Happy New Year Everyone. Since I had my most laid back New Years in quite a while, I had some time to actually reflect on my past year. 2013 was a year full of challenges and trials.
When I say that, I don’t want you to feel bad for me. My challenges and trials are all first world problems. I never struggled to find a meal, get a roof over my head, or maintain good health. In other words, all my basic needs were bountifully met…and more! What I mean is that I spent most of 2013 confused, unsure, and in a near constant state of restless uncertainty.
But, don’t worry, that’s not what I’m going to focus on in this blog. I think I’ve spent my last three or four blogs trying to make you feel bad for me and I’m sure you’re more sick of it than I am. No, today I’m looking back to see how far we’ve come; to wonder at the progress we make while we stumble along in the dark.
MOMENTS OF CERTAINTY:
To begin with, I’ll share with you two moments, or rather periods, in the year that offered me clarity and a sense of peace. These were experiences that I knew were right during their occurrence. Hindsight usually gives us this clarity for most events in our life, but it is a rare and wonderful when we get a chance to live in the moment with complete certainty.
The first of these blessings, was my mission trip to St. Lucia all the way back in May. I never really wrote about it here on the blog, but to put it bluntly, it was one of the best experiences of my life.
It’s hard to sum it up, but the biggest factor, I believe, was that I had to let go of my own selfishness. I had to let go of my own self-serving pursuits and desires, my own insecurities and failings, my own confusion and uncertainty and simply show love. Shedding that burden, so that I could be free and open to aid the needs, desires, insecurities, failings, confusion, and uncertainty of those children we were there to serve.
The best part was that I got to use soccer, the sport I love, as a starting point. It was a very important and timely reminder that soccer is a gift to me, which, like all great gifts is better shared. When you are pursuing a sport professionally it is easy to get lost in the politics; the lies, the cheating, the money, the seedy dealings, and the desire for glory. In St. Lucia, those things were stripped away and it was a gift again, a gift that offers a sense of human connection and healthy, creative interaction.
I’ll admit; however, that I am far from the perfect missionary – very far. There were 16 other people in the mission group who helped carry me along in the process. I knew one of them beforehand, but the experience brought us all together in the most incredible way. I can’t even begin to describe how wonderful these people all are. It was as though each person had a role to play during the week that made them irreplaceable. If you have ever seen the Italian Job, or any of the Ocean’s movies, our group was similar to those groups involved in the big heists. Each one of us was hand-picked by the leader (aka: God) for our strengths, and in spite of our weaknesses, to do his work and share his love.
I really could go on and on here, because the more I write the more I’m reminded of how many precious blessings the trip endowed upon me. For the purpose of this post; however, the important thing is that I knew that it was right. That, alone, made it one of the highlights of my perplexing year.
Secondly, the other event that highlighted my year with a sense of assurance was my return to Virginia in September for a very close friend’s wedding.
When I left home in early July to return to the UK, I wasn’t sure where life would take me in the next few months. The process of finding a new team and eventually moving down South threw me into a bit of turmoil. If I’m honest, it was the lowest point in my time here. I had no idea what I was doing and nothing felt right. I was trying to make a mark with the new team I had just committed to, trying to find a place to live, and all sorts of other nonsense.
Then, there was a moment of clarity, and I knew I had to get back despite all the other things on my mind. I returned for a week and had a wonderful and peaceful time; not only with my friends at the wedding, but also with my family. I probably did more visiting and relaxing with friends and family in that week in September than I did in 6-7 weeks at home in the summer.
I can’t explain it, but the wedding seemed to represent a momentous shift in my life. I’ve had close friends marry before, but it didn’t have the same effect. Maybe it was the nature of my friendship with Dan? I don’t know, but it was powerful and a very memorable part of my year. I look forward to my continued friendship with Dan and Katie long into their married life!
Without a doubt, this past year, I felt the most alive during the week in St. Lucia and the week at home for that wedding. Those times alone would make a life worth living.
The best part about writing your own blog is that you can make things up. So, this next section is a look back at a few things from the past year that were relatively unremarkable at the time of happening, but with hindsight prove quite impressive…or at least offer some reassurance.
I call these the un-remarkables. It is the college student who looks back and realizes that they have already finished their freshman year. It is the builder who looks back and realizes they’ve built not just buildings, but a neighborhood. It is the doctor who looks back and realizes it’s not just about the major surgeries, which are remarkable, but also the hundreds of broken arms that he mended. It is the mother that feeds her teenage son everyday in an un-remarkable, yet loving manner, but then realizes how remarkably he has grown this past year. The un-remarkables are essentially the building blocks of our remarkable experiences!
From a soccer perspective, I look back at one unremarkable game after another (not to say I didn’t enjoy them, but they weren’t big, exciting games -making them by definition, unremarkable) and realize that I’ve already played nearly 3 times as many games half-way through this season, than I did in all of last season. So, despite no spectacular breakthroughs there has been a steady improvement on that front that I hadn’t realized.
It is unremarkable when one of my teammates gives me a ride to or from practice. My cousins inviting me over for Sunday dinner is unremarkable. It is unremarkable when one of my siblings sends me a funny email, or card. The kind wishes from a friend are unremarkable. These things are incredibly kind, generous and worthy of utmost gratitude, but usually unremarkable in everyday life. But then I look back and realize that without all these unremarkables, 2013 would have been unremarkable, but it wasn’t.
Never underestimate the power of the unremarkables!
Another one of my un-remarkables for the year is that, as a blogger, I’ve realized that I’ve written nearly a books worth of posts in the past year! A book! Really? Me? I ask?
In celebration and just for fun, I am going to briefly list my 5 favorite posts from the past year (I might cheat a little and dip into 2012). I know this post was long enough, but if you have time to breeze over them again, go ahead! From there, I would really love your feedback. If there was a post that you remember particularly enjoying, I would love to know…and maybe why? One of the most rewarding and fascinating things about writing is finding out how different people respond and relate to different ideas.
So, without further ado, here are my fabulous 5…in no particular order.
- Chapter 1: Wraps up my first year in England: living the dream, one mistake at a time.
- Grounds and Grounds: Frankly, I’m adding this one because my Dad always mentioned it, when complementing my writing. It’s about wandering around Yorkshire last year trying to find my feet. It is from 2012, but is a good look back at where I was and what I was doing.
- Give a Man a Cookie…: I just really enjoyed writing this one. It may not be the best piece of writing, but kind of got me excited about writing my blog again, when I had been struggling to write it this year.
- Politics and Fandom: This is my most controversial piece, which isn’t hard because I basically just write about myself, which is egotistical, but at least not controversial. Anyway, it was right after Obama was elected for his second term and it remarks on the some of the things that politics can learn from sports…or shouldn’t.
- Begin Again: This was about my trip up to Edinburgh in the Spring. This post is a good reminder to me of the wonder and beauty of the traveling experience. Something I, regretfully, forget to appreciate sometimes in the midst of life.
Long may the story continue!
May 2014 be full of joy and peace for you all.
Go head first!
Dedications: This post is dedicated to my dear friends Dan and Katie Lucas as well as all the wonderful people who made the St. Lucia trip so incredible. You have truly made my year, and my life, remarkable.