“What the New Year Brings to you will depend a great deal on what you bring to the New Year”- Vern McLellan
Well, it’s the end of another year and soon the beginning of a new year. And you know what that means? Time to create a New Years Resolution which will be in effect for maybe the first few months or weeks or days…
We all do this, don’t we? We create lists of promises to do healthier things or be better people or something to benefit ourselves or other people, but somehow, they fly into the past of our other promises and we give up on them over time.
Why do we do this? To that question, I do not know the answer to, but I do have a suggestion for everyone who struggles with keeping their New Years Resolutions: Don’t make them.
Well, at least don’t make a New Years Resolution. I mean, it’s a nice tradition of making promises for a new year, but to me, it seems way too unrealistic. And worse, it creates this imaginary barrier in our minds that states, “Well, if I stop trying to work on what I wanted too early, I can just stop and try again next New Years”.
My question to you is…why wait? Instead of making a new years resolution, why not make a daily resolution? Each day, you make short term goals instead of a long term yearly goal.
For example, I hear from almost everyone that their New Years Resolution is going to be, “I’m going to be a better person”. Well, why not have that be a resolution when you wake up every morning instead of once at New Years? I guarantee that if your resolutions transitioned from being a yearly task to being a daily task in your life, they would be much more effective and helpful.
Now as for me, I’m not going to make a list of things I want to do better for next year. I’m going to start following my own advice and after each morning, I’m going to write down five simple tasks that I want to accomplish for the day. And each day, I will continue to make more simple tasks that will benefit me, benefit others, and maybe even benefit the Divine as well.
Every day is a new opportunity for positivity. So let us not wait every year to begin the opportunity. Let us start now.
But…since it is almost the end of the Year 2015, I do feel called to look back on all the events that I had encountered this year. And as I go through my events, I invite you to reflect and even share your own 2015 journey and how you got to the place that you are standing (or sitting) right now.
Looking back on my 2015, it is almost strange to see just how different my life was at the beginning of the year to where I am with my life now.
I was finishing up my final semester at Barton College. I had five classes: American Decade (1960s), World War II, Religion and Self, Health Healing and Religion, and Senior Seminar. These were some of my favorite classes that I took during my time at Barton, so not only did I get to take awesome classes for my final semester, but I also was able to finish with all As.
I was also working as the Ministry Intern at St. Paul’s Christian Church, which I started in August 2014. The interesting part was for the first three months, I was not only the Ministry Intern, but took on more responsibilities at the church when Diane Faires, the associate minister, went on her sabbatical. During that time, I lead the Chi-Rho and CYF youth groups, organized the mission trip for the summer, took on Sunday worship roles like communion, pastoral prayer, and even preaching. Once Diane returned in April, I was extremely relieved that she was back! Mostly because having Diane around makes everything so much better. But during the months that she was gone, I had a much clearer look on what it means to be a minister (from the practical viewpoint mostly) and though my preferred ministry career choice would be to not work in a church setting, I gained enough knowledge and observation that I would be able to manage working in a church setting if God leads me to that specific profession.
Speaking of preaching, I not only had a chance to preach at St. Paul’s in March and later in August, but I also had the opportunity at one of Barton’s Tuesday Worship services, and my home church, Wake Forest Christian Church. Through these opportunities, I grew to appreciate the power and task of preaching to a congregation and though it is still not my favorite thing to do, I learned that it is not a bad thing and can be even fun sometimes.
It’s also strange to think that my final moments as the College Delegate of RCYW were this year at the CYF Midwinter retreat. RCYW was one of the highlights of my college career, but it came the time to pass the torch to new future leaders. I have high hopes for the future of RCYW and I am proud to have served such a wonderful ministry for the CYF in North Carolina.
Along with these events, I also got to experience several adventures at the beginning of the year as well. I volunteered for my first Chi-Rho retreat at Camp Caroline. I participated in the College Retreat at Camp Caroline. My best friend, Mary, and I traveled to Black Mountain for Spring Break and even got to hike up under a waterfall! Mary and I also went to our first Gay Pride Festival in downtown Raleigh! And finally, I got to see several of my friends and family graduate from either college or high school: Matthew Friedley from Gilford Tech, John Friedley from Franklin Academy High School, and Jacob Fonner (my cousin) from Washington High School.
I guess, I also can’t omit that this year was also the year I graduate from Barton College. It feels strange to be a college graduate, but it is real nonetheless. I am proud of my hard work at Barton, achieving Magna Cume Lade, and earning my Bachelors of Arts in Religious Studies and History. I still have a lot of learning to do and a lot more challenges up ahead, but this one victory I will never forget.
And then came the summer adventures!
