2018 was almost as good as 2016 and 17 weren’t. Three quarters of this year, in fact, was not just relatively good, but exceptionally so. In no particular order (well, in some cases certain things are logically paired like two and three, eight and nine, ten and eleven), here’s a sampling of the most memorable experiences of 2018:
- Ran a half marathon: Truly an unimaginable accomplishment! Few things I’ve done in life have made me more proud. I trained for several months and was so emotionally overwhelmed walking to the starting line. Me? This? For real? Several friends came out to see me run, which was such an encouragement, and my time was better than anticipated.
- Took two seminary classes: I totally got a theology buzz from the first three-quarters of the year and decided, at the encouragement of three or four friends, to take some seminary classes. I’m super grateful for all the support I got that made these classes possible. Besides just wanting to learn, I also considered them a feasibility study to see if I’d enjoy seminary and if it plus work was sustainable. Unequivocally yes to the former. Probably with some adjustments to the latter. So I have decided to apply. We’ll see what happens.
- Memorized Psalm 16 in Hebrew: I’ve always said there’s something about foreign languages that vivifies my brain. Plus I’m an Old Testament girl. Also, this year I’ve found such comfort in this Psalm specifically so, what more soul-filling combination could there be than (1) memorizing (2) one of my favorite Psalms (3) in another language? The correct answer is nothing. Thanks for playing! But for real, when I started learning Hebrew in September, I set memorizing a Psalm as my goal. Although I didn’t work at it consistently—I crammed most of it into a weekend after my final was finished—I still learned a ton. I made flash cards for each of the words I didn’t know and looked up new verb forms. You know you’re a language person when laying in bed all day doing this is your idea of a rejuvenating Saturday.
- Birthday camping: I’d wanted to do this for such a long time but hadn’t thought I had friends who liked me enough to go. So, I was super excited this actually happened. I got to celebrate my birthday outside with friends. It was a joint party with a lovely new friend I made this year (the “person” of #16 below) and our collective mix of friends. The first night it rained a little and I love the sound of rain. The second night it was super windy and I actually enjoyed the sound of the wind as I fell asleep. I couldn’t have had a better time! Except maybe if there’d been a second bottle of Fireball. I jest…ok, half jest. I mean, was there even Fireball there? What is Fireball even? I’m also now the proud owner of a tent and camping accoutrements so more camping to come (Montana and Banff, I’m looking at you)!
- Open a museum exhibit I helped to develop: You can take the girl out of the museum but you can’t take the museum out of the girl? Though, I suppose I was never really much for museums generally, but when they’re teaching about a less well-known culture? Yes, please! When you’ve spent years flying out to California to work on this exhibit with a group of men who are like…uncles from different grandparents? Absolutely. When it allows you to sustain a connection with a place you once called home. Mmmhmmm! Opening festivities were in Redding, CA on my birthday and I was proud to see this project come alive. It also gave me a chance to wear my super fancy Lao outfit I got made for the World Culture Forum gala in Bali again. Added surprise bonus, a trip to Napa Valley for my birthday!
- Reunited with the viola: So, little known fact to most who met me after 2006, I majored in music education in college. Viola was my primary instrument and I also played tuba in the band. My first year in China, my friends I’d entrusted my instrument to accidentally left it in the back of a cab in Thailand so my precious viola was lost to me forever. Earlier this year I got a rental and formed a pick-up quartet with a few friends from church. We’ve only played together 3 times but I’m hoping to do more next year.
- Lost 40 pounds (from Sept 2017): I got down to my smallest size this year in July for a friend’s wedding. I joked with a close girlfriend that the dress I intended to wear required I be the size of a breakfast sausage but I, in reality, was the size of a dinner sausage. The day I tried it on and it fit I texted her and said: “I did it! I’m a breakfast sausage!” I wore that dress too. I’ve gained about 15 of this back this fall.
- Joined Grammatical Foibles: In May I joined a writing group with nine Christian women I’ve never met from Twitter. Initially, I went to them for feedback on pieces in progress and for opportunities to practice my editings skills. It soon because clear that this group of amazing women had the desire to encourage the whole person in their veins. We have celebrated and mourned together, sent care packages to members during hard times, and they have personally encouraged me through some hard sadness this fall.
