My Year in Review


Not January through December and very much the selected and abridged version, here is some of what happened this year.

My daughter Aria had her meniscus transplant today, ending a three-plus year odyssey from injury to correct diagnosis and through two surgeries. The recovery and physical therapy will take some time. But this is a big step and we’re finally nearing the finish line.

I wrote an article on immigrant children that went viral. Having my writing go viral was a strange experience and I have now drifted back into my relative obscurity as a writer. It was a nice moment. It was also an uncomfortable moment. It feels bizarre to have strangers attack you. Obviously that’s one of the joys of social media, because we used to reserve that experience for celebrities and umpires. But the weirdest thing about the experience was that I had posted the article on my blog and gotten slightly more than usual attention–then Relevant printed it (without informing me) and it went from hundreds to hundreds of thousands. The conversation I have with myself, literally every day: that article didn’t suddenly become good when they published it; I wrote a good article that they published. I have other, equally good articles. Relevant has the name and circulation to get attention, but people shared the article everywhere. Strangers read my piece and we became friends. [Late Edit: Relevant named this their most popular longform feature of the year! Cool! Obviously we won’t be seeing any “shortform” features from me.]

I thought that would be the mythical “turning point” for me, but it wasn’t. I’m still pursuing that turning point as a writer.

Much less far-reaching but more personally gratifying, I got both my Advent Reflections, God Enters In, and my first novel, Something Like Faith, into paperback. Seeing books I authored in physical form in the real world made me feel like a writer, perhaps for the first time.

I thought I would go back into pastoring (official, titled, as employment) and then I didn’t. Now I’m not sure I ever will again. God knows and I’m praying about it. So that was interesting.

Annalise returned from Nicaragua. She lived in Managua and worked with special needs students for an addition year and a half after we moved back. I was very proud of her for her work there and I’m happy to have her here. I feel a little relieved, it’s true, but only in that dad way that you want to be able to control things more than you can…or should.

We celebrated our 26th anniversary. Our 25th anniversary celebration was a trip to Ireland, which was spectacular…and also was the week violence broke out in Nicaragua while we were in Ireland. This year, we went out for Indian food. It was lovely and less eventful. Twenty-six years is a big deal. I met Kim when I was nineteen. You could argue we’ve been together since that day. But I got married at twenty-four, so I’ve certainly been married to Kim more than have my life. Now that was a good decision.

I’m not doing a Christmas card of a blog post here. But this year was a huge one for Rowan, and for us as his parents. I learned a lot. I’m sure I lost a few friendships. I can live with that. I’m proud of him. I’m still learning. I love him like crazy.

I officiated Pam and Tad’s wedding this year. That was glorious. Truthfully, that was a highlight of my life, not just my year.

I made it through another year. Two Thousand Nineteen was a tough one for me–in some stretches one of my hardest–and I shared more than I ever have before about my own daily survival. I’m proud of that. If you had to fight to stay alive, I’m proud of you for still being here, too.*

If I had to point to one thing that I did this year, I would choose speaking up against the bad things I see happening, especially our separation policy for immigrants seeking asylum. Speaking up cost me more than a few friendships. I didn’t shut up when people criticized me. I stood my ground and in some cases shouted louder. Those kids I wrote about, many of them are still in cages. We’re still committing atrocities against human beings fleeing death and seeking our help. I’m sickened that we haven’t stopped this practice. And that’s just one issue.

I know there are those who wish I would just stick to writing spiritual stuff and leave the politics alone. I feel compelled to speak up in obedience to Jesus. For me, the political stuff is spiritual stuff, because Jesus commanded us to welcome strangers, feed hungry people, and stand with the persecuted and oppressed. I won’t be quiet about this. I believe we choose whether we follow Jesus or make something else our idol over these issues.

I hope and pray to be more full of God’s grace and to express more grace in 2020. I’m learning how to speak against the evil I see and do so in the spirit of grace. Jesus, help us to follow you. Give us your words. Help us to recognize you in every face and to stand with you and embrace you when are treated as the least.

*I got tremendous support for opening up about my daily challenges. Thanks for that. Keep telling our brothers and sisters who don’t feel respected what heroes and bad asses they really are.

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