For the first time since being at Barton, I was not working over the summer at a camp ground. However, that didn’t stop me from being a volunteer at several camps throughout the summer.
At the beginning of the summer, I journeyed to Camp Caroline to work on the Prayer Labyrinth with the camp manager Casey Perry. Though the Labyrinth needs regular touch ups, it still was awesome to get the Labyrinth ready for summer use.
A week later, I traveled to the mountains of North Carolina and volunteered for Camp Sunshine I. The week was stressful, especially since I was the only male volunteer and I had to watch over two cabins, but it was still an enjoyable week nonetheless.
Another week had passed and before I knew it, I was back at Camp Caroline getting ready to volunteer for an awesome week of CYF Conference! The camp was so much fun to work with and the theme about learning other religions and being good neighbors to everyone was too perfect for words! Thanks to Diane Faries and Mallory Magelli for creating such a wonderful week!
And right afterwards, I got to experience another awesome week of CYF Conference at Christmount. Though the great Jamie Brame was unable to do many of his “Bramy” things for the week, it was still a great camp nonetheless and all the campers had a wonderful time, which makes me happy. And the best part was getting to lead a small group together with my best friend, Mary!
Before I knew it, I was traveling back up to Christmount for another week of Camp Sunshine. But this time, I wasn’t traveling alone. I led a Mission Trip with St. Paul’s youth to volunteer for Camp Sunshine. Diane, Hannah, James, and I were the adults and the youth included Zach, Jordon, Jackson, Nap, and Karyn. At first, I wondered if everyone would get something out of the trip and have a good time and thankfully, everyone said they had such a wonderful time! I even was told that a few of them wanted to do it again, which is always something you want to hear your youth say about a mission trip! Overall, a great week and a successful mission trip.
Right after the mission trip, I was once again back at Camp Caroline but only for a day. I traveled to see my friend Mallory be ordained by the North Carolina region of the Disciples of Christ Church. It was the first time I ever saw anyone being ordained and it was such a lovely event and I could not be more proud of Mallory for all her hard work and the future ministry she is going to do in her life!
For several weeks, I relaxed after traveling so much, but for the last time, I traveled back down to Camp Caroline only this time, to work as a staffer. Casey needed an extra hand for the week and was offering to pay me a week’s salary so I told him that I would take the job for the week. My job was almost exactly the same as the previous year (I worked at Camp Caroline in 2014), but I will say that Casey’s management skills and leadership made my experience that one week become so awesome! He is doing such incredible work and ministry at Camp Caroline and they could not be more blessed to have him! I am glad to have worked under him (even for only a week) and even more blessed to have him as a friend.
Immediately afterwards, I traveled all the way up to Washington PA to visit family for a week. It was going to be the last time I see them before moving down to Texas for graduate school. During this time, I took a day to just travel to different parts of the town that held a lot of old memories for me. I saw my Elementary school, my old trailer, my aunt’s old apartment, the park that we used to have Fourth of July picnics at, and many other places. So many memories filled my mind on that journey. It was nice to walk down memory lane, but soon it was going to be time to walk up the path that is called, my future.
After getting all my things packed, after seeing friends and family, it was time for me to begin my trip down to Fort Worth Texas to begin my new education career at Brite Divinity School. The journey was long…I mean SO long! But eventually I got to Fort Worth and moved into my apartment the next day.
The first few months were the most difficult. I was alone. I had no family or friends for a while and I was in a completely new setting. I fell into a very depressed state for a long time, but thankfully I had gotten help from several areas:
I began to attend Zen Meditations that were offered on Mondays and Thursdays. I was able to make friends at Seminary and was even included into their, “Squad”. And I even began to see a counselor every two weeks, which was one of the best decisions I could make for myself at the time.
I also had new adventures while in Texas:
Of course, my first semester at Brite Divinity was itself an adventure. I took four classes: New Testament, Theology I, History II, and Congregational Leadership. Each class was tough and challenging in a different way, but also extremely informative and made me think about myself and future ministry, which is very helpful.
I participated in another Gay Pride Parade in Fort Worth and even got to stand with my fellow Brite Students against the protestors that continuously preached hate and rejection.
I volunteered for the CYF and Chi-Rho retreats at the Southwest regional camp: Disciples Crossing.
Took a trip to have Thanksgiving with such a wonderful and incredible friend and her family.
And now, I’m back in North Carolina, visiting family and friends again and getting ready for 2016 to begin.
So that is my 2015 journey and reflections. Now it is your turn to reflect back on your 2015 journey and how much things have changed since January 1 to December 31.
But always remember…You are Awesome! You are Amazing! You are Loved!
May you continue to be loved and experience that love with your entire Ruah for the next year and more!