So, like most people I was considering updating my facebook status to reflect the year gone by and hint at some sort of excitement about the approaching year. But I don't think I can possibly sum it all up in one short sentence.
So, here we are.
This might be more of a cathartic experience for me to write, than an interesting story for anyone to read, but I'm okay with that. It might also be a departure from the attempts I make at humour considering what this year has been like, but we'll see what we can do about that.
January was a quiet month. My Dad went over to England to spend some time with his dad who wasn't well. He had cancer and was getting into the final stages, so dad went over to say his farewells.
In the meantime, a dance teacher friend of mine rang up asking if I was interested in teaching some classes in Lara. At first I was reluctant because I was quite happily retired from all that. However, the classes were going to be just down the road from where I lived and I would know most of the kids from Lara Lake, so I considered it. I had concerns that there would be an end of year concert that would clash with Lara Carols, but was assured that the concerts were early in December and relatively low stress, so I ultimately said yes.
The same night my dad got back from England in early Feb, I went up to Queensland with my friend Matt and some other friends. Having only been up a few months prior, I knew what to expect and had a fair idea of what we'd be doing. Got to hit up many a theme park and learn a little bit more about people's character! It turns out my friend Hannah is solar powered as she is fairly chilled during the day, but as soon as it gets dark she comes alive and is on a constant sugar high. I really enjoyed getting to know Hannah a bit better on that trip. I did manage to acquire some really severe sunburn on day 2 of the trip that lasted a horribly long time after! Lesson learned.
Although the holiday was fun, it was on my mind all the time that my Grandad could slip away at any moment, so I made a deal with my family that I didn't want to know about it whilst I was on holiday as there would be nothing I could do anyway, and so I didn't take my phone. As it turned out, it was only a few days after we got back that he passed away with the family in the room with him.
This was a particularly sad time as I felt very far away and disconnected. As most of our family live in England, I hadn't seen my grandad since 2009, and still in some way I won't really notice his absence unless I go back there. That said, my Grandad was a very special man. His kindness and generosity have shaped a lot of who I am and how I approach things. He was always working to help people or causes and was very much engaged in his community. I don't think I'll ever be half the man he was when it comes to those things, and I may not ever achieve the things he did, but it's still an amazing aspiration to have - to be like him. Family was of course his number one priority which is evident by how close we all are despite the distance we all are seperated by. The McCabe family is very tight knit and loving.
The dance classes started, but I realised quickly how out of practice and outdated I had become in a 6 year absence. But I still got to be my dorky self in teaching and so hopefully that translated into what I was teaching.
In April our family was magnificently blessed by the arrival of my nephew Caeden Patrick McCabe, Patrick being my grandad's name. I think the intention had always been to have him named after grandad, so it was a shame that he didn't live quite long enough to know about it.
My niece, Jaycie, and Caeden are just the best things to happen in my life. I savour every single minute I have with them and love them beyond anything. They just bring so much joy to our family and I cannot get enough of them. Jaycie turned 2 this year and she is all go go go! She loves Hi-5, which is good since I know a lot of the songs, so we get to sing a bit together. Caeden is keenly observant I think. He sits and takes everything in and examines everything up close. It's too early to really say, but I sense a bit of a kindred spirit in Caeden. I think he might be a bit like me personality wise - happy to sit back and watch things happen. Jaycie, is not quite like that. She assesses a situation and once she's comfortable, she becomes the star of the show! She amazed me with her intelligence, being barely older than 18 months, but quite capable of operating an iphone and being able to search out pictures of herself!
I spend many quiet moments wondering what Jaycie and Caeden will become. Seeing all that potential ahead of them has given me such a fresh perspective on so many things.
At around the same time Caeden was born I was offered a job, just one day a week at the High School doing some Chaplaincy in addition to my 2 days at Lara Lake. This was a really exciting time and something I have enjoyed doing ever since. The role expanded a little later as I headed up the Hands on Learning program at the school which I will continue into next year. So having gone from only working 2 days per week at the start of the year, I finished up working full time in the schools, teaching dance and on top of that teaching some singing and piano from home.
The interesting part of all that was that years ago I had prayed to know what hardship was like so that I would not make bad choices in tough times. I then forgot that I had done that. So at the end of 2012, I prayed that I wouldn't have to endure that anymore and asked God to provide me with a steady income instead. I never once applied for any of the positions I was offered in 2013, they just came to me and then expanded at just the right moments (the best example being the high school increasing me from 1 to 3 days right as I was about to move into my own place). It affirmed my faith in God and in the power of prayer. I also think that He rewarded me in some way for my faithfulness because there were many times I had considered leaving Lara Lake and seeking full time employment, but something kept telling me that it was the wrong thing to do. So I stayed and went through the lean times.
