I greatly admire those with the concentrated expertise to create Top 10 Lists at the ends of years. There seem endless iterations, from the predictable books and movies to the more niche markets, like Mediterranean cruises or ways to prepare bacon. Yet my admiration can’t make up for the fact that there are only a few topics in which I’m so experienced that I could recommend a whole 10 of them. Top 10 English lessons of the year? Top 10 evenings involving popcorn? Top 10 hikes in the Black Forest? I’ll spare you.
Still, as happened last year, I find myself at home on a rainy New Years’ Eve afternoon, now more than ever thankful for this complex, beautiful variety that has lent texture and blessing to the past twelve months. I am rich in love and life, in the unmistakable faithfulness of Christ. So, without further ado, I present again an eclectic Hall of Fame, the Things That Made Life Better This Year: 2011 Edition.
- Worship in German. Because in German I’m a child again, reading slowly and with new eyes, spending time comprehending–and meaning–the words of every song and verse. I’m thankful for the reminder that the message of Christ transcends language, and the chance to hear Him, again and again, in new words.
Running. I began running in 1999. This is the first year I’ve been thankful for it. Victory for the hundreds of kilometers of stunningly beautiful trails within running distance of Kandern! Just brilliant, this land where I live.
- Making Food From Scratch. Did you know that you can make vanilla extract (in only two months) with a dozen vanilla beans and a bottle of vodka? I do now. From homemade barbecue sauce to pumpkin puree to brownies, this has been a year of learning the mysteries of “unboxed” cooking.
Modern Transportation. Of planes, trains and buses, all the vehicles that brought me to California, Italy, Switzerland, Austria and Great Britain this year, not to mention wide swaths of Southern Germany. I’m equally grateful for these miraculous conveyances for bringing Erika, Mom & Dad, Warren & Janet, and Holly to me this year. Sometimes–when stepping off a plane nine time zones away–the world seems very small indeed.
Friendships. Whether carefully maintained over Skype and email, or nurtured in the spontaneous intimacy of the BFA community, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the friends, old and new, with which God has blessed me. Thank you, all of you, for your love.
- Bicycles. Oh, the magic of speeding along through cornfields, under heavy autumn skies, to buy roses from the next village! All made possible by the most un-modern of transportation, an ancient German bicycle.
- Trying Again. Between Upward Bound and English 11, I’ve been learning from the past and discovering, once again, that nothing happens the same way twice. Thank you, UB 2011 and the Class of 2013, for helping me to grow the second year as an outdoor instructor and English teacher!
New Titles. Track Coach. Violist. Dorm Substitute. 2011 has brought a variety of new opportunities, many of them allowing me to connect with students in new ways. Through a spring on track buses, a late summer of orchestra rehearsals, and an autumn of Thursdays in the dorms, I’ve loved both the learning and community that come with these roles.
- Difficult Questions. Why is our national literature so defined by longing and brokenness? How we can display the hope of Christ in the midst of a tradition of lostness? Apart from fiction, what about the real tragedy? How do we live joyfully and fully in the face of it? We ask about our own futures, the questions of where and how long, who and what. I’ve been thankful, this year, for the way that these questions, asked both within and beyond the classroom, are shaping us and drawing us closer to Christ, the source of wisdom.
Home. Whether in Seattle or Schladming or Kandern, or just brief stops in Friedrichshafen and Kempten, I’ve been blessed to learn this year that no matter how long I travel, I’ll always be at home, anchored in Christ, blessed by the love of those He’s placed in my life.
- Being Surprised. From new friends on an Italian vacation, to a July blizzard on a glacier, to a bouquet of flowers delivered in English class, I’ve learned to lean into surprise this year, delighted to realize that God’s way of doing things is complex and lovely, an enigma I’ll never get tired of experiencing.
Happy New Year, dear friends!
Peace in Christ,