Before I share my year in review, I have to get a few things off my chest. The Lord reminded me that it wasn’t just a difficult year in Houston, but it went back much further.
Like three years ago further.
I remember Thanksgiving of 2013 like it was yesterday. I sat next to Marc at my parent’s dinning room table waiting for my turn to participate in a family tradition to say what I was thankful for. I remember that pit rising from my stomach to the back of my throat where it lodged itself as I tried to swallow.
“This year I’m not thankful for… anything,” I said choking back the tears.
Except for Marc of course.
And Jesus (as my mother pointed out making me feel guilty).
My book, Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me—the book I worked so hard on over the past ten years, four revisions, and two publishers had flopped. My literary career was over. My dreams were dead.
My unhappiness coupled with my husband’s unhappiness in his job was a wedge that drove us out of California.
Marc and I planned and prayed and visited Austin, TX. Marc got so violently ill on our weekend getaway to Austin, TX that we took it as a sign and postponed our move even though he had already gotten permission from his boss in California to move and work remotely.
Then Star’s skin got really bad.
It’s taken me three years to admit this. We took Star to the veterinary emergency hospital to put him down because we were at our wits end with how to deal with his health and skin issues. Thankfully, the vet refused to put him down because he was too young. We couldn’t afford to figure out what was wrong with him. The vet recommended we should take him back to the humane society where we adopted him and relinquish Star so he could get the medical care he needed, which we couldn’t afford.
So we did.
What started as the most ungrateful Thanksgiving turned into the worst Christmas ever!
Christmas week went by without Star.
We packed up our entire house and put it on the market. Our house sold in four days. The only home we knew as a married couple was about to become a distant memory.
While Marc took a nap in our almost empty house, I went back to the humane society–without telling him–to say goodbye to Star. I didn’t even know if they would let me, but I went anyway. The lady at the counter told me that I could see Star. She looked through his records and said they were unable to start any treatment on Star because he hadn’t eaten all week.
I broke down and wept in the middle of the humane society. I asked her if I could see Star, and she asked me I wanted him back. I didn’t even know that was an option.
Without hesitating I said, “YES!”
I literally ran out of there with Star and drove home as fast as I could to wake Marc up to surprise him that his best friend was back. It was that moment that we decided we were all in. We were moving to Texas with Star and couldn’t wait to start our new future together.
Interestingly enough, since that day in our care, Star has been fine.
We flew out to Texas again, but this time we looked at apartments for rent and houses to buy. We settled on an apartment for rent, signed a lease, and moved the next month. The first night in our apartment we couldn’t sleep because of the construction noise next door. We were so frightened that we went looking for houses to buy the next day and ended up buying a brand new house.
Two weeks after moving to Austin, I flew to NYC to see my amazing client, Maria Durso, release her first book From Your Head To Your Heart at Christ Tabernacle in Queens, New York. Then I was asked to ghostwrite my first book for their friend Willie Alfonso, the Chapel Leader to the Hispanic Players of the New York Yankees. Honestly, I was so distracted by the whole thing that I didn’t have a chance to bond with Austin–like at all.
Suddenly, Austin didn’t appeal to me anymore. I wanted to be in NYC where all the excitement was.
Then I got pregnant.
Then I had a miscarriage.
After months of searching for a new job, Marc stumbled upon a job in Houston. We said yes before we even had a chance to go look at places to live. We sold our brand new house after only living in it for four months to move to Houston to live in an apartment that was literally falling apart.
Even after our apartment manager let us move from the apartment that was falling apart–no working toilet and noisy neighbors–to a town home, we still weren’t happy. We quickly found out the town home was double the trouble including Marc’s new job.
Would we ever find a place/job/church community we felt like we belonged? I knew choose the word belong as my one word for 2016 for a reason, but I was not prepared for just how hard it would be to learn.
I remember the day when Marc and I decided we regretted the decision of selling our brand new house to move to Houston. I got a text from my friend Caite in Austin, and she told me that if it weren’t for us selling our house that she might not have found her dream calling. She told us not to give up and to keep dreaming so others, like her, wouldn’t be afraid of the fear of failure. You can read more about her story on my blog here.
Every day in Houston felt like we were tumbling down a mountain that wouldn’t end (see funny video here).
We endured long days and nights including chain-smoking cigarette smoking neighbors, a rat infestation, cockroaches, no running water, no working toilets, leaking walls and ceilings, and a nasty sewer smell every time took a shower.
It’s no wonder my panic attacks returned.
It wasn’t until I sponsored my first event, The Declare Conference, that I realized my dreams were not dead. They were, in fact, bigger than ever. You can read more on my blog here. I was able to reconcile with my former editor at Harvest House Publishers. It was so freeing to be able to share from my heart with the Harvest House executives a month later. They told me that they didn’t hold any animosity towards me, and I told them I didn’t have any towards them either!
