2017 Wrapped up in 2 Words: Uff Da

Being both terribly sentimental and wildly futuristic, the turning of the years is my favorite holiday.

Writing down my reflections every year probably started around 8th grade and is a habit I plan to keep up until I’m writing to you all about my great-grandchildren’s adventures.

This year, these are the words that come to mind:

Doozy

Uff Da

Crazy

A lot

Overwhelming

2017 was quite the year.

At the end of 2016, my parents separated and I graduated college, went full time with my business, met Caleb, and moved home. That set the scene for a 2017 that was all over the place. I considered giving you an overview of every month to watch the timeline, but I don’t think that a play-by-play is what you really want. All of our lives are nuts. What matters is how we use the pieces to grow and learn.

And this is what I walked away from the year knowing.

Relationships highlight the uniqueness of humanity. When you stick two different people together, there is no one size fits all path. While there are good principles that apply to all – communication, vulnerability, honesty, integrity, forgiveness, kindness, and more – the way that two people live them out in relation to romantic love is filled with infinite possibilities.

Unrealistic expectations (of another or yourself) will suck your joy. You have to deal out grace often and make sure that you don’t skip dealing it to yourself.

Your path will unfold as it needs to. Maybe it’ll be faster than you expected or slower, one is not more right or holy than the other. We are just different people in different situations.

Caleb and I went from our first date to our wedding day in 10 months exactly. It’s not a path I’d recommend to everyone. It’s also not something I’d warn against. We are only a few months into marriage and know very little about the whole thing, but I can tell that it’s really good. Yes, it’s work, but all good things take hard work.

Marriage is great. 

That honestly surprised me a bit to learn.

My parents got divorced this year and it absolutely sucked. It was a messy divorce and I wasn’t prepared for it. I wasn’t prepared for how badly the whole thing would hurt. I wasn’t prepared to lose my relationship with my dad. I wasn’t prepared how much it solidified in me a hatred for divorce.

I know that Caleb and I are young and naive. I know that we have a long way to go. But for all my fear about marriage, it’s way better than I could have imagined. I’m thankful for a husband who is kind, caring, and loves me beyond my wildest dreams.

Again – marriage requires hard work. So does everything else that is worth doing.

Having a healthy + strong marriage is one of the best things we can work towards on this earth. Our ministries, our careers, our families… they all are blessed by the overflow of healthy humans in a healthy marriage. I’m thankful to be laying a foundation now for something that will last a lifetime.

Families and boundaries are messy.

I moved back home with my mom and siblings this year. It was… bittersweet. Some days, I felt sixteen again. Some days, I felt like a co-mother of three. It was weird. It was not ideal. It was really hard.

I learned this: keep giving grace. Keep establishing your own boundaries.

Desperate times may call for desperate measures, but it shouldn’t stay desperate forever.

There’s a time to put yourself aside for the people you love – to love their broken hearts, be a positive influence, and serve their tangible needs.

There’s also a time to put yourself back together – to let your own broken heart be mended and to tend to the needs of your life.

In the last month or so of this year, the Enneagram has been a life changer.

I’ve been in tears multiple times saying, “I’m a such a 7 and that explains why I’m always running from my pain into the arms of busy-ness, that burns me out and leaves me with a giant mess to deal with later!” And really, that’s brought me a lot of clarity in how I view myself – flaws and strengths together.

If you’re unfamiliar, check out The Enneagram Institute for the overview. Basically, the Enneagram is a personality inventory based off of ancient wisdom and is an amazing tool for spiritual growth and personal development.

I’m a 7 – which means that my life is often motivated by avoiding pain and finding fun, new, and exciting experiences. I’m incredibly positive and future-focused. However, I also struggle to sit in my own feelings and navigate through pain. I distract myself until I’m too tired to continue and then I have a major breakdown. Not the best way to do life.

I asked Caleb recently what his least favorite thing about me was and he said, “your inability to deal with your feelings.” Ouch. Thankfully this is after I’ve come to the conclusion that Caleb is WAY more emotionally intelligent and healthy than I am, so I totally understood what he meant.

