Dec 4, 2023

December Goals, What Matters Most

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Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter long ago.
Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.

– Christina Rosetti

I’m in an airport, on my way to be with my best friend from home, who went into hospice last night. It all happened so fast. At the beginning of last month, we had a long conversation about what matters in life. We talked about death and how our 30-year friendship led us to be able to “go there” in every conversation, especially this one. There was no fear in the conversation, just love. Somehow, before all the testing, she knew. Large B lymphoma took over her body with ferocity. Here we are a month later, and I never imagined this.

Jessie and I met in Mr. King’s advanced vocab class in middle school. We both have a love for good words, and she is, to say the least, brilliant with them. I always wished she would write a book. She knew the right words to put with what I was experiencing or to express the soul of another. She is creative, generous, and selfless. When I was a fairy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as a freshman in High School, I lost my retainer in the trash at Hardee’s on a rehearsal break (whilst wearing my fairy costume!). Jessie climbed into the dumpster with me to find it, and that has been a picture of our relationship since. She’s been there for me in the hardest times, willing to dig into the hard stuff to find authentic connection together—no matter what it takes. She became “Aunt Jessie” to my children. She was right by my side at my Dad’s funeral last year.

This is the last photo I have of us at Dad’s memorial celebration. Dad loved her dearly. She’s at the same hospice where he was before we brought him home. Please pray for her, her husband, her mom, and everyone around her in these sacred and devastating days. Jesus Christ came to earth, and He is coming again. This is the hope we hold fast to in Advent, and at the forefront of my mind as I travel to Pensacola today. May the Lord’s peace be experienced by Jessie, by all I’ll meet over the next few days, and by you as well.

Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

I will say that I don’t want to write the rest of my normal goals post here, but I know Jessie would want me to keep going and connecting with you—using words to express and do life with gusto. I wrote much of this below several days ago before she went into hospice. So, here I am, for Jessie, celebrating all she is and all she has sown into the world and my life!

Highlights from November:
— The majority of November was spent preparing for and healing from surgery. It was difficult and painful, with a post-surgery infection that set me back several weeks in my healing. I have a long way to go, but I am grateful to be on the other side—detoxing from anesthesia, rebuilding my gut from antibiotics, and most of all, taking it slowly to let my body heal. Thank you to many of you who wrote me with notes of encouragement and prayer. Your prayers were felt. I’m not supposed to travel or drive a car yet, but Ari and I both agreed God would carry me through this trip to see Jessie.

— My mom has been with us for all of November and part of December to help us while I recover. I don’t know what we would have done without her.
— Grace turned 12. I slept right through her birthday party with my post-surgery infection and recovery, but she was so compassionate about it all. I love her so!
— As I mentioned last month, we were on the hunt for an organic Christmas tree. I found one, and it’s darling. Fresh-cut from a small pesticide-free farm in Honey Creek, WI, our little tree is just right. It was well-packaged, smells amazing, and was less expensive (even with shipping) than some of our local tree farms.
—I haven’t gotten to open my 2024 PowerSheets yet with all that happened in November, but I think these current experiences are changing my goals. Hard things shape us and make us see what truly matters—what lasts. I hope to open them when I return home later this week.

What I read or listened to:
— The Bible. We finished our three-year reading of the Bible in November and started again on December 1. My friend, Tijuana, and I have been reading through the whole Bible together for several years (I think eight?) alongside a handful of others, including Ari. This year, we’re grateful to have 75 of you joining us as well. What a gift to do this together for the next three years.
— For my surgery preparation, I used Belleruth’s Naparstek’s Guided Meditations to Promote a Successful Surgery and had my surgery team follow Peggy Huddleston’s Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster protocol. It was a beautiful experience, thanks to God using these things. I was able to combat fear going into the operating room and woke up feeling peace instead of dread. My anesthesiologist told me, as I was waking up, that it was one of her favorite experiences in the OR, hearing all of the positive words in the room. It didn’t take much – I began practicing the visualization two days before surgery and listened as I was waiting for surgery to begin. If you know anyone having a procedure soon, feel free to pass these recommendations to them. I did a ton of research, and these programs are clinically proven to increase healing outcomes by 30-50%! Our mind is directly connected to our body and nervous system. I wanted my nervous system ready to experience the trauma of surgery in a relaxed state. While I did crash on them twice (my heart rate had a sudden drop in surgery, and they had to revive me with epinephrine and other things), I felt no pain or fear coming out of anesthesia—even several days later. The pain eventually set in once my infection began, but that’s another story for another day.
— While immobile in November, I watched several movies and sermons. In the early days after surgery, I found this video and these healing scriptures that were calming for my overloaded system.


