I began this blog to discover and document the laughter and joy to be found in scripture and sacred living, and one of the biggest bonuses has been this “tradition” of noting my “Top Ten Joyful Experiences” of the past year.
As I've said before, try it for yourself! There’s no better way to ring out the old and ring in the new, whether you are pained and blue as the year ends or you are flushed with excitement and ready to dance. Bringing to mind all the especially happy and deliciously ebullient things, moments, realizations, etc etc etc and then narrowing them down to 10 is a most-uplifting task! It helps us cherish where we have been, regardless of what we may otherwise think of last year's journey. It also helps remind us that no matter where the new year may take us, there promises to be delights of all sorts to greet, welcome and heal us. Just like this year! :)
So here are my Top 10 of 2015, in no particular order.
1) The Chicago Cubs. They didn’t even make it to the World Series and got totally clubbed by the Mets when they finally went down. But they were SO fun to watch in any case. And SO cute! :) It made for an especially sweet activity to share with my aged dad, which for any number of reasons, hikes the joy factor up exponentially.
2) “Get Down Tonight” Worship at La Crescenta UMC. I was guest preaching for this spunky little So. Cal. congregation in April, talking about the comedy of the Bible, and afterwards we were supposed to sing “Lord of the Dance.” But the drummer/lead singer suddenly thought that was too boring and started belting out some KC and the Sunshine Band instead. The ensemble of talented studio musicians quickly picked up the change (as did the congregation) and it was the most fun I’ve had in worship in a very very long time! (And I tend to have a lot of fun in worship generally, so that’s saying a lot!)
3) Lundi Gras in Racine. I have a kooky tradition with a group of very dear Chicago friends of celebrating “Lundi Gras.” (ie Mardi Gras a day earlier.) This year we journeyed to Racine, WI and our “fat party” included dinner at the Hobnob Supper Club, lunch at the Kewpee Sandwich Shop, and an amazing Kringle Krawl in-between. If you’ve never been to Racine, GO.
4) Surprising Gifts of Brightness at Mom’s Funeral. Perhaps the most valuable and happiest joys are, actually, those that spring up in the midst of the really tough stuff. My mom died rather suddenly on Halloween, and I am so grateful for the laughs and fun community that erupted throughout the week of funeral preparations and the mourning. Especially cherished are the tokens of affection my sister and I figured to place in her casket: our favorite Scrabble word, “jo,” (meaning “sweetheart), a peanut cluster, and a coaster.
5) Ukulele! It’s always good to learn a new skill, and this year it was the uke. While going to music lessons as a kid would often fill me with terror, I think I’ve moved on. Now they’re really fun! With the teacher’s help I can now do a really mean “These Boots are Made for Walkin’.” As well as “Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee” (ie Beethovan’s 9th).
6) Meeting with the Imam. Here’s a surprising delight about Iowa: it’s home to America’s oldest mosque! I had the great opportunity to meet with Imam Taha Tawil (who ducked out of the interfaith protest coinciding with Donald Trump’s visit). Sharing a bit about our lives, our religious heritages and some unbelievably yummy dates, a good friendship was forged. The best kind. I look forward to his visit to the Waverly community on January 18, MLK Day.
7) Bible Cabareting, especially in New York and Des Moines. I got to do my show all over the place this year, and each opportunity was special. But two were most special: participating in my dear pal Nancy Giles’ storytelling show “The Mosquito” on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in March, and doing my whole show to a packed packed house at the Des Moines Social Club on a blizzardy night in early January. I understand the Social Club’s legion of auxiliary folding chairs had never enjoyed so much use!
8) French Pant Suit Fashion Show at Bartel’s. This was probably the most gratifying experience of all. I brought all my pant suits (the ones not in storage back in Burbank, anyway), to Bartel's, the retirement community where my mom was living, and game staff and residents put them on and modeled while Parisian cafe music played, I (as “Jane VanderVoigts,” most-tony cousin of Gloria Vanderbuilt) announced, and residents and their families enjoyed “high tea” and some quality giggling. It really doesn’t get much better in any way, shape or form.
9) Decorating this year’s Christmas Tree. I’m terrible with “spacial placement.” I can never get an altar to look like anything but “dumped on with stuff.” However, for some reason, this year I was able to hang the family Christmas ornaments in perfect places, and when finished the tree looked radiantly beautiful and full of life (even though it’s artificial). To top it off, literally and figuratively, I found in a bag of old holiday bric-a-brac an angel ornament that had my mom’s name engraved on it. (I forgot it existed.) It made for the perfect star.
10) Self-discoveries. This has been one of the richest years yet of learning about myself and what makes me tick. The education has certainly not been pain-free, and some of the stuff I’ve learned is far from pleasant. But knowledge is not only power, and truth not only sets you free; they ready your soul and whole being for joyful existence and peace that are constant and deep. I look forward to seeing how this is so and what difference it makes.
And I’m thrilled (but I guess not surprised) that according to FB, my Word for 2016 is….
(Probably if, after 10 minutes, I again typed my name on "Word for 2016" FB site, it would have given me something like “cauliflower.”) Oh well!
Again, I can’t encourage you enough to find your own Top 10! And may your list - and the process that whittles it - bring wonderful life to this “thin time” of transition and hope for your future.
And no matter what your Word for 2016 may be, may you find the way it intersects with your life causes you to giggle like a crone at a French Pant Suit Fashion Show.
Thanks for the support! Happy Rejoiceful New Year! xox