Another year. Another twelve months of frustrations and sorrows, time wasted and lessons learned, progress and regress. Another year of extraordinary circumstances, all the more remarkable for their ordinariness.
I messaged one of my best friends in the early hours of New Years Day. He replied back with the following benediction: "May the Lord's graces in this last year give us hope for the next."
So many of the Lord's graces are the small ordinary details that we take for granted and easily overlook. But today, I would like to do what I try to do every year: recount the Lord's goodness by listing some of my favourite experiences of the past year.
My Portland Experience
This summer I returned to Portland and dug even deeper roots amongst that special city. I rented a bike for the week and cycled all over its curving bike paths, across bridges and train tracks. I purchased bags of coffee and stacks of books. I saw Japanese gardens and drank beer in wood panelled corner booths. I attend early morning worship practices and read aloud an essay of mine in a light-strewn backyard concert. I stayed up until 1am eating chicken wings with Liz Vice and Micah Bournes. I interviewed almost every member of The Bible Project team during one whirlwind afternoon. I made friends with Wesley Randolph Eader and his roommate, a talented filmmaker. I interview four different musicians. When it was all over, I returned to Canada via a train that hugged the Pacific coast. It was a dream of a trip. I can't wait to do it again.
Canvas Conference and the Creativity Course
While in Portland, I attended the Canvas Conference and took a graduate-level summer course tackling the subject of Creativity and the Christian. I spent most of the summer registering for the course, reading the fine textbooks, and writing essays. It was a rigorous challenge with many painful moments during which I wondered if, after years of writing for fun, I could actually do it for credit. But I came out the other end with good grades and with my understanding of this, my favourite topic, clarified. It was also an undeniable privilege to sit in the front row of a small classroom asking questions of some of my favourite Christian thinkers and creators.
Calvary Grace Children's Christmas Program
Those who know me know how much I love working with kids. I also love music. And I love creating new things. So when I got to write, direct, and lead my church's Christmas program, I loved every second of it. I did my best to write a sensitive, simple, and powerful script, spent every Sunday on an upright piano surrounded by 25 children practicing the songs, and then had a joy filled evening performing the program with the kids for our church. It was an evening that glowed with grace, one I'll look back with fondness for the rest of my life. I've just learned that making music with these kids will continue into 2017 and I'm thrilled.
Falling in Love with Pencils and Paper
I guess every year I take on a new expensive hobby. Last year it was brewing quality coffee. This year it was exploring the world of Field Notes notebooks and Blackwing pencils. It's a contagious obsession apparently, as I passed the interest on to one of my best friends. "I don't feel too guilty about it" he said. "As a writer, we don't have very many expenses." (But seriously, these notebooks and pencils are such a pleasure to use.)
I've housesat in past years, but it usually ended in me getting really sick. This year I housesat for over a month and nailed it. I hosted company. I cooked amazing meals. I kept the place (mostly) clean and orderly. I read books, watched movies, went for walks, wrote, and counselled friends. I came away realizing I was ready to live on my own. (Not achieving that goal this year has been an ongoing frustration.)
Joining Christ and Pop Culture Members-Only Forum
There's a website out there called Christ and Pop Culture. I visit it, occasionally. A couple of my online friends told me about how you can pay a couple bucks a month to support it and then they add you to this private forum on Facebook. They told me it was the best forum ever and that it could even change my life. So I payed my money and joined the group and now my friends list has doubled and I'm way, way more savvy about pop-culture. Oh, and it's an astonishing corner of the internet where you can turn to for writing advice, prayer requests, anger venting, and for questions on - really, anything. And it taught me that the people holding differing theological views from me are often people who still love Jesus and are trying to obey the Bible. I wouldn't give it up
Paul Simon Vacation
I went out to the West Coast back in May. It wasn't an epic Hornby vacation, but I did bike all over Victoria, visit tiny wine shops and pubs, purchase (another) stack of books, and enjoy the sea air. And then I went to Vancouver and saw Paul Simon live. Right after the concert Paul told The New York Times that he is taking an extended break from music making. That concert was a dream come true. I'm so glad I made the journey to see it.
Putting into Action Podcast Plans
That's all I can say at the moment. That, and it is going to be epic.
Also.... reading more about metal health and realizing I am not stupid or crazy but really messed-up and rather beautifully different, using my Apple Music membership to listen to all kinds of different music and discovering R&B is actually wonderful, searching for and (maybe) finding a school for 2017 (stay tuned, no promises!), talking to my pastor and realizing that I can actually enjoy a drink without guilt and then exploring that new world that opened up, and actually really enjoying my work for several months of the year (I really hope this continues into 2017).
So much joy. So many gifts. But this year wasn't all adventure and excitement. There were plenty of days of boredom, confusion, agony, and frustration. And there were many more days of ordinary plodding, of step by step steadiness. The small graces that sustained those days that were the true marvels of 2016. And I know that whatever comes in 2017, that grace and the Hand that this grace comes from will continue.