A lot has happened since the first day of 2010. That’s true for the world at large, of course, and probably true in any of our individual lives. I’m a sucker for new beginnings, and for nice round numbers ending in zero, so despite a pretty tough 2019, I find myself very hopeful as we face the beginning of a new year and a new decade tomorrow. It would be easy to look back at the last ten years and see all the things that haven’t turned out as I had hoped or planned. As a type 4 on the enneagram, I am someone who makes great big beautiful plans and goals on a regular basis, and regularly finds myself shocked and embarrassed when I am unable to bring them to fruition. (Hey, remember when I was going to do 40 new things for my 40th birthday? Yeah, let’s try to forget.) But rather than wallowing in my losses and failures (we 4s looove to wallow), I’d like to look back gratefully at all the things I was able to become in the 2010s, and (maybe in a later post) dream hopefully of some things I’d like to become in the 2020s.
In the past decade, I have become:
a better minister. Okay, this one is kind of a cheat, because there are a lot of things I could put the word “better” in front of and add to this list. But even though I was ordained in 2008, and was already beginning to live out my calling as a chaplain, it was in this past decade that I did my first funeral and my first wedding. And even though I had preached once or twice before that, it was in this decade that I felt I really came into my own as a preacher. One sermon I preached this year, in fact, is maybe the best thing I’ve ever written, something I’ll always look back on with pride. God has taught me a whole lot in the past ten years, and I’m continuing to sort through it all and try to be a little more like Jesus with each new year.
a dog mom. I adopted Hurley in August of 2010, and I’m incredibly thankful that he’s still beside me as we walk into this new decade. He has brought joy to me, and now to my family, every day of our life together. In the darkest days of my depression, sometimes the thing that kept me alive was knowing that he needed me. He’s taught me a lot about loving and taking care of someone, and those lessons have served me well. I don’t know how many more years we’ll have together, but I’m grateful for every one.
a homeowner. In 2011, I bought a townhouse on my own. It was a big scary step into adulthood, but I’m so glad I did it. I had both good and bad experiences with the tenants who rented my spare room, and I learned lessons from all of them. Friends and family helped me fill the house with good memories over the six years I lived there. I sold it after I got married, and in 2017 I bought my second house, this time with my husband. We are working on making great memories in this new house with family and friends as well. I’m very thankful for our home.
a blogger. I started this blog in 2013, needing an outlet for my work outside the small writing group I was part of, and hoping to build a platform that would help me find a publisher for my book. The first blush of success came indisputably thanks to the late (it still hurts to refer to her that way) Rachel Held Evans, whose blog I followed religiously and who tweeted about a couple of my posts that she liked. When I had thousands of readers in a day, it was almost always thanks to her. I will forever be grateful for her help in finding my voice and raising it, and God knows I’ll always miss her voice. There were times I wasn’t sure what to write here anymore, and other times that I knew exactly what I needed to write but the stories were no longer just mine to tell. Blogging seems harder now that my life is so tied up with the lives of my husband and stepsons, whose privacy I always want to respect. That and good old fashioned depression have been the reasons I’ve neglected this site for much of the past couple of years. But I want to become a more regular writer here in 2020, and work on making this site more user friendly. Stay tuned.
a girlfriend. I really didn’t date at all in high school or college, and it wasn’t until my 30s that I felt serious enough about someone to call him my boyfriend, or that someone introduced me as his girlfriend. It was a big adjustment, as singleness had been such a big part of my identity, and such a rich source of material for writing. But I kind of liked it, and all the labels that followed it.
a published author. A year or so after I started the blog, I met a young woman at a conference through mutual friends. She had read some of my posts here and liked them, and asked if I had ever thought of writing a book. I already had, I told her, but I was having trouble finding the right publisher. As it happened, she and her husband owned a small publishing house, Harrelson Press. My first book, Being Called Chaplain: How I Lost My Name and (Eventually) Found My Faith, hit Kindles and then bookshelves in 2015, just in time for my then-boyfriend and seemingly everyone in his family to read it. I’ll admit it didn’t bring me the fame and fortune that I had always dreamed of when I imagined being a published author, but I cherish the connections it has brought me with the readers it does find, and I still hope to help it find more.
a singer-songwriter. When my husband and I were dating, he somehow convinced me to sing a duet with him at an open mic night. I loved hearing him sing and play guitar, and loved singing with him, though my voice was shaky that first night. By the time we got married, we were writing songs together and had recorded our first album as Rogue Two. Now we play at private parties, local farmers markets, and other small venues about once a month, and we’re almost done with our second album. It’s such a joy to have this creative outlet to share with the man I love, and it’s a thrill when the audience is having as much fun as we are.
