I realize we’re into the second month of 2018 and I’m just now sharing this post I wanted to publish back in December, but I figure it’s better late than never!
I think 2017 was the busiest year I have ever had. It felt like someone stomped on the accelerator of life, and no matter how I wanted them to let up, they only pushed harder. It was a good year with many new experiences, but packed to the brim. It was a year of unexpected answers to prayer, of not enough prayer in spite of that, and of learning I already had answers to questions I’d been asking for a very long time.
The busyness began at full blast in January, when I took part in a community theatre production of Fiddler on the Roof. The schedule was intense – rehearsals every day from January 2nd until the nine shows at the end of the month. It was the largest play I’ve ever been in, and my first time being in a musical, which was something of a lifelong dream of mine. It was fun to meet people from the community and get a little taste of the theatre world.
Also in January, my first on-campus college class began… and ended. In 2016 I took English Composition 101 online and really enjoyed it, so I thought it would be nice to follow that up with English Composition 201, which, according to the course description, was aimed at “higher levels of writing competency.” Yeah. Not so much. It turned out to be more of (in my estimation) an early high school level journalism class, and the professor was not the greatest at being professional in some ways. I gave it three or four weeks, trying to see what the actual writing composition part was going to be like, but we never seemed to get there. In fact, during one class we even closed our eyes and visualized unicorns! That was to show us our unique ability as humans to picture something that is not real, or something like that. After a lot of agonizing, I finally decided that it wasn’t worth losing more work and gas money to spend time in a class that was nothing like I had expected from the course description. Unfortunately, it was a couple of days too late for a refund, even though I talked to the department head about my concerns. So, it was an expensive lesson: Only take college classes if you need the credits, not for what you think you’ll get out of them – at least not in an English class from a tech school. Also, pray thoroughly about decisions. I don’t think I listened well on that one.
Ironically, a few weeks later I took a free class on Facebook from an author whose books I really enjoy. I learned a lot, and I received some helpful feedback on my own writing as well. For free! Go figure. I took another free class from them on blogging the following month and it was one of the most useful online classes I’ve ever taken, as far as getting practical information. Go figure again!
Despite the frustration of dropping that English class, I did have a couple of pretty significant realizations as a result of the fiasco (besides the ones already mentioned). 1) I need to write what I want to write. In the past, as I’ve wrestled with the question of “What am I supposed to write? HOW do I become a writer or make a living at it?” I’ve thought about getting a job writing, such as for a magazine. However, with the way my interest and enjoyment in writing tanks when I have to write on a topic that doesn’t interest me, I now know that if I ever go pro at writing, it will be as an independent author, not an employee. Also, and maybe more important, I realized that I already know the answers to those questions I wrote above. The “what” and “how” of the writing career paths are questions I have struggled with for years, and through that time I saw God had already led me to write the style of things I write on this blog and to work towards publishing fiction. It’s not a grand or detailed plan, but now I see the general path.
In May I did the Boston Muckfest for MS obstacle course with a couple of my coworkers and friends. We got very muddy (and sometimes cold!) but we had a fun time. One of my favorite obstacles was a zipline that went out over a pool of water. I gave my companions a good laugh on that one. After swimming to the edge of the water, you had to grab onto a rope to pull yourself out. Well, as I was trying to get my footing, I tripped, which gave me some momentum, and swung up the side of that pool like I was at the bottom of a pendulum. I ended up clawing my way up the side like a swamp monster coming out of the deep lagoon.
Summer was flat-out exhausting. Project after project arose, and between the end of July through early fall, my goal was simply to survive until snow flew. Until you have had a summer of gardening and canning, you cannot understand the longing for the first killing frost that sweeps over you at times. White fringe on the lawn accompanied by wilted and slimy plants is an utterly beautiful sight- one that we kept waiting, and waiting, and waiting for. But, in the spirit of the stomped accelerator, summer just kept on going. When it was all said and done we had pretty much rearranged our whole yard. We got rid of two flower gardens, made one new one, and moved a total of ten bushes, ranging in size from the small blueberry bushes that were reaching for the sun to the 40+ year old lilac bush that was so thick it was crowding itself out and growing powdery mildew. However, the upside to all of this insanity is that we have a surplus of canned goods this year and with fewer flower gardens there will be less work. So far, the only project ideas Mom has come up with for next summer are moving a small flower garden a bit to the left so she can see it from the kitchen window better, building a screened-in gazebo, and painting the house. 🙂 🙂 🙂
One of the all-time best days of the year was in September, when two of my coworkers and I hiked Mt. Washington. If you’re interested, can read all about our adventure starting here. I won’t elaborate too much since I’ve written the whole story out, but it was such an amazing and beautiful day. The weather was clear and temperate and the views were thrilling. I’m hoping to do some winter hiking and more 4,000 footers in the future with my hiking buddies!
