The sun is sparkling through the windows of my childhood home in Seattle. It has been a week of rest and reconnection, so much so that I woke up today, surprised to find that it’s the last day of the year. And of the decade, for that matter.
I’m neither old enough nor wise enough to write a reflection on the decade, this ten-year metamorphosis from 16 to 26. But this year, encompassing as much change as the rest in a tenth of the time, ends with time for reflection on this quiet Friday. It ends with thoughts of challenges and obstacles, but mostly thankfulness for the strange, the new, the varied, as well as the firm foundation of love beneath all this discovery. Since New Years’ seems a time for lists, I’ve compiled my own gratefulness into list form. In roughly chronological order, I present the first annual edition of Things That Made Life Better This Year.
- Reading Scripture slowly. In 2009, I read the Bible in a year. This year, I spent one whole month reading James four or five times. Another month was Ecclesiastes. Proverbs has entered in late in the game, with its convenient 31 chapters for daily doses of wisdom. I’ll probably go back to the yearlong survey again to fill in what I missed, but I’ve liked this walking pace, with time to see the nuance and hear the voices. If I savor other good books, then why rush through the best one?
- Saying goodbye. Since I’ve said more goodbyes this year than ever before in my life, I am thankful both for those brave enough to face the farewells, and the love that makes them difficult. It’s been bittersweet, but still better than bolting in the night.
- Looking out of train windows. Even on now-familiar tracks, I’m pasted to the glass like a child. A child who can’t quite get over the thrill of sliding in a giant machine under cloudy skies, at the feet of mountains, trying to stay awake so she doesn’t end up in Graz. I haven’t yet. Runner Up: Listening to Music on Trains
- Unruled journals. Because straight lines don’t reflect real life, as far as I can tell. How could they possibly be expected to record it?
- Hiking. What should we do with this day off from our job as hiking guides? Why, go hiking, of course. It’s raining? Let’s hike up that waterfall! Foggy and getting dark in a few hours? No better time to go looking for a castle. What did I do with time off before? Runners Up: Topographical Trail Maps and Jogging in the Snow.
- Speaking another language poorly (as opposed to not at all). Because in the end, playing it cool and silent isn’t as fun as learning something new and communicating, no matter how foolish I have to sound along the way.
- The iPad. Especially for reading fiction (not, alas, for poetry), and also to replace certain household tools, like a kitchen timer, level or alarm clock. But mostly for whole libraries of English books available to this space-limited traveler, many of them for free.
- Skype. The world is small and magical, and being an overseas missionary feels less far than ever in history. Thanks to all those whose faces have graced my screen. Great to see you.
- Saturday night suppers of popcorn, pomegranate seeds and Baden wine. Because life is good and simple. Runner Up: www.allrecipes.com
- Reading in a variety of genres. I remember whole periods of life when the word only punctuated my reading habits. Only classics. Only 19th century. Only fiction. Only for work. Only (I confess) online. This year, my favorites have included classics (The Count of Monte Cristo), young adult novels (The Hunger Games Trilogy), online journals (Arts & Letters Daily), and the history of vaguely foreign nations (Desmond Morton’s A Short History of Canada). There’s much to learn, much to love. Runner Up: www.savethewords.com
- The universal Church. Experiencing worship in a variety of cultures, with a variety of people, and realizing that the bonds of commonality are, in the end, so much more meaningful than the nuances that divide us. I’m thankful to be a part of this greater family, and look forward to knowing it better. Runners Up: Concrete Community Bible Church, Bethany Community Church, G5 Evangelische Gemeinde
- Lots of time with students. Whether with the Ingraham newspaper class or on a field trip to the University of Washington or the front lines of World War I, I have loved the relationships possible when students and teachers have the space to share experiences and stories. So, Canadian History and Period 5 LA 9, Study Hall and Journalism and all the rest, thanks for the year. It’s been great knowing you better.
Thankful for a strange and brilliant 2010! Happy New Year!