a football fan. I grew up in Kentucky watching basketball. Just about the only time I watched football was the Super Bowl, or an episode of Friday Night Lights. But I learned quickly after moving to South Carolina that football is like a religion here, and most people root for one of two major college teams. When I fell in love with a man who had graduated from one of those colleges, my allegiance was decided. I attended a few Clemson games with Will (and later his sons) when we were dating, and found myself actually getting excited about it. When Clemson narrowly defeated Ohio State a few days ago to advance to the national championship yet again, I was on my feet cheering just as quickly as my husband was. I guess I’m invested now.
a fiancée. I wrote here about my bittersweet proposal story, when Will asked me to marry him the day after his mother’s sudden death. As I took a few days off work and holed up in the house with him, his two sisters, their father, and lots of other family members coming and going, it was a time of nearly overwhelming emotions, and a powerful way to become part of Will’s family even before we were married. Before I met him, I had pretty much given up on anyone ever getting down on one knee and asking me to be his wife, the way I dreamed about in my 20s. It wasn’t exactly the way I dreamed, for sure, but this was the decade it finally happened.
an aunt. In December 2016, my brother and sister-in-law celebrated the birth of their daughter, Lennox, making me an aunt. And when I married Will a few months later, I got the gift of becoming aunt to three more nieces and two nephews. Even though most of them live hours away, I love getting to spend time with them whenever possible, and celebrating birthdays, graduations, dance recitals, and other milestones in their lives. At least once or twice a year, we all get to be in the same place at the same time for a few days. I treasure those times with these amazing kids and watching them grow.
a bride. The last few months of 2016 and first few months of 2017 were taken up with wedding planning. I would like to say I loved every moment of it, but the truth is it got pretty stressful at times, because I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I remember bursting into tears in a grocery store over something wedding-related once. In retrospect, though, I’m thankful that my fiancé and I (okay, mostly I) got to plan every detail of our wedding day, and that almost everything (with the big exception of the video I spent weeks making) came together perfectly on the big day. I loved my bridal showers and bachelorette party, all the times spent with friends and family going over all the plans and tweaking them. I still look at my wedding pictures and think maybe I should have worn my hair down, but other than that, I have no regrets. Our wedding day was a beautiful reflection of who Will and I are as a couple, and our guests all seemed to have a fabulous time. I loved being a bride.
a stepmom. It was six months after Will and I started dating that I finally got to meet his two sons. And as I began to spend more and more time with them in the months that followed, I fell in love with them just as surely as I had with their dad. It was a huge adjustment, going from living alone to sharing a house with my husband and two young boys. And I’d be lying if I said there aren’t times they get on my last nerve. But that’s part of being a parent, and I’m incredibly grateful that Beau and Jackson made me one. My favorite thing to do is read them bedtime stories. We recently finished Little House in the Big Woods, and now we’re on to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I love the way they still snuggle up so close on either side of me, even when there are no pictures to see, and I love all the great questions they ask, even if it’s sometimes just a stalling tactic to delay bedtime. They are both kind, curious, creative, delightful kids. I’m very thankful to be one of their parents.
a wife. I could write a book about my husband. Maybe one day I will. He’s my favorite person in the world to spend time with, and even in moments when I expect to be annoyed or angry or hopeless, he can make me laugh. We haven’t been married three years yet, and already it’s hard to imagine doing life without him as my partner. At the same time, I’m still learning to become a wife. My instinct is still self-sufficiency and even selfishness. I have to fight my natural inclination for independence, built over two decades of single adulthood, and remember that we are interdependent now, that every decision one of us makes affects the other one. I’m not always good at it, and neither of us is perfect. There are days when marriage is really hard. But so far there hasn’t been a whole day when I’ve regretted marrying Will, so I think we’re doing pretty well. I hope to become an even better wife in the next decade.
a podcaster. Including this one was a tossup, because I’m not even sure whether or not I’m still a podcaster. But last year I started a podcast, and I invited a few friends to join me. Finding a time in all our busy schedules to “meet” via Skype and record was always a challenge, but when we did manage to do it, those conversations nourished my soul. I had wanted to start a podcast for a long time, and when the long-running hospital drama ER started streaming on Hulu, I knew that my chaplain friends and I could have some great discussions about those episodes. I was absolutely right, and ER Chaplains Watching “ER” was born. I’m hoping to find some way to continue the podcast in the new decade, although the very thought of trying to schedule it makes me tired right now. Even if we can’t make it work, though, I don’t regret becoming a podcaster. And I’m glad I have those hours of insightful (and sometimes hilarious) conversations with my friends recorded.
Whatever the last decade has brought for you, I hope you too are able to look back and find some reasons for gratitude, or at least some reasons to be impressed with your own strength to survive it all. May 2020 bring us all new dreams and new reasons to hope. Happy New Year, friends!