There will be a grip of Top Ten Lists screaming at us as we hit year-end. This is not one of those. I don't have a Top Ten list worth noting. But I can share ten good decisions from my year. I'd be very interested in hearing yours as well.
These are in no particular order. I wouldn't say they are necessarily the "best" ideas or decisions either. But as I think back on 2010, these are the things that stick with me most.
OK, enough qualifiers. Here goes:
Trip to Alaska, June 2010. In 2000, my best friend and I made a deal: we would travel to a National Park each summer for a vacation until one of us got married. Well... let's just say we're glad there are a LOT of national parks. I think I can confidently say that I have been fortunate enough to see the most magnificent sights in the US. We had put off hucking all the way up to Alaska for a bunch of reasons, but finally decided that this was the year. And I am SO glad we went. Here's an earlier post from the trip. P.S. One piece of unasked-for advice: GO TO ALASKA. And don't take a cruise. Drive around as much as you can. We spent 11 days going from Denali all the way down to Kenai. Lots and lots of driving. And not one minute of bad scenery. The people, the vistas, the restaurants and the wildlife are utterly unique. Don't settle for a sanitized, comfy version.
Tuesday night Bible study. I have been in a Bible study of one form or another since 1976. None of them have been bad. Sure, some have been better than others; but I have liked each one for a different reason. This fall I started a new one. A dozen or so of us came together on Tuesday nights to read through Benedict's Way, a short little book on spiritual disciplines. The book has provided great material for good, honest, vulnerable conversation. But more importantly, I have a strong sense that every person there is a necessary part of our group. I have loved every night we've spent together: singing, eating dessert, laughing hard, tickling the kids, praying, sharing our stories. I am so grateful for these times. Something special is happening there. We all come from different places in life, but we matter to each other. We listen well, and are willing to come as we are. Today I read a quote that touches on why this group is so important to me:
Selling my car. I will not bore you with details since I've already rambled about this decision here and here. I've already been tested in my commitment due to weather of late, even having to rent a car for two days at one point just to be able to get to some appointments I'd committed to before it decided to rain unceasingly for several days last week. But I have no regrets. Last week, when it was torrential, I got a little stir crazy being inside so much, unable to use my scooter and only using my bike occasionally (in other words, when I could show up somewhere sopping wet). But each time I had to make adjustments in my schedule because of the weather, I was reminded, I have a home. I have food. I am employed. Lord, I pray for those who do not have those things. The heavy, heavy rains last week made the lives of the working poor and homeless very difficult. My life is not hard because I don't have a car. It just helps me be a little more creative, and a lot more thankful.
Eating Seasonally. OK, I'm cheating a teensy bit by including this, because I've been doing this for at least two years. But each year I have to renew my decision to do this as I renew my membership to Fairview Gardens, my local CSA. I could write volumes about this one little decision, but it is reaping deep work in life. By eating seasonally, I have learned how to wait. I have learned how to look forward to things. I have learned how to savor things more deeply because I know they are temporary. In our first world, I-must-have-it economy, this is a discipline that must be learned, sadly. What do I mean? I LOVE red peppers. I could eat them every day - sauteed in scrambled eggs, raw with hummus, diced up in any number of Indian or Mexican dishes, or just plain. They are like candy to me. They grow here and are available in the late summer and fall. But thanks to hothouse agriculture and planes, trains and automobiles, I can get them year-round if I want them. But I have learned that that personal satisfaction comes at great cost to the planet in terms of how much energy is used to keep us saturated in red peppers year-round. But personally, I also am seeing what happens to me when I get what I want all the time. I don't have to break it down for you. Suffice it to say, as I defer gratification, as I anticipate, and as I savor in the moment, I learn how to seek out far deeper, substantial, spiritual things that God is calling me to look forward to. Discipline in these small things lead to maturity in the eternal things. So eat seasonally, and see your soul be cultivated.
Fitdeck. From the sublime to the mundane... I am certainly no poster child for fitness. But I can tell you that I exercise just about every day of my life, despite my "sturdy" physique. I can't fight genetics, but I do my best to stay fit. And while I regrettably carry too many lbs on my "undertall" frame, I have great blood pressure and stamina. This has come about from riding my bike almost every day since May 2003, hiking in national parks, walking to the store, and so on. But I have recently picked up an old habit again: Fitdeck. To build up muscles that don't get used in cycling, to kickstart my metabolism (and let's just say, it's needs a lot of help!), to have something to do on rainy days, this is a great and incredibly simple option. I bought a deck of these cards years ago, and have recently bolstered it with another booster deck. Check it.
Google Reader. Everyone is getting into the blogging game, and many are ridiculous and tiresome. Not to mention lame. (Heck, maybe you think that about this blog.) But I have about 25 different blogs that I really enjoy. They range from cooking to theology to green living to photos of dear friends and former students. Previously, to keep up on all of these blogs, I ignorantly surfed from bookmark to bookmark in my browser. That is, until a friend told me about Google Reader. Now all the blogs I follow in one place, on one tab. When I need a 5-minute break from email, or I just want to go back and find that recipe I can't remember the name of, it's all there. Pretty darn smart, if you ask me. Thank you, interweb.
Oliver. I've become a hopeless Cat Lady. It sounds nuts, but this gets my vote for best decision of 2010! He is so cute, I could eat him up. This is a photo from the first day I got him in May, and now he's a much bigger pile of fluff. I want to love him and squeeze him and hold him tight.
Working with youth. I had my chance to get out of the game in February 09 when I resigned from my 15-year position as a youth pastor. But gosh darn it, I was asked to substitute teach a class for a few weeks at Providence Hall, and the rest is history. I'm in my 28th year with teenagers, and I think I'm finally getting the hang of it. Phew.
Common Prayer. I've only been using this book a few days shy of one month, but I can already sense this will have a lasting effect on my life. I've shared about it at length here. A simple sentence from today's reading spoke loudly to my spirit. As I finish, let it bother you as well:
Overwhelm us, Lord : with the weight of your glory.