Saturday, May 3, 2014

Dear House,

3 years, 1 month, and 11 days. That is how long this little house on Neville Ct, at the end of a cul-de-sac, in Waldorf, Maryland belonged to me. As I sit reflecting tonight, over the house that is no longer my home, and yet houses so many of my dearest memories and yet also hardest days it is hard to say what I am feeling about finally selling it. There are parts of me that couldn't be happier (most parts of my honestly), parts of me that feel like I can finally breathe again and move onto the next step for us, but still in the same deep sigh of relief I find myself breathing in a nostalgia that I knew would be coming and am happily embracing in a letter to our house on Neville Ct. Our home for the last 3 years 1 month and 11 days.

First picture we ever took of the house on Feb 2, 2011 when we put in the contract on the house

Dear House,

As of today at 6pm you are no longer mine. To say that I'm happy that this day has come would be an understatement. It has been quite the adventure owning you, house. The last 3 years, 1 month, and 11 days have been nothing I could have dreamed up and yet everything I didn't know I needed. And so with that, even with the excitement I feel over being officially released from you and ready to move onto the next adventure in our life.... I am sad to no longer be able to walk through your halls and be reminded of the adventure that we've been on, but that's what pictures are for anyways aren't they? And memories too... because though we've walked through your doors for the last time, and given the keys to your doors to your new owners, I will never forget what you did for us sweet little house on the end of a small, quiet cul-de-sac, I will never forget the lessons that you taught us, and I will never, ever forget the days spent amongst your four walls.

So much more than just 4 walls and a roof.... I can't say that I have ever grown more mentally, physically, mentally, spiritually or emotionally or accomplished so many things in any other place!

It was amongst your walls that I learned about who I was. I discovered my strengths and passions, and I learned about my weaknesses and fears. It was inside your doors that I grew up. I walked in an unsure 21 year old and am leaving an almost 25 year old very sure of who I am and what I want out of life. I discovered my strengths and passions, and I learned about my weaknesses and fears. It was inside your doors that I grew up. I spent all 2 years within these walls studying and working hard to earn my college degree, volunteering my time and heart to a ministry that changed my life. It was in the 3 years that I spent here that I learned about the mom and wife that God desires me to be, and that I too desire to be.

It was behind these windows, shutters, doors, and walls that I watched my Kaylee learn how to walk and talk and grow into the intelligent, beautiful girl that she is. It was this home that I spent 9 months pregnant and chasing a toddler while my sweet Sierra Joy grew in my belly, and this house that I brought my sweetie pie home to. It was this home that Sierra has lived in every single second of her life, where she took her first bath, walked her first steps, and spoke her first words. It was here that I got to see my girls relationship develop from just siblings into best friends, and in turn where I had the pleasure of watching my girls form bonds and relationships with friends of their own too.

It was in this little house, tucked at the end of this quiet little street that Mike and I grew together as one. We grew up together here, right along next to our baby girls. We faced more pain and heart ache and stress behind these walls than we could have ever imagined, but it was through all these trials, emotionally, physically, and mentally that we grew together. It was because of what we learning in this house, and through this house, that we knew who we were and what we wanted. We learned about our hopes and dreams and desires for the future, and about our goals and plans both individually and together. We walked into the house still newly weds learning about one another and navigating life on rocky terms and we are leaving with a firm foundation that can't be rocked. It was under this roof that we learned it was us, and God, against the world. It was here that we learned how to truly be a team, how to communicate, how to rely on each other, when we needed to just be supported and when we needed to be challenged a little bit.... it was here that our marriage grew and a bond I could never have dreamed up here.

