Most days, as I watch the sunset over the Connecticut River across the street from my house, I reflect on the previous hours of daylight. An ancient practice, called the Spiritual Examen, is a prayerful reflection of the events of the day to find God’s presence and discern his direction, finding His hand (and heart) at work in the bigger picture. This practice (at sunset for me) has added depth, meaning, and growth to my life. So, today, the day before the new year begins, seems a good time to take a yearly examen. It’s easy to forget things that happen over the course of a year, thus missing ways God is evident…along with times that feel foggier when He seems less visible. Outside right now a dense fog completely hides the sunset, but I know God is still alive and well. So, today I have journeyed through my electronic calendar of 2022 and my gallery of photos. As I reflect back on this year several thoughts come to mind. In 2022:
There was family. I feel grateful every day for my family. Wyndham is never far away in my thoughts and in so many ways, I see him live on. I see and feel God’s presence in so many experiences and feelings of love. 2022 family memories include birthday celebrations, soccer games, baseball, and of course the highlights of the baptisms of two grandchildren, Lexi and Micah, as their faith and desire to follow Jesus came to life. The family also
shared time at the CT coast over Labor Day, and finally got to be together for Thanksgiving and Christmas after several years of Covid and/or stomach bugs preventing holiday times together the past couple of years. A post-Covid regular event that I have also enjoyed all year is my ever-other-week Zoom call with my sisters. I’m the youngest of four girls, and I’m so grateful for these three amazing women. I also feel grateful for Wyndham’s wonderful sisters.
There were firsts. Never thought I would say this, but I got a tattoo this year. My wedding rings were loose, and while I know I am not married any longer, I didn’t want to take them off. I compromised and decided to get Wyndham’s initials, WTS, which he used to sign all his emails, engraved on my ring finger. I love it. When people ask if it hurt, compared to childbirth and kidney stones, it was quite all right. I also officiated my first wedding this year, which was deeply meaningful in so many ways and quite a God-story surrounding the whole time. God certainly showed up. Another first is that I bought the two-family house next door that had been in probate, had it renovated, and thus began a small rental business. I was certainly not planning on doing this, but the opportunity arose, and it seemed a wise move. And, I might add, I am surrounded by wonderful neighbors.
There were lasts. This year I lost several loved ones, including Wyndham’s (and my) dear Aunt Emma, my adventurous and kind brother-in-law, Roy, and my dear friend of many decades, Sheila Jones. I know many of you lost loved ones and continue to grieve. My heart is with you. Also, early this month Jacob moved back to MA, which was quite sad and yet also happy…because it was a good and right decision. So glad and grateful he is doing well in the Lowell condo.
There were books. I’m sure I officially qualify as a nerd if the term is measured by books read. I’ll share my favorites in a post tomorrow, but I had no idea until I put my list together that I read well over a hundred books this year. Many were about the Restoration Movement, many were about hermeneutics, and many were about spiritual formation. There were also various others that challenged my thinking and my heart, helping me to continually learn and grow. ( think there were perhaps one or two fictions in …well at least one.) I will share some of my favorite reads in a post tomorrow. Today, I finished the Daily Chronological Bible. This is the first time I did a yearly chronological Bible reading. Or rather, I listened to an audio version. I chose to do an audio version since the original Bible hearers heard the Scriptures read to them. This was a great experience though certainly required perseverance.
There were opportunities to learn. Along with what I learned from books, I cannot express how much I love my spiritual formation doctoral program. This new year marks the final year of my classes, which end in July. Also, a few months ago I began Christian coaching training, which involves a 26-week two-hour class to be followed by supervised coaching training. (I will be offering 4 people 10 hours of free coaching in the spring of 2023, so if you are interested send me a message.) In the fall once classes are over, I plan to begin a spiritual director training program. Somehow, I hope and pray all these will mesh together in a meaningful way to contribute.
I am grateful for all I was able to learn at the ICOC Teachers Conference in February, “The Art of Scripture Reading.”
