Meditation on the Year

Happy New Year! As we close out 2022, Dan and Becky Allender sit down to reflect on the things they learned this year and what they wish to bring with them as they go into the new year.

Listeners and friends, thank you for listening to the Allender Center Podcast this year. We are grateful every time you press “play,” and are thankful for all of your comments, feedback, and encouragement. We look forward to meeting you here again in the new year with new episodes! 

Episode Transcript:

Dan: Well, every year ends and this year is about to depart. So my great gift at the end of this year is I get to do this podcast with you, Becky. It’s just always for me, one of those sweet gifts to be able to talk with you on this strange medium.

Becky: Yes, I’m glad to be back. I like doing this one. It always brings up a lot of emotion for me, but it’s really I mean, we all have to enter a new year and leave an old year. So I think we’re all thinking about things like that.

Dan: Yeah, I think there is a kind of closure that’s really important. We know that this particular podcast will be dropping somewhere around the 31st, so you’re probably already on the process of preparing for whatever New Year’s activities are ahead tonight. Our basic approach, even before COVID was we would watch some of the celebrations occurring…

Becky: On the East Coast, then we can go to bed.

Dan: I mean, it was, it got really almost outlandish for us to stay up beyond about 9:30 on New Year’s Eve. We’ve just never been particularly New Year’s Eve celebration folks.

Becky: Except when you were a student, our time clock was very different.

Dan: Yeah, well, was staying up till one or two in the morning, but let’s just say we wish you indeed a happy New Year and a hope as well that it was a really remarkable and surprising and sweet Christmas on all our behalf. So as we enter into this, I wanna first engage the category of meditation and meditation in scripture. There are two primary words that get used, particularly Old Testament concept of meditation. And one is holding a thought, a verse and in some sense, letting it dissolve, letting it come to just be held long enough that it begins to integrate into your way of thinking. So it’s time. It implies the idea of time. You can’t meditate without creating a category of time. You can learn something, you can grow a knowledge through a pretty sequential and oftentimes rapid process. But there’s something about meditation and wisdom that’s, again, overlapping but somewhat different to knowledge and growing awareness. So one of the things that if it hasn’t occurred even if you begin to move into the new year and start meditating on this last year, the year 2022, and the second word is the idea of chewing. And actually, the key word for meditation has something very similar to the idea of chewing the cud. A cow just chomping, chomping on it and letting it, again back to that word dissolve into you. And that’s one of the things that we most recommend that you do at the end of the year, that you let your year be chewed upon. That it be held in your mouth long enough to let something of what was beautiful, what was broken, what was heartbreaking, what was glorious, what was, again, it’s too almost cheap a word, but what it is that you were meant to learn to take in from that year in order to begin to proceed well into the new year. So to say to you my love. How did you chew a cud regarding the year 2022?

Becky: Well, I have to say that one of the favorite books that I read this year was Susan Cain, How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole. And her title of the book is Bittersweet. And I just almost outlined the whole book. It resonated so much with my inner meditative thoughts. And I think for sure I’ve always known I’m sort of a melancholy person, but to be able to read this book and to claim, yeah, bittersweet. It’s what I view all of life through that lens. It always seems to have both. There’s never just all goodness. So that has allowed me to claim, yeah, there has been sorrow filled things of this year, and that’s okay.

Dan: Yeah. But before we step further, I wanna hear about your chewing first. How do you chew?

Becky: Well, I do think that I ponder, I chew by pondering, and I do think I have a tendency to see more through a dark lens. And then therefore it seems to be deeper so it hurts more. It feels good more. There’s just a depth that I think that comes from the way I live life and to have read her book and the statistics of how much the population has this tendency to see things with more bittersweetness. To me it, it’s what life is about. It is the good and it’s the bad. And that’s how we are on this side of heaven.

