Are you really a blogger if you don’t reflect on the year behind and plan for the one ahead?
Social media, especially Instagram, has been full of folks looking back over the year through photos, highlighting posts that received the most comments and likes. I tried that, and realized my top photos were actually a very poor reflection of how my 2018 went, and of the events and moments that to me, were life changing.
So more for my sake, here’s some memorable moments of 2018:
- Started the year in Mexico City as part of a Young Adult mission and fellowship trip with Cumberland Presbyterians from all over the world. It was my first, and so far only, international mission trip, and it was enlightening on many levels (including a fantastic digestive infection I developed at the end that cost me a quarter of what I paid to go on the trip in order to test and cure once back stateside — I tell this less as a complaint, but more as a true-life experience of ministry). But being able to worship God with others who don’t speak your language and who have different cultural traditions is an opportunity I am beyond grateful for. I love God’s diversity. Plus, tacos.
- Experienced a glimpse of what it might look like to live in poverty — but in the U.S. The minute I walked through my front door after the trip, I could tell my furnace was dying. WHOOMP WHOOMP WHOOMP are the worst noises to hear coming from your hearting ducts. My ancient furnace was unfixable, and over a 10-day span that included two snowfalls and the coldest temperatures of 2018, I was without central heat until it could get replaced. The first few days surviving with electric space heaters was an adventure, trying to find safe sleeping arrangements, keep the cats happy, and keep my pipes from freezing. Days 8, 9, and 10 were a misery I had never known. I was cold. I was depressed. I was fatigued. I didn’t want to go to work. I didn’t want to take a shower. I experienced a strange hopelessness and malaise previously unknown to me as I was deprived, for the first time in my life, of central heat and basic comforts. I was awakened to the realization that this was a reality for SO MANY PEOPLE in our country, yet they had no timetable for the end of their situation (or church members and friends offering extra heaters or warm spare beds). I was fortunate that my parents were able to help pay for the replacement furnace, because my funds simply wouldn’t have allowed it. Ten days on the chilled side, and a debt-inducingly high electric bill still to come, was as bad as I would have it. A year later, I am more grateful for this inconvenience than I am annoyed — my heart is filled with greater compassion for those who live without.
- A funeral. I was humbled and honored beyond belief to be asked to officiate my first funeral. To be trusted with the task of celebrating a life well-lived and to help minister to a grieving family was one of the most spiritual things to happen to me in 2018. To have affirmation that I might be equipped to minister at big life events, even the sad and tragic, as part of God’s call in my life is unexplainably humbling.
- Learning to Pray in Color. Thanks to an early summer class I took at Memphis Theological Seminary called “Practices of Prayer, Images of God” taught by Dr. Lauren Winner, I learned new ways to cultivate my spirituality and strengthen my pursuit of spiritual disciplines (I even learned to knit that week!). Beginning an art journal for my prayers, I participated in Inktober (read more here), and it was one of the best months of my life as I tapped into my faith in new ways.
- 13. That’s a number that has held great significance at various times in my life. And 2018 was no different when our youth group graduated 13 seniors (including 3 sets of twins!!). These 13 had been a part of my youth ministry from the start, and helped shape the form of our ministry for several years. Their departure from youth group, however, has allowed for new wrinkles and textures in our group tapestry, and makes me love the diversity God layers into our lives so much more.
- Turned down my dream job. Through some agonizing discernment surrounding a job offer, I learned more about what makes me come alive in my identity in Christ, and learned I have new God-centered dreams yet to pursue.
- Preaching in different contexts. In May, I was honored to preach a sermon at The Place of the Outpouring in Memphis, an African American congregation. In June and July, I was asked to fill the pulpit several times for Unity Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Aurora, Ky. Both opportunities humbled me, but both allowed me to grow in my ministry and my studies, and within congregations who showed me love and acceptance.
- Vacation in Sarasota, Fla. I was more or less gifted with a vacation to the Gulf Coast with Matt in celebration of both our birthdays, and it was one of the greatest gifts I received all year (other than a working furnace, of course). It was a week full of color and rest and rejuvenation and flavorful food. I loved the European feel of Sarasota. And the beaches. And sea shells. And the weather.
- A wedding. My nephew got married at the end of September to a lovely young woman. It was one of the most perfect weddings I’ve ever been to. It was a weekend of joy, and those are harder and harder to come by.
- I got a roommate. Heather, and her elderly Westie terrier, Emmy, moved in upstairs in October. They’re only here for a few months, but it’s been nice for me to remember what it looks like to share a home with another human. The world likes to tell us we’re fine by ourselves and to lock up our hearts and homes, but God tells us it’s in community where we learn to love, forgive, and find unity through compromise. When I bought my house in 2016, I prayed for the upstairs space, asking God to use it to somehow bless others since the two rooms upstairs were more than I needed for day-to-day living. I’m glad to have to share my home now.
I’m excited for what 2019 holds, and maybe a little anxious, too. I’m going to wait a little while to goal-set…I have a few hours left to enjoy 2018.