Or, It was a Helluva Year, Wasn’t It?
Well, it’s the end of one year and the beginning of another. Whenever I get to the end of December, I start to feel weird—restless, introspective, and vaguely unsatisfied. Lots of people get reflective and zealous about the New Year, and I am prone to self-reflection throughout the year, so the New Year is like a double dose. I look back on the year and wonder, what exactly did I accomplish? And in the areas I feel I fell short, how can I improve?
While the idea of a fresh start is appealing to most of us, I think there’s something misleading in analyzing our months in terms of success and failure. We set goals for ourselves with the best of intentions, but then get upset when Life intervenes and sends us off course.
In 2010, I had three different addresses in three different states. Believe me, that was NOT the plan when I started my year. For ten and a half months, the vast majority of my belongings were in a storage unit in Branson, Missouri. Also not part of the plan. For nine months, I lived in my brother’s dining room in Austin, Texas. SO not part of the plan (though I am grateful to him for putting up with me). I also spent a third of the year unemployed. But the other two thirds of the year, I did get to work with some really amazing kids whom I will miss in my new State.
In the middle of the year, I had an adventurous summer working at a day camp with the Y. It was challenging, exhausting, and awesome. I met some truly awesome and geeky tweens and got to experience a different side of Austin. It absolutely was one of the highlights of my 2010.
In 2010, I searched desperately for direction and purpose. I rediscovered a partly buried desire to go to Ireland as a missionary, to live relationally and be a part of the kingdom there. The desire had never really left, it had simply been cluttered by other more immediate duties (like working, paying bills, and moving). This year I did something about that desire: I attended an assessment conference held by the missions organization I wanted to go with, and they called me to work with them in Ireland. It was such a moment of joy and clarity for me; but since then I allowed the same cluttering to reoccur, and I have done little since this summer to keep myself on the path to Ireland. If I am going to go in 2011, I have a tremendous amount of work to do in the coming months.
I did a good bit of reading in 2010, including several books about the “new” things that are happening in the Christian community, things that excite me. I attended a really wonderful church in Austin that brought me a lot of healing and encouragement. I thought a lot about community and change and relational evangelism, but in reality, I spent most nights in front of the TV with my brother. While I love a good story and I got see quite a few, there’s no doubt that I have been doing a little too much watching and thinking and not enough doing. At the beginning of the year, I read Donald Miller’s “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” in which he talks profoundly about living a Good Story with your life. It was part of what got me back on track about Ireland. But now I am at the end of the year, and I wonder: did my months add up to a good story?
Now I am “home,” living with family again. I never lived in Federal Way before, but about twelve years ago, we lived in Shelton, which is a couple hours away. So it is like being home, in a weird way. It’s beautiful here; the house we’re staying in has a view of the water, and on clear days (like today) you can even see the mountains. My community is my extended family and the church that most of them attend—a tiny community church not at all like the one in Austin. But my dad works there with the youth, and they feed the homeless every week, and they let us hold a Blue Christmas service. This was my fourth year in a row putting together a service that allows people to step into the Christmas story with all their grief and sorrow and see that it may not be the “most wonderful time of the year,” but God is still with us.
So I am facing 2011 and my mind is racing, trying to connect the disjointed stories of my year and retrace my erratic steps. Did I learn anything? Did I grow? Did I change? Did I discover anything profound about myself? What did I accomplish (besides catching up on entire series of television)?
- I kicked butt at laser tag (and got my butt kicked at paintball!)
- I paid off my credit card (cue hallelujah chorus, please)
- I finished one novel and am a chapter or two away from finishing another
- I kept my cat alive and well through three moves (sometimes with great protest on her part…)
- I read over thirty books
- I finally got some of the pictures I took in 2009 into frames
…Yes, major milestones all, clearly. But seriously—what do YOU think the measure of success for a year is? I’m still undecided on what to think of 2010 overall. It was a strange and difficult year, woven from dark and knobby threads, but there were some strands of silver and gold in there, too. Maybe the contrast is what makes it beautiful. It was a hard year, but I am grateful for many things, including this opportunity to start fresh, close out one chapter and begin another.
May my 2011 be less about goals and success as it is about telling a Good Story with my days, one I can be happy about when I am facing 2012. And may you have a happy and blessed 2011, too.