- Had essay published in a Christian literary magazine: I decided this year to get more serious about my writing. One of my goals was to get accepted by a journal or magazine. I submitted a first person account of the Shunammite woman to Fathom over the summer and got rejected. I then submitted Dancing Blind to Ink & Letters and that got rejected too. I took that essay back to my writing group for editing, resubmitted it to Fathom and they accepted it in September. Next to my graduate school statement of purpose it is probably the most heavily edited piece of writing I’ve done.
- Became a deaconess: I was nominated for deaconess back in early February and went through the four month long discernment process. I had reservations early but worked through them with friends, leaders and existing members of the diaconate. It was a great process and I learned a tremendous amount about myself, the Bible, and the PCA. I love the line from the book of church order about the work of the diaconate:
- Friendship with fellow diaconate candidate: One of the most pleasant surprises of the year! After being notified of my nomination for the diaconate, I was open to seeing where the process might lead. But after I found out the other person going through it with me, I actually considered pulling out. There were three people at my church I’d struggled with and while I had been proactive about improving my relationship with the other two, I was happy to leave things with this gal just as strained as they were. One of first questions on the survey we had to complete had to do with people with whom we had existing conflict. I wrote down one name only and it was hers. I prayed and slept on it for a couple days then emailed her to see if she wanted to get dinner. As I fumbled through trying to resolve the tension I felt between us, I learned that she was as unthrilled about me as I was her.
So, we sat together for a couple hours talking through several years’ worth of misunderstandings, assuming the worst, and frustration and resolved at the end of it to consider ourselves useable in each other’s life for becoming more like Christ, to not let ill feelings fester, and to pursue friendship. If she saw something in need of correction in me, I invited her to point it out to me (rather than think maybe someone else might or that God would convict me directly) and she invited me to do the same. I felt we’d reached true peace with each other getting up from the table. It was such an encouraging, albeit initially stilted, honest conversation and we’ve spent the rest of the year enjoying each other’s company. Tuesday mornings over the summer we walked to work together and she even came out to see me run my half marathon! We’ve developed such a natural friendship that most people would have no idea neither of us had thought it possible. This wins the award for best possible outcome for a hard conversation of the year. I asked her permission to share this and after she agreed she added that she, too, was glad we’re friends.
- Got a promotion at work: To be honest, and I said this then too, I didn’t mind my old boring job. It was financially suuuuper tight, but it was low stress and I worked with fabulous people. When people asked me about work, I’d say it’s not super interesting but I don’t consider that a bad thing. I was overcome with gratitude when I survived the layoffs over the summer not only with a job (that day wins the award for day I understood mercy most clearly, being spared) but with a move over to a different department and up. The line I’m going with in my current role is, “it’s a steep learning curve and I’m not picking things up as quickly as I’d like.” That’s a much gentler way of saying I’m painfully underwhelmed with my performance. Bright side: the pay gives me a little cushion and it’s within my geographic region of specialization even if functionally I’m out of my depth. For now.
- Went pole dancing: Yep, I went and I had a blast. I went with a group of mostly Christian women. I have long liked the athleticism associated with pole dancing in the same well-documented way I like break dancing: because of the unexpected core strength required in supporting your body in those positions. Little known fact: when I lived in Seattle and Laos I used to go to b-boy street battles and sit/stand in the front row and I follow my absolute favorite b-boy on all the social media platforms. When I first moved back to the States four years ago, I watched a lot of recreational pole dancing videos—in awe—and have wanted to try it for a long time. So, when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped on it (pun intended). I can neither confirm nor deny I was the first to try spinning upside down. Also: this is not an endorsement for premarital private pole performances 🙂
- Went on 0 dates: No, I’m not forgetting a digit before the zero. I gave my number to three guys this year. But I’ve been implementing what I consider an improved vetting process. Text #2 after greetings, “Hey don’t want to waste your time but I only go out with committed Christians. Would you describe yourself that way?” Guess who doesn’t have time to be falling in love with dudes she knows she wouldn’t marry for sport? Of those three, one was a Christian but also rude and needy so we didn’t end up going out. Technically, I also had a super-suitor who came from overseas to shoot his shot, but that also didn’t go anywhere.
