stop reflecting so much on my past.

As most of you know, I spent the majority of last year working on a self-published book about my life. Between writing, editing, revising, (agonizing over what I said and how I said it), then combing through the manuscript for errors, I literally lost count of how many times I had read each chapter. I spent an entire year deeply contemplating the past; the person I once was and the person I am becoming in Christ.

The process of reliving and writing about my life's most painful events was far more cathartic than I ever dreamed it would be. One completely unexpected outcome of this process for me was closure. I feel released from the hold the past has had on me. It's another big step in my deliverance. I feel, for the first time, disengaged.

I can't count the number of times John has said to me, "You've left, but you haven't really left." I always knew what he meant. I remained emotionally engaged with my past, with my roots. I had not fully cut the umbilical cord of my emotions. I really didn't know HOW to do that. There were so many unresolved issues I still struggled with. I didn't know how to fully put them behind me. And I wasn't sure that God wanted me to put it all behind me just yet.

As I mentioned in my book, one of the ways I have remained engaged is through a message board for ex-GAC members. I have many times wondered; At what point will I stop engaging in this dialogue? I think I have always known there would come a day when I would not post there anymore. But I didn't know when. I'd periodically received emails over the years from people I didn't know, privately sharing their struggles to break free from this group, and telling me that my posts on the board had helped them; they hoped I would continue to contribute. Quite a few people I knew -- as well as people I didn't know -- said to me, "You express my heart in a way that I can't. You say what I would say if I could express myself in writing." I took that seriously. I have a heart that longs to help -- and connect with -- other people. And posting on the board was also an emotional outlet for me on many occasions. But I knew that it would not be healthy for me to stay there forever.

I submitted my book for publication in late October and received my first shipment of books on November 10. There was a period of exhilaration and excitement following the book's release. The positive feedback I was receiving from readers was extremely rewarding and uplifting. It outweighed the harsh criticism and the judgmental remarks of those (from my past fellowship) who assumed they knew what the book was about without bothering to read it -- and urged others not to read it. There were even those who scrutinized people for being my Facebook friend or joining my group page (Breaking the Chains on Facebook).

I have always struggled greatly with being misunderstood and misjudged. One of the recurrent idols in my life has been the value I place on other people's opinions of me and being understood. So I could best describe the experience of publishing this book as an extremely painful triumph.

During the Christmas season, I allowed myself to grieve the broken and/or lost relationships in my life. And as the season ended, I felt like I was closing a door on the past. It will always be my past, but it doesn't have to be my present. I was telling a friend Monday that suddenly, with the beginning of the New Year, my thoughts have transitioned to the wonderful present God has given me and my desire to live fully in that present, enjoying the life and the many rewarding relationships God has blessed me with rather than focusing on the few I have lost.

For a week now I have been listening exclusivley to Steven Curtis Chapman's new CD Beauty Will Rise every time I get in the car. My husband lost his 18-year-old daughter suddenly and unexpectedly in 2003 and I walked through that season of his life with him. So the songs from this album strike at my heart. As I listen repeatedly to each song on that CD, I connect personally with the Chapman family's painful triumph. And I have been lifted by the assurance of God's love and presence in my life; His faithfulness through the pain of loss and the promise of redemption, as well as the reality that all triumph involves pain.

The last six years have been the fullest and happiest of my life, in spite of my struggles. Reflecting on my past enhances my thankfulness for the new life God has given me. And I will never forget the past or how miraculously God has delivered me out of bondage. But I believe 2010 is the beginning of a new season in my life and new strides in moving forward. I believe writing Breaking the Chains has helped me to cut the cord that has kept me attached to a former life.

I have asked God to help me close the door on the past. I was contemplating making a break from so much constant reflection as the end of 2009 approached. I kept thinking the book is there...if anyone wants to know about my personal journey or convictions, they can read the book...perhaps it's time to stop regularly reading and posting to the message board. I had only wanted to be there if I knew I was helping someone. And I was beginning to ask myself whether my continued presence there was healthy for me. After I started to pray and seriously consider my continued participation, God used a situation on the board to confirm what I was already feeling; that this was indeed the time to quietly remove myself. And I did. I just stopped engaging. Ultimately, something I thought would be extremely difficult -- because I recognize the signs of addiction -- became effortless. The desire to share my thoughts in that forum is gone. Replacing it is the desire to be fully engaged with today's joys and challenges.

John will complete the last of six rounds of chemo at the end of January. A month or two following that we will find out how well he has responded to treatment. We don't know what the future holds. Nobody does, obviously, but that reality is brought home to you in a much more profound way after you receive a diagnosis of "incurable." We know that no matter how long the remission, short of a miracle, CLL always comes back. And then we will be faced with more treatment decisions.

I don't want to forfeit the joy of today because I am reflecting on the pain of the past or anticipating the pain of the future. A desire to live in the wonder of what God has given me TODAY has been ignited in me with the start of the New Year. And I am more thankful for that than I can possibly communicate in words.

Comments said…
Shari: I understand everything you're saying in your blog. They are heartfelt, and sincere. So many times, I have felt the same way. You are an anchor to so many people in the storm, I believe that is your gift from the Lord. (Please accept my condolences on Johns daughter, and our heartfelt sympathy.) Larry&De
eye opener said…
Hey Shari
Your blog on yesterday really touch my heart as we can not live in the past. Although Im struggling with something thats fairly new in my life, its never to early to focus on the future. Larry&De are so right as you are an anchor in my storm of life. God wants us to appreciate his present blessings. Your book was so profound, while it brought much needed closure to your life, it brought enlightment to mine.
May God continue to keep you and your family.

"Yesterday a wish, today a dream, tomorrow a choice."

You're loved by many, thank you for following God as you know him.
Shari said…
Thank you so much for such reassuring and encouraging words, you guys! I take my role in the lives of others very seriously and to know that I have said or done anything that's been helpful to you is extremely rewarding for me.

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