The last 3 years have had there fair share of ups and downs, but I will never forget the life that we built in this home. I will never forget the ground work that was set into place for the rest of our lives. I will never forget the nights I spent up rocking my babies, the hours spent tucked behind a desk writing and completing seemly endless papers and assignment that did eventually end, the time spent crying and learning under the ceiling that flooded over and over and over that first year, the many dark nights tucked into bed with my soul mate and partner in this life talking and dreaming about what was and was to come, the little hand print in the paint on the wall in the hallway, the first steps my girls took down that same hallway, the endless giggles from the yard of two blissfully content little girls running in the grass or playing in the water, the face Mike made when he popped his head out of the blue bathroom (our first paint project... it was scary haha), every single beautiful Christmas
decoration, or the day we brought a bouncy little baby girl home for the first time. I will never forget the nights spent with my face buried into the carpet crying out to Jesus for comfort and strength in the midst of our trials, the scary day that we thought Mike had a stroke and had to be rushed to the ER, the painful days of seemingly endless trial after trial, or the day that I discovered that I would owe over 40k after graduation even after going to 2 years of community college. Oh no you see house, I will never, ever forget the good or the bad memories that we have from the last 3 years, 1 month, and 11 days. And while this day felt like it may never come and now that it has I am so over the moon thankful that it has..... I will never take for granted the lessons that I learned while tucked inside your walls.

Thanks for the memories. Thanks for changing me. Thanks for molding me.

Love, Amanda

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Dawn.

There are lots of sayings about dawn and joy and the new day...

The night is darkest just before dawn...
Sorrow lasts for the night but Joy comes in the morning...

.....I think we've hit that early minutes of dawn where all is still very dark but the sun is just barely starting to peak over and rise up.

And I love it. And I'm thankful for it. And I'm soaking in it.

It all kind of flipped around this weekend in a way I can't fully explain.. I told my husband and a dear friend when we spoke that I couldn't put a finger on what I was feeling saturday night but SOMETHING was different. 
Something just didn't feel the same in me.
And it wasn't a physical thing or an I'm getting sick thing.
It was very much emotional and spiritual and it felt.... good.
I said maybe its just the good weather we've had (we hit 70s this weekend before dropping back to freezing snow!)
I said maybe it was just a good day with fresh air.

But I knew that wasn't it.

And I said.... or maybe we are about to hit dawn.

After some really dark months.... the darkest I'd experienced in a while. It was resonating with me that this was the beginning of day break.

I have a hope in my heart that I can explain as nothing but Jesus. But it's so strong I can't contain it.

I've nonstop been in prayer, been in tears, been in song. Been on my face asking God to continue to be present with me.

After days of feeling so apart from Him my heart is bursting to feel Him near again.

But apart from his presence I can't explain the restored hope. The feeling of dawn so near I can taste it. Of our time line of hopes and dreams for God's plans... the desires of our heart... so close to becoming reality. But I feel it.

It's near.
It's not long now.
It's the minutes of dusk before the sun has actually begun to rise.
Darkness is still so near I almost can't see the color coming up over the horizon..
Oh but it's there.
And until then I am going to keep on praying and praising and crying like the emotional baby I am... because even tho I was mad, and I was sad and I turned my face in anger....

God never stopped pursuing me.
He never stopped loving me.
He never stopped reaching for me.
He never stopped planning for me.

And His timing is always perfect.
And I'm slowing looking back and seeing the answers to why.

Oh friends, joy truly comes in the morning... and it is truly darkest before the dawn...
But when the dawn comes...
It restores.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Super powers

A few weeks ago we were babysitting our kids bffs while their mama and daddy (our bffs)went out on a birthday dinner date. Like usual when we get these 4 together is was a big blast of energy and noise and joy and perfect. Their boys are each just a few months older than our girls and they all 4 play and get along so perfectly.

While they were running and jumping and acting like little kids do they started to play super heros. It was adorable as usual but the part that caught my attention was when Connor told Kaylee that his super power was that when he falls down he can get back up again.

It was simple, and yet it stood out so profoundly to me that day... which is why I'm still thinking on it 4 weeks later.

