What do you get when you cross 2016 with a God whose constant presence always promises the gift of joy? Lots of joyful experiences throughout the year no matter what! (Sorry, that's not much of a punch line...if my character "Joy Fuller" would have been telling this joke, her answer to the set-up would have simply been, "Me!")
Four years ago, I began a tradition of compiling my Top 10 Joys of the Year. I have always found this a terrifically meaningful and fun thing to do at year's end. This go-round it was a bit of a different experience bringing joys to mind and discerning why they’re important for me to re-member as we ring out the old. 2016 has felt like such a different kind of year in so many ways. Yet that's what made the exercise especially important, if not as easy. The power and light that joy brings is meant to fuel the ability to proceed into tough stuff. Even gladly. Thank you God of Resurrection for the gift of joy and the encouragement from scripture and personal experience to continually seek it and find!
Here's my compilation from 2016, in no certain order.... Hope you enjoy, and it inspires you to consider compiling a Top 10 Joys list of your own!
1) Chicago Cubs win the World Series! For a lifelong Cubs fan, how could this not be Number 1 on the list? (Even and especially a list that’s predicated with “in no certain order.”) This monumentally heart-soaring joy also included the opportunity to witness this “Biggest Event in Sports History” with my dad (as well the gift of being able to keep him awake until that 1am end of Game 7!).
2) Two, count ‘em, two, new church families! Since Easter I’ve been the “regular guest preacher” for two small rural congregations about an hour east of Waverly located in Volga and Arlington. Both of these faith communities have been very warm AND game to explore the text in new ways. They love playing "What's weird with this scripture?" (a favorite way I'll begin a sermon)! These fine folks are also are starting to come up with their own wacky, playful ideas for worship and mission.... Stay tuned for sure!
3) Jasper! When my deaf brother Doug was suddenly killed in a tragic bicycle accident on Memorial Day, I got to take care of his service dog, Jasper, until the funeral the following week. (Then Jasper went to live with my sister and fam in Evanston; the condo where I currently reside doesn't allow pets.) Jasper is the most loving, accepting, calm creature EVER. No matter what he may have been going through after his beloved master's sudden demise, Jasper was ALWAYS there for me 100% as I dealt with my own shock and grief. And if that wasn’t mysterious joy enough…at the funeral, after Doug's (other) best friend Mike ended his eulogy by cracking open a cheap beer (Doug’s daily most favorite routine) and gave my bro a toast, Jasper - who had been quietly sitting by me the whole time - perked his ears at the sound of the opened can, got up and with slowly wagging tail followed Mike to Mike’s seat. Of course I’d finally be ditched for a Schlitz! It was such a touching, tearful, funny moment for everyone in attendance - one of the best examples of what gathering together in community to mourn and celebrate a life is all about.
4) "Bible Cabaret" performances, especially the one last April in San Luis Obispo! I returned to my old stomping grounds to do a benefit for “People of Faith for Justice,” an interfaith peace and justice organization with which I was very involved during my years living on California’s Central Coast. My “Cabaret” venue was packed and I was alive with inspiration and enthusiasm as I explored, with the audience, various ways the Bible is, and was originally intended, to be a document intended more than anything to make us laugh. I continue to develop my show; this year's incarnation focuses on ways scripture uses humor for social protest and satirizes "The Man." I hope you will be able to check it out!
5) National Pant Suit Day Parade in New York City! I was very politically involved this year. Even though things didn’t turn out as I’d hoped and striven, there were still incredible joys experienced I wouldn’t trade for anything. Top of the list was the crazy 24 hour trip I took to the Big Apple to participate in Hillary’s Pant Suit Parade, prancing across the Brooklyn Bridge resplendent in my own. Not only was it especially empowering to be 110% silly for a globally significant cause, but my oldest pal Loen Kelley and I got to became “Thumbnail Girls”! (The 21st century equivalent of “Cover Girls”, dontcha know….)
6) Pedicures! One of my heroes, Sister Jose Hobday, advises that while it is unrealistic and unfaithful to live a life of constant and expected luxury, it is good to have one or two extra-special life-enhancing treats that we can truly relish. I discovered mine (or at least one of my two). Love my pedicures. Plus, now I can wear flip flops with total confidence. Great news all around!
7) Retreats! I was totally blessed to be a part of three soul-feasting retreats this year. Thank you, ladies of Westwood UMC, for the opportunity to co-lead an experience on the gifts of Solitude and Silence. Thank you, ladies of La Crescenta UMC, for the opportunity to lead an experience on the gifts of Laughter and Joyfulness. I also so relished several days in silent retreat at a beautiful Trappist monastery in Peosta, about 15 minutes west of Dubuque. Yes, Iowa has some fabulous retreat centers, and I was thrilled to have the chance to begin to discover them.
8) Facebook! This year more than ever I have enjoyed the gift of Facebook. I appreciate learning from and sharing with those whose ideas tend to align with mine. I also find such gratitude for my FB friends with whom I tend to differ but who make it safe to engage in honest conversation (even if it can be awkward and messy). My favorite thing about FB, though, is the platform it provides for stuff that make me really really laugh. And with those on both side of the divide. Beloved community!
9) Bremer County Fair Combine Demolition Derby! This City Girl had never seen anything like it till this summer! And it’s Iowa’s largest! I was conscientious while watching to keep my otherwise-agape mouth closed so not to swallow bugs — that may have very well knocked this joyful experience down several notches….
10) Purpose! It’s been a hard, dreadful year in many ways. I know many feel the same way. But there is something almost giddy that keeps rising up in me, hopefully you, too. Is it hope? Faith? Anticipation to see how our unique gifts and passions can be used especially significantly in ways both large and small for such a time as this? For myself I am sensing a more-than-ever serious purpose for my humor (pun intended) as 2017 comes into being. Walking the talk. While wagging the gag! That’s what 2017 is definitely calling from me. How about for you?
Here's to an inspired, important New Year. And a journey that brings many possibilities for next years Top 10 list. Even as we trip. :)
One of my last and favorite Facebook posts of 2016!