Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world. James 1:27 (The Message)
Today, our local newspaper published a list of the top ten events impacting our community in 2011. It got me to thinking about the top ten things that impacted my life this year as well. So, here’s a list. I would start from bottom to top for suspense, but you have to know number one to make sense of the rest.
1. Working at the Malnutrition Center in Guatemala: If you have been reading this blog this year, you know that my life was forever changed by 78 hungry children in Guatemala. I will never look at my possessions, my home, my family, my bank account or a plate of food the same way again. Everything else about this year is marked by that turning point in my life.
2. My children’s graduations: Oldest son graduated from National Park Service Law Enforcement Academy and youngest son graduated from Paramedic School. Ten years ago, I never would have dreamed that my sons would become a police officer and a firefighter. Have you ever noticed how many police officers and firefighters die on the job? You won’t until you have someone you love in those professions. Then, every news report hits home. I try very hard to trust God and remember He is in control.
3. Saying good bye to Sky and hello to Summer: Sky’s illness was so unexpected and traumatic for us because our vet in his shock at the findings wanted to try some life prolonging measures that we could not see doing. I had to take a stand and say no, and that was probably the hardest thing I have ever had to do with regards to one of our pets. But, then, along came Summer who has totally captured my heart unlike any other dog we have ever had. And yet, I know that I will someday have to say good bye to her as well, perhaps sooner than later as youngest son begins to make plans to move out on his own and take her with him. To everything there is a season, I keep reminding myself.
4. A new pastor: (I hope he never reads this and realizes he ranked beneath our dogs) Our church had been without a spiritual leader for over three years. While we had many “leaders” during that time, not all of them had our spiritual welfare at heart. To have a leader who cares about a genuine relationship with God and who puts a high priority on missions is refreshing and inspiring. I hope he never gets weary of shepherding the flawed flock that we are.
5. Health scares: Several health scares that turned out not to be as bad as we first feared left us relieved and thankful, but also cognizant that every breath is precious. It also made us extremely grateful that we have good health insurance. I understand why people who lose their jobs are most anxious not about money but how to regain their benefits.
6. Changes in my job: Last year this time, I was having troubles with my staff, uncertain of my future at my job and questioning whether I was really making a difference. Twelve months later and some good new hires, I have a great team in place which has allowed me to be more effective in the big picture kinds of projects that I am supposed to be doing instead of daily micromanagement. My job future is still uncertain in this economy and political climate, but for the meantime, I am making an impact on our community that will last beyond my term of employment.
7. Learning to be adventurous: I have had more adventures this year than in my entire life. Between zip lining, whitewater kayaking, waterfall jumping and rock climbing, I am surprised I did not die, not of drowning or a fall, but from heart failure. I grew stronger in my courage and also in my wisdom. Been there, done that. No need to do it again. I do not think any of those daring things built my faith. Only reinforced my own stupidity.
8. A broken kiln: My kiln has been unusable for almost six months now. Husband thinks he can fix it, but has not gotten around to it yet. That meant I had to find another creative outlet. Felting, which was always just a social activity for me, has taken on that role as I have really enjoyed making scarves. But, the broken kiln also fit into that time to reevaluate what is really important coming on the heels of my trip to Guatemala. For a couple of years now, my identity has been wrapped up in what I make. The county fair and opportunities to earn ribbons, and shows at the art center defined who I was. No longer. I probably won’t even enter the fair this year. There are other ways to spend my time.
9. A horse trailer and truck: The same thought process colored my opinion of a long awaited acquisition, a horse trailer and truck to pull it. For the nine years I have had a horse, I wanted a horse trailer of my own so badly. And of course, a truck that I could drive to pull it. Both those dreams became reality this year. I enjoy the freedom and am grateful to have them, but they are not as important as I once imaged they would be. My priorities have changed.
10. A new ministry: While it will not begin until January, husband and I are helping to launch a new ministry at our church to provide food to local elementary school children who might otherwise go hungry on the weekends. We have been blessed with others who believe in the importance of the program and a church who is willing to step up and provide the funds. I can only go to Guatemala once or twice a year, but I can feed hungry children in my own backyard year round. Who knows what 2012 holds as we work together to make a difference in our community?
What about you? What has God showed you this year? How have you changed? Happy New Year!