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Reflections on 2023 in 2024

Happy 2024 everyone! I hope everyone's year is off to a great start and you were able to take the day off. I'm on a plane returning from Nashville, thankful for the opportunity to visit some friends for a few days and have some much needed downtime before a very busy workweek.


There's a lot on my mind about 2024. For now, I'm still in "retrospective mode" of 2023 and that I survived the first holiday without Teri in the first place. I'll share just a few of the ups and downs from the last few weeks, as posts like these can go on forever since so much seems to happen, every single day. I'm also working on being OK that everything isn't documented or just journaling privately more, even though it brings me a lot of joy every time I finish these posts.


Lots of Holiday Events! Starting at work.


What always helps me in the short term is to just be really busy. That was definitely the case both at work and at home. I felt like I had one event after another, with the first holiday party with my work colleagues via Microsoft Teams:

12/15 - Orora IT Holiday Social / Ugly Sweater Contest


December 14 marked my one year anniversary at Orora, which also means we used Mentimeter (like our wedding) to run the holiday social. Although my awesome triathlon ugly sweater got 0 votes which means I didn't win anything, I am so grateful to be a part of the Orora family.


From my experience, IT people like me tend to be awkward at these events and usually struggle with socializing. I was not sure what to expect. In this case, everyone had a great time!

I also love the opportunity to use technology to get everyone together all over the country using video conferencing, just like Teri and I would do often when we were physically apart. We did a ton of video chats since we met, up until we moved in together after the wedding. The long distance relationship would have been much more difficult (or involve a lot more flying) if it was not for video conferencing.


Celebrations with Immediate Family


I'm also thankful for the pictures and videos to remind me of what Teri and I did in 2022, since I forgot a lot of what happened until I spent the time looking through everything. What was particularly memorable from last year was spending time in San Diego and our house with my her brother Kevin and my Dad's side of the family:


Some of you can relate to attending a friends or family holiday function that involved a lot of people that you don't know. I selfishly try to avoid these. This was one in San Diego in that category. We still went since Teri likes to go to everything involving a party, and had a great time. I was encouraged to watch this short clip of Teri opening up one of her white elephant gifts that contained a small devotional book:


Based on the other gifts people won, I was a bit surprised that she was really happy about keeping this gift. It was probably because she just completed her 365 day Bible Project reading plan, ahead of schedule. She really had an entirely brand new perspective on life thanks to her reading. Thankfully I have a lot of videos about her sharing about her reading and look forward to sharing them here soon as we begin 2024.


Most of you all know Teri also had a lot of fun at any opportunity that involved dancing. Most of you also know that I do not have as much fun. Thankfully I don't have any videos of Teri trying to teach me how to dance or not be so stiff / awkward. Lets just say she had no problem being transparent in this area I need to work on leave it at that. Maybe 2024 is the year I take some lessons? Anyways, this video brought a smile to me since it reflected how Teri was throughout the whole party, always smiling and having fun:


I'll always miss moments like these with Teri. Even with all this reflection I've done about her and our marriage, I still have a lot to think about regarding why she was this way. Videos like these are a great reminder for me to keep smiling and not take myself so seriously, no matter how awkward I feel. It is OK to have fun.


In 2023, my first family celebration was on Saturday (12/23) in Beaumont to see my dad's side. On Monday (12/25), I celebrated in Diamond Bar with my mom's side. Several of my family was either traveling or got sick at the last minute, so the crowd wasn't as big as previous years:


It was still a meaningful time to celebrate the birth of Jesus. I actually think it all worked out for the better, as we ll had a lot fun and ate a ton of food. I got some great gifts like usual, including a new ugly sweater that I'm wearing in the photos. I also tend to get a bit overwhelmed with large groups, and with larger groups it means more food and more of a need to take a nap after over eating.


Christmas with some of Teri's Family


“Friendship is a deep oneness that develops when two people, speaking the truth in love to one another, journey together to the same horizon.” ― Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

One of the most important lessons I keep thinking about regarding my relationship with Teri was how important it is to simply ask for what I need. I feel like a broken record bringing this up, but I keep doing so since I feel like so many people around me struggle in this area. I also think about this often because I learned the hard way with Teri, countless times. I tend to be passive-aggressive when I didn't get what I needed in the relationship instead of just speaking directly to her about how I feel and what I need with truth and love. Of course this is still a work in progress with the people around me today. Speaking truth in love in all relationships in my life (work, family, friends, etc) is an area I hope to focus on in 2024.


