Dec 31, 2023

2024 Goal Setting: 2023 Year in Review

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‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.’ Yes, indeed.

2023 was the year I grieved my Dad through all the first anniversaries (the anniversary of his baptism, Father’s Day, his birthday, the anniversary of his death, etc.), the year we renovated our health, my first year as a full-time homemaker, and—among many other significant experiences—the year my best friend breathed her last. This year was the hardest, and it was, at the same time, the most fruitful for my faith.

This was the year my second-half journey began. As I have learned, we don’t choose when this new journey begins; God does it unto us. It was, in every way, a year of profound change. It felt like I lived a decade in these 365 days. To attempt to summarize my experience is to leave out many of the things of the Spirit: the things that changed my character, opened my soul, and shaped our future.

My Vision Board for 2023

I began the year with clarity on my goals and grief to process—both about my dad and this new phase of life after letting go of a company I love. Getting through all the first-year milestones, up to the anniversary of my dad’s homecoming in August, was challenging and formative. It reset my internal calendar to pull toward that date. It feels a little weird to be here at another “new year,” as I already experienced this. But God has had a lot to teach me and grow in me since then. In 2023, I learned how to grieve. As many of you know all too well, this is not innate or taught. Our culture doesn’t know what to do with loss or how to honor these sacred days. God walked me through it, day by day. When my best friend, Jessie, passed away this month, I was surprised at how accepting I was at each stage of grief compared to before. Did it make it easier? No, but it made it more expected. I knew what that deeper-than-deep pain was: a hole left by love. There has been a lot of growth in all this grief, by God’s love and compassion. My word for 2023 was “Healed” and I have experienced healing in more ways than I ever could have expected this year—spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I’ve come to know that healing is less about fixing what is broken and more about being knit together with the source of healing Himself.

The early days of grief for me brought a wave of intense frustration at the stuff in our home. After clearing out my dad’s belongings with my brother in Dad’s final days, a switch flipped in my heart. I didn’t want my kids to have to do that for me, and I also didn’t want to spend time cleaning the house when I could spend it with the people who live there. More stuff = more time to manage the stuff. It was time for an overhaul, and in this new year ahead, I feel the need to go even further. More on that in the next post.

I experienced several waves of grief in missing my job and the rhythms I knew there for almost 20 years. 2023 was my first year living out my second-half journey here as a homemaker and mom. I took on my daily schedule with humility, failing a lot and learning daily.

With our health journey beginning and various nutritional needs in the house, I cooked far more than I used to. I learned, and I’ve had fun getting creative for family meals.

Birdie, the cat, adopted us.

We celebrated 17 years of marriage in March and made a significant decision. After considering land and more space, God made it clear that we were not supposed to move from our home. It had been a tumultuous few years with a lot of change, and moving or building a new house would create more change and stress. We didn’t need more space—we needed to ‘dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.’ God wanted us here with our neighbors close by, not isolated on a remote piece of land. This shift allowed us to take a deep breath as a family and enjoy the people around us. Our kids made sweeter friendships with the cul-de-sac kiddos as a result, and so did we.

Josh turned 8, and the neighborhood party was grrrreat!

We had yet another house flood (number 3 for us in the last 5 years!) from a broken pipe in the upstairs bathroom that poured water all through the floor to our bedroom. The sound of waterfalls in the night is the stuff of nightmares around here.

As a result, we made repairs and decided to renovate our house. Since we were staying here, we did what we knew was needed: foundation repairs, crawl space encapsulation, etc. We did fun things too, though, like a new coat of exterior paint and converting our garage into a wellness space. Affiliate links are used in this post—enjoy!

One of the best new discoveries of 2023 was digging into functional medicine! We both tossed our chronic medication, learned how to sleep, did a ton of labs and tests, evicted the toxins from our house, and got a little pep back in our step. We gained a lot of muscle between the two of us, and we have continued to learn. I was diagnosed with hEDS and got answers on my neck pain after 6 years. My word fo the year came to mind often this year!

I took three grief retreats: single nights away to focus on whatever the Lord had for me to process in each season. I usually just brought my Bible and a journal. I did a lot of walking. I did some therapy. I wrote. I cried. I laughed. These were needed.

Ari and I took two trips away, one to Myrtle Beach for a weekend and one to a hotel down the road for our anniversary. We also took family road trips to Corolla, Asheville, and Blowing Rock. On our Blowing Rock trip, I did my hardest hike to date. This was a health milestone for me.

I had “the talk” with our kids. Notice I said I. Ari came in the room as Grace asked me a “talk”-worthy question and did a full military about-face out of the room—haha! 🙂 Thank you, Birds and Bees, for equipping me!

Ari took Grace on several daddy-daughter trips, including one to New York City and another to see TobyMac in concert. These were special times for them. 💛

We planted the garden and enjoyed every stage of growth. We finallllly grew some good carrots, hence the excitement above!

I discovered my favorite organic birdseed. If I could invest in this small business, I would. The birds love it and I feel great giving them pesticide-free food. Also, the packaging is 100% plastic-free, mess-free (it has a built-in pour spout!) and beautiful.

I tried my hand at supporting several small businesses I love and have enjoyed seeing them flourish. I also finally collected my favorite things here for you, Ari made his grand re-entrance onto your Instagram feed, and you loved this more than anything else I shared this year.

