Looking Back, Looking Forward

One of my yearly rituals is to take extra time on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day and write a longer entry in my journal reflecting on the year that has passed. I’m not sure any other year (other than 1998 when Greg and I met and got married between March and November) has represented such dramatic change in my life. It’s healthy to step back, examine it, and then orient to the future.

I will not bore you with the personal ups and downs of the year- most of which only mean something to me. But there are a few moments that maybe you have experienced yourself that are worth taking the time to invite you to reflect upon in your own life.

2021 was a year of loss for me. I lost my last two living aunts this year only a couple of months apart and I am sure the world shines a little less brightly because Aunt Jeannine and Aunt Annette are no longer with us. My mom is the remaining family member in her generation on all sides of my family, other than some distant cousins. Remembering the life experiences shared, the laughter – goodness the laughter – and the lessons learned from both of these women helped shape me at various points in my life into the person I am today. I am grateful.

2021 was a year of dramatic change for me. I don’t even know where to begin. A change in jobs as I left Boone UMC and became District Superintendent for the Appalachian District of the UMC. But not only a change in which office to show up to, but a change in vocational clarity. To realize that my calling was no longer to serve the local church as pastor was a little bit surprising, sad, and freeing. This last chapter of my vocational service to God’s Kingdom now has the potential to be exciting and full of surprises that my previous path could have never provided. Another change was moving from Boone to Newton – a change of location can bring a whole new perspective to life. Greg changed jobs which has been a good thing for him. For us, our home was one of the greatest gifts we received this year. I truly believe this house found us and we are where we are supposed to be in this moment in life. Some change (I believe most change) is ultimately for the better.

2021 was also a year that brought personal peace in the face of internal turmoil. Stepping into a job that was both familiar and different from the last time I sat in this chair was exciting. Inheriting a staff that has brought great joy and laughter as well as excellence and creative possibility is a gift almost as welcomed as our new home. My mom experienced a significant stroke this year and while we are learning to adjust to loss of vision which lead to loss of driving, and a decrease in the normal Energizer Bunny energy my mom has had over the years, we are grateful for her resilience and ability to adapt knowing it could have been so much worse. I am so thankful for her.

2021 brought a year fraught with political divides, continuing COVID challenges, important racial justice work, and a confusing evolution of our political system that seems perilous and unnecessarily partisan but that’s not really my purvue in this blog. However, I had to acknowledge that the social/political landscape has been an influence on all of our lives this year.

Red Bellied Woodpecker

Finally, 2021 brought a season of crucible growth in my relationship with God. I had time this past spring to do some spiritual discernment and exploration. Just like a teenager goes through a noticeable growth spurt I experienced a bit of a personal spiritual revelation. While I won’t share the ins and outs of that crucible experience I will share a few lessons learned: 

  • I truly love trees on a spiritual level.  They speak to me of God and the Holy Spirit and help me feel connected to God in a very present, in-the-moment way.
  • The Woodpecker is my spirit or power animal.  The woodpecker stands for strength, opportunity, wisdom, resilience, kindness, and determination and over and over kept appearing in my life in surprising and unexpected ways this past spring.  And helped me learn lessons in almost all of those above areas. God used the Woodpecker to teach me a few things about myself.
  • When you stop and wait on the Lord, be careful, God can disrupt your best laid plans and ultimately get you where you need to be if you will just trust the Holy Spirit.
  • And most importantly, sometimes the best lesson you can learn is how to close the door and let go of some things in your life in order to be free and able to fully turn and focus on what is ahead of you.  I learned about the value and necessity of letting go.  So very liberating.  Give it a go if you find you keep orienting towards past events in your life.

I’d be curious, what are some of the lessons 2021 has taught you? When you look back on your life and the ups and downs, how are you different now than you were a year ago? Our best hope is that each year we make some progress of living our life a little bit more like Jesus would. And when we take more steps backwards in that goal than forwards, practice grace and perseverance to keep trying to emulate Jesus. To face the new year with renewed purpose and potential. My hunch is, if you really examen the year- you made more progress than you realized. Go you!

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth

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