What I’m looking forward to in December:
— Time with our family, serving others, basking in the reality of Jesus that changes everything.
— Our advent reading has been needed the last few days. Our stack:
Hallelujah: Cultivating Advent Traditions with Handel’s Messiah
A Vintage Christmas (new for us)
Come, Let Us Adore Him (new for us)
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel: A Liturgy of Daily Worship – (new for us) I love this one.
Then Sings My Soul: Holiday Special Edition 
— Reading Christmas books with the kids; see my updated list here. We have such a special collection—many that Jessie gave us over the years.
— Digging into my 2024 PowerSheets when I am back home.
— I don’t know what this month holds exactly, so I most look forward to relying on the Lord and taking it one day at a time.

In one hand I grasp the burden of my grief,
while with the other I reach
for the hope of grief ’s redemption.
And here, between the tension of the two,
between what was and what will be,
in the very is of now,
let my heart be surprised by, shaped by,
warmed by, remade by,
the same joy that forever wells within
and radiates from your heart, O God.
Amen.

– Excerpt from Every Moment Holy: Death, Grief and Hope

My December goals were fueled by the Q4 Goal Refresh in the PowerSheets. I hope to write my annual Goal Setting series later this month to share a recap of the year, what I’m focusing on in 2024, and my goals for the new year. Till then, I’m grateful for another month to tackle what God has given me to do. May we finish this year with love and faith, friends.

What are you focusing on in December to finish this year? I’d love to hear.

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10 Comments

  1. Bobbie Chapin on December 4, 2023 at 3:46 pm

    My dearest Lara, I had NO Idea you were going through such an illness, but I shall put you in my prayers post haste! I have faith that God will be by your side and heal you completely and soon. I am devastated to learn of Jesse’s condition and shall pray for her and her family as they go through this sad, difficult journey. There is such a power and a comfort in the knowledge and assurance we shall all be together again one day though having to let go is excruciating, and going on without a dear one is a painful experience you cannot imagine until you’ve been there as you already know. Prayers go up again for all of you at that time as well. Knowing Jesse and her neverending supply of laughter and smiles, the two of you will have more than a few treasured moments to share before God calls her home. Bless you for being there with her, for caring so much for Jesse, and for having the heart and willingness to be by her side right now. Call me any time you can, and give Jesse a big hug from Doc. Much love to both of you!

    • Lara on December 5, 2023 at 6:00 am

      Oh. Doc, I love you so! Thank you for these generous words. I will share them with Jessie. I’ve said “This too shall pass” to myself all through my own recovery and have thought of you every time. You changed my life and we LOVE YOU!

  2. Sarah on December 4, 2023 at 7:33 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. I also have a friend like Jessie who has been by my side for over 20 years. I can’t imagine what you’re going through. I pray for safety as you travel and for your continued recovery. You are wise and kind to go and be with her. Sending love.

  3. Dana on December 5, 2023 at 12:48 am

    My Dearest Sister! I am so sorry that physical death will separate you and Jessie for a season! I am praying protection over you and your physical body as you continue to heal! Going to be with Jessie and her family is a provision from God that is priceless!

    I will be praying for those you are with and those you love at home! Lord, Jesus, fill them all with your peace and joy that surpasses all understanding! Covering you all in Prayer! Hugs! 🙏🙌😘

  4. Trinity on December 6, 2023 at 10:56 am

    Hi Lara!! Praying you have a smooth recovery! Also keeping Jesse’s family in prayer.

    I also wanted to inquire ? is it too late to join in with you, Ari, and the other 75 people reading through the bible together? I would love the accountability

    Thank you!

  5. Ashley B on December 8, 2023 at 10:49 am

    Lara, Continuing to pray for your recovery both from the surgery & also as you grieve all that is going on with your precious friend. Hospice is such a beautiful thing. So much better to be at home surrounded by family & friends in a safe & comfortable place than in the hospital (when possible). I always recommended it to my patients. Prayers for you in this overwhelming time & that you will have precious time with Jessie in these days. Also that God will be with you on the return trip. Coming home after this time will be hard & heavy-give yourself space & grace in the days to come! May you find margin and space needed to grieve….I think you had a grief journal you used with your dad…may be helpful to pull that out when you return…just a thought! Sending prayers to you!

    • Lara on December 8, 2023 at 12:45 pm

      Ashley, I needed this encouragement so much. You knew and your words met me right where I am. The return trip was impossibly hard. Being home again is hard. She went to be with the Lord yesterday after I got home. Thank you for praying – it has been felt. And you are so kind to think of my journal from my dad’s grief – I will use that today. Thank you, Ashley!

  6. Emily Wood on December 24, 2023 at 3:24 pm

    Lara,
    I didn’t realize you were having surgery! Praying for your continued recovery. I just want you to know what a blessing your work through Powersheets has been in my life. 6 years ago I bought my first set, and I’ve used them every year since. I want you to know this year we launched a nonprofit in our county to serve those impacted by foster care. I truly believe the focus and guidance I received through Powersheets is one of the reasons I was able to accomplish this huge goal the Lord had placed on my heart. THANK YOU for using your gift to guide others.

  7. Caley on January 10, 2024 at 9:31 am

    Always praying over you, sweet Lara x

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