In all seriousness, 2016 will always be the year of pain, of confusion, of despair, of grief. I wish I could say that I woke up this morning in 2017 and left all of that shit back in 2016, but I didn't. I wouldn't want to. It is all a testament to undeniable beauty, life, deep love, and friendship. The darkness is always a testament to the light.
The light. There was light this year. So much light.
In January, there was snow. It blanketed our world and things were profoundly quiet. Eliot and Lillian came alive. It was cold. It was beautiful.
My niece was born. Mazie Joy. I flew to Alabama and held my little sister's baby. She looked up at me with curious eyes - so fresh from God - and it was perfection.
In February, we lazed. There was indoor swimming. There were fires and S'mores. The air tasted fresh, smelt of smoke, whispered peace. Bradford turned a year older.
In March, things began to bloom. Purple flowers peeked out of warm earth. Renewal. We took walks and celebrated the coming of warmer weather. Mid-month we flew to Dallas to see Valerie, Hardin, Henry and Charlie. My birthday was celebrated and I felt so loved. Maybe one of my best birthdays ever. There was laughter and love.
Easter came. My last Easter as a St. George's parishioner and non-seminarian. It was festivity mingled with a certain letting go.
April. April was the cruelest month. It began in celebration. Eliot turned a year older. She continues to be loving, kind, a bit shy, fond of laughter and cuddles, and obsessed with babies and all small, delicate things. We spent time in the woods. We grew closer to Henry and to Lauren and Eric. Love grew. Mid-April took a turn. Millie was taken from us. I've never witnessed that kind of pain. I've never felt that kind of grief. Millie was all wide, curious eyes, edible cheeks and the truest smile. She was full of life. She was everything that is good. She continues to be.
In May, there was grief. And confusion. I received my acceptance letter to Virginia Theological Seminary. There was Hillary. I went to one of her events in DC. Inspired. She became a point of hope for me in dark times. The weather warmed enough to boat. Thanks be to God. The water, the wind, the sun - it was necessary.
In June, I visited Ashley, Ryan, and Lucy in Charlotte. I always feel alive there. Lillian graduated from kindergarten. She is growing everyday into an intelligent, feisty, strong, hilarious, curious and loving person. Oh June. In the shadow of grief, we lived some of our best days of the year. The highs a testament to the lows. One minute, there was such joy. The next, such sadness. Strange. We lived outdoors. There was boating, strawberry picking, day trips, horse back riding, coffee runs, bakery stops, watermelon, backyard water play, and friends. Adam got married and the whole family came together. Fun was had. A new chapter started.
July continued in the same way. We celebrated summer. We explored, experimented, lived out loud as much as possible. Ruby, June, Allen and Liz boarded the boat with us for a day trip across the Chesapeake. They are friends that are family, and I've never felt it more. Pano, Maya, Katie and Zev became staples in our lives. It still astounds me that I am capable of making new friends. My mom visited and we celebrated her birthday. There were road trips, covered bridges, ice cream lunches, and wildflowers. There was love.
It was a good month. We stayed out on the boat a little longer than expected on the 4th and happened upon a fireworks display. Amazing. The Campbells were with us, and I remember looking around and being so incredibly grateful for adventure, spontaneity, friendship extended as a gift, family, life. It was one of the best nights of the year.
What else? Oh July, you were so good to us in 2016! We traveled to Montreal with Allen and Liz. We ate too much, drank too much, shopped too much. We visited every church in the city (only a slight exaggeration). We laughed, acted a fool, road roller coasters, and walked drunkenly through the city at night. I got tattooed and then wept. Grief made her presence known.
In August, I started my seminary career. Memory fails me, but for broad strokes and disjointed occurrences. Campus is beautiful. The grass is so green. The children love it. I am confused. It is hard to take bickering about worship style, chapel service and what not seriously in the midst of such pain and heartbreak. I wonder if any of it matters. I know that all of it matters. Hebrew, I am a huge fan. I fell in love with it and never want to let it go. I preached my first sermon ever at St. Georges. It was full of grief-laced joy and joy-laced grief. It was a hello and a goodbye. It felt right. Melanie was there. Dennis too. That meant everything to me. Hal. Denise. Bradford. Shearon. Katherine. Liz. Amanda. I felt your presence in a profound and indescribable way. I will carry that with me, always.
August, of course, found us also on the boat. Sometimes, I took Hebrew flashcards with me. Most of the time, I forgot seminary existed. It's easy to loose yourself on the water in the best kind of way.
August also marked the beginning of unexpected and amazingly rich friendships. Daniel, Eric, and Amanda - I don't know how I lived my life not knowing you to this point. I could not be more grateful for your friendship.
September was a hard month. We celebrated Millie's birthday. Dennis, I will always remember our day together in the best kind of way. There was love. And, some sadness too. But, a lot of love. I went from church to church in September, as we are supposed to do. It was hard. And fitting. My relationship with St. George's felt complicated and tinged with grief. September was the month when I wondered when it should stop - the grief - and realized it wouldn't.
October is always one of my favorite months. Things are beginning to turn and to change. The leaves fall. The weather turns. Days grow shorter. The world begins to hunker down for winter. Lillian turned 7. We celebrated Halloween. Ryan came. Having him with us for trick-or-treating felt like a gift. Finals came and went. And, I survived. We took our final boat trip. I remember the sky being particularly beautiful as the sun set.
In November, I took the girls with me to vote. It was an event. And, I was proud to have them there. They were excited, and we cast a vote for Hillary. The results came in and I was devastated. I still am. November, you were also difficult. I learned devastating news about more than one of those close to me. News that continues to spread confusion and sadness through the days. We celebrated All Souls as a seminary community. It was a beautiful service. I fell apart, and then was put back together. Gaelyn, thank you. So much. On a happier note, Thanksgiving came. We spent the day celebrating with close friends - acknowledging the joy and the sorrow, and it was incredible.
December came quickly. Henry got sick and spent time in the PICU. There was fear. But, there was also recovery. I made it through papers and exams, and I got to know the first chapter of Genesis really really well. I felt something shift inside. Something both frightening and exhilarating. Hope. There is work to be done. But, I know people who are willing to work - who are willing to fight. Bradford took some time off, and we celebrated Christmas so hard. Pablo the class guinea pig came to stay, and the girls discovered Pokemon. Our Christmas tree died, and we replaced it. Eliot and I went and bought one of the last live trees in stock at Home Depot, shoved it in my sedan, drug it out again and into the house, and decorated it with gusto. Friends dropped by. Drinks were had. Extremely unexpected and thoughtful gifts from the most amazing friends made me feel so very loved. We laughed. We cried. We struggled. We lived.
2016. You asshole. 2016. You gift. I loathe you. And, I love you.
One thing I learned this year - my relationships are stronger than I realized. I fell apart little by little. And, I was put back together. I fell apart all at once. And, I was put back together. People love me. And, believe in me. And, need me. I love. I believe. I need. There is mutual vulnerability and profound love holding me up and holding me together - it is in that, in that friendship (in that belongingness, need, want, eternal understanding and powerful love) that I experienced God this year. We are in this together, indeed.