Intentions for the New Year

Welcome to a new year of the Allender Center Podcast! This week, Dan and Becky Allender reconvene to look forward with anticipation and expectation. Dan asks, “What do you want the year to hold? I think most people speak first of events… But I think one of the things that so seldom seems to be the primary category: who do you want to become?

You can also listen to the previous episode with Dan and Becky here: Meditation on the Year

Episode Transcript:

Dan: Well to you, Rebecca, I just say to you and to our audience, Happy New Year. I’ve said it to you before, but it’s so good to say it again. It’s Happy New Year.

Becky: Happy New Year 2023.

Dan: I’ve never been fond of odd years. I don’t know what…

Becky: I’ve never thought of that in my life.

Dan: Seriously?

Becky: Seriously.

Dan: Yeah, it is Not that odd years have been bad years. I mean some even years have been disastrous. But I always, there’s just something that doesn’t roll off my tongue like 2022. That feels just good to me. But 2023, but nonetheless, let’s leave that. So how was your New Year’s Eve in the beginning of the year?

Becky: Oh, it was great. We did not stay up till midnight, but it’s wonderful. I’m actually kind of thrilled when that New Year’s Eve, Eve is over.

Dan: Why? What is it about having it over?

Becky: I don’t know. I think there’s expectation. I think when we were younger there was more parties and more, it was like you needed to do something fabulous. And at least that’s how my parents always spent their New Year’s Eve with parties and yeah, I don’t know. Cause we haven’t done that. So I don’t have to feel deficient once the New Year’s Eve is over. Yeah, I mean, it must be me.

Dan: Let’s just say as fairly severe introverts for both of us, the idea of needing to be in a large group celebrating eating, drinking, dancing, shouting, blowing things. It’s never been exactly our cup of tea. Occasionally to be with dear friends really to kind of edge into a new year. But I was glad to just be alone. Well, as we begin to reflect on the new year I wanna go back to what we attempted to cover, perhaps rather chaotically because it was the end of the year. How did your pondering, your chewing, your meditating of the year before, 2022, how is it helping you move into this year and why should a person actually begin thinking about what the new year holds? And this has been our own tradition to set, think, talk, ponder, write, and maybe in part because the podcast, but I think it’s also been something that we have done pretty regularly.

Becky: You’ve always liked to recount the year and different events in that year. And that kind of goes along with our anniversary, that’s in January, end of January that we would always, and we still do, take a anniversary day walk. And it used to be that you could remember every year and recount that year and we’d go through six more. Well, at this point there are so many that we can’t remember, but we did have that tradition of you writing a Christmas letter every year. That is kind of a chronology that we can go back and remember. But it, I’ve realized, I want to write more to remember each year because each year is sacred.

Dan: Yeah, it is. And yet, how are you looking into what this year holds for you? And again, we know we have events ahead, we know we have particular things we want to get done challenges, privileges, opportunities like most people. But the fact is, most of us spend, when you really think about it, most of us spend a good portion of our life with our work, whether we do it a nine to five or whether we’re at home, work is a pretty primary place of our expenditure of time. Then you can say home/family between getting meals on the table, getting kids off to school getting mail done, all… So that intersection between home, family, and then the realm of what could be called relationships including friendships. Church. he realm of family beyond maybe just in your own home. So when you begin to talk about work, home, family, friendships, church, hobbies, passions, that’s a life right there. And so the notion of actually thinking about what does the year hold? What do you want the year to hold? I think unfortunately most people speak first of events. We’re really looking forward to doing X in March or we’re going to be going to this place in June. And again, nothing wrong with that, in fact, it’s glorious. But I think one of the things that so seldom seems to be the primary category: who do you want to become? So going back to the theme notion of themes that we spoke a little bit about in the last podcast, what themes do you reflect on from the year 2022 that it bring you such goodness or such? Oh no. Yeah. When I put words to chaos. A lot of my life is bound to chaos and obligation. What if I were to say no far more often? What if I were to actually stop something of that chaotic process? Well, yeah, there’s specific goals that are attached to that, but we’re not talking about New Year’s resolutions. We’re talking about what does it mean to honor themes and then what would you want to become? One of the themes that you spoke about in the last podcast was owning through the book Bittersweet how much that book resonated. Then the question I want to ask is, how has that reflection on your own character that is deeply melancholic and yet also incredibly joyful, I don’t know many people who bear the extremity of both melancholy, heartache, joyful delight in and with and for. So what are you thinking about my love?

