Top 6 lessons that 2013 taught me

top 6 lessons Welcome 2014! 2013 was a teacher, and I know you have lessons for me, too. Some lessons came the hard way. Others were opportunities to grow. Some were lessons to celebrate, and others to hold close and ponder. I don’t know what you hold for me, 2014, but my ONE WORD for this year is transformation. Even as I place my fingers on the keyboard, that word whispers like an invitation and a warning. These are the top ten lesson I learned in 2013. Some of them might surprise you.

1. Some of the greatest sacrifices are not rewarded publicly

Luke and Josiah' It was October 2nd. I walked into a labor and delivery room, surprised that she’d want me there, but she sent someone to get me from the waiting room. I knelt beside the bed, noting how beautiful this young momma was. Others had slipped outside for a moment, and I asked her if I could pray for her. She took my hand and placed it by her belly, now heavily contracting according to the monitor beside the bed. I felt the sheets against my forehead and the wetness of tears on my cheeks as I prayed for her and the delivery of her child. A few hours later Josiah was born. My grandson. I watched the young mom, her body still swollen from birth, her legs numb from the epidural, survey the scene in front of her. She had offered her little man into the arms of his new mom and dad, my daughter and son-in-law. The next day she left the hospital. We’ve seen her since. She’s doing well, and I’m grateful there’s an open adoption in place. I hope we thanked her properly, but how do you thank someone whose sacrifice will impact your family for the rest of their days? (Pictured: My two beautiful grandsons – Luke, also adopted, and his little brother, Josiah)

2. We can forget what God has done for us

This morning as I sat at the table eating breakfast, I thought this: I wish I had known in 1991 that I would one day wake up in 2014. You see, I had cancer as a young mom. It had spread and the news was bad, really bad. It was one of the biggest battles of our young lives, and it forever changed the way I view life. Each day is a gift. Each wrinkle counts. But sometimes, as the years pass, we can forget that we received a miracle and treat it with less joy and reverance than it deserves. I came close to that in 2013. There were days I complained or worried about things that would have seemed insignificant twenty years before. I almost lost sight of the miracles all around me. Lord, renew that outlook for me in 2014. Help me remember what a gift each day is, and to celebrate the upcoming birthdays with something crazy fun!

3. I don’t have to fix everything

If there was a fixer’s anonymous, I used to would have needed to attend. I don’t have to fix other’s fights. I am not responsible to make it all work out in the end. And to be honest, if you’re not invited to do it, it’s just plain annoying. Freeing, I tell you. Absolutely freeing.

4. I need to travel more

My son, Ryan Eller, has been to several countries this year. He took a HUGE leap of faith and left his job to pursue a dream of motivating others through experiential adventure, and speaking. Lots of people called him crazy, but it was something he worked toward for a very long time before taking the leap. He travels a lot with his work, but he’s managed to travel for fun, too. On a budget. Creatively. I travel for work as well. I spend a lot of time in airports, hotels, and churches. But travel just for the sake of exploring? It’s been years since Richard and I have taken time for ourselves. That’s going to change in 2014, and it will have to be intentional, and on a budget, but it’s a promise I plan to keep.

5. If you don’t refuel, you crash

This is the hardest to admit. In July of this year I was at a low. For a girl who is an over-the-top optimist, low isn’t an option. But there it was, and not just low, but deeply mired. Hurting. Spiritually exhausted. Tapped out. I went to She Speaks to teach and mentor, along with the rest of the Proverbs 31 team, and my good friend, Lynn Cowell, walked in. We room together every year and when she saw me, her face crumpled. sparrowhawkI hadn’t said a word. But she knew, and it all came spilling out. She wrapped me in her arms and prayed for me, and her words soothed my heart in a way I cannot explain. When I came home I had to look at my life and ministry through the Light of the Holy Spirit, and what I saw wasn’t pretty. I had poured out, and poured out, and all of my filling up was just for the sake of pouring back out. Yes, my motivations were pure, but doing it myself and not stopping to refuel, well. . . that was just a lack of wisdom. So I shut down for 30 days — all of it. No blogging. No social media. No speaking. No writing. And my husband and I went away for a weekend of prayer. I could have done it in a park, or in my closet, or in any number of ways, but we both admitted that getting away was essential. It was only an hour an a half away, and in a one-room little sanctuary tucked away in the woods, but in that secluded place I found me again. We prayed together. I rested. There was no agenda, but to bask in prayer and to receive rest. Thank you, 2013. You were a really great teacher. Even Jesus needed time to refuel; why did I think I could do any less?

