My husband and I were fortunate to have time off during the holidays this year. In addition to connecting with family and friends, traveling, skiing, and relaxing, I enjoyed using some of that time to reflect upon 2013. To that end, today, I'm linking up with House Unseen to reflect upon 2013 using a photo from each month.
For me, January is always about my youth ministry's winter retreat. In 2013, we explored Moses' story in order to wrestle with our own self-image. Despite the exhaustion that followed, the weekend was incredible. Particularly noteworthy was our prayer time on Saturday evening (involving a labyrinth) and the fact that our senior pastor joined us on Sunday morning for worship.
If January was about my youth ministry's winter retreat, then February was about Youth Sunday, a yearly tradition in my congregation that I truly have a love / hate relationship with. That said, at the end of the day, I love how Youth Sunday gives our teens an experiential way to practice and learn about how our congregation worships. I also love how there are few roles our youth take on at Youth Sunday that they don't also do throughout the rest of the year.
March is the month in 2013 I wish I could forget, but that I know shaped me more than any other. It's when I miscarried. It's the time period in which my husband and I relied on family and friends like never before. It's also the time when I was so incredibly thankful for our cat, Franklin, who seemed to sense that something was wrong and faithfully stayed by my side.
We know that nature heals and restores us so in April, my husband and I escaped to Starved Rock for a couple days. On our way home from here, we learned of the bombing at the Boston Marathon. Once again, we were reminded of how important it is that God is still God, even when we grieve.
In May, I graduated from Huntington University with a Masters of Arts in Youth Ministry Leadership. I seriously cannot speak highly enough of this program and the way it's shaped my philosophy of and practice of ministry. I graduated surrounded by family and friends - who drove several hours to sit in an unbelievably hot auditorium in order to support me.
In June, we vacationed in the Canadian rockies. We saw some of the most spectacular scenery we've enjoyed anywhere in the world. We hiked. We canoed. We watched the wildlife. We walked on a glacier. We relaxed and decompressed.
In July, Doug once again proved he's a youth worker's husband when he willingly celebrated our 11th anniversary on a canoe in MN, while camping with our high school youth ministry at the tail end of our summer mission trip to Red Lake Indian Reservation. During that trip, we wrestled with racism and correcting history.
August was our confirmation mission trip to the Quad Cities with Youth Works Missions. God blew me away on this trip in the ways he moved my students, in what he taught them and me, and in how he connected them to one another. In many ways, my experience on this trip can be summarized by this picture of the joy on Rick's face. He was our ministry contact at the ARC (a phenomenal ministry for special needs individuals) and his joy was contagious.
Our crowning achievement in September was finishing our living room remodel, which we did thanks to Hillary at Box of Design. I cannot say enough good things about this service, which transformed our living room from an awkward rectangle we hated to the most used room in our house. Given our indecisiveness, we appreciated the fact that by using Hillary's design, all of the decisions were made for us - including what to purchase and where to purchase it from (An added bonus? We purchased everything for our new living room design without ever stepping foot into a store!)
In many ways, October was about enjoying ordinary moments - aspects of our jobs we love and are thankful for including ESL Kids Club as well as moments with our family (like walks at the arboretum with my mom) and friends.
In November, we grieved the loss of our beloved Franklin. A few weeks later, we added a mischievous tabby named Samson to our family.
We also hosted our first Thanksgiving (and even managed to cook a good turkey!) In addition to celebrating Thanksgiving with our family, we also enjoyed our Friendsgiving - a Thanksgiving meal with good friends.
In December, we celebrated the birth of our Savior, who we know sustained us in 2013. We enjoyed time with both our families before then returning to the Canadian Rockies. In June we stood at the top of the Lake Louise ski area and said, "It'd sure be nice to ski here sometime!" Little did we know we'd be back in December to do just that!