It’s 4:18am, December 31, 2008, and I’m still awake. My muse seems to have awakened from a much too long nap, and commands a last post of 2008 from me. And obedient subject that I am, I only fought the words for the past 3 hours. So, here I type, with the recorded November 5th Oprah Winfrey Show playing in the background (which featured the hottie of all nilla hotties, Brad Pitt, and Christian Louboutin peep toes to die or kill for), trying to rally all of my thoughts of this past 365 days (or was it 366…) into some cohesive and eloquent essay for the few remaining readers of my would-be blog.

What can I say about 2008? Well, the beginning of it seemed to have sucked, but I understand now that what I would have termed sucky about the year was actually the beginning of something wonderfully cathartic and transforming that has made me reacquaint myself with the essence of Reese, the Reese I thought was long gone, the Reese I had exiled for reasons still unknown to me. (Forgive the 3rd person voice, but it seems oddly appropriate in this context.) You really can’t appreciate the light until you’ve been submerged in darkness for a makeshift eternity.

My darkness has been detailed in several (if not all) of my previous posts, but I continue to be amazed at how many of life’s dark periods are self-imposed, are chosen out of fear or carelessness or denial. I recently watched the documentary Witness to Jonestown, that detailed the story of Jim Jones, the Peoples Temple, and the followers of this “interracial congregation [read: multicultural army] … through passionate … preaching and courageous calls for racial equality*.” Jim Jones is considered a nut, and those who followed him into death are considered fanatics, but the story of Jonestown is not unique, and the influence of too many contemporary churches and their characterless and selfish leaders on those who choose to succumb to the influence continues to bring sadness and destruction to far too many people, both in the faith and far beyond.

Needless to say, I made it out of my Jonestown without drinking the syringe full of potassium cyanide-laced Grape Flavor Aid, but with a clear understanding of the dangers of believing in an inherent goodness of spiritual organizations and, dare I say, churches who emphasize communal living far above Biblical truths. I no longer live under the weight of situation-specific morals and beliefs, but instead, I’m able to embrace the truth of God’s word, the truth of second and third chances, the truth of what is real, no matter how unpleasant or unreal that truth may seem in some cases. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but it begs repeating — I am so grateful for having my eyes opened to my surroundings, and for the strength to see life and purpose beyond the darkness.

One of the biggest highlights of 2008 for me was my trip to and time spent in Kripalu in June. I think that was the first time in a year that I was able to fully exhale, and I don’t think I realized until then the importance and necessity of breathing. Life without my comforts was so enlightening, and not in that weird mystical way, but in a simple and beautiful way. The uncluttered existence in which I lived for that brief period provided me an opportunity to see the goodness that was present in my life, and the hope for the future ahead of me. My wounds were treated with the only thing that cures the brokenness — the awareness and acceptance of the pure, unfailing and ever-present love of Christ, and I know that He led me to that beautifully simple campus with those beautifully simple people and that beautifully simple lifestyle to show me the beautifully simple pleasure of just breathing. I’m grateful for the simple things in life, because life’s complications don’t have to overwhelm.

A significant event of 2008 was the death of my cousin Nikki. She and I were 4 weeks apart, and in the latter part of her life, we rekindled a friendship that had been dormant for many years. I watched a wonderfully vibrant woman slowly and painfully leave this world and her family with the grace of a saint. I have buried far too many young people, but her death was profoundly life-changing for me. She was the most grateful person I’ve ever known, and the kindness she showered on those around her will not soon be forgotten. She taught me how short life is, and how powerfully destructive some things can be to our systems, so when I have the choice, a choice she didn’t have with regard to the disease that took her life, I need to be vigilant about extracting any and all diseases [read: harmful elements] that might be present in my world. It’s a lesson I’m still refining in my life, but I’m getting better at spotting and dismissing those harmful elements that have had a chance to present themselves in my life. I’m grateful for the absence of those things that were once oppressingly present, and even more grateful that the damage they caused was not more severe.

And finally, a most wonderfully surprising blessing of this year is getting to spend time with someone who sees me, loves me, and appreciates me, and shows me regularly a new way of experiencing life. He brings something to my life that is more special than anything I could have planned on my own. He is the epitome of character, kindness, strength and perseverance, and has demonstrated to me what so few other men in my life have even contemplated being. He was the voice that comforted me when my cousin died; when I lost my church, he shared God’s words and encouragement; he cheered me on at the gym when I thought I couldn’t climb one more step; he has been friend and teacher, the voice of reason and so much more than is appropriate for me to delineate on the World Wide Web, and I’m grateful for each moment we have been able to share with one another.

There have been a host of brilliant occurrences in 2008, including the election of a fresh presence to the White House, a reconnection with many voices from my past, the godly people who’ve graced me with their presence and counsel (Mrs. Waller most notably), closer connections with my family and my dearest friends and of course precious Matthew, so calling this year sucky would be terribly inaccurate. It’s been a year of growth and change, all for the best, and though I’m glad it’s nearing its end, the lessons, blessings, challenges and surprises have only made God’s presence and provisions more clear and more precious to me.

Bring on 2009. I can’t wait to see what God is going to show me.

[signing off at 7:47am, have mercy!!]