The day that this happened was an especially chaotic day in an especially trying week in an excruciating month. I was tired, I was sad, I was just plain burnt out and feeling down. And when he said it I remember smiling and saying "ugh I could use that super power right now." I remember thinking that it would be so nice to just get up and shake off all these falls and not feel so impacted. I remember really beating myself up in that day and week in general for being so emotional and shaken and doubtful. I think the thing is that It's not in my nature to doubt or be so negative, normally I'd say that nothing even really makes me fall all the way down... stumble a little sure but nothing so hard as it had been lately. And certainly nothing that tripped me over and held me down. I guess you could say that typically Connor's super power of just getting back up was second nature to me.

But what I've been realizing in oh... the last 2-3 weeks is that while I've always gotten up, what I didn't realize was I was never getting back up by myself. It was always God taking me by the hand and standing me up as a daddy does for his daughter when she falls.

There is beauty is the struggle, and days even where I have the pleasure of really seeing it. Days where I can be thankful for it (wow.. right?)

I have spent the last 7 years falling in love and trusting Him with much of my life... notice how I said much? I'm realizing that struggle is something to help open our eyes. We're able to see more. I trusted Him with much, but I'm realizing I didn't trust him with all.. and certainly didn't rely on Him FOR all. I believed He could do all but didn't believe Him to actually DO it all. When you feel as if everything is being pulled away and things are spiraling... when every day is painful... you have NO choice but to turn to Him. There have been days where it takes everything I have in me to even just turn my face towards him, and thats okay. Because He is the only one who can get me through this. I know he has a plan and in all of the chaos I feel him drawing me in and asking me to trust Him..

And more than that I feel Him taking my hand and helping me to get bacj up when I can't get up on my own. So maybe I don't have a super hero super power.... but I do have a Savior and His Power is far greater than anything else and knowing He is guiding me through and carrying me in the parts I can't go on me own makes each day just a touch easier. The people he's placed in our lives to do life besides, stand in the gap for us, and lift us up certainly make life a lot more bearable on the bad days too.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Send me, I'll go.

I've had this thing nagging at my heart for the last few weeks or maybe months as this whole year has kind of run together on me (is it really mid-march?!).. It's not even so much that its nagging as it is that it lingers over my heart as I've waded through the emotions that have flushed over me with the events of the last few weeks.

It's no secret that we've faced our share of hardships over the last year (3 years really), but they've felt especially heavy in the last 4-5ish months and virtually impossible in the last 3 months, and I've struggled. I've struggled to make sense of it all, I've struggled with doubt and confusion and anger and tears and the list goes on. I've questioned why we had been dealt these cards and why it had to be me to walk this road. I've struggled with physical and emotional and mental pain in ways I never really knew that I could. I've begged and pleaded and prayed for things to go a different way and I've been straight up mad as hell when they didn't and I have even come to the point of not being able to pray words at all. I've questioned where God has been and why why why did we have to keep on being piled on to when it felt as if we were barely keeping our heads above the waves as the struggles crashed in from all sides... Mike's continually deteriorating health, our battle to sell the house, our battle to keep the house from falling apart around us and from spending every penny in our name to keep it standing,  my own health struggles, car issues, my mom being hospitalized and on life support,  the navy throwing all sorts of surprises at us, a bad case of anxiety for me, and the list goes on and on and it's usually something new everyday. The hard thing is that by themselves some of the things are truly so insignificant but when you feel like you're already sinking the smallest weight can make you feel like you're drowning. And so because of it all... I was feeling mad, I was feeling doubtful, I was asking why me.

And one night as I sat in darkness, sobbing silent tears, crying out "why me God? Why me?! I want to do big things for you and instead I'm stuck in this misery! It's not fair!" And I was reflecting on the days and weeks events, sermons I'd heard, things I'd read.... and He spoke this little reminder into my heart... and it hasn't left me since...

"You said you would go where ever I led you, that you would go wherever I sent you."

You see when this hit me. It wasn't of guilt or of condemnation or even of anger. It was simply the truth.. and God was reminding me of something I said, something that I know virtually every single Christian/Christ-follower says "Lord here I am, send me, wherever you lead me I will follow, have your will and way with my life. Make your Glory show in my life. Lord where ever you send me, I'll go." These are not uncommon for anyone who believes in Jesus to say... And when I said them I thought that I truly believed them. And I think that every Christian thinks that they truly mean those words when they speak them to God.