6. It’s okay to ask for help

I’m an independent kind of girl. That’s a great trait. You get a lot of things done. But it’s also one of my greatest weaknesses. I’ve been in full-time ministry for 10+years and I’ve never asked for help. Which brings us to #5 Lesson above. crystalIt wasn’t that help wasn’t offered. It was. It wasn’t that I didn’t need it. I did. I just couldn’t ask for it. 2013. You taught me to ask for help. I formed a prayer team behind the scenes. I love these names: Shana, Deb, Jamy, Julia (from Austria), Stephanie, Char, Jessica and Linda. They pray for me each Monday. They hit their knees if I send a private prayer request. Oh, what a blessing! And then there’s Crystal. She is becoming my “Aaron”. Someone who will travel with me. Someone who is eager and excited to help me with things that take away time from writing and praying and preparing. Who, when she traveled with me the first time, asked this question after a conference: How have you been doing this all by yourself for such a long time? Great question, Crystal. But there’s a deeper question I brought to the Lord. Why wouldn’t I ask for help, even when it was so clear that I desperately needed it? Maybe one day I’ll share what He showed me, but suffice to say it was a growing experience, and one small layer deeply hidden from the past was lifted and healed by my Savior. Well, friends, there’s my top 6 lessons from 2013. I’d love to hear yours!



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  2. Debi Schuhow says:

    So refreshing to hear your transparency in this post. I too have have learned that I MUST take the time to be refueled by God.

  3. Wow. I am simply overwhelmed by so many lovely answers. Seeing how our Father has just blessed and provided and been there for everyone in so many ways is humbling.

    This year I had to learn the lesson of letting go. God had given me one of my heart’s desires (and quite possibly what I wanted more than what He wanted for me), but He also allowed for it to be taken away. Not fully, but still taken, and in a way that was humbling and…dare I say it…utterly painful.

    I know in my heart that my Father in Heaven did not allow this because He wanted to cause me pain. I think in the long run, He wanted to give me freedom and also the permission, and motivation to truly follow my real heart’s desire and pursue His real plan for my life. As much as I enjoyed what I was doing, I was stressed beyond belief. That stress was not healthy for me, and again, I was so consumed by my position, I really had no time to focus on anything else. I kind of drew me farther from God and definitely farther from what His plan is for me. I hope that makes sense.

    Now I have more time for studying the Bible and have completed TWO (so excited about this) online Bible studies through Proverbs 31 Ministries. Had I continued in my position the way it stood, that simply would not have been possible. His plan is better. Even when I don’t know what it is. I still don’t completely, but that leads me to my own word…”surrender.” His ways are better than mine. I’ll leave Him to it, and I will walk whatever road He chooses if He wants me to. 🙂

    • I just recently stepped away from something that brought me joy, but was also bringing stress as it became more complicated, and grew to include other aspects, which caused me to juggle it along with those things I feel called to do. It was hard to step away, but also freeing when I realized that it suddenly left me time to fully pursue what was before me. I get it. I really do. I pray that your time was a learning time, a growing time, and a time of trust, but that doesn’t stop now. There’s still more to learn as you rest and listen in this new season.

  4. 2013 is the year that God taught me how He alone is my sustainer! I am a wife, a grammy, a full time school nurse, and a daughter of an aging mother. For the past 9 months I have become my mom’s primary care-giver. Her health took a turn and suddenly I was responsible for helping her meet all of her daily needs. My siblings don’t live nearby so I am carrying the load…not a burden…but a load. There were so many exhausting days that I didn’t think I could keep going. So many days when I felt very alone and very scared! BUT GOD, in His faithful and loving way, provided me with just the amount of patience, strength, wisdom, emotional support, and assurance that I needed to make it through each moment….on step at a time! Looking back, I have no idea how I made it to 2014. Then the sweet Holy Spirit gently reminds me that it was because my Heavenly Daddy was carrying me! He was intimately aware of my situation and was helping me each step of the way. It is the only explanation! He is my only explanation! He is my Sustainer!

  5. Ive learned that God is faithful and He still has a plan for me to be healthy in every way. I had been severly depressed for many years and in 2013 i started to get better. It was a year of healing and a year of doing new things. I cant wait to see what 2014 brings, im hoping my college age children will give their hearts to God!!

