New Year’s Eve truly snuck up on me this year. My tree is still up, our stockings are still hung, and I’m just barely starting to use the gifts I received from family and friends for Christmas. And already we’ve only got less than 24 hours left of 2017…
Perhaps the holiday season in general snuck up on me this year. Our city has been going through a lot in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and not long after all the chaos, I started a new job which quickly became my focus for this last third of the year. Sometimes I can’t even remember what 2017 looked like before August. It feels like one blindingly fast blur.
I do remember some of my favorite moments, though. Like the week I spent in San Francisco serving with an amazing ministry and learning so much about God’s love. And the weekend I drove all the way to my hometown of El Paso, then spontaneously decided to spend the night in one of my favorite New Mexico towns. I do remember that though 2017 had its share of hardships and uncertainties, it also brought a lot of unexpected good. I got to start a new job at my church for example, and while its got its own challenges like any job, it’s truly amazing how comfortable and at home I feel there. God knew what I needed this year, and He led me right to it. He has an amazing way of doing that, of expanding my own small goals for bigger, grander ones that fit much better into my life.
Last year, I paid homage to 2016 by creating a list of 16 things I learned that year, and I’ve decided to continue the tradition (the inspiration for this actually came from this lovely blog). To me, the most important thing about a year is always what I learned because of it. If I can recognize an improvement in myself, a better way of dealing with problems or a more optimistic outlook on life, then by all accounts, I consider that year a success. 🙂
Here are just a few of the things I learned in 2017, and the things and people that taught me them.
1. Anyone can long for beauty in faraway places, but to have a true eye for beauty is to be able to find it in your own backyard.
– Getting reacquainted with my local beach on a few spontaneous day trips
2. You can stress out when things don’t go your way, or you can use it as an opportunity to reevaluate your routines and perspectives.
– My car breaking down on me on the other end of the state
3. Few things can awaken and restore you like nature.
– The crisp mountain air of Ruidoso, New Mexico
4. Inner peace begins with learning to accept, and on occasion laugh, at your mistakes. Failure is part of being human, but being miserable about it doesn’t have to be.
– All the mistakes I’m prone to
5. Even when we work as hard as possible and do our part, God finds a way of still exceeding our expectations.
– My sister getting into her top choice medical school
6. For all the heaviness in the world, we’ve been given so many light things to lessen our burdens (puppies, laughter, the ocean, and chocolate being a few of them).
– Morning drives on the way to work
7. Kindness is still one of the most attractive things in the world.
– I re-learn this every year, always thanks to different people.
8. The homeless person you see on the side of the street is more than just “a homeless person.” They’re a person with a unique backstory and beliefs just like you and me, and they deserve the same amount of dignity.
– A week serving with San Francisco City Impact
8. The more you have to fight for joy and peace, the stronger they both become.
– Finding joy and peace in the little things
10. People may be capable of extraordinary cynicism, but they’re also capable of extraordinary kindness.
– The local heroes that rescued many in our city during hurricane Harvey
11. A good story inspires you. A great story changes you.
– Writing this blog post
12. We are not immune to the sufferings and tragedies of life, but we’ve got a God who longs to be so near us in the midst of them.
13. The most natural result of gratitude and compassion is service.
– The ridiculously long lines of volunteers after hurricane Harvey
14. When our circumstances are unpredictable and stressful, the peace God gives is like a solid rock that never wavers.
– Transitioning to a new job and routine
15. Hard work, dedication and trust in those around you will help you triumph even when the odds are stacked against you.
– Our hometown Astros winning the World Series 🙂
16. The proof of a good time isn’t in the likes you receive on an Instagram photo, but in the peace (or lack of it) it brought you.
– A perfect, lazy Christmas break spent cozily indoors
17. Keeping a sense of wonder and unbridled optimism is underrated, but so much more powerful than most people would believe.
– Anne of Green Gables (the book, the 1980s movie and the Netflix series 😉
Here’s to next year. I hope you all have a wonderful New Year’s Eve!