Becky: Well, I think as you were talking about scrolling… in some ways, I’ve learned a lot about our country in the last few years through writers and about our government and constitution. And I think that was important for me to do that. But I do feel the Spirit telling me to, well, I’ll just read this again. I’ve been camping out in the book of Hebrews the last couple months, and it’s titled The Warning to Pay Attention. We must pay more careful attention to, therefore to, what we have heard so that we do not drift away. I think in my reading in the morning on my newsfeed, I can drift away and drift away throughout the day in a way that I’m, I’m not wanting to do that. I want to pay attention so as not to drift away from the word and from his prompting his spirit leading me to do things. So I do wanna be more intentional with that alone.

Dan: Well and again, I think because we’ve been talking about how intense, chaotic, obligatory we tend at our worst to be. It opened up the conversation of both of us use a lot of distractions as a form of amelioration of some of that level of complexity, intensity. And I think that became clear that the notion of drifting away at least one of the things that we both came to an agreement on is we need to be in the book of Hebrews. And I love that because I don’t know why, but the book of Hebrews meant a lot to me when I was in seminary. A lot to me in the first number of years of our marriage. And yet I would say it’s been more than, I mean I’ve been in Hebrews since four years ago, but nonetheless, not intensely, not really going, oh, let’s do this chapter by chapter verse by verse reflection. So when you began talking about how much you are thinking through that particular passage, and I said, that’s crazy cause I’ve been in Hebrews 12, therefore since we are surrounded by such a cloud of witnesses, and this was the phrase that captured me, let us throw off everything that hinders yes and the sin that so easily a whole lot more to that passage. But that was something that was like, okay, I think we’ve got at least clarity that we are meant to spend some of our significant time of walking, talking, reading, and engaging in the book of Hebrews, which just alone is like, oh it, it’s more than we need a Bible verse. We need a Bible. No, just has that…

Becky: And throwing off because that’s what we need to keep doing, throwing off. Because I think at this stage of our lives we are throwing off things, but why throw it off? Well for something new, something good. And I think we’ve pondered still praying about taking each grandchild when they turn 14 to Washington DC and spending three days with them. Just one grandchild, both of us together. That sounds like a good goal, but we haven’t done it. We haven’t planned it yet. We haven’t set a time, but we need to start thinking more of giving to our children and our grandchildren and at this part of life.

Dan:I think that’s that framework of the benefit of pondering, chewing is as you begin to just see, again themes, certain patterns that continue to play itself out, instead of making the goal, I’m going to stop that to begin that process of saying, okay, there are things that I need to throw off and until you throw it off you, you’re not going to run the race. So why engage what you want until you actually name and begin to engage what you don’t? And that seemed so central to the beginning of us looking at calendars and which is something we do well before the first day of January. But pretty much in that November, December period finalized pretty much in the first couple weeks of January, we know a large portion of what our calendar will hold. Some of that is responsibility of school, the Allender Center, travel, conferences that need a year or more to plan. But I think for us to be able to say, we know we must be with our grandchildren in major good conversations, particularly because we’ve seen other friends who have grandchildren in that age frame of 13 to 14 taking significant trips. And we think Washington DC in holding the new African American Museum, it just is intensely important to be able to invite our grandchildren to engage as well, the Holocaust Museum. And most of these places you need six months or more to be able to get tickets. So being in that position of going, we want, but it disrupts structures of the past in order to create new space in the future.

Becky: So there’s a time that’s needed and money. And again, it goes back to how wise are we with our finances and what are we equipping our grandchildren and children with that of ourselves that will be a gift to them, hopefully later on in life.

Dan: And I think using this passage in Hebrews 12, the reason you’re throwing things off is to be able to run the race you have been called to run with far greater perseverance. And as I said, of course the race includes the reality of going to work, managing your home, your family, engaging friendships. But I think one of the things that it became clear, especially the benefit for us of being 70 and in what I would call the middle age of old age, the sixties essentially…

Becky: We thought we were young in our sixties, oddly until the pandemic and the government told us we were elderly at 60. Right. And we were…

Dan: So 60 to 70 is something of the young age being elderly. I think seventies for the most part would be the middle age. And so the eighties, the old age of old age, so in our middle-aged, old aged is that framework of being able to say, we have no assurance that we will make it through this decade into that decade. And we need to actually live out what we’ve been pondering with regard to Psalm 90. And that is count your days. And the benefit of counting your days is that it’s the context for growing and wisdom. So knowing that we are we’re in the decade that my father died, we’re in the decade that dear friends have died. And it’s the time to be asking again the hard questions. What was my race, may not be my race. And we normally think of the word retirement in that. And both of us don’t believe in retirement, but we do believe in the further articulation that the race changes. And in that I’m wondering what you are hearing with regard to your own life regarding the race you’re meant to run, at least in the year, the odd year, 2023.

