Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking Back: 2013 In Review/1,000 Gifts

Here we are. Again. Time doesn't slow for anything, does it? As I was sorting through photos for my 2014 calendar a few weeks ago, I passed image after image that made me realize how beautiful and blessed a life I have.

The year started with the annual ski trip. I smiled as I passed through images of bowling, the whole gang at the top of the hill, late game nights, breath-taking sun rises, and a group of my bestest girl friends bundled in winter hats, scarves, and jackets atop the mountain we climbed. There was the weekend trip to Dallas. Three days with girls who love Jesus, photography, and Dutch Blitz; It was so wonderful to see them again. There was Josh and Allie's Kentucky wedding - the first wedding I shot by myself. Such a nerve-wracking, man-I-love-this-job experience. Grateful for my brother being my right hand guy for the day. I passed photos of my two little nieces, looking like angels, sound asleep on my bedroom floor, and family game nights. There was the 1930s themed "Lost Elevator" premiere event. So much hard work and fun packed into one evening. I absolutely love being able to work with good friends on projects. There was the Twins home opener, and Milwaukee with Mom for a weekend of antiquing and Nikkia's recital.

Then there was the trip to Thailand. Oh my goodness. I'm still blown away when I think of how God provided every step of the way to make it possible for me to board that plane. It was almost surreal as I re-looked through photos of that incredible trip. The mountains as I flew over Siberia, the sun setting through the airplane window as I landed in Seoul, South Korea, and photos taken from a hotel balcony on a sultry morning in Bangkok. There are those photos I could never forget - darling, precious little girls sweeping the sidewalks inside the safe confines of House of Grace. Photos of 114 smiling faces, of girls worshipping the same Jesus in a different language, their joyful faces as they were handed coconut ice cream cones, playing on the playground, just being girls. There were last minute before-we-left, faces-smashed -together, smudges-from-mascara-running photos, and photos of the whole group of them streaming into the road waving goodbye as our van drove away.  There were photos of little children with dirty faces in primitive villages and old women bent over baskets of rice, and sometimes I have to remind myself that I was actually there. There were photos of a Bangkok sunset taken from a longboat on the Chao Phraya River, of our team standing barefoot in front of one of the temples at the Grand Palace, and of us sipping Starbucks, enjoying our last bit of time together in the Bangkok airport.

There was Brian's Police Officer of the Year award ceremony - so very, very proud of my big brother, and grateful for how God protected him. There was the new photography job at the hospital and the thrill of bumping into Joe Mauer. :) There were cornhole tournaments, countless softball games, and another wedding to shoot.

Then I passed through photos of yet another trip to the El Paso desert. To some people, one of the most dangerous cities on earth, to me, one of my very favorites. Photos of people reading tracts, of children looking up at you with the biggest, brownest eyes, and stunning sunsets. Photos of faces lit up in laughter  watching puppets, and hundreds of people listening to the Gospel message.

Photos of the perfect Summer Saturday spent at the lake - all of us looking sun-kissed, with the lake breeze blowing through our hair. There was the weekend camping at Itasca, thrill rides with friends at the State Fair, cousins outings, more cornhole tournaments, more softball games. I sifted through photos of the little people I spend a third of my week with - I am so blessed to have such a wonderful family to work for. There was Storybook weekend, another balloon launch, and my dream of learning the cello finally coming true. Trees ablaze in autumn glory, a game of street hockey, midnight movie premieres, birthday parties, Christmas baking, and staying up late playing games.

2013. Filled with new experiences, new places, new people. And with all the coming and going, there is always this urge to live in the past, or dream about the next adventure. In the midst of the unpacking, filing receipts, digging foreign currency out of my purse, and sorting through the photos that are now memories, I read this: "Every milestone moment always forks and you get to choose which road you'll go - bitter or blessed. Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened. Don't grieve that it's gone, wonder that it was. Laugh that you lived, and dance that you dared. Inhale that it happened - and it was grace. The best way to prepare for what's ahead it to be present to what is now. Be present to the gift of now. And right then - the sheer sheen of grace on everything lights."

Be present to the gift of now. It's not always easy. Those days with smiling girls, chattering happily in their Thai language, and those days in the desert, passing out Bibles, those days fly by. And some days, you just miss it so much. But these days. These days that make up now, won't last forever either. Days of having lunch with my mom, or watching my dad and brothers play softball. Jumping with my nieces on the trampoline, playing sleeping giant with my nanny charges, and laughing over the silliest things with friends, thousands of beautiful-ordinary moments - these times are finite too. Find the gift in the ordinary. Be present to the gift of now.

Now for the final gifts of 2013...

1971. A Sunday afternoon nap
1972. Watching The Nativity Story
1973. "A Messiah for the lowest of men to the highest of Kings"
1974. My wonderful nanny family
1975. Playing Wii with the kiddos
1976. Christmas bonuses
1977. The annual viewing of "It's A Wonderful Life"
1978. Church bells ringing
1979. A sliver of yellow poking through the gray skies
1980. Snow that glitters as it's falling
1981. Advent by Christmas tree light
1982. Stockings hung on the railing
1983. "He comes to make His blessings known, far as the curse is found."
1984. Christmas brunch
1985. The whole family around the table
1986. Little kids on Christmas morning
1987. Reading the Christmas story
1988. Gifts given and received
1989. Playing dominoes with the little girls
1990. Games all day with family
1991. The traditional game of Christmas Clue
1992. Candles in the windows
1993. Playing Words with Friends - a new addiction around here :)
1994. Sleeping in late
1995. Day after Christmas games with mom and Dan
1996. New cozy slippers
1997. Above freezing temperatures
1998. Family Christmas with mom's family
1999. Pad Thai!
2000. The traditional game of cousins hockey at Christmas
2001. {Him. Jesus. Hope. Here with us.}
2002. {This read}

No comments:

Post a Comment