Friday, January 4, 2013

Goodbye, 2012.

"I have no Plan B" has been a phrase that's been doing laps around my head recently.
But writing it down I realize I'm not even sure if I've got a plan A.

As a friend recently phrased it: "You know how I was seeing the new year as this big...cliff? Where I didn't know what was past it? Well. I'm here!"

I feel the need to eulogize 2012. If only to put it behind me.

Many years come and go and sort of blend into eachother as they pass, but 2012 was a year that I think I will always remember.
My little life was turned quite upside down. At the start of 2012 I was in love, employed, and living in Providence. We had just had a beautiful Christmas, and the upcoming weeks of winter meant there was more time during the week and on the weekends to sneak away and have adventures. Work was wearing on me, and I was dreaming about what I'd do after the game wrapped up and launched. Within the company the tension and anticipation was growing: we were entering what we thought would be a long crunch-time before the game's (seemingly) inevitable release.
But my heart wasn't in crunch- I was feeling reluctant and contented. No adventures, thank you. Nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable things- make you late for dinner.
Change was not the plan- I had a good thing going.

But getting your dreams- it's strange but it seems a little, well...complicated.
There's a kind of a sort of...cost.
There's a couple of things get...lost.
There are bridges you cross you didn't know you'd crossed until you've crossed. 
-Thank Goodness from Wicked. 
This part always wrecks me. Getting what you think you want can suck. 

Over the course of 2012 a lot changed- in rather spectacular fashion. Fireworks, Gandalf.
In the course of a few months right in the middle of it, I broke up with my girlfriend, lost my job (along with 300 coworkers as the company hit an iceberg and sank slowly under the fiscal sea. "Too-big-to-fail" took on a new and sinister meaning), I moved out of the city and home to my folks, and both my dog and my grandfather passed away. The silence that followed it all was deafening.
I wasn't enjoying this adventure anymore.

"O!" said Bilbo, and just at that moment he felt more tired than he ever remembered feeling before. He was thinking once again of his comfortable chair before the fire in his favorite sitting-room in his hobbit-hole, and of the kettle singing. Not for the last time."

And in the middle of all that, a dear friend's sister was in a car accident. The crash paralyzed her from the waist down and limited the use of her hands. If I've ever needed a slap in the face to stop feeling sorry for myself, it was then- and there it was. I will try not to over-romanticize it, but the bare facts are these- I don't know what all her plans were, but they all certainly changed.
And somehow, through it all, with the church rallying around her and her family drawing in near-  it would never be the same, but somehow it was going to be...good. Because there was love. you could see it: God was there.
It was tragic, but it was also one of the most hopeful things I've ever seen.

Her story is bigger than this, but it got me thinking.
There was a moment, driving down the highway and into Providence, when I realized anything -anything- could be taken from me. At any time.
My plans had been shipwrecked, but not as much as they could have been. And even if they were- God is still good. There is love in the world. A story is being told and it's NOT ALL ABOUT ME GETTING WHAT I WANT.
And my plans? They were never much good to begin with.
All my dreams I had built on my own ambitions- on my artistic skill, assuming it would always be there.
I could lose my ability to draw in a split second!
And in light of all that had happened I suddenly, strangely felt like that was ok. There was peace there.
I would be ok. God is still good.

In 2012 my sister was married by the sea. And the gathering of friends and family, there to celebrate her and her husband and praise God with us all was one of the most joyous I can ever remember. It was perfect.

In 2012 I went to North Carolina and I saw my best friend in the world, John Epling, just before he left for Afghanistan. I met Susanna, his then-fiance (now Mrs. Epling) for the first time. We went to an aquarium, and I sat under the glass wall of an incredible tank of shifting, silver fish with my watercolors and I knew that God loved me, and that is was going to be alright.
In 2012 he returned safely home.
Last weekend he was married and I passed him the rings.

In 2012 I saw two of my favorite people, Alex and Peggy, who I had the joy of introducing to eachother (one from Austria, one from RISD) get married in Canada. We shared a gorgeous weekend together that mixed all the sweetness and sadness of the year together as we caught up again.

Then I flew to Seattle to see another one of my best friends (and Jellybots collaborator) Peter Lefferts marry his sweetheart Esther in a sunlit park.

I found new friends in 2012, and felt more held and more part of a family in my church community than I ever had before. When I was most up against the ropes financially and emotionally- there they were.
I will not easily forget a morning when I didn't want to wake up, and Steve Caroll called to walk me through brushing my teeth.

I spent the summer on my bicycle, rediscovering the world outside and the simple joy I have in a little watercolor.

In 2012 I grew a moustache.

Everything is not magically better. I will not whitewash over the whole thing-

I've been trying to pitch Jellybots for so long I can barely remember why I was trying to do it in the first place. It feels like I no longer recall the taste of strawberries.
The plan was not to sit in silence for several months, second-guessing myself, but here I am.

I am looking ahead at 2013, and I realize more than any time before in my life- I have no idea what I'm going to do.

Meditating on this past year, the words of John the Baptist in Matthew ch. 3 stuck me hard-

"The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown on the fire" 

I'm a melodramatic soul, I'll admit. But that's how it has my tree is being chopped down. I know that's bleak, but this advent season another scripture struck me even harder. In Isaiah ch. 11 he predicts the coming of Jesus:

 "A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit."

What struck me particularly hard was that, without having read this scripture, I doodled this about a year ago:

I am sure there will be more trial, more pain, and more struggle. 2012 has certainly held its share. Maybe the chopping isn't done, but when I consider Jesus and that image of a shoot coming up out of a doesn't matter how long or what is lost along the way. "whatever was to my profit I now consider loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ". (Philippians 3)
There is hope out of the darkest winter and this past Christmas reminds me that hope does not come from the fruition of my plans and ambitions- God has something better in mind. The world hoped for a savior and got a baby. Weak and small and unexpected, but everything they needed and more.
There is hope and it is Christ.

I have no idea where 2013 is going- but I'd rather have God's surprises than my plans, anyway.



Adri H. said...

cheers to the new year, nick. i'm also going to try my hardest this year to not get too lost in myself, and instead focus on what's really important. ;)


AinaMoraiwe said...

Wonderful post. I feel like God has been rearranging my plans this year too. I love the whale picture!

alexds1 said...

Lovely post Nick. I'm far away but my heart is with you!

scruffy said...

Tender. Not a word i use very often but it fits, both your post and how it leaves my heart. Love your linking of the two scriptures, the imagery. Thanks for sharing.

NathanDespain said...

Beautifully written...

Im on the same page as you brother, in the next few months Im looking at moving for the first time in 22 years, no idea what Im going to do yet. This really spoke to me, and I wish you all the best and blessings The Lord has. Take care brother.

NathanDespain said...

Further, your art has always made me smile and inspired, with its flowing beautiful arcs and imagination.

I often wish we were friends, and it was great to find out we'll meet up one day, whether here or with Him.
Again, bless you.

Ben said...

My plans got chopped a few years ago by chronic fatigue but this may yet turn out to be a blessing (I still struggle a lot with this. I'm a slow grower!). I appreciate your art and your thoughts; you challenge and inspire me on the occasions when I remember to stop by here and read your stuff!

sindos said...

You almost made me cry D:

I love how you see God in all of the practical places… I've been surrounded by religiousness for a while and I felt like drowning… it is nice to hear that everything is going to be alright. Even if it falls apart.

Lets set sail, Nicholas Kole, Jesus will find us when the wind is against us.

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