After years of unanswered questions, we finally received a diagnosis for Sarah that changed everything: PDA Autism. This has been the biggest blessing and has helped us all understand her and help her grow. As a result, she started autism therapy, and we found a new OT who is truly a God-send for our whole family. We changed the vast majority of how we parent and do life with Sarah. It has made all the difference!

We took a weekend in Boston for Josh‘s birthday and ventured to Iceland with my mom and brother.

This summer, I walked a lot, committing to 14,000 steps a day in honor of my Dad, and listened to many audiobooks. A few summer favorites: Atomic Habits, Habits of the Household, Sacred Rhythms, and Every Moment Holy: Death, Grief and Hope.

I discovered this year that my color is green.

We did our second annual free flower stand for neighbors in honor of my Dad. It was beautiful and so meaningful!

Grace started middle school, Josh skipped ahead to third grade, and Sarah began her first full homeschool year alongside therapy. School for the kids has been so good this year, all praise to the Lord. Sarah made new friends, Grace continued horseback riding, and Josh earned his yellow belt in karate.

We took one final weekend trip for the year to our favorite place, Captain Charlie’s, at Bald Head Island.

I had major surgery. I owe you a post on this, as it’s truly the biggest milestone of my year, but it has been a tough/long recovery, alongside losing Jessie suddenly. I look forward to sharing when I get the spring back in my step. Overall, I am healing slowly and grateful to have this significant surgery behind me. The flowers below, from 20-something of my generous, wonderful, kind former co-workers, were a bright spot in some dark days post-surgery when a systemic infection set in. They sent flowers twice, which was far above and beyond—but that’s just who they are. I love you all so much.

My mom lived with us for six weeks to help with the kids post-surgery. She was a champ and selfless as she served our family.

I finished reading the Bible again with friends and started anew.

My best friend from home, Jessie, passed away from large B lymphoma. I spent her last days with her, close friends, and her beautiful mom in hospice. I miss her terribly. Life will never be the same.

After 10 years at our previous church and three amazing years with our house church since the lockdowns began, they changed to meet once a month instead of weekly. This was a hard change for us, but we know the Lord was in it, and it’s already opened meaningful doors. We’ve been visiting a new church since, where we hope to serve and grow over the long haul with a larger community. I’m excited for our kids and our marriage in this, and ready to serve.

Ari and I enjoyed a 14th annual dinner with local Cultivate ladies. This yearly tradition is a gift. We have two annual questions we ask each other (gents included!), and we love hearing everyone’s answers:
What good things happened this year?
– What are you looking forward to in the year ahead?

What a beautiful marker of time and the Lord’s faithfulness this has been over many years.

I finished the year with Grace and her first-ever “big girl” PowerSheets. She is using the Crocus set I originally ordered, and I switched to green because, well, 2023 taught me it’s my color. Doing PowerSheets with Grace for the first time was a full-circle moment for me. She loves them—especially all the stickers.

2023 was the year I grieved.
And it was the year the Lord brought His comfort like no one else can.
For how this year has changed me, I am forever grateful.

Happiest last day of 2023, friends. After a full year with it on my goal list, I just finished the base of my soon-to-be-embroidered Bible cover. It’s not too late to do something good and end the year well. Put an exclamation point on 2023, no matter how the previous 264 days went, and take a tiny step toward what matters—what lasts.

Up next… my 2024 goals.

10 Comments

  1. Julie Roberts on December 31, 2023 at 5:54 pm

    Happy New Years, Lara! I can’t wait to see the end result of your Bible cover!

  2. Casey on December 31, 2023 at 6:47 pm

    Oh how I loved lending an ear to you recapping all this year held! I felt like I was with you over coffee reading thus.

  3. Flavia Miranda on January 1, 2024 at 10:48 am

    This is gold: “I’ve come to know that healing is less about fixing what is broken and more about being knit together with the source of healing Himself.”

  4. Em on January 1, 2024 at 3:25 pm

    What an amazing recap, and what an amazing year you just lived! Grateful to have walked some of it alongside you. And I, too, can’t wait to see the progress on that embroidered cover!

  5. Rebecca on January 1, 2024 at 5:20 pm

    What a beautiful recap of your 2023; you truly do have a way of making the reader feel like they are right there with you, having a conversation! Thank you for sharing.

  6. Nickie Lugg on January 2, 2024 at 2:46 pm

    Lovely read as always Lara! Thank you for continuing to share your life with us, it’s so inspiring to me. & my gosh I can’t believe how grown your littles are 🥰 warms my heart!
    I know your in a season of intentional family time, but I selfishly need to ask a question! Is there any chance of a new podcast or YouTube etc from you? Even monthly or quarterly? *asked with great anticipation & hopeful excitement* 🙏🏻
    If not, I fully understand! It would just be marvelous though. Either way, I’m always here rooting you on from the sidelines with all the confetti & cowbells! 🥳

    Happy 2024!

    • Lara on January 4, 2024 at 10:44 am

      You are so kink, Nickie! I would love to do a podcast in the future, but will wait on the Lord for the timing. I’m encouraged by your note! Huge hugs to you!

  7. Valerie on January 4, 2024 at 5:13 pm

    I love reading your updates Lara!! Always grateful for how you point me to the Lord with every aspect of your life. You live out what you preach.

    • Lara on January 5, 2024 at 2:05 pm

      You always encourage my soul, Val. Thank you. I am grateful for you.

  8. Jevonnah Ellison on January 5, 2024 at 2:13 pm

    Loved every moment of reading this! Thank you for sharing your incredible journey. Your lights shines so bright in darkness. Sending love!

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