Becky: Well, one thing is I’ve always done handwork, quilting, cross stitching, needle point, macrame, I’ve always, since before we were dating, always had something going on. And I finished the last project, a grandchild’s pillow. And the Holy Spirit nudged me. I had a girlfriend ask me to start painting, go to painting class. And so I’m realizing I’m going to make a change and I’ve been loving painting. So that’s one thing. And the other thing I foresee is we’ll be doing more things together.

Dan: That that’s crucial. Before we go on to that though, I want you to talk about your studio.

Becky: Well, I’ve always enjoyed Dan’s office because it’s away from the house over the garage. I’m like, I could just set up my easel there, which I did for three years and used it twice. So now I have embraced our laundry room as my art studio got rid of all those grandchildren, art supplies that they don’t use very much. And cleared out the shelves of sand trays that I thought I would use with my grandchildren and children and didn’t. So now I have an art studio and it’s got a window over the washer and dryer and I have this little easel that sits on the washing machine and I’m so happy. I’m excited.

Dan: Well, and I’ll just say I think you’re a brilliant painter, but walking, here’s space and I don’t know the exact dimensions, but small. And it’s always been just, I mean, I’ve never really said, I’m so grateful for this room. I felt that way with regard to most of our house, but I don’t think I’ve ever just thought, I’m so grateful for this room. But every time I walk in now, not that you’re painting every single day, but it’s so much chaos but beauty, so many colors and at least the two paintings you seem to be working on at this point, still life, flowers, fruit. I’m beginning to get a sense of your style.

Becky: I know, me too. That’s so strange. It’s through the parks and rec department. So we all have still life and every painting is so different. It’s Glorious. So I’m just having a lot of fun.

Dan: But in that, there is a generosity of creativity that has, shall we say, not been fully easy for me to digest.

Becky: I’m not sure what you’re saying.

Dan: Well, I’m watching your joy

Becky: And what do you mean? Are you envious?

Dan: Well, not, maybe so.

Becky: Well, and I think that it came from the book Bittersweet. And one of the things was this study at Johns Hopkins, the psychiatry professor Kay Redfield Jameson. And in a study of the artistic psyche called Tortured Artist, a book profiling 48 creative artist from Michelangelo to Madonna, they found that they all had a certain amount of pain and suffering. And now that I can own and not feel deficient for how deeply I feel things, I’m like, yeah, I’ve always wanted to be creating. And the only reason really why I did all the handwork was because I know I could succeed. Cause when you’re painting a painting, I don’t think if you can really succeed with that painting. So I actually took an easier route where I knew that everything would be just as it needed to be. And so now to have this other new side of, well, we’ll see, and if I don’t like it, I’ll throw it away and start again. It’s much more energetic and fun.

Dan: Well, and to me, the theme that evoked in me and is something that I am pondering with regard to the year 2023, is what’s the frame of my creativity? Because I’m seeing such pleasure, such changes in the canvases. Again, not every day, but pretty much. And in that it’s calling me to become what I had not really thought about for a long season in that the last three years I would say most people in ministry, most people in local churches, it, it’s just been sustaining. But in the demand to sustain, there’s been so much disintegration When I talk to leaders around the country, I mean the level of anger, of disappointment, of fear, of judgment, of accusation is just a common theme for folks in leadership that they feel like they’re getting devoured. They can do nothing. Right. There’s this sense of, you know, say the wrong sentence with regard to anything. And you might be heard supporting the left, the right, the middle, the whatever. And the cautiousness, the exhaustion. So sustaining is just another way of saying it is, I’m just trying over the last couple years to keep a nostril above water to be able to somehow survive this.

Becky: That’s not living, no, it’s not flourishing. There’s just, oh, drudgery. Like in the coal mines. Yeah.

