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Taking an inventory

Is it the end of the old year or the beginning of a new one?

Should we reflect on what has or has not happened during 2009, or should we think of our wishes and resolutions for 2010?

I suspect that this is a time for all of that as we approach the last year of the first decade of the 21st century. For most of us, it is just a convenient time to take an inventory of our lives and determine if we are where we want to be. If not, then there is no better time to plan to do something about our lives, often in the form of a resolution.

For an inventory to be useful, it must be accurate. We must be honest with ourselves and with our family about where we stand in our lives. It must cover different categories, much as a business does, by inventorying our spiritual, physical, emotional and even financial lives.

We can then take those year-end inventories, compare them to our beginning-year inventories, and determine how well we have done in the past year. This becomes the benchmark for our plans for 2010, at least in theory.

What often complicates the evaluation of our lives is that we change over time. What was important to me as a child or young adult may no longer be what motivates me in middle age. Certainly I have different goals physically than I did as a teenage athlete. I don’t recall if I even had emotional goals as a teenager.

Looking back on the past year, I realize that I count my blessings more often, and perhaps differently than just a few years ago. My granddaughter, Laura, attended her first Christmas Eve Communion this year. It was probably my imagination, but she gazed at me sitting on the organ bench like she knew exactly who I was.

She behaved perfectly, looking around all the faces aglow from the candles and the cold. She looked into the minister’s face as her father took communion ahead of me.

She listened as the congregation closed the service with Christmas carols. For me to be just a part of that moment in her life is a blessing that I never anticipated.

Henry, my grandson, learned to say “Granddaddy” this year; maybe not perfect yet, but close enough for me to hear clearly. He has a grin that warms my heart and an energy that wears me out. I count my blessings every time he reaches for me to pick him up. Just being a part of those moments in his life are also a blessing I never anticipated.

And so it goes, if I am honest, that I have had many such blessings during the past year. Not just with the newest generation, but with my wife, daughters, sons-in-law; with my brother and sister and their families; with my cousins, first, second and third removed; and with my mother and those of her generation who remain a solid part of my family and my life.

Spiritually, I continue to be blessed beyond any expectations I could have ever had. My church, my church family, and my ministers sustain my faith and challenge me to let it grow. There is room for improvement as we all might state, but there is a peace that comes with spiritual growth that I don’t believe we can achieve in any other way.

Financially, anyone who has survived the economic turmoil of the past year and a half has probably been blessed. I am aware of those who have suffered more than me and am sensitive that there are many in our local communities who are in true need.

Finally, I am thankful for my health and also know that this is the area that I make my most frequent resolutions for a new year. Perhaps this will be the year that my hopes and expectations equal my effort and results.

So what are my hopes and expectations for the coming year?

I want to learn more and expect less from those in business around me.

I want to talk more with my family about things that don’t matter.

I want to listen more and work less in church.

I want to exercise more and eat less.

I want to visit my mother more and travel less. The more I learn about my wife of these many years, the more I learn that I can draw from her. I hope the same holds true for my children, my weaknesses and even the occasional lack of faith and all.

And finally, my hope for all of you in this holiday season and beginning of the New Year is that we don’t stop looking up, even if some of our heroes have fallen down. Open yourself up to those around you. You may not think it makes a difference, but it does.