But what hit me that night, alone in His presence surrounded by the darkness, tears streaming down my face, questioning why I was in this place was this... when I spoke those words and surrendered my life to His will I just assumed (as I think a lot of Christians do) that it would be his will to send me to India or something... or to work in an inner city teen center, or to work in a church or something. I assumed that it would be His will to use me in a powerful way (which I still believe He is) but I thought that would feel good for me. You see I said "have your will and way lead me where you want me, I will go where you send me" ..... but I meant... long as its easy... long as I dont have to struggle...
...but not if I dont prosper in the mean time..
...but not if I'm the hurt one... long as I understand it... long as it looks pretty...
...but not if I don't get what I want too.. long as it doesnt take long..
...but not if its hard..
..but not if its painful... long as my husband is healthy and strong...

And the list goes on and on and on. I didn't know when I said "Lord send me I'll go" that I meant all of these things but obviously sitting where I was sitting that night I realized I had only wanted him to send me to places I wanted to go not truly where He would send me no matter what.

And that was a hard revelation.... in all the best ways. And so I've chewed on and thought through this ever since (about a month).

And here's the conclusion I've come to. I'm human, which means I am naturally sinful. I am not perfect. But God is not surprised by me. He wrote the chapters of my life long before I could imagine them and the day that I said "Lord send me" He already knew that on that dark night I would be crying out "Why me??" He already knew that when I said have your will that I didn't fully understand what that meant, but His will is playing out anyways. And while I don't understand this chapter of storms we're going through, it's still a chapter in the book of life that He wrote me... and He can handle my emotions and questions as I wade through this, because after all He is the one who created me and knows my heart better than anyone else.

And a month ago while I was crying out why me, He reminded me that this story isn't over yet.. these storms will always be in the pages of my book, but I won't always be in this chapter. Joy comes in the morning, and there is eventually a rainbow. And even more than that he reminded me that God is going to receive all the glory, and even in my mess.. ESPECIALLY in this mess... He's bringing himself glory.  He's a sovereign God, he's in control and only He knows whats on the other side of this and I trust Him. He's guiding me through even when I don't see or feel him, and all I know is my life no matter how hard it feels lately is far fuller than it ever was without Him and while I may stumble and waver and fight it occasionally I won't ever walk this road alone and he'll carry me when I can't walk. And that is why I'll trust His heart even when I can't see His hand.

And now I truly know that I mean it with every being when I say "Send me, I'll go."

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Every Friday Lisa Jo Baker hosts what she calls “five minute Fridays” where she leaves a word as a prompt, and we are encouraged to write for five minutes what freely flows from our hearts. Not worried about editing, not worried about fonts or spelling, not worried about critics (read: ourselves!) It’s five minutes where we remind ourselves that The Word is for us and loves us and welcomes us. It’s unscripted, unedited,it’s real. 

I missed posting on Friday, but the prompt for the week was “SMALL” and it really seemed to resonate with my heart and I haven’t been able to shake the word. I have had lots of words welling in my soul lately so I’m sure there will be lots of posts here in the days to come. But for now… here’s a small piece of my heart.

Five Minute Friday

The other day while really sitting in the muck of our struggles. I was mad, I was sad, I was confused. The list of emotions goes on. I was feeling bitter about everything going on and I just wanted to scream out WE’RE HURTING TOO! 

And just then a dear friend text me to let me know that she had been thinking about us and praying for us. We texted back and forth a little bit and I finished by thanking her for SEEING me. For not just seeing a smile or an “I’m okay” but for seeing the deep hurt we were facing and for not minimizing it because it doesn’t look like the world wants it to look. 