Speaking up about what I needed made all the difference this Christmas season. I took the initiative regarding spending the holidays in San Diego with Khoa's family on Christmas eve, in-between my family parties. In other words, I sort of invited myself (by saying I was free and I wanted to see them) to their Christmas party with their extended family. And I'm so glad I did. I met a lot of great people and look forward to seeing them more in 2024. We all had a great time with some amazing food and played a lot of fun games:

12/24 - Christmas in San Diego


There's no real guidance or rules on what people should do regarding holiday events with family members that you're not as well connected to after your spouse passes away. I know at first I was not sure what to do and definitely felt a bit anxious about it. I didn't want to have any regrets and just see photos on social media afterwards, wishing I was there. Should you even reach out to plan anything? Should they reach out to you? In my case, it didn't really matter.


While I ate way too much (I had 4 plates of nachos after I said I was done eating), I am so thankful to be there. We even played a few of Teri's favorite games on the Nintendo Switch (another thing I complained about with her but now miss very much). I still feel so welcomed and loved by Teri's family. I also know that Teri would have loved opening presents with Kora together on Christmas morning:

12/25 - Christmas morning in San Diego. Thankful to see Teri's photo at the top of the bookshelf, along with one of our favorite books she gave to Khoa last year, How We Love.


I wish I could have been at more holiday events than what I listed above and could share photos of them here. Unfortunately there was a handful of parties I was invited to but due to schedule conflicts or travel, I was not able to attend. I would have also loved to fly out to Atlanta or even Canada. Maybe next year?


How were you feeling during all the downtime?


Even with so many happenings these past few weeks, there was a significant amount of downtime I spent all alone.


Driving back and forth from San Diego by myself was probably the hardest part. I reflect the most after an event is over and I get back in the car without Teri. During the ~4 hour car ride, I spent the time trying to encourage myself and also be reminded that Christmas is not all about me in the first place. This involved:


  • Listening to Christmas sermons from my favorite pastors (Mariner's, FCBC Walnut, Eastside, John Piper)

  • Listening to "The Story" audiobook and the bible

  • Listening to my favorite Christmas and worship songs

  • Praying for strength and hope to make it through the rest of 2023


I guess the downtime, while difficult it is, is what really draws me the closest to God. I am still brought to tears a few times when I would listen to my most played song of 2023 on both Youtube music and Spotify, Living Hope. This song still has such an emotional impact to me and always reminds me of Teri and how good God has been to me during this difficult season. I then remembered this clip that was sent to me a few weeks after the Celebration of Life service:

4/5 - Celebration of Life Service, Mariner's Church


Teri loved talking about the Holy Spirit. I can only attribute being able to put my hands up during worship to the Holy Spirit sustaining me. God is good. All the time.


The day after Christmas felt like an emotional roller coaster. I debated about when to put all the Christmas decorations away that I find bittersweet to look at, wondering what life will be like next year when I take everything back out. What brought a smile to me was to spend time admiring all the cards I received this year. Afterwards, what helped the most was to extra time in bed rereading all the cards I received after Teri passed away:

Thank you friends and family for loving me throughout 2023 in so many ways I don't deserve. I love all of you and hope to spend more time with each of you in 2024!


I also know there are several out there that didn't get to celebrate Christmas with anyone, or are also going through a difficult loss of a loved one or previous relationship. If this is currently you and need someone to talk to, please let me know.


My plane is about to land so I better wrap this up. I guess I can't believe I made it through my first Christmas / Holiday season without Teri. While it had its expected ups and downs and Christmas would be even better if I could have spent it with Teri, I can say in this moment that my heart is really full because of readers like you. I really have so much to be thankful for, including Teri being in a better place and getting to literally celebrate the birth of Jesus, with Jesus in heaven.


Thank you for reading. Have a blessed week everyone!

Erwin




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Happy 1 yr. Anniversary with Orora! I loved your Zoom ugly sweater contest. For sure I know you will win next year. Teri was so fun and I miss her, too. I am so thankful you were with family for the Holidays. That makes me so happy to hear. I love your new green tinsel sweater. So cool! I appreciate your encouragement on “asking for what you need.” I need those constant reminders myself, so keep reminding us. I admire you being so productive in your down time, Erwin. Great job with that. Thanks again for sharing. I loved this post. I got a little choked up on this one since it was extra beautiful remembering Teri. So thanks for…

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Happy 2024! So glad you went to Khoa's for Christmas and that you enjoyed it so much. So thankful for so many sweet memories of time with love ones, and also for new memories being made. God is good!!

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Thank you for sharing the holiday feelings with us. And happy new year!! Hope to see you sometime in 2024!

4 hour drive!! That’s definitely a decent sermon marathon.

I appreciate all your encouragements and insights. I am also guilty of not asking for what I want/need and will be more intentional about it this year. And get back on my exercise wagon. Thank you for pushing me on towards healthier habits!

how we love was also an excellent curriculum to go through with our marriage group. Brought up such good discussions. Comfort circle is definitely really important! I know I never had a good structure to go through for conflict resolution before this series. Great recommendation!

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