It’s been a good trip around the sun this time. All years have ups and downs but I remember mostly good things. Here are a few:
I spent half the year living with my best friends, and it was wonderful. We sat on our porch reading our Bibles together, made a lot of cakes for no real reason, and had lots of car ride singalongs. Though we’ve gone separate ways for now, I can still go to them for anything. They’re forever friends.
I made friends at the Senior Center where I was stationed for a nonfiction writing class and listened to their stories from decades ago. I want to always listen more than I talk, to be someone who can be entrusted with stories, who will see them for the gold they are. (You can read a bit of my final essay about the Senior Center here.)
I wrote a story about human trafficking which was less fun, but it was one of the most important things I’ve ever written. Girls (and boys) are taken advantage of every day, even in rural Iowa. Often human trafficking victims get criminalized for prostitution instead of getting help. The laws changed a little this year, but more people need to be aware that it’s happening and how it’s tied up with the commercial sex industry. I wasn’t able to fully explore this aspect in the article, but I learned a lot, and I’d like to write more about it in the future. Porn and strip clubs and escort services are shady businesses. You don’t know how old those girls are. You don’t know that they’re doing this by choice.
On a lighter note, I spent a summer adventuring and frolicking. I pet lambs and kittens, had bonfires and watched sunsets. The world is full of such beauty.
I discovered the joy of Mennonite hymn sings! Mennonites have singing in their blood, I think, and there is such joy and peace in a little church full of acapella voices raised to the Lord.
I learned to shoot some guns, which was pretty exciting.
My friend Fern took me home to meet her family, and I basically gained a whole new family. I love them a lot.
I went fishing with machetes! While it was not wildly successful, I still had a great time wading in the water and trying out log rolling.
I also went sky diving. When my friend Shawn invited me, I hesitated briefly and then figured, how often do I get invited sky diving? Might as well go, and I am very glad I did. The world is very impressive from 9,000 feet in the air, and falling from that height is also quite impressive.
I spent fall semester working on my honors thesis, which is basically the beginning of a novel. While I’ve written plenty of novel length stories before, this was a different experience with all the feedback and editing as I’m going. It took some getting used to, but I am quite proud of the 60 or so pages I have. (And quite thankful to my friend Shawn for proofreading everything I turned in for it this semester. What a hero.)
Also Christmas was really great! I discovered that I like egg nog. My brother Paul made egg nog lattes with all his fancy coffee machinery. One day, as I was sitting talking to another family member, holding my egg nog latte, he came over and said he forgot the nutmeg, so he starts grating a nutmeg into my drink. He’s not about using the easy, already ground kind. He is very kind. And a little bit crazy.
I also read a bunch of the prophecy books in the bible this year that I thought were supposed to be really confusing, and they were really confusing, but I also discovered that I like them the best! Well, maybe not the best-best, because the gospels are good and 1 John is great too. But man, Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel and Hosea–good stuff. Revelation too. Especially the end with the new earth.
“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Rev. 21.3-4
I like that a lot. And it seems to me that is why we are so drawn to new years, why people all over will celebrate at midnight with such extravagance. I had many beautiful moments in my year, but I know it was also full of violence and injustice, death and disease around the world. Many tears were cried this year, and so we wait for the one who says, “Behold, I am making all things new,” (Rev. 2.5).