The Pastor has a funny way of having tempered expectations about things. Let’s say we are going to see a movie. (I mean, it might happen once a year or so.) Even if everyone is RAVING about the movie, the Pastor will have his bar set for it to be about 3 *stars*. That way, if a supposed 5 star movies is a technical disappointment, the Pastor only expected 3 stars. In essence, he got what he expected. No disappointment for him. He expected 3 starts and got 3 stars. Too bad the rest of us were looking for 5 stars.
It’s a pretty good strategy. Lower those expectations and don’t be disappointed when the only funny parts are the ones they showed in the previews. I feel like we should have done this for 2016. We had big expectations for this year. It was going to be great. Interesting for sure. Lots of excitement. And then we got, well, what we got. A year of ups and downs. Surprises and disappointments. There were unexpected events all around us. Zika virus ruined vacations for lots of people I know and care for. In our house we mourned the announcement that Kevin Durant was breaking up with us and moving to California. Famous and important figures died. Lots of them. Lots. The news was filled with violence in our own nation and violence, destruction and famine abroad. A gorilla got shot. I found out how government works and that most of us don’t really understand how government works. I had 5 star expectations of you 2016.
It’s easy to look back on a crazy unpredictable year like 2016 and only remember the chaos. To give it 2.5 stars and say “see ya!” To focus on the bad news, the mean tweets, the negative experiences. Or, like some of my peeps on social media, to make sure everyone knows that your life had no interruptions, no disappointments in 2016. To sugarcoat the year and move on with a “nothing to see here” attitude. Well friends, I don’t think we should subscribe to either practice. As we move through life we will have ups and downs. Wonderful memories made and other times we’d rather forget about. My hope is that we look back on our year with a lens that allows us to learn from both our wins and our losses. In that spirit, I give you my best lessons from life in 2016.
- Life is better with people who care about you. If 2016 has done anything for me, it has brought me some incredible friends. Some are not new, I just spent enough time with them this year to really call them friend. Most of them are quite different from me in career path, future goals, hobbies and interests. But they are faithful and fierce. I had someone comment to me upon seeing me out with friends for my birthday: “you have friends now?!” In 2016 I made SPACE for other women in my life. And I’m better for it. They tolerate my crazy emotional loud self and they should be commended.
- Busier is not better. I have spent a lot of time filling my life with places to be and work to do. The catch is that being busy doesn’t fill you up; it empties you out. Here’s to a 2017 where I make time at home to sit and rest. To say no to even some good things; to say yes to better things.
- Why did the pig cross the road? To get to the other lipstick. This is a joke my 4 year old told me. Like a hundred times. And I laughed my face off every time. It taught me two things. To wear more lipstick, which I did in 2016 and it was good. And to cherish my kids more. I swear they act crazy on Sunday mornings on purpose but they will only be small once and instead of looking for the days ahead, maybe it’s ok to enjoy today. Even the math homework, the messy hands, the outfit choices.
- You need more voices than your own. This year I was thankful for Fr. Richard Rohr, Brené Brown, Tim Keller, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and many other writers who shared their knowledge and experiences with me. And to audible for making my ‘reading’ happen on the way to and from the hospital. I am thankful for my favorite podcasts like Hidden Brain, This American Life, and the Pastor’s friends who put out their sermons each week. It is easy to listen to myself and believe that I am right. If you know me, you are laughing right now because the only person who thinks they are more right than me is the 4 year old. #amiright? But seriously, we should never stop learning. I hope in 2017 to read more and listen more to voices that will leave me for the better.
- Use your voice for something more than complaining. I excel at complaining. If the strengths finder included snarky-ness I am pretty sure it would be in my Top 5. But as much as misery loves company, at some point having a dinner party with miserable people is, well, miserable. My prayer in 2017 is to give more space and voice to the things that need them. To shed light in the dark places that need attention from the world. I am so grateful to all of you who have journeyed with me in this thing we call blogging.
- And finally, 2017 will be what we make it. More celebrities will die. Hate and crime and violence will continue to be prevalent. The economy will get better, or it will get worse. Either more or less jobs will be created. Our nation will get healthier, or it might not. People will continue to say things on social media they wouldn’t dare say to your face. People will use filters and tell you their life is grand and great when it’s not. You can spend 2017 being angry and bitter and anxious about the future or you can spend 2017 living in the reality that there is grace and mercy for all of us. It won’t be easy to remember when 2017 hands you lemons. I’m sure I will have many moments of judgment, criticism, complaining and anxiety. But we have the power to extend grace and mercy to your friends, your family and even your enemy and your opposite. And more than that, we can be gracious and merciful to ourselves. May 2017 bring more of God’s grace, peace, mercy and love into your lives friends!