We are in a dark storm lately around these parts, and sometimes I can’t fully vocalize all of what we are facing and all of the emotionally and physically painful situations I keep finding us in. Adding insult to injury I was really feeling like people (most people who are nearest and dearest to me) weren’t validating our struggle. I felt SMALL. I felt brushed off. I felt like people were critizing the fact that I (we/our family) were struggling so much because our situation doesn’t look like what a typical picture of a deep struggle looks like, we haven’t lost any babies, we aren’t bank rupt, Mike’s health issues aren’t with cancer, etc etc. And don’t get me wrong I am SO SO SO thankful that those are NOT the struggles that we have been delt to face today, and I ache for the people who are facing these catastrophic struggles…. But it hurts that people are writing off my hurts. It hurts that people are telling me to “get over” a period of my life that has rocked me to the very core of my being, a season that doesn’t feel like it will ever end some days. It hurts feeling small.

The thing about feeling small though, is that the smallest things mean the most. Like a friend who reaches out when you’re in the midst of your own personal hell and tells you that she sees you, and she knows you’re hurting, and she’s really here for you. It’s those small moments that help you see some light in the darkness. And then she reminds you that people can’t fully understand suffering, seeing someone’s pain is hard to process, and so instead they focus on the good. Even if that means focusing on the worse things other people have going on. And that gave me a little light too.

Small pieces of wisdom, small gestures, reminding me of the bigger picture, and my bigger Maker who sees me, from a friend who also sees me even when I feel small and broken. From a friend who knows me even when I feel lost and forgotten. From a friend who loves me even when my heart is dark and selfish. A friend who reminds me much of the love of Christ.  I’m thankful for the small things in the midst of a big season of pain. 

Small things that mean big things for my heart.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Release.

There's something funny that takes place when you're getting ready to make big changes in your life.
It's almost like a real life "physical" shift...
but often time for me it's an emotional shift.
It takes the physical shift happening to push me through the emotional shift.
and into the release.

The release is the place of peace with the upcoming changes.
The place of feeling like you have literally been released.
Your heart is at peace.
Your mind is at peace.
You plans are at peace.
There is a great release that takes place in me before I can happily move into the next chapter.
It's kind of the way that I have always been.

Truth be told... the physical shift isn't usually a happy one.
I am usually angry and bitter about those "physical" things that are happening.
But once I get through them...
That's when I feel the emotional shift, the emotional release.
The emotional readiness.

I think I have reached that place in our latest transition.
Truth be told this transition on paper should have been my own version of a piece of cake.
I am getting to go to my top choice of where I want to live.
I am getting to be permanently near pieces of me... family... that mean so much to me.
I am getting to raise my girls near some of the most important people in my life.
I am getting to spend holidays and all around just getting to do life with my people near again.
I fought for this. I wanted this. I hinted at this for literally YEARS.
From the day I moved to Maryland from Minnesota almost exactly 3 years ago I knew that I wanted to go back.

I can't fully explain what it is about the midwest that enchanted me and stole my heart being that I am a west coast gal but I just knew that it's where I wanted to be. It's where I wanted to raise my children.
It's where I wanted to put down roots.

So why then when we officially felt like this was what God was calling us to,
why then when we decided it was the right choice and place and time.
Why then did it become so emotionally difficult?
(I know I know I am human and my life has been Maryland for 3 years but seriously, why?)

In October when we made the choice and call public, it was hard!
I was so emotional.
I had a lot going on that was GOOD here.
I was volunteering in a position that was so fulfilling and absolutely God's plan for my life.
We had finally found our "people" our place here with the friends and their kids that were our besties.
We had been apart of a church for one year that was rocking us to the core while we were a part of rocking the world to the core for His kingdom.

I knew that this is what God was calling us to, but it was hard!

To say that the last 3-4 months have been easy as we've moved forward with the plans that God has laid on our hearts would be so much of an understatement.
It has been truly some of the hardest months, both physically and emotionally.

Part of that struggle for me has been the physical shift that's been taking place.
God has been removing me from various things little by little and it's been a struggle
and truly it's been making an emotional shift in me as I work through them.

As I let go of what I am holding so tightly onto, and just be still, just wait.
Not grasping yet at what is to come, but having let go of what was, in preparation for the move.
Just emotionally being still, and waiting.
I think it's safe to say I have officially felt "the release"
Emotionally I am not at the place now where I was 3-4 months ago.

