Last night during Deacon’s Meeting, one of our Deacons reminded us that we need to take time to be thankful for the way God’s grace was evident in our lives over the past year. When we reflect on such things, we become confident in our hope for the year to come.
While I could certainly write a list of disappointments from 2016, I love taking time each year to reflect on where and how I experienced God’s grace over the previous 12 months. Because I realize that I have been woefully absent from my blog for the majority of the fall and early winter, I will likely turn many of these items into their own individual blog posts.
But, for now, here is a snapshot. My 2016 Top Ten:
10. I got a new Passport backpack. For anyone who has worked Passport in the past, you know how exciting it is to check your mail and find a new Passport backpack on your front porch (especially when the bottom fell out of your old one – literally). For those who don’t, I think I explained it best on my Facebook post:
8 years ago, I got my first Passport (Passways, actually) backpack. After 10+ years of watching camp staffers walk around with their backpacks, I was DYING to get mine. The thought of getting to wear that backpack and walk in the shoes of the college and seminary students who impacted my life so profoundly (from Kacey Buchanan Stafford to Melanie Chaffin Harrell to Megan Kash Meyers and more than I can even begin to name – two of whom I currently work with – Susan Reed and Amanda Rae) both excited and terrified me. The moment I moved my stuff into that beautiful green backpack and started walking around campus, though, I knew this was real and that my journey with Passport had come full circle!
Today, I walked into my office with a new Passport backpack, given to me because I have committed to this camp I love so much in a new way – as a staff alumni donor.
I think the face here says it all. I am just as excited today as I was 8 years ago when I got to wear the backpack for the first time. I am delighted to be able to support Passport this way – by giving back to an organization that has given so much to me.
9. Beginning CBF Fellows. As you may have read in my previous blog post, CBF Fellows is a program for ministers within their first two years of full time ministry. We met for the first time in August, and the group quickly became a home base for me, providing solidarity, support, and hope. I cannot wait to see how we continue to grow together over the next year and a half.
8. Family Reunion. My late paternal grandma’s family gets together every other year for a weekend reunion. Recently, we’ve been going to camp grounds or retreat centers, as many of my cousins have young children, and the Chicagos and Louisvilles of the world are not as conducive to late night family hang-outs when kiddos have to go to sleep. This year, we went to Turkey Run State Park in Indiana. Together, we hiked, grilled, played games, put together a puzzle, and even worshipped. Not only did I get to plan worship with my dad, but we served communion together, which is always meaningful. Whenever my family comes together, I am reminded of the breadth and depth of God’s love and mystery.
7. Lamar Jackson won the Heisman. To be fair, this would have received a much better placement on this list had we also: a. Beat Houston; b. Beat Kentucky; c. Won the Citrus Bowl (or better yet – the Orange Bowl). Lamar, however, proved that he is one of the strongest players in College Football, bringing the University of Louisville one of the highest honors a school and player can receive – the Heisman Trophy, despite an ineffective Offensive Line. Coach Petrino, if you ever read this, please recruit some better Offensive Linemen so that Lamar and Jaylen (amongst others) can show us what they are really made of. And, consider changing up the game plan if it turns out that it’s not working for you. Did you know that we could be unstoppable?
6. My week in the mountains. A very wonderful Broadway member and friend once mentioned to me that she has a farm on the mountains and would love for me to stay there any time. In October, I finally took her up on that offer, and it was glorious. I spent a week reading, praying, and generally soaking up the wonder of God’s creation. At the end of the week, I was able to drive two hours north to see my friend Jenny get married. I am still amazed by the generosity of my church and friends, and can’t imagine a better way to refresh my soul.
5. Laura and Ben’s Wedding. Amy and Phillip’s Wedding. From friends I have known a relatively short time, but have come to love like family to friends who have been present for almost every step of my journey, I can’t yet imagine a greater honor than to be asked to officiate their wedding. These two sets of friends trusted me with one of the most holy days of their lives. I couldn’t be more grateful to them for their trust in me, and look back on both of those weddings with the fondest memories.
4. Children’s Sabbath. Every year, our church holds Children’s Sabbath – a worship service led almost entirely by children. Typically, I will preach and we’ll have a few parents or Sunday School teachers involved throughout the service, but the children lead the majority of worship. And, ever year, I love this service. But this year was different. This year, I needed Children’s Sabbath. The church needed Children’s Sabbath. The service came at a point in mid October when we all needed to be reminded of the life and vibrancy within our midst, and the children did not disappoint. Their love and energy filled the sanctuary, and through them, new life came rushing down the aisles of Broadway.
3. UofL beat UK in basketball. And I was there. Need I say more?
2. I lost 33 lbs. Year after year, I make New Year’s Resolutions about weight loss. “This is gonna be the year,” I always say. And, honestly, this should not have been the year. Based on the trajectory 2016 set early on, I should have been stress eating and unable to get out of bed. Instead, I decided not to let another year go by with excuses for why I didn’t make the change I always talked about. I leaned into the support I had, and ended up 33 lbs lighter, but gained a depth of love and support that I cannot weigh. Reaching this goal took the whole year, but I am proud of myself for setting the goal and sticking to it.
1. Scott. Here, I am at a loss for words. Many of you reading this have asked me to explain myself for my cryptic Facebook posts and pictures. If I could get my mind and my heart to stop racing for 5 complete minutes, maybe I could write more. But, I am so grateful that this sweet man decided to ask for my recommendation on vegetarian restaurants. To paraphrase my Aunt (and friend) Annie, I never knew what it was like to be a main character in someone else’s story. My heart overflows.