Dan: Well, and we’ll come back to this, but for me, I need other tools. Excuse me. The reality is that this remarkable book on bittersweet has been one of the lenses through which you have looked not only back but forward, but in terms of we often need a lens to look through. And again, I’m mixing multiple metaphors here, but to ponder it does imply a kind of looking, and yet the notion of chewing is you gotta. Yeah, you gotta tear it apart. I mean…

Becky: Right. So I’m thinking too what I learned in her book, just the word sacrifice comes from the Latin word to make sacred. And I think especially this winter time of year, we’re so aware of Jesus, his sacrifice, his making life sacred for all of us. By us being able to borrow his sacrifice I think it allows me to go into a inner world with my imagination and actually feel deeply. There was a quote that reminded me of one of your quotes. You always say, this is by Leonard Cohen, “Whatever pain you can’t get rid of make it a creative offering.” And to me, that’s just the same that you always say, and it’s really helped me throughout the last decade or so, follow the track of your tears. Well, I guess the last two decades where you find yourself tears and overcome like that. That’s a nudge from the Holy Spirit. That’s Jesus saying, you go, Becky, go stand on the streets till 2:30 in the morning with the prostituted teens in Seattle. That track of the tears, I think, is Jesus telling you where to serve, where to serve his people.

Dan: Well, and the book bittersweet has been, again, that lens. I needed to go back at mid-December to other sources to have a window. And I went back to, this was not a lot of fun, but I went back to our checkbook. We are old and we still use a checkbook. Went back to some bank statements to credit card statements. Sort of summary of the year went back to my calendar both in terms of hourly cal calendar and then I went to a lot of the places where I take reflective notes years ago, good friends of ours gave both of us the Salter and we have as a practice to read a Psalm every morning before we walk. And often I’ll notate things that the Psalm brings not just in terms of what I’m thinking in the Psalm, but what the Psalms opening my heart to engage with regard to my life. So it’s where I take notes about my life, about the Psalm. I have other places that I journal and diary. So I needed that to be able to get into the process of reflecting what has the year held for us? And that sense of what are we needing to take with us into the next year? Because if there’s not something you’re taking into the next year, then it’s almost like saying this year was a waste. On the other hand there is an absolute necessity to let things from the year go in order to not take in to the new year, things that will actually impede your ability to let Jesus shape and speak to who you are meant to become in this coming year. So I’m curious as to what you found through bittersweet or what you found through other sources, cause I know you did something of the same. Looking at calendar, looking at other dimensions, what themes do you see that you’ll take into the new year? What themes or realities do you need to let go?

Becky: Well, the letting go I usually do with actual things, objects, but I think letting go with things within my heart and my mind is important too. I think I’m trying to be a bit, I’m letting go of having to be every place I’ve signed up to be during these winter months because I find that it just goes against the grain of kindness to my own body. So that is a new letting go, which I will be telling my friends in different groups say if January, December I’m not there, just know that I’m choosing a better option for this morning or whatever. So that’s strong and it’s uncomfortable, but it’s honoring to just say, yeah, I don’t have to show up for everything all the time.

Dan: Well, and I think as I started looking at themes, and that’s a really important thing, not just looking at particular events that, oh, I wish I had not said that. Wish I had not done that. I think it’s possible to look over a year and primarily look toward it with regret. Easy, just too easy to do. But to again have a framework of wisdom is gained through meditation. As I chew on the year, if all I’m doing is feeling guilty or angry or anxious or in the sense full of regret, it’s not a good meditation. It’s not good food to chew on. Right?

Becky: Yeah.

Dan: But I think one of the things parallel to what you just put words to is as I look through my calendar for whatever reason I’m going to blame it on the spirit of God. But the spirit began to say, look at obligation. And as I literally went day to day through about 360 some days there is a lot of obligation and things were, I’m going, well, I need to do that, I have to do that. I better do that. But that whole issue of did your presence at this meeting, did your agreeing to do this task on behalf of someone? Is it truly the race you were called to live? Or was I operating under really the rubric of fear of if I don’t do this, this could be misinterpreted, this might be held against me, this, and I was just such in way in some sense, heartbreaking to go at age 70, you’re still under obligation? I mean, one of the benefits of aging really truly ought to be a growing sense of clarity and freedom. Not to stop, not to quit, but to be much clearer about what is it you uniquely bring that bears the goodness of God in the land of the living. And I was a little disheartened. I had to chew that. And it was a bit more bitter than at least the category of sweet. And I’m hearing a little of the same for you with regard to a number of things that you’ve agreed to that you’re actually asking, is that the best for me and for others?

