Each year for the last few, I’ve taken time, with inspiration from my friends and writing pals Duane Bidwell and Frank Thomas, to compile a Gratitude List of Important Things that I have invested myself in during the past year.
This practice is a beautiful alternative to writing impossible “to do” lists for the coming year! And it takes time to honor the ways I have invested my time, energy and love in the very full and overflowing year that is passing away. Twenty-nineteen was one of those very full years. I am limiting this list to ten things, but I might with detail go on for much longer. The longer we live the more people, projects and purposes there are which invite our love and attention.
Here are some of the ways the Light got into my life in 2019:
- Parenting and supporting our daughter through the decision-making process of finding the right high school for fall 2020! We are thrilled that she has been admitted to Templeton Academy, a new school in Nashville.
- Teaching seminary students in classrooms and travel adventures that took me to Collegeville, Minnesota, Havana and Matanzas, Cuba, Clinton, Tennessee, New York City, Kansas City, and across town in Nashville. This work is so much more than the classroom. It also includes listening to the prompting of Gods’ Spirit, hearing the needs for healing from trauma, writing letters of recommendation, celebrating awards won, meeting with mentors and students, walking alongside those who are searching for vocational direction, stretching beyond comfort zones, advocating for and amplifying the voices of students in many situations.
- Giving my money to support many important causes for justice and goodness in the world; at our house we love supporting Glendale Baptist Church, NOAH, the Alliance of Baptists, Vanderbilt Divinity School, Luke 14:12, Central Seminary, Baptist Women in Ministry, and a slough of others.
- Coaching writers – I’m so grateful to support writers in 2019 with their dissertations, books, articles and conference papers. I’m grateful to get to know them and accompany them through their life challenges to leave a legacy of their creativity, ideas and insights.
- Serving on the leadership council of my congregation and sharing in more decisions and conversations than we can count, all of which I count as joy and which facilitate making our community of faith a sanctuary for each other and a way to work together for the purposes to which the Holy is calling us;
- Accompanying a host of friends through medical treatments, significant losses and grief, divorce, job transitions, and other big life changes. I don’t feel like I need to name these folks or all the many paths they are on. You know who you are. And I see this kind of friendship and mutual compassion as among the most life-giving moments of how I spend my life energy.
- Authoring two solo journal articles, two multi-authored journal articles, one book chapter about mentoring, and more than 55 blogs, as well and moving three book projects forward.
- Moving my office home after ten years and rearranging our house to accommodate my books and files, and office stuff, while also making a new space for M’s room and a new guest room; these are not entirely complete, but when is a house every complete?
- Meeting with young and experienced faith leaders from a variety of traditions, including interviewing ministers in the Learning Pastoral Imagination Project, retreating with new Baptist pastors from the South, lunching with women in ministry in Middle Tennessee, and being a witness and elder in a gathering of Jewish, Christian, Islamic and Native American leaders in the Twin Cities, who gathered to see the world as it is an to dream about a renewed world in which we work together from our own deep rootedness.
- Launching and completing a full year of Three Minute Ministry Mentor, connecting with numerous new ministers and seminarians, including YOU if you’ve read this far through my list, and incorporating the initiative into an LLC.
I could make a longer list or show more of the “invisible legacies” (thanks Jed Bartlett) of this year, but mostly I make this list as an accounting to myself. And I make it public because too much life energy in our world goes into how things look or how they impress or into things that evaporate immediately and make little lasting change. I want to value the shared ways that we give our lives to things that matter and will last … through relationships and writing, through directing money, energy and time, through accompanying one another through all the seasons of life.
That is the holy and sacred work that shines through each of us. This is how the light gets in. Selah.