Sometimes books just don’t sell.
And it hurt them too.
God used that phone call to heal my heart for good. It didn’t matter that we still had a few months left of living in Houston. It didn’t matter if I didn’t write another book. None of it mattered. I was finally free! I did belong!
God broke the cycle of ungratefulness in my life. Instead of counting the days left we had in Houston–I made the days count thanks to a suggestion from my sister in law.
I began counting all of the ways God spoke to me. At first, it was painful. We had been counting down since 227 days. It wasn’t until I was in the 70’s that my list of things God was speaking to me outgrew the number of days we have left. It wasn’t until the end of September that God broke through to us both!
God provided a part time job out of nowhere that actually interested Marc. A job that he could work nights and weekends. A job that is now–praise the Lord–his full time job. He will travel back to Houston when he is needed, but we are now both working from home in Austin!
Before I share some of the sweet nuggets from God–I just want to say that I clearly had no idea what hard looked like. I am grateful that God replaced my stony heart of sin with a soft heart. I picked the word cultivate for my one word for 2017. I look forward to seeing how God prepares my heart for the growth of what He has for us in the New Year.
I wrote this on my Facebook Timeline as we made the drive to Austin with all of our things.
Thank you for being a city of Refuge, a place we could run to, to find hope. I know now why the Bible commanded cities of refuge for the weary-for rest, protection, and growth. I am grateful God provided the opportunity even if it almost broke us, because we found the freedom we so desperately craved-including God giving Marc the breakthrough he needed in his dreams and career.
Houston, I don’t hate you and I think you’re beautiful, parts of you anyway. Thanks for the memories.
I will never forget!
God showed me that I am now living the truth of my book, Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me, that after death comes life. I live to tell another story. The past few months were the sweetest and richest days I have ever experienced in the past three years.
Here are some of the things I learned during my time of developing my own sacred rhythms:
- #1: Movements are happening in difficult places. Be ready to go and willing to stay.
- #3: Some things cannot be experience in community
- #4: This time I will praise the Lord (See Genesis 29:35).
- #5 My joy does not depend on others including my husband (See Luke 1).
- #6: Replace The American Dream with The Jesus Dream (Ali Llewellyn).
- #7: Forgiveness is not the end of my story. I live to tell another story.
- #8: Dreams restore people to life in Jesus.
- #9: God chooses how He blesses us.
- #10: If obedience is not about winning or losing, then I no longer have to be afraid of the adventure of life. Faith takes fear out of the equation.
- #12: Pain & discomfort is not an automatic closed door. An open door is not necessarily from God.
- #13: I named my inner critic Unloved Leah (See my blog here).
- #17: I am woman hear me war! (See my blog here).
- #19: How dare I claim Houston as my inheritance (See my blog here).
- #21: All I know is that You, Lord, are here now (See Here Now (Madness) by Hillsong).
- #22: The wilderness shatters bad patterns (Pastor Ray Bentley).
- #25: Am I investing in ways that help or hinder others including myself (See Mark 11:15-19).
- #26 No one shall return the way he entered (See Ezekiel 46:9).
- #28: There is hope in Houston.
- #29: God answers prayer for His glory.
- #30: God’s goal for shame is redemption.
- #39-41: Our win is not to beat our neighbors… in success. Pilgrimage is a good thing. There is no need to fear or hate those who help us in our pilgrimage. My neighbor is not the enemy. The enemy is Satan (See Ephesians 6:12).
- #45: No more running, distractions, or supressing.
- #47: I will walk with integrity of heart in my own house (See Psalm 101:2).
- #49: Wait for His counsel (See Psalm 106:13). There are no shortcuts. There is nowhere to run. Don’t test God and demand your cravings to be filled (See Psalm 78:18).
- #50: Resurrection is the goal, not death.
- #52: When I fall, I shall rise. When I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.
- #53: “A wise woman builds her house” (Lisa Spivey, See Proverbs 14:1).
- #54: Peace does not come from a location or even a solution. It comes from Jesus.
- #55; I don’t have to do anything.
- #58: Houston hurts because I hurt.
- #59: “What are you doing here, Renee?”
- #60: I don’t know what I want.
- #64: Sometimes the place you are most comfortable is not the place you belong (See The Queen of Katwe).
- #76: “We are made to stand and fight. The armor of God only covers the front” (Jenn Hill).
- #79: Don’t waste the solitude
- #81: Fulfillment in life starts inside yourself.
- #82: “I am resting for something (which I cannot see yet) not from something” (Monique York).
- #84: My days of performance are over!
- #89: “The miracle happens in the breaking. The seed breaks, joy is found” (Ann Voscamp, The Broken Way).
- #93 & #96: Cultivate the garden of my soul. Cultivate seeds of hope. Cultivate will be my #oneword365 for 2017.