A Year of Contrasts Friday, December 18, 2015

This year has been filled with contrasts, firsts, unexpected crisis, and surprises. Because of all that, there has been no time to write the traditional Christmas letter.  In fact, the Christmas cards just got mailed today. Here’s a glimpse at our year.

  • I’ve taught district leadership training and Lay Servant classes; traveled across Virginia to have conversations with clergy and laity, residents and staff; and led a Lenten study. Yet, I’ve struggled to learn how to operate my new washer.
  • Events have been planned, articles written, my first special offering emphasis carried out, and the fall donor appeal completed.  And I forgot that I paid the last half of the personal property taxes and sent Steve to stand in line at the County Administration Building on the day before the deadline to see why we hadn’t received a bill.
  • I’ve been to board meetings of all kinds, conferences, and trainings.  I’ve talked to General Secretaries for a number of United Methodist Agencies and more medical personnel than I care to count.  But I can’t remember my brother’s phone number without looking it up on the contact list of my phone.
  • Awards have been presented, unexpected elected positions accepted, and leadership given for a prayer retreat (- of all things for me if you’ve ever heard me talk about my prayer life).  A keynote address was followed by a couple of nights in really uncomfortable chairs in the hospital next to my mother, one where I thought we were in the midst of a terror attack.  Turned out it was just 2 Polident tablets in a closed denture cup that got a little too hot and fizzy.
  • With family, I took care of the last cleaning of my Mom’s apartment, then helped move her to residential care while with work colleagues, I’ve focused on Culture Change in long-term care and “de-institutionalizing” senior communities.  I struggle with this contrast daily.
  • We celebrated a 20thwedding anniversary and a 65th birthday in the same week. Then a few months later – all in one week – we had the birth of the newest family member, a 90th birthday that at times during the summer we didn’t think we’d reach, and the sudden death of Steve’s niece at age 42.  We’ve welcomed the strong embraces of family and friends, and started new family relationships with young adults we never knew existed.
  • I’ve talked to Bishop Cho more this fall than in all my years on the Conference staff, all while trying to focus on the meaning of the little drops of water of my baptism.
  • I’ve been to Nashville twice for church meetings, Boston for a senior services conference, and Las Vegas for fun.  Variety is the spice of life, right?
  • I’ve seen some of the most beautiful pieces of artwork, architectural masterpieces, natural scenery so amazing that it takes your breath away, and black & white pictures of my grandmother’s pet pig.
  • In a place where 24 World War II veterans and spouses live, I was blessed to offer the benediction for a Veteran’s Day program, then had my mother tell me that she was beginning to forget what my Dad, a WWII paratrooper, looked like. Her birthday present was a framed set of black & white photos of her and Dad, Ralph and Jane, and me and Steve.
  • There has been the best wine in fancy glasses, new beers from local brew houses, moonshine from my favorite (legal) distillery, and the best Styrofoam cups of iced tea the hospitals and rehab/health care centers could offer.
  • I’ve eaten the freshest scallops you can find in New England, the worst airport food you can find at O’Hare, more flavors of cupcakes for birthday celebrations than you can imagine, and dozens of corn muffins and spoonful after spoonful of pinto beans at Country Cookin’ because it’s easily accessible by decorated rollator.
  • I’ve never prayed so hard or so long, cried as often (especially while driving), sung so little, or questioned so much.

Now with Christmas upon us and 2015 coming to a close, I’m reminded of the words of talented writer and artist, Agnes M. Pharo:

“What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.”

All my questions won’t be answered in 2016.  All my tears won’t stop or laughter be silenced, but there will certainly be blessings rich and eternal.  My prayer is that you may also find tenderness, courage, and hope!

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