Becky: Definitely. I think when I turned 70, and we’re not going to talk about us being in this age, but I’m like, this is going to be my happiest birthday. I’m going to claim it as joy. And with that comes a decade that I do want it to look different than other decades. And there is privilege and there are opportunities that weren’t there before. So yeah, I think that we should have a different frame. And I do think one thing I want to frame more and live more is from Hebrews 13:2, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers for by so doing, some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” And I feel like my presence, my body, going into Ace Hardware or a library, I want to have accountants of joy and kindness.

Dan: Well, and that is a reflection of what I know to be true of you. We’re also, in some sense, as I look back to the year in a season of restoration. We’ve lived in this house for 23, 22 years?

Becky: 25 Years. This is 25th summer.

Dan: Okay, whatever it well into the third decade. And it’s the longest we’ve ever lived anywhere over our whole lives. And I didn’t realize because a lot of the times we’ve moved after eight or nine years in one place or whatever, things do decay, and need repair and that restoration process I think it’s another theme that I began to see through looking back over the year, how much labor to restore that which is broken. And it is an honorable work. But I think of the intersection friends of ours have a car that’s pretty broken down. They’re putting money into it. And in a conversation one point he said, I don’t know when to dump this thing because it’s costing me far more than it’s worth. So where you put your heart to restore, knowing it is an exhausting labor to bring something back to life where then you choose to say I can’t be at peace with all people. Be at peace, but can’t be at peace with all people or things or tasks. So I think in some ways, your call to put a new roof on to redo our cabinets right now, our house is just chaotic. Given the fact that we’re doing a restorational work, how we engage and choose, what will we repair, what will we allow to, in one sense be grieved lost and in one sense turned over. I think those are themes that, again my pondering over the year have brought,

Becky: I think with COVID being over and it’s…

Dan: Over?

Becky: Well, not, yeah, I said that wrong, but at least the lockdown that we experienced for a good two years, that is different now. And I think that for me, it’s made me think of new habits of new ways and some of that shedding and some of that taking on new things.

Dan: So where do you find yourself saying from your chewing on your year that you’re needing to let go?

Becky: Yeah. Well, our oldest grandchild is 14. And I look at all the cabinets in our house upstairs and down in about five different rooms that have children, toys. And a lot of them, and a lot of the books as well for children came from my childhood. I still have my puppets that I had when I was three and four and five and six and seven years old. I still have dolls, I still have all this stuff. And our youngest grandchild will be three in a few days. So why am I hanging on to these cardboard books? I need to pass them on. I need them, I need them gone. And so there’s sorrow with that. But it’s like, unless my daughters can save all these things from my childhood for their grandchildren, I think I have to let them go.

Dan: Yeah, I think the chances of that are about as much as…

Becky: Know what was, but that’s that bittersweetness of me. Why did I hang on to those things? Because I see the depth and the dearness of a life, my life even. So it does bring sorrow to let go of 70 year old toys and books, my gosh, that my grandparents bought for me and read to me.

Dan: Yeah, I feel it. Even as you put words to it for you. But as well for me, because I don’t have the same sense of loss with regard to those specific books. But as I was looking, again thematically, looking at what I spend money on and then taking that information into the garage to see, I bought a lot of equipment, a lot of fishing stuff, a lot of gear. Where is it? I’m not a hundred percent sure where all I bought is. Which brought pretty clearly the theme of chaos. What’s that laugh?

Becky: Well, yes you have, you’re that pig pen in the Peanuts comic book. You always have been.

Dan: Yeah

Becky: I love you honey, I love you. But yikes.

