Looking Back…2018

There is no way 2018 is over. And yet, the calendar tells me it’s true. Another year in the books. 12 months come and gone. I have two girls in double digits, and the tween years are…interesting. My boy is…well, a boy: wild, energetic, frenetic, and a ball of fun. The whole “they grow up to fast” thing is amazingly accurate.

When I think over 2018, several things stick out, in no particular order:

  • It’s been two years since I left my job as a pastor in NC, we sold the house and stepped into the unknown. Two years. Good Lord, they have flown by. Two years ago, I didn’t picture life to look as it does now. That’s not bad, in any way, shape, or form. It’s just an honest statement of the truth that we make our plans, but God directs our steps (Ps. 16:9)
  • Amanda and I celebrated 20 years of marriage in July. That is surreal. How can 20 years have gone by that quickly? I wrote an entire post about this, but it still bears repeating: my wife amazes me. She has shown immense courage and unflinching love in the midst of what has been the toughest season of our 20 years. Last night, we watched our wedding video (per our kids’ request) and while we were soundly ridiculed for the cheesiness (in their view), we were both given this pretty awesome compliment: we look WAY cooler now than we did then! So there’s that!
  • Ministry took on a different look for me and my family this year as we began to host a community group in our home. Where the initial fear of past mistakes loomed large (such as my oldest child’s confession that she didn’t want us to do it because I’d always be at church and they’d never see me), they quickly became overshadowed by the blessing of serving alongside one another each week. Seeing my kids step up to help with the little ones of our group was…amazing. There is a joy in this I haven’t had in a long time.
  • There is a phrase we often use when talking about living in the space following the Resurrection of Jesus and His return: between the already and the not yet. It’s a phrase filled with longing, hoping, waiting, and a good bit of ache. We’ve realized it in a very practical way in our own lives, too. We miss NC. We miss our friends and family there. We miss…home. Our family back east has gone through some huge trials the past year, one that was absolutely devastating. Our parents have had some health issues, and we often question why in the world we moved out here when we could be there to help. And yet, here we are, living out the tension of desiring something else, but being unable to fully attain it. Somedays are harder than others. Some are really good, yet beneath it all lies an ache for home.
  • I’m still pretty banged up. There’s a lot of hurt in my heart and head, both from my own pride and sin, and the pride and sin of others. Trying to wade through that has been…well, it hasn’t been awesome. I don’t know if this qualifies as a “dark night” or not, but it hasn’t been bright. Admitting it hasn’t been easy, either. I’m the guy that always had an answer for everyone, and if I didn’t, I’d make one up (just ask my family), and to admit I don’t have it all figured out has been hard. I want to pick myself up by my bootstraps and keep going…but the Holy Spirit keeps making me stop, slow down, and wait. Jesus said the Father prunes the branches that are in the vine, so I reckon I can take solace in the pruning. To be honest, I’m tired of it.

Reading that sounds like I’m whining, and maybe I am. I don’t intend to. It has been a paradoxical year: a lot of flat-out blessings, great moments, good times side-by-side with heartache, loss, sadness and, I guess, depression. There are things happening here that we are so glad and thankful to be a part of. There have been many, many really great times of just being with my family, or spending time getting to know new friends. Light has shown in the darkness often…and yet, there is a darkness that persists. There are hurts, pain, and loss that I’m still dealing with, that we’re still dealing with as a family. I wish I could just slough that off and roll into 2019 with bravado, but I can’t.

But I do have hope. I’ll write about that in the new year. If you’ve hung with me this year, I want to say a heartfelt “thank you.” If you’ve prayed for us, I want to express my deepest gratitude…keep ’em coming. May the love of Christ abound more and more in your hearts in the year that is to come.

Grace and peace to you.

Postscript: here are the most read posts on the blog this year, in case you missed anything:

  1. What’s In a Name?
  2. We Had to Leave
  3. Out of Hiding

And my personal favorite post of the year, The Craftsman, about my grandpa Rakes.

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