Thursday, December 31, 2015

Goodbye 2015

2015 started off well. On the third week of December in 2014 I had established, after a week at my mother's house, that I could write a draft of a dissertation chapter from start to finish in 7 days. Or at least I could with the help of a program that blocked facebook and gocomics. (What?) I also used a program that locked up my computer every hour for ten minutes and used those ten minutes to either grab a bite to eat, a new mountain dew, or go on a freezing walk. Freezing.

So in the first two weeks of January I wrote the next two chapters (although they would change a LOT over the next months). That pretty much set the tone for the year. 2015 was the year I wrote all the time, except when I was teaching or trying to move from one end of the country to the other. 2015 was the year I had a disaster of a campus visit (final stage of an academic job hunt) and a good one. I learned the fine art of Skype interviews and that so much of the job hunt is out of your hands and in the heads of the search committee. So you do your best and then you go back to being awesome where you are--instead of worrying about what your paperwork is doing on someone else's desk. I didn't really get that until really near the end. Save yourself the trouble.

In some ways, 2015 was one of the harder years. I can say with complete sincerity that all the credit for my not losing my mind (in June, July, and August) goes to my women friends from State College. They helped me with everything from power washing my back deck to scraping aged wallpaper off my kitchen and living room walls so they could be repainted for the house to sell. We're not talking simple moral support. We're talking back-breaking work and good company. The gift of expensive U-Haul boxes from their last move (much from another family who would end up moving 6 months later) and so many prayers. The house sale was challenging--the first falling through after we had agreed to crushing losses and the second moving along at a snail's pace with a buyer's agent who I have nothing kind to say about. (But the buyers themselves were sweet and we did establish trust after we got around the darn agent and talked directly with each other--emerging English on their part and complete ignorance of Russian on mine not withstanding.)

The move itself was only possible by borrowing money from family and friends because we ran out of time to get to move all our stuff out before I started the job and close on the house first. It was a ten-day difference that worked out okay because others believed in us and wanted this move to succeed.

A special shout-out to Jill, swimming lane-mate at OWU 1986-1989 and by the Hand of God, again in State College PA (where neither of us are from, but her first Christmas letter from Pine Grove Mills led to us moving down the street from her--not in any kind of stalker way, but because we were looking for a specific kind of place to move to from Southern CA, and if we hadn't gotten her letter, we would never have known about the place--it was perfect for us for 10.5 years). We got back in the pool together and rediscovered just how very much Cholorine fixes us. Although the move proved a temporary interruption in my swimming, I am finaly back in the water again (at 6 o'dark in the morning--I might be a little bitter about that).

We learned SO much this year about believing fervently that the Lord knows better than we do what we need and that when we trust in His will for us and work hard at whatever He puts in front of us, then life goes better. Let me be clear--I'm not saying that if you pray for God's will, get some kind of an answer, follow those directions--that you'll end up safe and wealthy. That's a lot of bunk used to help us believe that we don't have to help the poor and the needy--they're not working hard enough. They've made "poor decisions" that relieve our responsibility to help. I don't remember Christ lecturing anyone about their poor decisions and the consequences that follow. I remember, "Go, and sin no more." (Which, personally, I'm pretty sure He calls after me every time I leave the bedroom, my house, the kitchen, my office, my classroom....)

Where was I? Ah. Over and over again in the fall of 2014 and throughout the winter, spring, and summer of 2015, I was brought to a place of complete humility. Over and over I realized I'd tried to grab the wheel again and I turned it back over to Him. It sounds so awesome but the learning process was brutal. Recently I was reading a novel that caught the main character at different points in her life learning spiritual lessons from incredibly challenging circumstances. The circumstances were so real to me and each of the places in which the woman found herself were so recognizable to me that I couldn't finish the third novel in the series. It was just too emotionally wrenching. The common thread in each was that the "refining fires" in which we find ourselves are not the everyday fires that warm us but the ones that burn. The ones that change us as much as we let them, and as much as we may want to be changed to be more like Christ, somtimes we're so busy focusing on the hurt that we miss the comforting hand that He extends us to lead us through. At least, that's how it is for me.

The fall of 2015 was much easier. It was an updraft period where I got to rest a bit and just let a gentle wind keep me in the air. I had a wonderful class of students. I love my job and I love the house we are renting. I don't care if we ever own our own home again because I don't care to ever go through the process of buying and selling again--and I have no faith that owning your own home is a good investment anymore.

Winter, with its too-short days, has never agreed with the chemical make-up of my brain. But Provo has many, many, many more sunny days than State College did. I still have to monitor my emotional health carefully in the winter, but it is just not as hard as it has been in a very, very, very long time. I get enough sleep. I have time to read silly novels. I have time to excercise and get all my work done and have family home evening and scripture study--and joy in my family and in my teaching. I am so grateful I get to teach and especially to teach teachers.

So 2016--you have a lot to live up to. As I was talking to Chris and the twins about it, I wondered how 2016 could possibilly beat finishing the dissertation, graduating, landing the family in a great little spot on the planet, beginning a great job, and having all our family healthy and well. The twins ended up at a great little public school and we love their music teachers. Chris is continuing in his graduate program and will be teaching theatre part-time at a local performing arts themed charter school. (Awesome building and a great work space.) He'll also be TAing two classes at BYU. Chris pointed out that 2016 will be the summer that Max comes back home and starts at BYU with two years well served in Nevada. The twins pointed out that 2016 will be the year they start High School. And I had a sudden suspicion that 2016 will be a great year for Chris in a way that will bless us all as much as my year blessed the family as a whole.

So welcome, welcome 2016. (Forgive the mangled writing in places--I'm writing on my iPad and it's proving very hard to edit, so way more stream of consciousness than normal. Attrocious spelling is pretty normal.) 

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