new year eveNew Year’s is an awkward holiday. Cultural influences make me believe that I should be at a party on New Year’s Eve. The thought of staying home with just my immediate family makes me feel like kind of a loser.

Which is what happened this year. Andy and I got married on December 30th seventeen years ago, so we’re usually too busy planning and enjoying a two-night anniversary getaway to have space to plan a New Year’s Eve party.

Another awkwardness is the pressure to look back and reflect on the year. Sometimes I don’t want to do that. Sometimes the year has been hard, like this year, and I’m afraid to look back. Afraid I’ll come up empty in the “highlights” or  “successes” category.

Today, however, I went for a walk and decided I wasn’t going to let fear push me around. I was going to take a brave look at 2012 and see how much good I could come up with. Things I could either feel proud of or grateful for.

It was a helpful exercise that got me feeling good about 2012 in essentially three categories: Ways I invested in my kids, my marriage, and myself.

I feel good about the ordinary ways I invested in my kids that weren’t necessarily fun. Like helping them with their homework and guitar practice. And making them healthy school lunches and dinners that usually included a vegetable.

I’m not saying dinners were amazing or that my attitude about homework was always positive. What I’m saying is that I showed up, day after day, and I think that’s worth celebrating.

I feel good about the way Andy and I invested in our relationship. We went on lots of dates and spent four fabulous days hiking Mt. Rainier during the peak of the wildflower bloom. There’s something wonderful and intimate about experiencing that kind of awe inspiring beauty together.

Last but not least, I feel good about the ways I invested in myself. I took a writing class and joined a teacher-facilitated writing group. These two investments of time and money equipped me to start this blog-website and get published in 17 regional parenting magazines. 2012 was also the year I decided to go back to graduate school, applied for a scholarship, and found out that I got it.

I struggled with the decision to spend $250 on a writing class and to spend a heck of a lot more than that to go back to seminary. It saddens me that I struggled with believing that I was worth this kind of investment. But I’m grateful for the process and the outcome of that struggle.

These good things were true of my 2012. Struggle, stress, and pain were also true of it. Looking back I see moments of darkness and despair, and moments of grace, light, hope, and beauty. It was a good year. It was a hard year. It was a year of being human.

What does the end of the year (or beginning of the new year) stir up in you?