Questions to Live Into in 2019

 

In so many ways, New Years just isn’t my holiday.  I’m really not one for staying up late or going out on the town.  I never seem to have plans on New Years–everyone I’d spend it with always seems to be doing something else.  This year, I spent New Years Eve painting, taking a hot bath, rewatching Downton Abbey, drinking one too many glasses of wine, and going to bed before midnight.

However, I love the chance for introspective self-reflection.  For that, New Years is ideal.  Entering a new year offers an opportunity to pause and reflect.  While there really isn’t much difference between December 31 and January 1, the flipping of a calendar symbolizes new beginnings and fresh starts.

Resolutions aren’t my thing.  Obnoxious reading challenges aside (see previous post), I find goals restrictive, daunting, and unhelpful.  Instead, I take a big-picture approach, facing each year with hopes.  Each year, I hope for similar things.  I hope to be true to myself and grow in my faith.  I hope to pursue a healthy lifestyle.  I hope to put my best into my work, my studies, and my relationships.

Yes, I still hope all these things.  But, this year, I want to take a new slant on New Years.

A lot has happened in my life over the past year.  Many of the big, unanswered questions that have held sway since entering the workforce have been resolved.  Barring my unfinished master’s degree, I’ve achieved everything in my five-year plan.  So… what now?  This position is both comforting, terrifying, and liberating.  Aside from finishing grad school, I have no idea what comes next.

In 2019, I have the opportunity to ask new questions.  I’ve learned that it’s foolish to try and predict what a year has in store.  Instead of forming questions of direction or destination, I’m going to lean into questions of attitude.  Here are things I’m asking myself this year:

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Farewell, 2018

Zora Neale Hurston once wrote, “There are years that ask questions and years that answer”.

This quote was recently brought to my attention through On Being’s weekly newsletter. As I’ve been reflecting on the past year, it stuck with me.

I thought 2018 would be a year of questions. I thought it would be another waiting year. I thought everything in life would pause until I finished graduate school. If you had told me then where I would be now, I probably would have laughed in your face.

To my great surprise, 2018 was a year of answers.

I entered this year with a lot of questions. Primarily, I wondered, where am I going? Professionally? Personally? Spiritually? I was in a job that I loved, but was logistically unsustainable and unchallenging. Personally, I knew the time was coming to move out of my parent’s house, but lacked a job that allowed me to do so. Spiritually, my tendency to isolate myself from others was no longer serving me well. It was time to push myself out of my comfort zone and find true community again. But where does one even begin to find that? There were other questions, too. Will I ever find a place where I can flourish? Is flourishing even possible? Does a place exist within my sphere of daily life where I’ll be accepted and loved as I am?

Looking back, nearly every question has been answered in surprising, mysterious, painful, and wonderful ways.

At the end of 2018, I have a new job that I love that is close to home and closer to my friends. I have my own apartment. I have a supportive family that I love spending time with. I have best friends for the first time in years. I’m in a small group at church with women who encourage and inspire me. When I go to church, I not longer make a beeline for the door at the end of the service, too intimidated by the crowd of conversing strangers to engage. (#IntrovertProblems). Now, I linger because I always find people to catch up with.

In so many ways, this was a difficult, frustrating, and confusing year. Navigating change, especially when it happens all at once, is challenging. I don’t think I’ve ever been as squeezed as I was this fall, where I balanced managing two libraries, graduate school, orchard season, and moving. In the aftermath, I’m completely burned out and struggling to find rest.

I’ve learned a lot about myself this year. As I’ve pushed into uncharted territory, I have a better sense of how to care for myself, where to set boundaries, and where I need to be more brave.

As I look back and reflect on 2018, I am so grateful for all the change, all the challenges, and all the joys. I’ve truly come into my own this year. Through it all, God has been so faithful, always providing what I didn’t know I needed and always showing up when I need Him the most. My life is filled with so many blessings—far more than I could ever deserve. I’m grateful beyond words for all of it.

With 2018 ending, I turn my gaze to the future. With so many answers in my pocket, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and discover what questions need to be lived into next year. Stay tuned for more on that front.

In the meantime, I wish you a very happy New Year!

One of my favorite photos from 2018. Taken at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park in August.

 

Farewell, 2017

We’ve hit the season when everyone reflects on what has occurred during the past year and dreams of the year to come.  I am no exception.

What strikes me, though, is time’s beautiful ability to slip elegantly from one minute to one day to one year.  Tomorrow may be a new year, but take away the countdowns, the parties, the reflection, it is simply a new day.  Just as today was a new day.  I love that.

It is difficult to pinpoint the significance of 2017.  Before, each year had deep meaning, filled with momentous occasions and deep soul searching.  2015 was the year I finished college, filled with questions and striving.  2016 was the year I trekked across Europe and stumbled into my life’s work.

But 2017?  I suppose it is an extension of all the years before, as if all the momentous occasions, questions, journeys, and stumbles were leading to what I am doing now: living day by day, moment by moment.

This year, I continued life in the small town library where I work.  I experienced my first Summer Reading Program, started a Lego Club, and continued building relationships with my patrons.

This year, I applied, was accepted, and began graduate school online through the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.  Grad school is not easy, but it’s taught me to make time for self-care and that sanity is more important than grades.  This attitude helped me get through my first semester with my sanity and GPA in tact.  Already, pursing my Masters in Library and Information Science has helped improve my skills and understanding of my work.  While I frequently whine and complain about the stress of my studies, I am deeply thankful for this opportunity.

