Reflections on 2009

Each year at this time I spend some time reflecting on the accomplishments and lessons learned from the outgoing year.  It helps me set the stage for the New Year and provide clarity and context for my primary goals for the incoming year.

In many ways, 2009 was my best year yet.  Of course there were disappointments and setbacks, but this year was the first year that I was consistently able to see the lessons - and the blessings - in the midst of the trial, instead of months or years later.  My spiritual maturity is not where I want it to be, but it is so much deeper than ever before, and I saw the fruits of that this year.

Lessons Learned:
  1. Before asking for God's direction, I must first genuinely commit to being obedient, even if I don't understand the reason behind His leading.  In four specific instances this year, I waited to pray for God's direction on a challenging situation until I was certain that I was committed to doing what He said.  In each case, I suspected that His answer would be the most difficult, and least "PC", solution and that I needed to be prepared to move in spite of the reactions of those around me who probably wouldn't understand.  In three of the four situations, I was rewarded beyond my greatest expectations and, perhaps more importantly, God used my circumstances to witness to others about the blessings of obedience.  I don't yet know how the fourth situation will turn out, but I can rest in the knowledge that I did what I felt God asked me to do.  What happens now is on Him.
  2. When in doubt, ask God for confirmation.  God knows our hearts better than we do.  While it may irritate me when people constantly ask for clarification on something I thought I'd made clear, God isn't like that.  I believe that it pleases Him that we ask for confirmation when we're unsure.  Every time I ask for confirmation, I get it, and sometimes in the most delightful and startling ways.
  3. God brings people and situations to us for a reason.  No relationship or encounter is an accident.  However, it's important to realize that everything isn't always about me.  Many times people come into my life to teach me things, but just as often, and usually without my awareness, God uses me to teach or to touch others.  It's hard to believe, and very humbling, but I know it's true.  My challenge is to do my best to be the best student and teacher that I can possibly be, even when I'm not consciously aware of the lesson.
  4. More is not necessarily better.  I grew up believing the hype that productive people had lots of balls in the air, using every waking moment to accomplish as much as possible during the course of the day. Success was to be measured by the number of tangible accomplishments visible at the end of the day. The old saying that "a Jack of all trades is a master of none" is true.  This year I've learned a beautiful lesson - that less truly is more.  Whether it's material possessions, "friends", or items checked off a to do list, doing or owning a lot of "stuff" rarely reflects success of any sort.  By purging my material possessions, learning to happily live on less, letting go of relationships that were no longer working for my best good, and focusing on one thing at a time, my life is calmer, less stressful, and more peaceful.  And, surprisingly, by focusing on what's important and letting the rest of the stuff go, I've gotten more done and the fruits have been so much sweeter.
  5. Emotional integrity is key.  Learning to set emotional boundaries in a world in which they are sorely lacking has been a challenge for me.  Through trial and error (mostly error), I've learned that not all problems are my problems, I can only do what I can do.  I need to continue to do the emotional work of being honest and authentic, even if it isolates me from others.  But at the same time, I have to realize that others have their own work to do, and they must choose their own journey and the pace at which they travel it.  At the end of the day, what God thinks of me, and what I think of myself, are much more important, and more lasting, than what anyone else thinks.
  6. I need to write more and talk less.  Those that know me personally know that I love to talk.  Words are important to me and I work hard to be emotionally honest and articulate when sharing my thoughts with others.  However, this year I've become painfully aware that my words are often wasted on people who either cannot or will not hear them.  Much of it goes back to #5.  I know that many times people don't "hear" me because they don't like or agree with what I have to say.  It's not that I'm looking for validation. I love a good, honest debate as much as the next person.  What pains me is not being heard at all... being ignored as if I'd never spoken at all.  The emotional energy that I lose in these exchanges is taxing, and I've come to understand that this is energy that can be better expended elsewhere.  Ironically, the responses (often from strangers) to my writing seem to be much more rewarding.  Perhaps it's because the only people who read my book, blogs or other writings are those that are at least peripherally interested in what I have to say.  They don't always agree, and that's fine. The feedback isn't always immediate, or direct, but putting my written words out there fulfills my intense need to express myself.  And, the knowledge that someone somewhere someday may be moved by my words in some small way is enough for me.
I thank God for a wonderful old year and I thank Him in advance for making 2010 my best year ever!

Happy New Year!