Dan: Well, I think that was again, one of those things of the benefit of pondering. And as I was literally trying, I’m looking at what I purchased and going, I’m not sure where that is. Where’s the GoPro equipment I was going to use and did use to video some of what I wanna put on, if I ever put something on YouTube, blah, blah, blah. And the intersection of I have dreams, I’ve desire, I’ve taken risk, and then I’ve needed the equipment to do it. And where is it? I don’t know?

Becky: I know. I know where it all is. Cause I’m the keeper of every thing, darn thing, in this home. And by the way, you did get a new second drawer in the kitchen. I

Dan: I know, that is one of those…

Becky: Because the grandchildren don’t have their own little spoons and knives anymore. They don’t want that anymore. So a whole new drawer for you.

Dan:I know. I mean it really is one of those small…

Becky: It’s more for me to keep clean.

Dan: Well to the category again, of letting go and even maybe stronger because as we come eventually into our next podcast, what we want to address is how do you utilize what you’ve reflected on to shape something of what the new year will hold, not New Year’s resolutions. Those historically for us, and for most people are just bitter pills to swallow because they’re decent dreams, they’re decent goals, but they’re not really connected to the work of pondering. So in the pondering, again, I began to see I have so much chaos particularly as I looked at my schedule, what I noticed was I just do back to back to appointments, meetings, groups.

Becky: Yes, you do.

Dan: And you’ve actually said to me, so I’m going to say it’s mostly you, but it’s also the Spirit that began to say, why do you need such almost craven intensity to be able to make it through a day?

Becky: And what did the Spirit say to you? This is new news to me. So curious.

Dan: Well, there were two things that I’m not going to say that it’s well worked out, but the first thing was there are things you need to let go that linger here in a way that in the garage literally keep you from being able to move well through it. And the first was, I need to sell my motorcycle this year.

Becky: Yeah, I was just going to say that. Wow, it’s a big deal.

Dan: And years ago we talked about the selling of our last sailboat and it took five years practically from the moment we parked it in the side yard to actually sell it. And I don’t wanna do that. I don’t want to replicate that. The loss of the dreams of what this object held need to now in its departure as well die. And yet in that there is in one sense literally new room, new space. So I think that was one thing I was able to bring my heart to that is I need to make sure that bike goes up for sale at the proper time. And to be able to own as a 70 year old man, I think there are plenty of 70 year olds who are good motorcyclists, but I’m not riding, I’m not riding enough to have safety even though it’s a rather dangerous activity. So that’s one category that that’s reflected on. I think the second was, and it’s back to obligation, when I started going through the piles on my desk, what I began to note is the piles were things I didn’t want to do or would require me a significant period of time to get done. So I created that pile. There’s a pile, there’s a pile, there’s a pile. But they really were avoidance, not just of the task, but actually of the decision. Is this what I’m meant to do? And again, it’s the intersection of privilege. A lot of the piles had to do with the incredible privilege to give an endorsement to a book. But I’ve never felt like I can give an endorsement unless I read the whole book. And to read a whole book in the midst of my life right now is not easy. So looking and going, oh, you just don’t wanna say no. You don’t want to bear the cost of being a person who says no. And in that there’s something very beautiful, but there’s also something really clearly broken. So the theme of chaos started becoming another category that the Spirit was, you’re good at chaos, you’re good at creating it. And frankly, at times you’re good at engaging it toward an end that has a redemptive, a redemptive arc. Yet, even though that’s been so much a part of my family of origin, so much a part of my relationship with my mother, so much a part of how I’ve operated as a therapist, as a teacher, being able to go… Enough. Not done, of course not finished. But you can legitimately say in between appointments, maybe not all, but you need time to reflect, time to ponder. You don’t need to wait till the end of the year to be able to clean up the chaos. So at least that’s, is that new to you?

Becky: Well, I’m afraid to hope too much. It would be awesome. I mean, because I think God has given you wisdom and you’ve had… He’s led you into many things that have been helpful for many people. And, I’ve seen that in you always, and I respect that for, but to be hopeful that you would give yourself more margins, that you would give yourself space and beauty. That’s not cluttered. I want that for you, but I can’t really say it’s going to happen.

