Giving Thanks, 2018

Y’know, in so many ways, I am so, so ready to see the backside of 2018 as it heads out the door in another five weeks. This has been a tough year: the loss of Mary’s dad and my mom were certainly huge reasons to wish this year a speedy farewell. But there were other times of toughness in the family: struggles in school, for one. Watching the nest empty a little, for another. An emergency appendectomy on my 25th anniversary, no less. It hasn’t been the easiest of years.

And yet…

And yet there remains much to be thankful for. It might seem trite, to do a list at this time of year, but Abraham Lincoln may have been onto something in 1863 when he established Thanksgiving as a holiday in the midst of the Civil War. We do need a reminder, every now and then, to stop down and to be thankful for what is going right. And so, in 2018 I give thanks for:

  • The first 25 years of marriage to the one who is still my bride, Mary. Despite the appendectomy on the day, it’s been a good year for celebrating us. Like dinners out, and plans for a week in the UK at New Year’s. Losing her dad and seeing the effect on her mom, made me imagine what it would be like without her. And I shudder.
  • And the kids, David and Sarah, who each have their own path, and that’s great, and it’s terrific to see the young adults they’re turning into.
  • Quite simply, without them I couldn’t have answered the call that I’m receiving, beckoning me towards ordination. They have given me space to explore this and permission where I needed it.
  • Starting seminary this year, and figuring out how to juggle all that entails while holding down a job and doing everything else. Learning how to do online classes, as well as fitting in with the in-person classes…it’s been a shift, and I’m grateful for it, and for the endorsements I’ve received along the way. (Just a couple of weeks until my second semester is over!)
  • David’s trip to Spain (and Portugal) this summer, where he had the chance to complete his field school, refine his archaeological techniques, and learn about grad school programs that are now his choice for what to do after Radford (can you believe he wants to go to GRAD SCHOOL?!?)
  • Sarah and her servant leader’s heart in being the leader for Chrysalis weekend C-99 in the summer. She had to overcome a lot to get it done, and she had to buckle down in some places where it was hard to do so. But it’s easy to see how she simply comes alive in leading worship and bringing others to Christ!
  • My own teaming experiences on Emmaus weekend E-185, Kairos weekend K-75, and soon to be Chrysalis weekend C-100…for Adam, Michael, Shannon, Larry, Hollywood, Joel, and everyone else who got to experience God’s love (and I got to have a front-row seat).
  • Sarah’s job! She’s experiencing the wide world of work, starting this fall at Sheetz and learning how to deal with managers, customers, managers, other coworkers, and managers. Oh, and managers.
  • The beginning of the emptying nest, as David and his roommate Nathan got an apartment…and David promptly emptied his bedroom. Our baby boy is all gone now! (Ask Mary about her new lounge/study/nook room)
  • Good friends: reconnecting with Adam in a way we hadn’t in the last couple of years, and bowling with Ken and Trish each month, and…so many others!
  • Work–having some, of course, and that it pays well helps, and that it’s a little less crazy lately has been an added bonus.
  • The love and support of Sydenstricker UMC in the candidacy process. I was truly touched and humbled by the unanimous vote to recommend me to pursue candidacy. That was a special moment.
  • Fergie. The Pums. The happy puppy. Despite her entering, technically, into “senior dog” status as a 7-year-old this year, and picking up the first couple of silver bits of fur in her black coat, she’s a 50-pound chicken who truly knows how to love. You cannot out-love a dog.
  • Sharing a weekend in Vermont with Glenn, being able to showcase some of my home state to a Texan who’d never seen it before. And all the more, his support over that weekend as my mom passed away. Truly, a brother.

I know I’m leaving things off…but I also know this is so much already to be thankful for. Lord, you give and you give. And sometimes, yes, you take away. But your love is always constant, and I can see it looking back even in years like this. May your name be praised!

Author: Waiting For Life

Eric became the Associate Pastor of Sydenstricker United Methodist Church in Springfield, VA, in June 2019, as his first appointment on entering the pastorate. He is also a student at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, KY. He's been a Certified Lay Servant in the UMC since 2003 and has been preaching and teaching about Christ since 1995, and answered Christ's call to pursue ordination in 2018. Opinions and posts are my own, not those of Sydenstricker UMC, or the Alexandria District or the Virginia Annual Conference of the UMC.

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