This year, I continued living with my parents.  All year, I have bounced back and forth.  Should I move closer to work?  Do I want to live in that community?  Is it worth it to continue driving an hour to work and back each day?  I’m still struggling with these questions.  While I like living with my parents, I’m ready to be on my own.  But I have absolutely no desire to live in the community where I work and cannot afford to both pay rent and continue commuting.  This is something I’ll continue to wrestle with as the new year comes.

This year, I made new friends and continued walking with old ones.  From road trip buddies to coffee shop chats monthly letters, I am extremely blessed in the friendship department and am so, so thankful.

This year, my faith journey brought me somewhere between the desert and the river valley.  I’m attending church again and am encouraged by friendships, but still feel like I’m walking alone.  In college, my faith journey was wild, frantic, and I pursued the path with relentless passion.  My faith has changed dramatically since then.  I’ve evened out.  I’ve simultaneously rejected the fundamentalism of my upbringing while holding firmly to my spiritual beliefs and heritage.  I’m calmer now.  I continue to study, but I hold my faith with open hands.  I long to be a person of high character, quietly bettering the world around me, letting my actions speak louder than my words.  2017 was a step in that direction.

This year, I spent each day with Wendell Berry.  As part of my devotions each morning, I ended by reading one of his Sabbath poems.  Of all my routines, this was my favorite.  Morning by morning, his words brought me into still forests, quiet fields, and sunlit meadows.  I reached the end of the book in October and went right back to the beginning.

This year, I continued my never ending love affair with the written word.  Thanks to audiobooks during my long commute and a deepening passion for YA, I blew past my previous reading records, making it through 212 books in a mere 12 months.  For more about my reading year, check out my previous post.

I suppose, in light of all these things, 2017 was a pretty good year.  (Minus the dumpster fires of national politics and natural disasters, of course.)  I grew, I worked, I learned.  What more can one ask for?

Tonight, when the clock strikes twelve, we will slip elegantly into a 2018.  Where will this year take us?  What decisions will I make?  What people will I meet?  What places will I go?  What words will I be writing one year from now?  I haven’t the slightest clue, and that is a very exciting thing.

Whoever you are, wherever you may be, I wish you a very happy New Year!

2016: A Story in Three Parts

As another year comes to a close, it’s time to reflect.

By global standards, 2016 was pretty much a train wreck.  Personally, though, it was a beautiful journey that I will tell in three parts.

INTRODUCTION:

A year ago, I was an unemployed college graduate with no idea of what I wanted to do with myself.  You see, for the majority of my life, my intuition has been my guide.  Until this point, early every major life decision has been guided by instinct.  College?  My gut lead me to the right fit.  Major?  My heart found home in the English Department.  Work at camp in the summers?  It just felt right.

The future, however, holds infinite possibilities and the prospective paths had me absolutely paralyzed.  I had absolutely no idea of anything.  My intuition, the little tug that pulls me in the next direction, had failed.

So, at the beginning of 2016, I felt my heart tugging me back to Europe and, against all logic, I followed. Continue reading

Tis the Season: A Thailand Christmas and a New Holiday Perspective

Today’s Tis the Season post comes from Britta of  It’s a Britta Bottle!


A Thailand Christmas and a New Holiday Perspective

One of my absolute favorite Christmas memories is a relatively recent one, in what some might see as a most unconventional location.

The Setting: A shopping mall, Bangkok, Thailand

The Event: Christmas Ice Skating

The Players: A group of Western English teachers

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A visual image of the scenario

Christmas in Thailand! Say what! Continue reading

Goodbye, 2015!

Another year has come and gone.

Looking back, 2015 was a year of waiting.  First, I was waiting to graduate.  Then, I was waiting for whatever came next. There were days when I would have given anything for time to move faster.  There were periods of loneliness and periods of frustration.

In other ways, though, it was a wonderful year.  I was able to spend nine months living at home, which, in a way, has been like a return to childhood.  I’ve loved spending time with my family.  I loved working at our strawberry patch and apple orchard.

I’ve learned a lot this year.  I finished my degree.  I spent my summer pulling weeds followed by a fall hauling around apples.  I experienced my first professional job.  I attended the Urbana missions conference.

I’m not sad to see 2015 go.  It’s been good, but better years lie ahead.

Check out some photo highlights from my year:

Cleaning out the closet

It’s my first full day at home, and in light of the fact that I will be immobile due to wisdom teeth surgery tomorrow, I’m trying to get things cleaned.

Since returning from studying abroad a year ago, I haven’t been home for more than a week at a time.  Due to this, my bedroom has become a dumping ground, a corner to shove things in as I transition from place to place in life.  After a year, it’s gotten pretty out of hand.

The thing about cleaning out your closet is that I’m not only discovering things I didn’t know I had, but am relearning things about myself that you had forgotten.  Rifling through the pages of middle school notes, sketchbooks, and attempts at poetry make me feel like I am meeting the younger version of myself.  I’m finding things I used to be passionate about.  I discovered a couple passive aggressive letters my best friend wrote me in high school where she apologetically tells me everything she hates about me.  Reading through her words, I think about how much I have changed and wonder if, deep down, I’ve really changed at all.

Confronting my past is actually very useful because my main goal over break is to figure out what the future holds.

Sentimentality aside, it will be great to actually be able to use my closet, desk, and dresser again.  It’s a long process.  The main portion of my room is currently dirtier than it was when I began.  I’m covered in dust from pulling things from corners and shelves that haven’t been touched in years.  But progress is being made!  I dragged my younger brother with me to WalMart earlier this afternoon to buy organizers and I’ve put together three bags of old clothes to donate.

It sure will be great to have a clean room again!

When was the last time you cleaned out your closet?  Did you find anything surprising?