Maybe that's why it's taking the house so long to sell...
because God needed to take that time to prepare me in all aspects.

I feel like now I am truly ready.
I can joyfully walk from here into the next chapter He has for me/us
Where ever and how ever He wants to use me/us.
With a new appreciation for his plan.

I could never have imagined the things that we encountered on our journey here.
I could never have dreamed up the AMAZING friends that we would get the honor of doing life with.
I could never have imagined the definition of my life calling that I could experience in such a short powerful time.
I could never have thought up the journey that we have walked these last three years.
No, this was all God. Highs and lows. This whole experience in Maryland was a part of His plan.
Knowing that leaves me so excited to live out the next part of His plan.

I feel like "The Release" has happened and I will freely and happily move on to the next chapter now.
Don't get me wrong, I will so deeply miss the people here.
We have truly created life long bonds here, and have friends that we will make a point to see for the rest of our lives.
But, I feel like God has officially given my soul peace.

I have officially been released from all the things that were tying me back here.
And I am pretty eager for what comes next.

This song has been on my mind a lot the last few days...
Hey who knows... this could be our day.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


At the end of 2013 going into the beginning of 2014 I spent a lot of time really processing what our past year had been like, and the possibility of what our upcoming year would be like. I shared a little bit of what was going on in my heart with all of that here.

In going with my desire to "rise from the ashes" of a brutally bitter sweet year I spent a lot of time praying through what I wanted my "one word" of the year to be. What one concept/idea/theme I wanted to focus on for the entire year of 2014, but even more than that what I felt like God wanted me to focus on and meditate on this year. A lot of words bounced all over my mind and across the pages of my journal during my quiet times but one in particular shimmered and came to life every single time that I came across it.

I knew in my heart walking into this new year that it was going to be a year of transition... A year of great change and growth, a year of growing pains and overcoming new obstacles and fears. A year where we leave behind all that we've known for our adult lives and walk into a new season of living and learning in a new place with new jobs and a new church and new friends. I can't possibly know that all of this new, different, change is going to take place and not also anticipate the growing pains. It's a part of life, but I do have great anticipation and excitement for this new journey we will be walking. Right now much of it is unknown... when we sell the house, when we move, when Mike get's out, how/why he gets out, when we get our own place, we when and where we get jobs, what church we will go to, where we will be financially at the end of the year.... all of this is VERY up in the air. As we prepare for our new season... we are in a season of transition already... a season of unknown... a season of preparation. And if I'm being honest.... this season is far more challenging than I expected it to be. I feel like we are at a great stand still... like we are frozen in this place... there is no going forward yet but we also can't go back. It's a place of waiting.... and we came into this place of waiting after being in a season of great struggle and trial and turmoil and pain.

In processing all of these "seasons" in processing where we've been lately, where we are now, and where I anticipate us going that one word continued to shine...

There was no doubt in my mind that "JOY" was the word that God wanted to carve into my mind this year. So... it's my word for 2014.

I want to continually direct my mind and my heart and my family to a place of JOY. A true ever lasting joy. A joy that is unfleeting and unchanging regardless of what season we are walking through, regardless of what circumstances we face, regardless of what challenges we struggle through because it's a joy that comes from Jesus alone. So I am going to focus on it.. I am going to mediate on it.. I am going to study it.. I want to know joy. I want LIVE JOY this year, and every year forever.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Out of the Ashes We Rise: What Our 2013 Looked Like and How We're Moving Forward in 2014.

