I love receiving Christmas cards and year-end letters from friends.
And I am terrible at sending them. I accepted this about myself years ago when the Christmas picture cards I ordered arrived too late and I sent out a handful of them and now have a dozen “extra” memories of our family from 4 years ago. I’m not some ungrateful soul and this doesn’t make me a bad friend. (My rule of friendship is basically if we’ve ever known each other for longer than a second, then we’re friends and always will be unless you decide differently.) I just can’t get myself organized enough to take family pictures and order cards and make sure we have enough stamps and envelopes and then actually write out all the addresses and such. I would need to start in July if I was going to make it happen by Christmas, and I’m just not sure that’s an option. (Let me repeat: I love that there are still people who send Christmas cards and pictures of their families, especially to us when we do not do that.)
This year, I sent a few cards as I felt the need and delivered one special basket of cheer. (Cookies for all the neighbors? Nope. 150 Christmas cards signed, sealed and delivered? Not a chance.) For my own self, this is the way it has to be. Again, I am in awe of those of you who spread the Christmas cheer to your neighbors, family and friends.
When the kids were littler, I enjoyed the chance to write a Christmas letter, wrapping up our year and looking ahead to the new one. I miss that. I don’t have a list to publish this year of best things I read or most meaningful moments. In the way of momentous occasions and big changes, this year was a dud.
But that’s kind of okay. We needed a year where things settled down and we settled in. To be honest, that is not how I thought this year was going to go. (Read last year’s wrap-up post and you’ll remember why.)
So, if this was our Christmas letter, arriving all sparkly and bright in your mailbox and you were reading it at the dining room table after dinner with your whole family gathered around, here is what it would say:
As far as years of our lives go, 2017 was almost uneventful. At least in the BIG NEWS sense of the word. Our biggest change was Phil starting a job at the end of the January after being unemployed for three weeks, and that happened so long ago, and the transition has been so smooth, that it almost feels like he’s been working there for years instead of approaching his first anniversary.
Okay, so there was also the transmission failure in our van during that same three-week stretch of unemployment when I thought that God might actually hate us because I felt kicked in the ribs when I was already on the ground after being punched in the face. January was a *fun* month for us.
After that, though, things settled down. We adjusted to Phil’s new work schedule (3 full-time days) and the kids did their things at school as if nothing happened. The biggest things that happened to us the rest of the year don’t seem that big on the outside, but they shifted something inside of us.
2017 became the year we spoke up for and stood with people on the margins. This was the year I started calling my elected officials and telling them what I think. It was the year I attended candlelight vigils in the city square and demonstrations in front of my representative’s office. It was the year I added my support vocally, visually and in writing to causes I had previously not considered.
(I didn’t realize this was a theme of the year until I received these two gifts from separate family members this Christmas.)
When it came time to choose an ornament for the tree that summed up our year, we had some trouble. We hadn’t taken any big vacations or really thought about it throughout the year, but when the opportunity came for us to buy this for our tree, we took it.
“Love lights a path” fits with our family and the ornament itself was made by trafficking survivors in Cambodia to benefit an organization that rescues and restores trafficking survivors in other areas of the world, so it’s doing double good.
For me, personally, it was the year I began to unstick my head from the sand. Last year I chose for my word “tender” and I have felt the bruises on my heart from caring about things and people more intentionally. I have cried and raged and shouted and lost “friends” on Facebook but I am ending the year with a heart this is softer than when the year started, and that was my ultimate goal. (More on my word for 2018 coming soon.)
The year wasn’t all activism and acclimation, though.
Phil and I took a trip to Boston in the spring and celebrated 10 years of marriage.
My daughter and I ran a 5K together.
Our son rocked swimming lessons. Our daughter started learning to play the flute.
We visited numerous national parks, including a quick visit to Washington, D.C., in November to meet my grandmother who had flown in for the day.
We tried new things like riding the bus, looking at the solar eclipse, and making new friends. As I scroll through the photos on my phone, I see things like visiting the Renaissance Faire, joining a group to visit the Islamic Center in our city, attending baseball games and concerts in the park. (We saw Arlo Guthrie live in concert!) We hosted family for a week of fun and went to Philadelphia. I went to a writing retreat and met one of my favorite authors. (FANGIRL ALERT.)
It was a year of small, seemingly insignificant moments but when I start to add them up, I can think of no other word but “full” to describe it. And that’s a very big deal when in previous years I have felt so empty.
I am sitting at my parents’ house in Illinois having twice driven through snowstorms in our short week here. The temperature is not even in the single digits (for the love of all that is holy) and I have complained all week about the northern Illinois weather I have left behind (while trying not to be jealous of my friends who are spending this week in warmer climates–love you!).
It is the second to last day of 2017 and I am worried that the weather will hinder our travel plans back to Pennsylvania or that when we get back to our farmhouse, we will find busted pipes from the colder-than-normal temperatures there or that our kitchen will be overrun with mice. (Aren’t I a pleasant person to be around?)
And yet, I end this year full of hope and possibility. This is not my default state of mind. 2018 holds promise. It won’t be easier or harder necessarily but different and new.
How about you?