  6. My biggest lessons from 2013…

    1) I must be willing to let go of myself if I mean to grab hold of the LORD. (John 3:30)

    2) Love rules. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

    3) Wholeness is possible in Christ. (Isaiah 53 and Psalm 23)

    4) Living Water must be consumed daily in order to combat spiritual dryness. (John 4:14)

    5) Even a prostitute can be loved, forgiven, and transformed into a princess. (Luke 7:36-50 and Hosea)

    6) Faith-walking requires much prayer, sincere praise, and a heart surrendered to worship. (Character Study: David)

    7) The supernatural God cannot be defined or categorized in the natural. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

    Much love and encouragement to you, Suzie. May God thrill you every second of every day in 2014.

    • Each of those are powerful truths. Thanks for sharing! I love that we can grow long after we begin to follow Christ, that each year, each day holds new teachings. : )

  7. God showed me so very clearly that my prayers are answered, and that prayers I didn’t even pray are answered too.

    At this time last year I was reeling from knowing that my almost 23 year long marriage was over. I had moved, and was living by myself, as my kids were both out of state at college (I knew my nest would be empty…but not empty of my husband as well.)

    I was blessed in that I had the financial means to not have to look for a job right away, but it was time to do so. I prayed for a job that was 1. in the town in which I live (I hate to drive in bad weather) 2. not too stressful; I hadn’t worked as a nurse for several years and couldn’t handle job stress on top of what I was already facing 3. part time so I could continue publishing the Christian family newspaper I had been for over 4 years and 4. decent pay. Not asking too much, right??? 🙂

    After a few weeks I saw an ad in the paper and after an interview found it fit EVERY SINGLE ONE of my requests above. I felt welcome at the job right away. I soon realized, however, that it was not enough hours to pay the bills I needed to pay. Within a few weeks I found out about another job–which was very flexible and again, fit EVERY SINGLE ONE of my requests. I have two jobs and love them both! I am so humbled at how God answered my prayers…and I’m continuing to publish the “Nebraska Family Times” too!

    A few weeks ago I was brought to tears by the realization that…I now have more friends, and better friends, than I’ve every had in my whole life. Ever. Christian friends, several of whom have gone through divorce and offered me encouragement and advice. I found those friends through my new jobs. God answered every single request about jobs…and more. He gave me friends. And I didn’t even ask.

    Thank You, Lord!

    Whenever I am anxious, or sad, or disappointed, I remember God’s answer to my prayers…and even the prayers I didn’t pray. And I try to share this story with others, to encourage them.

    • I did not realize you were the one who published the Nebraska Family Times. Oh Shelly, that adds even more dimension to your story, because it means that while you were in the biggest battle of your life, you were still pouring out and touching others. Girl, that’s faith!

  8. I am so excited for this new year, I know that God has a lot of exciting things planned for all of us. And with those plans will come struggles, but 2013 taught me to DEPEND ON HIM!!!
    I am so grateful for this past year, I opened my heart, my life and our home to what ever the Lord was ready to pour out. I started to live! I got hurt at work five years ago, and my life actually stopped and I became a hermit, I was ok with it, I read, I studied and I kept close to God, who in turn helped me to forgive the person that caused my accident and forgave me for being angry at Him. I was always in the security of my home, there for my husband and my two teens (who actually can take care of themselves) but I was happy, but I wasn’t growing!!!!!
    After a OBS with Renee on A Confident Heart early last year, I remembered a horrible thing from my past, the shadow in my dreams and mind had a face, and I finally saw it, and all the ugly came to light. With God’s grace and gentleness, I forgave and I am healing, free from the shadow!. My true journey started here. I dove into reading scripture and speaking more with God, DEPENDENCE is the word!!! I went on to the What Happens When Women Say Yes to God OBS…I was sitting outside one day reading and answering questions for this study, and one of the questions went something like this: What is God asking you to give up or change in your life? I could not think of anything and a whisper came out of no where….Your Weight!!!!, I thought “say what”, looked around and there it was again, and I knew it was God telling me it was time for me to “get a life”. I had to lose weight. My favorite scripture last year that I held on too was Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know I am GOD” I continued with the OBS, but something in me had changed.
    I started to look for Christian based weight lose ANYTHING! on-line and found Kim Taylor’s She had a 90 day challenge on there, which I did…I have lost 28 pounds since August!!!!!!!!!!! I have learned to eat only when hungry, and turn to God’s word when I just feel like putting food in my mouth. I started to walk a little here and there, because of my injuries I have to limit myself. But it feels so good. I am enrolled to take the Made To Crave OBS and I’m so excited for that!
    I started to go to women’s bible study at our church, opened my home to hold a Prayer Shawl Ministry here once a month ( which God was so nudging me to do for months last year), I was asked to join the core team for the Women’s Ministry (I accepted) and my husband and I have opened our home for a Small Group Ministry.
    I also volunteered to be the host for a progressive luncheon to kick off our Christmas for the women’s ministry. So I was the first home the women stopped at that day, and I loved it, I had so much fun.

