Top Things Learned in 2011

Written word…oh how I have missed you!  And six days into 2012, I realize that I have yet to welcome in the new year with my review of 2011.  So here it goes, the top 4 things I learned in 2011 (in no particular order, and I’m sure there was a great deal more, but these were the things that stood out the most to me!)

1.  Chai Tea = Blessed Goodness in my mouth!   The biggest thing I have experienced this year in regards to my journey with Cancer is that no matter how much I had hoped for it, my mouth has reached a plateau on healing, and I am now dealing with the long term effects of the Radiation Therapy, including a lack of saliva and taste.   As was documented in my last blog, I chose to combat the physical side effects with a physical reminder of my journey through a permanent tattoo. (As a side note, I still love it, have no regrets, and it has actually opened the door to share my story of God’s love and hope in my life with many others!) With that lack of taste becomes a fun and exciting game of what is Kelli going to like today!? Thus led me to my new addiction of Chai Tea. Unfortunately or fortunately for me (however you prefer to look at it), there is a Starbucks Coffee Chain located directly across the street from work, and unfortunately or once again fortunately, however, you choose to look at it, I have learned that no matter what my taste buds are doing on any given day, Chai Tea appears to be the ONE item, beverage or otherwise, that remains the constant in my life. And so on workdays, I have indulged myself in a “Grande Nonfat Chai Tea Latte”…to the chagrin of my pocketbook, but the utter delight of my t-buds! My New Years Resolution was going to be to cut my Grande down to a Tall size and work on five days a week to no more than two, but my sister-in-law, Emily, bless her beautiful heart, graced my Christmas gift with a lovely liquid-filled box, a box that just so happens to be the dollar amount of one Grande drink at Starbucks but will last me through an entire week for half the calories! So this year in 2012, I resolve to make my own Tazo ORGANIC Chai Tea from home! Cheers to Emily!

2.  My mother taught me from an early age that the majority of friendships are only here for a season and there will be very few that remain for a lifetime. This year I learned when someone intentionally leaves your life, no matter what the reason, God has someone waiting in the wings to fill that empty space. During my illness, I watched several close friends walk away and to be honest, they never returned.  As I have shared previously, there have been up and down moments trying to mend those hurts but with each passing day, the questions become a little less and the wound closes a little more.  When I returned to work in March 2011, I started in a new department with co-workers I knew only from brief encounters through my other position. Who knew the treasure that was waiting for me? They welcomed me openly and have become the family that keeps me going in the tough times and brings me joy in the most mundane moments! Our work is crazy and chaotic and extremely fast-paced, but we always find the time to take a quick break in the day where we roll our chairs out from inside our cubicles and have a debrief in the middle of the aisle to check in on one another and share some laughs. Then there are the days where we all throw up our hands and say, “I’m done, I’ve gotta get outta here!” and we venture outside into the sun and breathe in the fresh air while mingling with the outside world. As cliche as it might sound, they have truly become the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and I’m so blessed and thankful to call them my friends!

2.   Remember the old adage, “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar?” Well, this year, I have learned, “You reach more lives with grace than judgment.” In my former position with Child Protective Services, I held onto cases long term and worked with the families as long as the case was open, sometimes years at a time. My new position only allows me one interview with the parents and in that two hour period of time, I have to build enough of a rapport to find out what was going on in the home in order to figure out how to help them rebuild their family. Before, I found myself getting caught up in the anger and chaos of my cases, and to be honest, I’m not really sure how much good I did for some of the families I worked with. Since going through my own life altering experience, I have returned to work with a new perspective and a new belief that we ALL have the ability to change, sometimes we just need one person to look at us with fresh eyes, an open heart and a patience to introduce us to the things we may not have noticed or had any knowledge of before. The greatest blessing for me has been to watch the difference in how the parents respond to me and the process, but in the end, I am seeing my own life and the relationships in my personal life transform as I realize this is exactly how God views me and how He wants me to interact with others! Before, I would get caught up in the guilt of my mistakes and would feel hopeless, believing that change would never come. Now, I recognize that I WILL mess up, it’s just a matter of WHEN and HOW, but I serve a God who loves me unconditionally and desires to change me from the inside out…a God who when I ask for forgiveness is ready and willing to offer me a new perspective and a pair of fresh eyes, a clean slate. And it’s the same for those around me…we all have our shortcomings and we are all works in progress, but the greatest gift I can give to my neighbor, my family, my boss or the crazy driver on the freeway is the gift of forgiveness and grace, because without a doubt there will be a time or two when I exert my own selfish desires and will need to ask for that same courtesy back!  

4. There were several moments this past year, when I became so involved in the burdens and heartaches of others that I drove even myself crazy! In my desire to protect those closest to me from getting hurt or from making a mistake, I realized I was trying to control their lives. It wasn’t until my roommate, a truly wise and gracious woman, reminded me that I have to trust that she is listening to God too, and I have to let go of my protection over her (and others I love) that I started to snap out of it! I had to take a long hard look at my relationships, and I had to do some repair and ask forgiveness from those I had hurt. The bottom line of that lesson is that I wasn’t trusting God enough to do His job, and I thought I could do it better. But isn’t that always the way of it? Somehow, we doubt the God who single-handedly caused the entire earth to spin and float, the God who has ordained every breath that I take, and we believe we know how to do it better than Him? How painful and eye opening to see the audacity with which I approach a God who is responsible for my very existence! Thus, in 2011 and I’m sure again in 2012…and if I’m being honest, probably until my last breath, I will have to remind myself and learn it again and again that I am only in charge of me and my actions, and the rest I have to leave up to God!