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!