Another special day was when we went to the New England Aquarium in Boston with my oldest brother and his family. Things started out with a special blessing: as we approached the building, a lady with her daughter asked us if we were going to the Aquarium. I told her yes, we were. She said “If you have $4, I have a pass that lets me get four people in for $2 apiece.” So we were able to get two full-price adult tickets for four dollars! That was amazing. We got inside and enjoyed looking at all of the amazing displays. Our favorite was the touch-a-shark tank, where small sharks and stingrays were in a shallow tank. You could hold your hand flat in the water and gently touch a manta ray or shark as it swam by. We visited for a while at the beginning of our time, but after I touched a manta ray and said “Oh! It feels slimy!” my youngest nephew wasn’t too keen on putting his hand in the tank, although his big brother was enjoying it. Also, the sharks were hiding in a corner so we didn’t get to see them too much. Before the end of our visit, though, we went back and the manta rays and sharks were much more active, and we got to touch the sharks. They felt rough, like sandpaper. Some of the manta rays acted like they really enjoyed being pet. My brother got my youngest nephew to try putting his hand in and he ended up loving it. We spend another half hour or so at the tank and all had such a good time.
We also really enjoyed the ocean tank, which is in the center of the aquarium. A circular walkway winds around it, leading to the top where you can look out over the tank and watch two giant sea turtles and a myriad of other colorful fish swimming around in the blue water. On our way back down we stopped in front of one of the windows for quite a while, watching giant silver fish swim by. The turtles came down and paused to have their pictures taken, and a couple of big green eels came out of hiding too.
It was so mesmerizing to watch the constant movement passing by the window. If you’re anywhere near the Boston area, I highly recommend a visit to the New England Aquarium!
Two Bible studies started in early autumn – on the same day, in fact! A group of ladies from my workplace began getting together to do a study biweekly and a group of young adults started getting together as well. The young adult group was an answer to prayer – more of a wish than a prayer, actually- that I never expected to become reality. For the past several years, I’ve had only two friends my age in the northeast. Now and then I’d say to the Lord, “Before I leave the “young adult” time of life, it would be really nice to have a group of girls and guys to hang out and have fun with.” Didn’t think it was going to happen, though. Then a couple of girls from my church invited me to a young adult group that they were trying to get started, and lo and behold, I now have a group of people in a similar age bracket to spend time with! God is so kind to answer prayers that are mostly wishful thinking.
In early December I tested for my brown belt in karate – just over a year after becoming a green belt. It’s a different feeling getting your brown belt. When I earned my green belt, I felt the excitement of “Finally, I’m not a white belt anymore!” – like when you become a teenager and truly can’t be counted with the “little kids” any longer. As a new brown belt, it’s “Wow. I’m only ONE BELT AWAY from black. This could actually happen!” It’s been interesting over the year to feel myself growing stronger and more confident in my katas and gaining more power in my punches and kicks. I have a long way to go yet, but it’s a fun and interesting process that has taught me a lot, and not just about physical activity (more on that to come in future posts this year, I hope). I am now learning the 5th kata, which is the last one to learn before testing for your black belt, and I still have to learn dan kumite, which is the more advanced kumite (pre-arranged series of attacks and defenses). And I have yet to conquer sparring, which is currently the bane of my martial arts existence. It’s unstructured and extremely counter-intuitive to me, so while I’m not afraid to be in the ring, it’s hard to be as assertive as I should be when I don’t have a good mental grasp on what it’s all about yet. There’s a lesson waiting to be learned there, though, so I will persevere.
I have one large regret from 2017, and that is the way I allowed my time with God to get scrunched away by how busy I was. With the days so full, late nights were the norm, which made getting up early enough to have Bible study and prayer time a struggle at best. I still made an attempt at it most days, but it was not good quality, focused time in which to build much growth. When I don’t spend time with God, either for a day or for more than that, I always wonder what I’ve missed out on. I’ve learned not to beat myself up or base my feelings about God’s opinion of me on whether or not I’ve checked off devotions on the to-do list for the day, but I want to be faithful in spending time with God to show Him I love Him and to get to know Him better. Without that, life gets completely off-kilter.
One of the most subtle yet significant results of this year was an affirmation of things that I know about myself; I feel more confident in who I am and the activities that I care about and want to spend my time on. My dreams are becoming more solidified; the objectives I want to pursue more clear. I know that I need a certain amount of space and time in life to think, that I need to process the world through writing, that simplifying reduces overwhelm and makes being organized easier, that I need to make time for exercise and creativity. So much of my mental energy over the previous few years has been dedicated to questions about myself and my future, and it has led to a more self-centered mindset than I care to admit. I’m looking forward to focusing on Jesus and others more in 2018 and learning more about what truly surrendering to God is all about.
What were some of your favorite (or least favorite!) times from 2017? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!