    2013 brought much change to my life and I am so thankful to my Lord and Savior, to Proverbs 31, and to Kim Taylor, to all the ladies I have grown to know at our church and to my new found friends. God has been so good, during the good times and the struggles. He protects us, our four children, our four grand children and my mom. My heart feels so light as I enter a new journey this year. And I know He is always close by.
    Depending on Him, healing, strength, forgiveness, faith, mercy, grace and so much more has come to my life, and HE is the reason ;o)

    Phillipians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”

    Thank You Suzie, Happy New Year,

    • Wow. Wow. Wow.

      I hope that my friend, Renee sees this ( for I know that it will absolutely bring her joy. Just reading this and seeing how you have been set free to live life fully makes me so proud of you and so humbled by the transformation that takes place in the hands of our Savior. Thank you so much for sharing this. I’m in awe.

  9. I think my biggest lesson this past year was to know that there is hope, even in the most hopeless situation. The past five years have been tough with my dad’s heart problems, my grandmother’s death and my dad losing his job twice over the course of three years (I think?). I didn’t pick a them for 2013 but if I had, it would have been Hope. When my dad lost is job the second time, this past fall, rather than panic, I placed my trust in God that he will see my parents and I through. My word or “theme” for 2014 is discover. Can’t wait to see what the year holds!

    • Lord, thank you for Ashley’s faith and her tight hold on You. Thank you for meeting her family’s needs, and for being their anchor in the midst of loss. May she emerge from this with such a strong sense of your provision — both spiritually and physically. Cover her today, Father. Hold her close, but also lead her step by step into this new year. Lord, I’ve had those tough years and they are hard, and pithy words aren’t enough, but You are sufficient. May you lead and guide and provide in 2014, and thank you for the hope placed in this beautiful daughter’s heart.

  10. I just LOVE reading your posts!!! You are such an inspiration and you are so REAL!!
    Every morning I spend a good deal of time reading you and all of the other wonderful ladies our there! It has been a year now since i “found” P31 and i am changing, growing, and working hard on becoming a woman of Christ! I want to thank you and all of the wonderful women I have “met” on P31! You are all so talented and a blessing for so many of us.
    I stayed up last night and read quite a lot of your book, “the woman I am Becoming” which I got on Kindle yest. It is a wonderful book, full of so many wize words. Thank you!

    • Thanks, Deb. Yes, real describes me today. Pajama pants, no makeup, hair in need of a good brushing. All things I will take care of soon, but this real girl loves that you are so excited about God. I hear it so clear in your voice. Thanks for reading The Woman I Am Becoming. It’s nice to hear that it’s encouraging to you.

  11. In 2013 I learned how much I need to trust GOD’s heart!
    Though I prayed for His supernatural healing regarding a 10 yr. old knee replacement that failed, He chose for me to go through the extensive surgery and difficult recovery. The outcome, however, blessed my life in a powerful way! Because of rehab, I started walking at the recreational center and reconnected with a dear woman who lights up my days! She has become a surrogate mother to me at a challenging time and I praise GOD that He put us together again (as a result of surgery I had hoped to avoid).
    GOD is so very faithful and His love continues to astound me.

    • I pray that you continue to heal, Jess. Love that you see the Light in the middle of a hard time. I think all of the strong women of faith showed up at my blog today! <3

  12. My #1 lesson? Stop thinking I can do everything in my own strength. As a pastors wife, boy can I bite off more than I can chew! Which, inevitably, led me to your #5 this year! My verse to remember is Psalms 73:26, and my word for the year is PORTION – wanting to remember this year that He is my strength and my portion. Thanks for the post- awesome!


    • Hi Kristine, I think pastor’s wives should receive medals. It’s a hard job, and sometimes a job that comes with a handful of critics, or thanklessness. But what you do matters so much. I was absolutely changed as a young girl by the faithfulness of a pastor’s wife. She may never know what she did to impact me, but I will always be grateful.

  13. I hope to learn the not needing to fix everything lesson. As my children become young adults I want to rush in and fix each bump. Many times, I can’t or my help is not welcomed and it leaves me frustrated and anxious. Please pray God will show me in miraculous ways that He’s got my kids covered.

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