Reflecting on the Day Before Advent

Normally, I post a movie or music video or photo story on Saturday mornings, but today, on the last day of the year (in liturgical time), I thought I'd reflect and write a little about the last year and where I find myself right now.

(The photo here is my last year's Advent wreath, featuring roses.  It's warm in Atlanta and roses bloom into December.  I am in Atlanta today and there are roses blooming now outside.  Maybe I'll make another wreath like this one before I fly back to Williamsburg tonight.)

A lot has happened in the last year.  I won't go through it all here and now.  But I am grateful for a year of growth, of new friends made far and near, of new opportunities.  Bringing in the new sometimes means letting go of old, and I have had to make some changes this year that have their downsides.  But I am finding even there, some unexpected joys break through.

My husband and son in Atlanta call our home The Man Haus, and they have taken on the responsibilities of running a household with creativity and mutuality.  I'm proud of them.  It's still certainly a downside to be living in two states as a family (not counting children at college or on their own), but the guys have embraced their new circumstances and I'm sure they have both found and developed new facets of themselves.

For my part, I'm learning to relax a little.  Now that I'm living by myself most of the time and participate in family life differently - occasionally in person but more often via FaceTime, text, Facebook, email and phone conversations - I see how much I over functioned within family life and I am grateful for the opportunity to refocus on my vocation, knowing I don't have to be all things for all people anywhere.

In addition to the ongoing joy of being in a new church and community that is both challenging and rewarding and the joy of being part of a virtual community with you, my blog reader and writer friends, this year I made even more virtual friends through expanding my social media world, mostly via Twitter but also through participating in the Lent Madness fun over at Fr. Tim Schenk's blog Clergy Family Confidential (promo preview: stay tuned for a new and exciting Lent Madness extravaganza this year!).

After Lent, Meredith Gould (of More Meredith Gould blog) and I launched the Church Social Media blog (#CHSOCM) - for which Meredith is currently shouldering the burden as I have been immersed in My New Job.  As much fun as doing church social media stuff with Meredith and other friends has been, the highlight of that connection was attending Meredith's wedding to Canon Dan Webster in Baltimore a few weeks ago in real life and serving as chalice bearer in the beautiful Cathedral of the Incarnation.  And hanging out with Brenda Keller (of Peace Love Jesus and Coffee blog) and meeting other virtual friends in person at a beautiful, blessed nuptial mass.

Another delight (and here comes another promotion) was being asked by my social media friend Fr. Scott Gunn (author of the Seven Whole Days blog and the new executive director of Forward Movement) to write a few reflections for Forward Movement's 2012 book of daily devotions.  That book has just come out, and you can find it online here.  I'm so pleased to have been included in that project!

There are more joys, but I think this will do for now.  Looking forward, here's the plan for the blog.  I will embed Trinity Wall Street's advent calendar, "Light Breaks," here on the blog's header so you can visit every day and see the offering of music, narration, photography and video.  Our Friday Afternoon Break photo series will feature angels.  I also hope I will be able to do more writing as I settle into a routine in Williamsburg.

And now to go visit the roses outside and prepare the Man Haus Advent Wreath.  Blessings for the new year!


Ray Barnes said…
Hearing a little more about your personal life brings home vividly what difficulties there are in your ministry being so far from 'home'
You cope so very well despite all the upheaval and, as I've said before, I find your blog truly inspirational and uplifting.
Looking forward to your Advent postings.
Every blessing Penny.
Thanks, Ray. I know others who also cope with "alternative" family arrangements and find inspiration from their stories. I hope our family can serve as a model as well. Thanks for the encouragement and a blessed Advent season to you!
Brenda said…
We got to talk non stop for hours TWICE this year! In person! Grateful beyond words for your friendship. Rejoicing with and praying for you as you settle into all that God has for you. Blessings!
Meredith Gould said…
Love this post, Penny, and not because you mentioned and linked to ME! Really. Not.

Love it for your revelation about "over functioning" in your family and being able to focus on your call at this point. Love the Man Haus information. Especially love the way you live the possibility of virtual relationships becoming very real.

I'm so happy about what's happening in your new gig, although I will also confess that I miss chatting w/you on Twitter as much as we were able. Maybe after...Epiphany?

Most important: blessed by your friendship, your insights, your faith. Thanks be to God for the glorious gift that you are!
Brenda, it's been so great getting to know you this year! And thank you, Meredith, for your thoughts. I appreciate both of you so very much.

And the guest room is ready for guests! That might be you!
Perpetua said…
Like Ray, I really appreciate this peep into your new life, Penny. i hadn't realised that you would be living apart from your family and very much admire the way you have gone about making the new arrangement work. Have a very blessed advent and I look forward to keeping you company through it.
Thank you, Perpetua - I do enjoy your company!