As we approach the end of 2011, I’ve been trolling through the last year’s worth of entries in this space. It’s fun, and I feel like it brings genuine insight too. I appreciate the sense of perspective afforded by such personal historical archives.
Initially, I thought about compiling some sort of “Top Ten” listing for 2011, but in the end I decided to condense things more in terms of themes and trends that I’ve noticed from the last year. Below are some of the things that have stood out to me the most.
First of all, I observed that my kids have grown a year older in 2011. It’s shockingly noticeable. They just keep changing and developing, and my love for them continues to change and develop right along with them. I’m unspeakably grateful for Elliot, Olivia, and Cor. Our family in general. Marci and I celebrated our 13th Wedding Anniversary in 2011, as well, which I consider one of the greatest experiences of my life to date. As much as they all cause me frustration at times, I feel like my family has been one of the greatest sources of blessing in my life — 2011 notwithstanding.
Also this year, it really stood out that our family got to visit some amazing places: Belgium, France, England, Greece… and of course various places in the Netherlands and the United States as well. I’ve been privileged to travel quite a bit throughout my lifetime, but this year was exceptional. There are wonderful memories from each of these places — walking among the ruins of ancient Philippi, losing and then regaining a backpack in Brussels, walking along the sheer whit cliffs of Etretat, walking through London’s Hyde Park with the autumn leaves falling around us — but perhaps my favorite traveling experience of the year was my personal retreat at the Benedictusberg in the beautiful hills of Limburg. For many years to come, I think, 2011 will remain in my ind as a year of memorable travels.
2011 also happened to be the year that my paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Asp, passed away in July. She was a very special woman, who left behind a rich legacy both in word and in deed. Her Memoires of a Minnesota Pastor’s Wife remain one of the best books that I’ve read in 2011 (and I have to say that I read a lot of good books this year!). I now have one surviving grandparent, in North Dakota, and I hope that I might get to see hm again in 2012. Their generation is a particularly special generation, having lived through the Great Depression, the Second World War, and many other significant events in America’s “Golden Age.” I feel the heaviness of history more directly on my shoulders as they gradually pass.
Also in 2011, I noticed that I spent a lot of time thinking about church, both in general (as in “The Church Universal”) and in regards to the specific body of believers whom I serve as pastor. It was actually a really refreshing year for these kinds of considerations. In retrospect, I can see that 2010 was a really dark and difficult year for me, ministry-wise (dealing with the departure of my beloved co-pastor, taking on more ministry responsibilities that were outside my areas of natural gifting and experience, nearly burning out in the process); but 2011 was a kind of spiritual reawakening for me. It wasn’t a perfect year of ministry, by any means, but I felt God’s nearness through it all. By God’s grace, I can take satisfaction in the last year of ministry.
So those were some of the main themes and trends from 2011… A good year, in many ways. I’m sure there are plenty of new adventures for the year ahead — but I will walk that road by faith.