As it turned out, staying at Lara Lake became a huge necessity, not for me, but for the support I could provide to families who were in need or were going to be in need. This year I walked a journey with two young families who both lost a parent to cancer. I think it was the first time I really understood what my role as Chaplain was because it was a really tough time for all those involved and even pretty harrowing for me, but I knew that God had put me where He needed me to be at that time. To be able to work with kids as they prepare for the dreadful day when they lose a parent, to support them in their grief and do the best I can to be a listening ear, and to be an understanding friend brings with it a sense of gratification. I know that sounds possibly insensitive. Of course I would prefer that these kids would never EVER have to experience such hardship and sadness at their age, but I also find purpose in being able to help people when they need it and place a high importance on being there for them, so that's where the sense of gratification comes in. I felt like I was up to the job.
So whilst my job was challenging, but the work was increasing, my brother and dad both lost their positions when they axe fell at Target in June. It was unexpected and particularly difficult given that Caeden was only a couple of months old and my parents new home had begun construction. Luckily, they both got jobs fairly quickly and I don't think my brother has ever been happier in his work, so that was a bit of a bonus.
In 2013 we said goodbye to our beloved family dog Sally. She was old and unwell and the gutwrenching decision to put her out of her pain had to be made. I went with mum and dad and held her in those final moments. It was very sad and I still miss her. Eventually, when my schedule becomes less hectic and I can devote more time to being at home, I will get a dog of my own as the love and loyalty that came from Sally was something truly special.
Towards the end of the year everyone started getting married and I watched 3 very good friends walk down the aisle, including my best friend Michael. It certainly raised feelings in me that I had long laid to rest - to get married and start a family of my own. But to see three amazing young couples begin their journey's together definitely brought a great sense of happiness for me.
Whilst that longing for a family of my own raised it's head, it was only fleeting. I have resigned myself now to the fact that it's not going to happen, but I'm not too upset about it. If I've learned anything this year it's that I place such a high value on being the support person that people can rely on, then having to direct my attention to something else would render me ineffective and so I have to sacrifice what I want in some ways, in order to be sure that I can go on doing what I'm doing. Cue the martyrdom right there! But that's not it at all. As I've already stated, I get an immense gratification in doing what I do, and I completely understand the importance of it, so the sadness that might come from knowing that I can't have what I want is quickly replaced with the satisfaction of knowing I'm fulfilling a purpose.
That said, my faith this year has taken a bit of a battering. I've never been one to accept things just because I'm told them, and have always had an inquiring mind. Never has this been so prevalent than this year when I sit down and think about how the church represents, or misrepresents God. I've made no secret of the fact that I believe the modern church is not the greatest representation of the character of God as we have 2000 years of "filter" through which to view Him, and much of that history is blood spattered and largely about the pursuit of man's desires - power, posession, sex, territory and wealth rather than the pursuit of getting to know God's desires. So whilst my faith in God is as strong as ever, my faith in the church (and by this I mean the worldwide church) has become a little less stable.
After months of questioning how our morality is determined and wondering who has imposed all this legalistic conditioning of Christianity, I boiled it down to a simple concept. Jesus walked the earth, comforting people, healing people, never judging people and loving people. That's all I need to do, that's all I need to be. Sadly a lot of church people haven't grasped this concept and I have become increasingly frustrated at self-serving churches where they try and draw a community to them, rather than heading into the community to make themselves available. Don't get me wrong, I don't think the church is a bad thing....the basic ideas of Christianity are ingrained in there somewhere and their intentions are good, but there is so much politics and so much red tape that now in order to help someone in our community, you have to go through a committee. So whilst I still attend church every week, I walk in very conflicted. On the one hand I feel traitorous and disobedient to the church because of how I feel. On the other I feel God looks at the church and what it has become and is disappointed, and so I feel that it doesn't matter.
Is there an answer to this? I don't think so, at least not yet. So for now I will persevere and see where it takes me and continue to seek God's desire for this world and not the church's.
To wrap up, December arrived bringing with it all the usual chaos. It turns out dance concerts are quite stressful (and I say that with guilt knowing that what I had to do for it was a tiny fraction of what others had to do). Combine that with trying to ensure Lara Carols happened, make sure Youth happened, make sure my high school program happened and get through the end of the year stuff at the primary school, well I'm sad to say that balls got dropped. Luckily nothing major or terrible, but I would have liked my focus to not be so split. I knew as the pressure mounted that something was going to have to give and was preparing myself to hand in resignations at any moment. But, I decided to wait until everything was over and done with then think about it rationally and not emotionally. Fortunately the decision was made for me (Thank you God) and in having to change my hours slightly next year at the high school, I won't be able to continue with the dance classes. So once again I can slip quietly into retirement!
In looking back on this year there can only be one word to describe it:
Nobody is really in the same position they were 12 months ago. We have suffered tremendous loss in losing Grandad. Nobody in my family is in the same house or same job that we were 12 months ago, but we all seem better for it. The arrival of Caeden has definitely been the highlight of the year and coupled with the arrival of Jaycie in 2011, the definite highlight of my whole life.
So with all that behind and now looking forward, I hope that 2014 brings stability, assurance and calm.
Oh and I want to lose 10kgs.