Hey! It must be either January or September, because tons of people are taking stock and making plans. I totally hate resolutions because inside I really rebel against arbitrary rules becoming the boss of me. So in order to participate, I am forced to reframe it as “being intentional” so I don’t totally hate myself.

Anyway, the first part of moving forward is paying attention to what the past taught me. I find that if I don’t pay attention to the lessons I learned, God will make sure I figure it out by teaching me again, and BELIEVE ME, I don’t wan’t to relearn a lot of these.

Here’s a look back at what 2017 taught me.

the pros and cons of empathy

I’m an empath. My dad told me when I was in high school that I would be a really good therapist, but it would also probably substantially shorten my life. He’s right. I’m super great at feeling the feels with people, whether I’m trying or not, but I can’t turn it off. It’s both my greatest asset and greatest liability. Early in the year, I learned the outer limits of both, as I used the gift for good, and then kept going way past when it became unhealthy for me.

the limits of my pro-marriage stance

My support of marriage has always been enthusiastic and robust and generally unwavering. There have always been theoretical exceptions (the typical “infidelity and abuse!” escape clauses), but I had never really been close enough to exploding marriages for that to be more than theory. I have friends who talk to me when they’re on the outs with their husbands because I will fight on the side of the marriage, which almost always means helping them find some perspective to see why the husband might have behaved in this way or that. I only just learned to do that for myself very recently, but I have been helping my friends see the ways that their husbands might have kinder intentions than it seems for basically my entire adulthood.

And this is still a big deal to me. But I’ve mentioned that this year has been hard for marriages, and I’ve seen a few come down this year and I’ve learned some from friends who have come out the other side of divorce. I’m seeing more nuance to the “infidelity and abuse” clauses than I have before. Sometimes God restores his child, but allows the marriage to die. Sometimes after the death, by God’s grace, the marriage undergoes rebirth, too. We always hope for that.

I like public speaking

This was a surprise. I did it one time for a women’s event at my church. A single 20-minute talk, just my testimony. No biggie. The entire time I was looking ahead to it and preparing, I kept repeating to myself, “This was a bad plan. I don’t know why they asked me. I suck at this. I hate it. I’m never doing it again. Big fat sack of NOPE.” 

But then I did it. And, while it was exhausting, it was also strangely energizing. Chalk this one up to “you never know until you try.”

traveling with babies got easier

In May, I flew several thousand miles with a 10-month-old and a 2-year-old to visit my baby brother and his family. I made approximately the same length trip with the big two when they were similar ages, and it was the most stressful thing EVER. Trying to keep squirmy little kids from making all the other people crazy was stressful. Trying to navigate airports with them and all the things we’d need was stressful. Having to handle a 3-hour time change and no naps (exactly zero of my children have been airplane sleepers) about killed me.

This time? No biggie. They’ll sleep eventually. I’ll feed them snacks. It’s fine. Just like everything else about having two babies in diapers, this was far easier the second time around. I have honestly never been so calm while traveling with kids. (Notable differences: the toddler was Brian, who is generally more compliant than the big two, and I learned a few years ago—slightly after the aforementioned solo trip with the girls—that, no matter how bulky and annoying car seats are, it’s 100% worth bringing one on the plane to keep the toddler immobile.)

hiring childcare so I can have margin is money well spent

This year, over and over, I’ve heard, “must be nice…” from other mamas. Must be nice that my husband’s job is somewhat flexible. (It is. He works hard and a lot of hours, but the fact that he can do some of that from home is awesome.) Must be nice that I can fly a bestie up when he leaves for a couple of weeks. (Yep. Three cheers for air miles.)

There are a lot of things about my life that are nice. But I misinterpreted the comments as “your life is pretty cushy. There’s no reason you should be tired” and then I internalized the message as “I don’t need or deserve rest.” This is crazy and probably would be a reasonable topic for therapy, but the bottom line is… it’s a lie. My life is as hard as it is. If I’m tired, there’s probably a reason, and shaming myself isn’t really helping.

So we finally did what my husband has been on board with since at least the beginning of 2016 and hired HELP. For three hours a week, I spend cash money for a couple of girls to come watch my kids. My kids adore the twins, and I adore the quiet and I’m a better mom when I have that rest. (Side note- this month, they’re unavailable, and it makes a huge difference. My poor children.) I have space to read or do chores that are hard to do with the little ones. I’m grateful we made it a priority this year.

I can do hard things

I mean, this is obvious, right? I gave birth a whole lotta times. I raise a whole lotta babies. Life is challenging. But this year, I had some new challenges. There was the sudden and traumatic loss of my very first dog… while my husband was away for a couple of weeks. There were hard conversations with all kinds of people that required I follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in a very moment-by-moment way and show up vulnerable and wholehearted and compassionate, regardless of how I was treated in return. I learned (again) that mortality is a THING and my family is not immune. (Still.)

“I trust you to give me what I need.”

This is actually a whole ‘nother post, but this prayer is saving my life right now.

the value of new friends

I’ve lived in the same place for a loooooong time. I’ve gone to the same church for almost two decades. I have friends. I could just kind of hole up in my comfortable introvert space where I have the friends I need and don’t have to talk to anybody else. I have.

This year (by God’s grace alone, because I’m LAZY) was not like that. I’ve connected with women in several different phases of life and with various belief systems, and it’s been beautiful.

Wholeheartedness changed my life.

This was my “word” going into the year, and it felt huge and scary. It WAS huge and scary. And I hope I never go back. I didn’t write about it a whole ton, but it was underneath a lot of my daily decisions (as those words ought to be). It made me do a bunch of awkward things (like initiating hang-outs with people I didn’t know, some of whom became the aforementioned friends, and saying doofus things like “I like you” or “I’m glad you were there tonight, just seeing you calmed be down” to people outside my inner circle).

Bottom line: 2017 was a good year. And it was hard. I’m glad it’s over.

What’d you learn last year?

Published by robininalaska

Robin Chapman is a part-time writer, editor, and birth photographer and a full-time imperfect mama, wife, Jesus follower, and normalizer of failure. She’s trying hard to learn how to do this motherhood thing in a way that doesn’t land the whole family in intensive therapy. She has a heart for helping other mamas buried in the little years with hope, humor, and solidarity. You can find her hiding out in the bathroom with an iced dirty chai, writing and editing and making spreadsheets for KindredMom.com where she is a cheerleader for mamas, or online looking for grace in her mundane and weird life. She lives in Fairbanks, Alaska with her four delightful (crazy) kids—some homeschooled, some public schooled, some too young for school at all—and her ridiculously good looking husband, Andrew.

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  1. I’m an empath too, so I kinda chuckled over your dad’s comment about being a therapist. I used to want to be a therapist. After having seen two myself, I’m like, I just want to raise my children well-you can’t pay me to take on other people’s’ trouble, I already do that. Lol. Thank you for sharing this post. It was a delight getting to know you a bit more and I think we’d be really good friends in real life. If you have the time, I wrote a similar 2017 post on my Stay Awake blog (found in the about page of my writing blog because I like to complicate things, ha.) Like you, I’m so, so grateful for everything God did in 2017, but not sad to see it go!


  2. I love your blog Robin. You have inspired me in more ways than I can tell you not just through this outlet but in person too. I miss you and I am thankful that I know you, you are the type of mother and wife I strive to be more like. I love you.


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