It was helpful, and conversations with the teachers always help me grow. Expect an article soon with my thoughts on a speech from that conference that reached into some deep recesses of my heart (taught by Sherie Gayle). I look forward to this year’s conference next month. I also greatly benefitted from a 12-week “Forming” workshop excellently facilitated by Byron Parsons, along with several hundred brothers and sisters from around the world. This was an outstanding workshop. I loved it so much that I plan to facilitate a session, along with David Bruce from L.A., early in the year. (To accommodate the time frame needed for this request from overseas, it will be offered on a weekday afternoon. I’ll post more when I know more.) I continually learn from several groups I gather with on Zoom who are involved in Spiritual Formation…and also a group from the Common Grounds Unity Group. (Thanks, John Teal for organizing this). These feed and encourage my heart, refreshing me and calling me to grow.
There were books to write. This year, IPI published another of my books, “What Now, God? Finding God in Transitions.” I figure that I have encountered so many transitions of late, I might as well share things that I have been learning. You can find it here: https://www.ipibooks.com/products/what-now-god-finding-god-in-transitions. It is also available on Kindle.
There were opportunities to teach. I love to learn and love to teach. This year, I both participated in and taught several workshops on spiritual formation and taught in several teaching days on the role of women in the church for my local church as well as several other churches in other locales. (Thanks, Robert, for including me in many of these opportunities.) I taught a class on “Experiencing God” at the ICOC teachers’ conference and was blessed to teach various classes at the conference in Orlando on topics such as spiritual disciplines, still learning on the journey, adoption, caregiving, grief, and finding God (Hagar…a class for teens). I enjoyed participating in a few podcasts throughout the year as well. My studies in preparation for teaching teach me far more than I can ever hope to convey, I am sure. I keep praying for wisdom to know how to learn and convey most effectively.
There were opportunities to question. I’m forever curious so question many things these days, looking to see where I need to grow and change while digging deep to find answers. After talking with God, I always need to talk to wise, spiritual people about these questions. When I encounter compelling teachings different from the ways I have previously understood them I also read opposing views and critical reviews to help form my thoughts. I find this helpful. I also realize some things cannot be answered in this lifetime. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Is 55:9) This is actually quite comforting.
There were gatherings with old friends and new friends. There is nothing like time with old friends and also the joy of finding new friends. I have met and spent some good times with new friends like Jennifer, Mary, and Judy with whom I share some sad things in common, along with many new friends from church and from my new and surroundings in CT. I recently enjoyed memory lane visiting familiar places (where Wyndham and I first lived) in Raleigh with Jan. I love it when Susan and Joan pop by my new house and have loved the visits from afar with the Iiames, McGuirks, Kim E and Kim T., my sister and niece, and others that are likely slipping my mind. I loved spending time at the Orlando conference with many dear “old” friends.
There were opportunities to serve. While I still desire, pray about, and look for meaningful ways to serve more effectively, I have found several ways to serve that provide meaning. These, I will keep between God and me. From my readings this year, I have grown in my longing to serve my community in ways that I think I have not yet fulfilled. Lots of room to grow here.
There were opportunities to receive. I finally got Covid last summer before the Reach Conference. I realize that receiving is often harder for me than serving. I am learning more about the importance of receiving, so I am teaching on the topic “Reflection and Receiving” for a Spiritual Formation Zoom workshop on Jan 14. Participation is free but registration is required. Many excellent classes will be offered. The workshop is slated for 10:00am to 2:00pm PACIFIC time. https://forms.gle/bT124FmQdc1e2zoL9
There was nature to enjoy. A few visits to the mountains and the ocean refreshed my soul tremendously this year, but I need to walk in nature every day…to see, listen, and learn. I’ve also discovered that rain gear and layers of warm clothing, along with crampons (sounds like a very painful menstrual tool but they are actually spikes that fit on your shoes for walking in ice or snow) allow me to walk most every day. Sometimes I take “guided spiritual walks” which I love and will write about (hopefully soon). I also follow 3 animal sites on Instagram….a_puppy_and_a_bunny. (Cutest thing ever about the adventures of a golden retriever, a golden puppy, and a bunny named Smols.) And then there is the site piggy_patch_farm. Finally, there is chunk_the_groundhog. I realize you may have now lost all respect for me, but hey, I enjoy these, although the piglets are seriously interfering with my former love for bacon. Oh, and of course, I cannot forget the beloved sunsets and ever-moving river I so enjoy.
There is so, so much to be grateful for. I’ll end my musings by simply saying thank you. Thank you, God for loving me and never leaving me. Thank you for being my hope and my salvation. Thank you for being my friend. And thank you, my friends, for enriching my life in more ways than I can ever express.
Happy New Year!