Dan: No, you given, shall we say 40 coming on 46 years you shouldn’t have what could be called a kind of a, “oh good, I’m glad that’s going to change.” But I think one of the things for me, and I bring this back for our listeners, it’s one thing to see, there are things in your life that you’d prefer to change. And then you make resolutions. I’m not going, I’m going to work out more. I’ll lose weight, I’m going to spend more time in scripture. All those things have the potential of great goodness. Here’s the problem. It’s not connected to the themes, not just themes of the year, but the themes related to your own calling to live out through your character, something of the reflection of Christ’s death and resurrection and ascension. So I think for me, coming into looking, it wasn’t like the new of new, but I’m so much obligation, so much chaos, so much intensity. What does it mean to look at that? Not so much, here’s what I can do to change, but to say, what themes do I need to engage that do reflect the growing desire to be like Jesus? And I think in that sense I doubt that the day that I work with clients that I’m going to have an hour between clients. But I think there is a clarity that I need to stop wherever it appears. Like an intensity that drives chaos or chaos that drives intensity. Needs to begin to be looked at with a different vision in order for me to move into 2023. And again, the practicality is yes, sell the bike, but further the question of how do I create, as you put it well, margins. But what I do with those margins. What I noticed as well is how many hours I have spent this year in distractions, intense, intense, and then almost a collapse into a slothful distraction that was a very deep, in one sense, not just discouragement, but a kind of, oh dammit, that is not how I want to spend my last years on this earth. Flipping through the reels on Instagram,

Becky: I think Matthew 28:20, “I am with you always to the very end of the age.” And as we are thinking of the age that we’re living in, as we’re thinking of the age that this next year will be taking us into, I want some more spontaneous gift giving and care because we’ve looked at the checkbook and because we’ve looked at some of our spending, I’m like, okay, I wanna have more joy with spending. And that usually means giving to someone else or giving to a different cause. So this man who’s been working on our cabinets this week I’ve not wanted to interrupt him too much, but he’s has two children near our grandchildren on the island that live here near us. And he actually, he was going finishing on the 17th, and I asked him why. And he said he was going to go to Hawaii, that his wife’s sister lives there. He’s never been, he didn’t even know what island. He’s just built a house, lived in a trailer, they lived in a garage, his body is broken down. He’s never been able to use vacation because he is always got an injury cause he works so hard. And so it came to me. Well, and I asked you, is it okay if we give him a hundred dollars so he can take his family out for shaved ice a couple of times or who knows? Just to say, I am so excited, I have so much joy knowing that he’s going on this vacation with his family. I’m like, I wanna bless him because that’s just wonderful. So I wanna watch my checkbook so I can do more joyful things.

Dan: And I think that is where we’ll end some of what we’ve been inviting you listener to reflect on. And that is, who do you adore that you want to become more like? And I’m just, when you told me the story and invited me, is this okay? And it’s like, is it okay? It’s like that may be the best a hundred dollars we spend from the year 2022 to be able to bless a human being who is in service to, I mean obviously being paid, but in service to do tasks that I obviously can’t do and to invite them to goodness. I think that’s where that reflection on a lot of our lives have a lot of obligation but also incredible privilege. But the privilege that we all get to play in the middle of is how to delight, how to bring a taste of the delight of God. The year began for me in reflecting on Psalm 139, your thoughts about me, oh God are precious. And I think that was the theme for this year. And as I reflect back on the year, even though I’ve named things that I know need to be engaged and changed, there is something about delight. And I do think there is no one, no one on this earth who has taught me more about being able to delight in others, than you. So I think that’s where when we begin to look at the year and say, yeah, there was chaos, there was obligation, there were lots of heartaches and losses. Yet to end this year and say we get to participate in one human being’s delight as he gets to visit Hawaii for the first time. There’s something in that just for my heart goes. It has been a good year.

Becky: Yes.

Dan: And I look forward to our next podcast and to the next year. So to you all, Happy New Year.

Becky: Happy New Year.