2o17 has been a year of duality for me. It’s been full of great leaps into purpose and hard knocks and losses. I’ve lost people. I’ve lost love. Hell, even my damn dog died. Everything I found comfort and joy in was stripped from me. It was hard. There were moments when I was paralyzed, overwhelmed, and honestly, just defeated by the pain, heartache and loss. There have been more than a few moments where I wanted to give up and walk away. But some inexplicable force always encouraged me to hold on, keep pressing and do the work.

Sometimes the encouragement came in the form of a song. Other times it was numbers on the clock. Once it was even an unexpected red bird in the trees. I can’t explain why these things inspired me to hope a little longer and work a little harder. They just connected with my soul and spoke to my spirit.

I wish this year never would’ve happened. I wish this year would’ve been easier. I wish I could’ve avoided the pain and the tears…but they taught me and grew me. I’m not a fan of telling people there is purpose in their pain because it feels belittling and dismissive. But the only way I know to survive pain is to use it to grow and develop me.

Here are five lessons 2017 has taught me. I’m looking forward to taking these lessons into 2018 so that I’m better equipped for the hell it tosses my way.

1) Stop running from hard and hurt. I’m a professional sprinter when it comes to running from the reality of hurt. This is one of the biggest mistakes of my life. My running was a type of denial. I thought if I avoided the problem it would cease to exist. Unfortunately, my avoidance only intensified my problems. Hurt and pain festered and began infecting other parts of my life.

2017 taught me to stop running and to lean into my hurt, my hard and my sadness. You can not heal until you acknowledge what has hurt you, and when you lean in, you own the problem and initiate your journey to healing.

2) God is with me, not against me. I imagine God to be a big, all-powerful being who is able to cease trouble and suffering. So when God failed to intervene in my pain, I’d always assumed it was because God didn’t want to end my suffering. This made God my enemy. And for years when trouble would arise, I treated God as my enemy, not my partner. I fought God and demanded God free me from my hell. I was wrong.

I have no clue why God doesn’t intervene more forcefully; however, I’m certain that God is always on my team. When I stopped fighting God and got quiet enough, I noticed that I could hear and feel God’s gentle nudges guiding me through the chaotic pain. Whatever the reason for the pain, God didn’t want me stuck in the suffering. God was an active participant in helping me free myself from it.

3) Surrender is a daily journey. There are some things that are out of our control, yet close to our hearts. These things aren’t easy to surrender. We fight for our will to be accomplished and our prayers to be answered. We don’t want to release these things. This is what makes surrendering to God the greatest act of faith. It relinquishes control of outcomes. You ask for nothing specifically. You place all trust in God’s will being done. This isn’t easy, and, in my experience, it isn’t done just once.

For the longest, I felt that having to surrender over and over again was a sign that I wasn’t surrendering correctly. I was wrong. Surrendering daily is choosing God daily. It’s declaring that you trust God daily. And not just trusting God to do it your way; it’s trusting that you will be cared for no matter what the outcome is. Surrendering is hard, and having to surrender daily, hourly even, isn’t failure. It’s victory. Keep surrendering. You always win when you surrender.

4) Sometimes the trouble is a distraction. I’ve spent way too much energy this year attempting to understand pain and suffering. I still have more questions than answers, but I do know that pain can paralyze you and interrupt your purpose. As someone who spent this year stepping into purpose, I know pain often kept me from doing the work I was called to do. My personal pain was the distraction that kept me from freeing others. Realizing this gave me the strength to press through the pain and continue my work.

5) Self-care is essential. It’s easy to throw your entire being into the hustle and bustle of life, and often this comes at the expense of self. We must be intentional about creating space to care for ourselves. Self-care is holistic. It’s mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical. Self-care also keeps us whole and enables us to meet the demands life places on us. Self-care isn’t being selfish or neglectful of other responsibilities. It actually empowers us to care for others. Much of our sanity lives in our ability to care for ourselves. And many of my troubles were intensified because I wasn’t caring for me.

Moving forward, I’m being purposeful about caring for self. I’m setting goals and attaching them to action items I can check off on a daily or weekly basis. I love the work I do, but I’m only able to do it if I properly care for Kia first. I have to make myself a priority. Download my self-care worksheet here.

As I enter 2018, I’m not asking God to shield me from pain. I’m simply praying for the strength to endure. Sometimes the fires of life can’t be avoided. You just have to go through them. Here’s to being fire retardant in 2018. The hells of life won’t kill you. You will endure.