2013 was A YEAR for us.
Truly that's the only appropriate way to say it.
The best word that comes to mind to explain the last 365 days in the Allen family is

2013 brought so much growth, accomplishments, special days, precious friendships, and undreamed of opportunities... Some of which included:
-- I graduated with my Bachelor of Science in Religion with a double minor in Church Ministry and Christian Counseling in May after 6 years of school, 2 cross country moves, getting married, having two babies, 3 different schools, changing my major twice, and the everyday general mayhem This was obviously a huge accomplishment and something I am so proud of and thankful I had the opportunity to do. Plus my sweet dad flew in from SD to be there for it, huge surprise and blessing.
-- My babies turned 1 and 3 and we had a HUGE birthday party with all our loved ones.
-- Mike and I celebrated 5 years of marriage.
-- We made a BUNCH of new friends, and have created bonds that will truly last a life time. I am especially thankful for all the fun we've gotten to have from parties, to game nights, to playdates, to just hanging out... we've been BLESSED with some amazing friends. [[Thanks to you guys!]]
-- I was able to go on vacation for 3 weeks and be there for my sweet sissy's wedding
-- Sierra was dedicated to the God in May with a beautiful ceremony, delicious cake, and a bunch of our best friends around.
-- Mike made Petty Officer 1st Class in the Navy, started his Master's degree, and after months of studying passed the exam to get the CISSP certification which was one of his number one professional goals.
-- We've been a part of truly the best church we could ask for, for the entire year and were able to be a part of several big milestones for this growing church.
-- I was asked to be the volunteer Community Group Coordinator for our Church (a position that is typically a staff position, but we're a growing church). A position that truly brought SO MUCH growth and direction for my future and affirmation of my calling... from a phenomenal mentor, being a part of staff meetings, successfully launching 15 C.G.'s with over 100 people in them.
-- We led a Young Adult Comm. Group all year in our home in which we made some of the greatest friendships and were immensely blessed by them and the fellowship and support.
-- We have had  SOLID support system of friends and people who love us thanks to our church, friends from Mike's work, from this sweet little blogging community and our neighbor, who have been there for us in the day to day, in the thick of it.

Having written all of that, and reading all that good I had to actually stop and take a deep breath, and kind of just sit as my eyes teared up... There really has been a lot of good this year, a lot of growth and celebration.

That being said.... even with so much growth and change, this year was truly one of the hardest years for our family. The last half especially. We have STRUGGLED this year. We've been beaten down and stomped on. There have been tears and brokenness, fear and devastation, there has been down right anger and frustration and PAIN.

Unlike listing the good... I won't list the bad stuff, because even as much growth has come out of the bad stuff, I don't want to sit and grovel in the pain. I don't want to remind myself of just how much pain we've come out of. I will just say that for months it felt like one after another things just kept going wrong. We battled a lot of scary stuff this year, some of it we're still battling... some of it the dust seems to have settled on.

But ALL of it left us ready to see the clock strike midnight and to bring in the new year and leave much of what 2013 did to our bodies, minds, spirits, and hearts behind us.

We did BATTLE in 2013 and we are so ready to put some of that battle and struggle down and move into the next chapter. While I am so aware that the battle will never be over, I am expect of what this new year holds for us.

2014 for us is a year of change, it's a year of rebuilding in a new place and in a new way.

We're selling out first home and moving to Minnesota in the next few months. Mike will be getting out of the military (most likely medically separated) and we will enter into our first taste of civilian life ever as a couple. I'll be getting my first "real" job. Kaylee will start preschool in the fall.

When the clock strikes 2015 this time next year I am sure that I will still look back and see much I didn't expect and a year full of growing pains as we step into the unknown and do life in a way we've never done it, but right now as a family there is so much beauty to see us lined up with the ashes of bittersweet 2013 behind us. To see us STANDING after a year that could have left us knocked down. For that I am thankful, for that I am joyful. The Allen's can do hard things. We can survive hard things, and we can even thrive!

For all of this and more... I am expectant. I am expectant of all the God has in store for us in this upcoming year. I am expectant for seeing His plan become unfolded this year. I am expectant for the changes. I am expectant for things like being close to some family and the ways that will impact our lives.

2013 knocked me down and threw me around y'all but it didn't win. I'm still standing. I might have had a very heavy heart lately, but it's feeling lighter lately. It's feeling excited lately.  My heart is feeling expectant for everything as we move ahead..... and ready.
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