Despite having no discernible romantic activity picked up on the romance-o-meter I still managed to break my own heart. More on that never or maybe in a couple years, who knows, but not right now. Too fresh, too sore, too unprocessed. But add “instigating heartbreak” to my list of regrets in life, bringing the total to 2 (shoulda gone to U Mich for grad school…*sigh*). Pray for my heart. Pray this disappointment makes me a better lover of people. Pray God redeems and restores.
- Single Ladies Prayer night: If this list were ranked, my time most joyously spent of 2018 was spent in prayer for friends. Praying for and with people is my favorite thing to do. My house prays together every Tuesday morning, I wrote out prayers for many friends that I sent over email or text, I think intercession is one of my gifts. Over the summer I planned a prayer night to encourage some girlfriends and between getting to write the series as the accompany devotional, catering desserts to their tastes, curating a playlist and learning the songs on the guitar, and practicing the divine art of lavishing love on weary friends my own soul was aglow with joy at the end of the evening.
- My friend met his person: You know how there are just some people who you hope so hard they get everything they want in life? Well, I felt that way, at least in terms of relationships, (he’s a Republican so obvi there are limits on that), for one of my good guy friends. I’m always exceedingly grateful for completely uncomplicated platonic co-ed friendships and this one’s a medalist. When I found out the two started dating, I may have jokingly threatened physical violence to the girl if she broke his heart. Then she and I became friends (see #4). I’m just glad the two of them decided they want to keep each other so I don’t have to rough her up for treating my brother badly.
- Extraordinarily kind words and deeds: I could go on for a long time about all this but I’ll pick three. About a month or so after I started my new job, I co-facilitated a meeting and one of the outside attendees wrote afterward to my boss’ boss an effusive letter of praise in which she said she wished more people like me were “in front of young people, in schools across our country, showing them why caring for, and learning from, people who may seem different from you at first blush are in fact people worth getting to know and with whom it is a delight to share experiences, from the mundane to the spectacular,” and that I was, “a breath of fresh air, [someone] who seem joyful in their work.” She said she’d write her senators to praise the mission, work, and staff of my organization.
At a dinner party celebrating my new job, a friend gave me a toast and read from a book by Tim Keller. Part of the excerpt he read said, “When believers handle suffering rightly, they are not merely glorifying God to God. They are showing the world something of the greatness of God—and perhaps nothing else can reveal him to people in quite the same way.” Showing the world something of the greatness of God. What an honor to be seen as making my great God visible.
A friend gave me a pen for being brave. I’d written earlier in the year about how usually it’s the big things that get celebrated while intermediate, less flashy achievements go unrewarded externally. Her pen, to me, said it’s commendable to fail with courage because courage is always commendable.
- Read entire Bible: The first three-quarters of this year felt like a divine honeymoon. Stealing away with my God for times of refreshing. I described it to a friend as being the best kind of a wreck, totally loved on and spoiled by God. This was the most Word-filled year of my life. I spent consistent time in the Bible and in the spring I managed to read the whole thing in three weeks! I could go on and on about the exuberant delight my heart felt to be so immersed in this book and the story of its love, redemption and mercy. If any number deserves a post of its own its this one. This was the best use of my eyes, breath, brain, hands, energy, time, phone, headphones, and attention. Seriously, it sweeps every category of award. It was pure wonder. If you haven’t read it, read it. Slowly, consistently, to fall in love, to be fed, to grow, to repent, to be a better lover, to be wise, to rest, to explore the depths of the human condition. I know no activity more deserving of endorsement than this. #ad
Honorable mention: disposed of dead mouse’s corpse. In Laos, I tackled my squeamishness about bugs, but rodents? Nope, no way, no sir. But I did miraculously manage to pick up a mouse that died in our kitchen and dispense of it’s little fragile, easily breakable body. It made me a bit sad to be honest.
As I alluded to, the wheels kinda came off the bus the last quarter of the year and it felt in some ways similar to 2017’s summer of cascading calamities (even a reprisal of bed bugs and the loss of a friend!). But on the whole, this was an exceptional year. Missing from this list are weddings, kindness from old coworkers, my pastor reading my series on singleness, friends helping with domestic tasks, seeing old Seattle friends, and so much more. Stay tuned for my top songs, dresses, and quotes of 2018 and some dreams for 2019 and beyond.