Dan: And yet in that, I also think that is what we’ve had to engage. But I think one of the things you have brought to me again and again and again is, what is, where is, and how can you engage joy? And I think some of that has kept me almost, again, in this period of obligatory service to something that needs to be sustained versus being able to say, where do I get to create and play? And I think one of the things for us for the year 2023, we’ve had a bit of it in 2022, is being able, through the Allender Center and through Steve and Lisa Call and their organization Reconnect to be able to play together in ways that we just have not.

Becky: No, we haven’t wanted that. Didn’t know how to get to that place, prayed about it. And I think God is so gracious that now he’s gotten us to this new stage,

Dan: 46 years in, we get to talk about the brokenness, but also the beauty of our marriage and what we have learned. So I think that framework of being on stage, I think one of the highlights for me of 2022 was being in Fort Collins, which was, and is such a deeply important place for you in terms of your life having gone there, great harm having been endured there. We wouldn’t be together if Fort Collins didn’t exist in your life. So to go back there, to be privileged to be with this remarkable church and be able to do a marriage conference with the two of us, plus Steven Lisa call, I mean, that was one of the great highlights of the year. But it also augers, well, there’s more time that’s needed to talk about how you felt teaching with me. How we worked together. Those are things we’ve never really had to do. But that sense of, oh, this is our race. Our race is to run together. This is not going to be two people in isolated tasks operating, not for the last portion of our lives. So I think that sense of the themes and heart desire begins to shape something of the decisions about what we do. So watching your painting, watching you on stage has created more of a sense of, well, where do I get to play in the kind of creativity I see with regard to your painting? And I don’t have teeny little thoughts, but…

Becky: I hope that play for you would be gardening, honey, I hope that you would do, I wish that you’d love to grow flowers. I think that’d be a great thing. Now that you have a garden in your yard that’s fenced in.

Dan: I’m, I’m a bit speechless. It may not be fully obvious that we’re not fully planning every single sentence we say because that’s a shot.

Becky: Oh no. And that’s joy. I just think that he’s given us, giving us a wonderful race to run and it, it’s going to flourish us and propel us hopefully more and more to the foot of the cross.

Dan: And yet gardening has been one of those realms where I think we both, but me particularly, have begun to play. And we’ve had a garden now for two years and this year more flowers than we had before. But I do think that’s a return, restoration in the long work of trying to clear out, and I’ll use the metaphor, the weeds that so easily entangle. In order to do a garden well, it does require more time and energy. And certainly as a 70 year old man, I’m finding I have less energy. So that question of what is most important, what is my race? Where do I know joy? And I think, again, that category of, well, I have such joy in fly fishing, such joy in those moments of euro nymphing or dry fly fishing, or, or, or… those are I mean, the plans that I have for the year 2023, I am really excited by. But I think what you have named is as you sell your motorcycle and it gives space in the garage, are you going to fill it with more stuff? Or will we actually have more time and freedom to begin that process of doing other things that have been lingering as something of a distant desire, but not given the ground to be able to actually grow. That’s what I’m hearing.

Becky: And the joy of watching, I mean, it’s a miracle, a creation, watching a seed turn into a plant. It’s just life giving. It just, it’s amazing.

Dan: Well, and what I’ve been playing with, which I’m somewhat reluctant to name to you…

Becky: Okay? Yes, honey…

Dan: I need to re-own that I wanna play with fiction.

Becky: Yes.

Dan: And, I’ve tried to paint and it does not go well. I’ve tried other art forms, but words have been the realm that have been both the ground of survival, but also the ground of such sweet engagement with the Word, Jesus. And so when I began seeing y your end of the year, beginning of the year movement to creating such beauty, but with the awareness as you put it really well, you are standing in the face of futility cause you don’t know will you be able to create what it is that you have thought and dreamt. And I just began to put words through that process…

Becky: For you in your fiction, which are you? And that used to trigger me because you’re already doing so much work, how would it happen? But the way you’re planning this, I see that you’re shedding, you’re letting go. You’re making more space for your creativity. And I do think that, I love that you’ve resurrected that desire, which I haven’t heard you say for a decade. Yeah.