I’m learning to sit in my pain. I’m learning how to feel it. To not just go to a numb place, but to a vulnerable one.

I need time. I need grace. I need slow. I need connection.

Around July, I started to find myself feeling really burnt out – creatively and emotionally. I was in the thick of wedding season, planning my own wedding, and just really didn’t have time to let myself break down.

So it came out in pieces. Like the time I laid on the hardwood floors of my photography studio after working a 12+ hour day and just bawled. Like when a couple chose a different wedding photographer and I found myself curled up in a corner under a blanket because I just felt the rejection to my core. Like when I was so anxious to check my email because I was afraid it’d be someone who was mad at me.

I know that I shouldn’t be showing signs of burn out this early in my career…

But I think that it’s been really telling. Really messy. Really telling. I’m not created to be a full-time photographer. There’s not a grace on it. While I love people and telling their stories, something has felt off during the last few months. I can’t explain it, but it’s just not where I’m supposed to be.

And then there’s writing.

Caleb and I sat in my mom’s driveway this spring in the dark, tears in my eyes and hope in his. He told me about how he saw me and his dreams for me. I had never felt more known.

“I see you writing books.”

“Your words are going to mother the world.”

Friends, find those who will believe in your dreams more than you do. At least a little bit more. Enough to give you a little kick in the pants when you need it.

I’ve been a writer my whole life. From poetry to novels (I have quite a few historical Christian romance novels that I wrote when I was about 12…) to blogging that began when I was 13. I’ve just always been writing. Often in bursts. Always feeling like an unrealistic dream.

Everyone wants to write, right? Like it’s on everyone’s bucket list to write a book… why would I actually be one to do it? Why would I think I could make it in a sea of aspiring writers?

These are the lies that keep my hands tied and excuses flowing.

Yet God placed a passion for writing in my heart and I can’t run away from it.

I’ve been trying.

But when you’re made to do something, you can only run away from it for so long. Caleb discovered that this year with youth ministry and his dream of working for a church. I’ve been seeing that in writing.

What does it look like to pursue writing? I’m not sure except that I’m going to keep showing up in this space until I’ve finished saying everything I have to say.

Yes, this has been 2017.

Messy. So messy.

Hopeful.

Tiring.

Growing.

Unpredictable.

I know that for my whole life, this will be a year that I look back on with a heavy dose of awe.

It sure was something. The good and bad mixed together – the grieving and the celebration side by side.

I’m hoping for a quieter 2018.

One with lots of books, friends, time in worship, words written, and quality time with my husband. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy to be very good.

This next year is one to grow deep and set the foundation for all the wild adventures my life will hold – marriage and family, a writing career, ministry, and whatever other surprises in store. Those surprises will happen in time. Now isn’t about the big, shiny adventures.

Now is about healing.

Now is about rest.

Now is about finding my voice and who I am amidst huge transitions.

Now is about digging in my roots and not worrying about how far the branches reach.

Now is good.


So how about you? How would you describe this last year and what are you hoping for from 2018?

  1. erickajen

    January 6th, 2018 at 9:59 am

    beautiful! 🙂 i love how Caleb is able to see you in another light, challenging you to look at yourself as something different than what you’re doing… how he’s encouraging you to branch out, but not because its what he wants, but its because its something he sees in you that maybe you’re taking for granted.
    your words ARE AMAZING. ive maybe said before, years ago, but your words sound like they are coming out of someone much older, someone much wiser, than i would expect from someone your age. so yeah, definitely dont take that for granted. have you been telling stories with pictures because you were afraid to sit down and start writing? your pictures have never just been about images. you’ve always written long descriptions…. its always been there just on a low burn… 😉

  2. Olivia Alnes

    January 10th, 2018 at 9:57 am

    Thank you for your kind words, Ericka! You’ve always been so encouraging to me and I so deeply appreciate that. Caleb also read your comment and loved it.

    It’s true, I’ve been hiding behind my photos in many ways and the time has come to step out of that.

    Thanks for cheering me on in the process!

  3. erickajen

    January 10th, 2018 at 11:07 am

    im so excited to follow this process. 🙂

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