Though I am little late this year, 2013 was far too full of blessings for me forget my list of this year’s top gifts. So, without further ado, I use this jetlagged moment to share my list of Things That Made Life Better for 2013. Thank you for all that many of you have done to support, encourage and pray for me this busy and excellent year!
1. Long Distance Communication. Whether over Skype, iMessage or an assortment of cell phones in various continents, this has been a banner year for communication across time zones. Thankful, as always, to live in an era that makes distances seem smaller, absences shorter.
2. Summer. As a teacher, I’ve found summer to be the most varied of seasons. While the school year tends to unfold with predictable rhythms–events, assignments and seasons following in logical order–summers can be exciting, hectic, peaceful, or a mixed bag. This summer, though busy with wedding plans in Seattle, also included long and restful stretches of time with family and friends, leaving me refreshed and ready for the coming year.
3. Class of 2014. After knowing them since their freshman year, as advisor and small group leader, the Class of 2014 made me a better teacher their junior year, teaching me the value of long-term relationship with a group of students. This fall brought us to Rome as a class, giving us a week rich in community and conversation as we explored the city together.
4. Engagement. From February to December, I had the delight of being engaged to Timmy Gaster, a delight made deeper by the excitement and involvement of communities in Kandern and Seattle. I’m thankful for the people who invested time and energy into supporting Timmy and me as we grew in our relationship towards marriage.
5. Flexibility. Whether in serving as English Department Chair, meeting the diverse needs of two different classes of students, or navigating a variety of living situations, this has been a year in which flexibility was an invaluable virtue. Thankful for all who reminded me of this throughout the year.
6. Weather. From a snowy spring break in Brighton, England, a record-breaking 112˚ F Fresno Fourth of July, or a rainy excursion to Rome, weather made this year’s adventures memorable and exciting.
7. Siblings. I’m just returning to Kandern after two weeks with my sister, brother and sister-in-law, and I’ve never been more thankful for these adventurous, intentional and generous three with whom I get to share life and (until recently) a last name.
8. Learning in Community. Both in and out of the classroom, this has been a year of exploring literature and studying scripture, all made richer by the privilege of sharing these texts in groups.
9. Online Recipes. Truly a product of my generation, the Internet has taught me to be a better cook this year, as I look up a dozen recipes for yellow cake or risotto, then forge ahead to meet my fate, a Greek chorus of instructions echoing in my head.
10. Wendell Berry and Penelope Wilcock. I’ve read many good books this year, but these two, a poet and a novelist, stand out for their timely insight and words that continue to be meaningful to my life.
11. Running. Whether in community or alone, I’ve loved running, on damp and snowy paths or cobblestone streets of ancient European cities.
12. Maugenhard Dorm. Though I’ve volunteered with this dorm for the last three years, this past year has been especially sweet, and I’m thankful as I recall evenings of baking and conversation with people I’ve grown to love.
13. Global Family in Christ. I’ve had the privilege of visiting friends in Brighton, family in California and Seattle, and historical sites in Italy this year. Spring 2013 brought guests from all over the world to Black Forest Academy for the International Christian Educators Conference. At the end of 2013, I feel more connected than ever to a wide community of believers, for which I’m increasingly thankful.