Dan: Yeah, well let’s, put it this way. I’m not sure the resurrection has yet occurred, but I think we’re moving toward the stone being rolled away. And that sense of, well, if this has been something that has intrigued you, when you said the other day the last time that we did a podcast, follow the track of your tears. I probably have wept more in the privilege of working with people and also in the privilege of reading fiction. And there’s something about fiction that is so intriguing to me because of the power of story, the character, the plot, the movement and to be able to ask, can I actually walk my own heart through the process from the beginning to the end to be able to write. And it doesn’t have to be a 300 page novel, it might be a short story, but whatever it is, I know there’s something in that that feels both a pull, but also a sense of threat.

Becky: Absolutely. Yeah. Which probably means you do need to do this because if it’s not a threat, then where would the danger, that’s just part of life, right? We’ve gotta have threats and danger because that’s what calls forth the goodness. So you’re here, honey. Wow. Way to, way to say it in public. I’m happy. Well, let’s start with a short story, please.

Dan: That’s fair. That’s fair. But again, I think that’s where, rather than just looking toward events rather than just looking toward, I’m looking forward to doing this in March or in June or whatever, to be asking the question, who are you meant to become? Yes. Your family. Yes, your work. Yes, your labor. I, for the most part would say askew New Year’s resolutions. But begin asking what thematically is the Spirit working to begin to say, I want you to begin to play in this realm. And I want to go back to your key word where there is a sense of danger. Doesn’t have to be a threat to a point of your life, but where you go, this would be a risk. This would be something calling me a bit further out where it stretches, where it calls me. And I think that sense of futility of, you mean I might spend hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hours researching and then writing and then come to a point of it’s not good. It’s not good to, in one sense inflict the rest of the universe with what I’ve done. It feels so pointless when so much else in my life feels, oh, it’s got a clear point. It’s got a clear goodness to it. But this realm of creativity, oh, it’s much more threatening. So as I think about being able to play with you, that has a certain danger. We felt that when we were in Fort Collins on stage together. Yeah. But it still has such, I would say, such very apparent goodness, I don’t worry about futility, but with regard to stepping into, just even saying, I’d like to write a short story in the year 2020,

Becky: What I just had a picture of is just like we’ve, we’ve been in a rut like tires on a muddy road that, you know, do that for 10 years without asphalt. You’ve got a rut. And so I’m really loving the fact that you’re thinking of taking one of the tires, both, I guess all four, off that rut and thinking about a bit more danger and something that could be, not in the rut, but more on a mountainside or in the water. I see. I that, I love that idea. Yay, honey.

Dan: Well, and I think that’s one of the reasons why, as I think about 2023, we’ve got we’ll be with really dear friends in March we have decided to do a pilgrimage.

Becky: A pilgrimage, we’ll talk about that later…

Dan: To the Republic of Georgia with friends. That there’s a kind of movement to say our friendships are a theme we want to return to. I think in terms of how often we’ve talked to Scotty and Darlene about being together, and yet we’ve not just said here are the dates, here’s the place. And I think as we age, our family, our friends the labor of our lives need to be more deeply intersected in that kind of deep quality. And in that I think it’s one of the things I look forward to most. So our labor together, I look forward to. The other thing that it is going to be really, I think sweet for, and I’ll say for me, because I’m not sure you’re planning to join us, but Trevor and I are going to be doing an event in Houston sometime early this next year where a school in Houston has invited us to talk about the intersection of his engagement with theology in the Bible and my work with the human heart and abuse, how there has been this overlap. But the convener of this event basically said, really what I see this to be is a invitation for you to talk about your friendship and how your friendship has actually shaped your theological/psychological work. And when that came, it was like, damn, that is so…

Becky: That’s great invitation.

Dan: It is. So I think when we talk about what the year holds it is, yes, there are events, but how does it shape who we are, who we’re meant to become, and what we hear the Spirit inviting us to a sense tend to, as you brought that passage from Hebrews, what are we to be alert to and what are we to engage? So any final thoughts? My love as to what this year holds for you?

Becky: I’m looking forward to it with the little trepidation.

Dan: Yeah, me too.

Becky: And mostly joy. Yeah.

Dan: Well, may it be, because that’s what the core of that passage in Hebrews 12 is for the joy set before him, he endured the cross. So that bittersweet I think that has become at the end of the year, at the beginning of the year for us as a marriage and as a book in particular, but as a marriage, the ability to hold bittersweet with even greater I would hope, integrity. So yeah, happy New Year, love.

Becky: Happy New Year.