Every year when I do these posts, I’m amazed at how much can happen in just twelve months. In 2019 I travelled, met new people and had experiences that I never saw coming. Looking back is an important practice for me, because I have a tendency to be anxious about the future and how my life will turn out. Reflecting over a whole year or decade is a potent reminder that no one can predict what the future holds, and that life is turning out every day as we live it.
Before we dive into all the vacation photos, I’d like to begin with a caveat for all you friends, acquaintances and internet strangers who may read it. I’m going to focus mainly on the highlights of the year and touch lightly on the struggles. Lest you think my 2019 was made up exclusively of sunshine and fun adventures, I want to assure you that I lived a lot of tear-filled, anxiety-ridden days too. There were prayers that went unanswered and chaff that needed to be burned away. Please keep this in mind as you join me on this trip of memories, unmet goals and book recommendations. As I look back, I’m thankful that the joy and laughter are what stand out most. Let that be a lesson to me and all my fellow pessimists out there, as we raise our half-empty glasses to toast the new year.
As always, the real hero of this story is not me. The Lord has been faithful, loving and true through every day this year. He’s been good when I’ve been a jerk. He’s been patient when I’m ready to give up. And he’s done immeasurably more than I could ever ask or imagine.
What did you do in 2019 that you’d never done before?
- Got a root canal (do not recommend)
- Drove on the left side of the road
- Ate black pudding (do not recommend)
- Became an aunt
- Went to an Oilers game at Rogers Place
- Dealt with a kitchen bug infestation (word to the wise: don’t buy bulk rice from Superstore)
- Went to a World Junior’s game
- Got Nexus (highly recommend, even if you only use it to for skipping to the front of the security line and not having to take all your tiny liquids out of your carry-on bag)
- Rode in a bike rave
Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I’m sad to admit that I did not keep any of my resolutions from last year. I’m going to roll them all over into 2020 because I think they’re still worth pursuing.
My goal was to read 30 books, but I only made it to 27. In my defence, that’s one more than last year. I also read two thirds of War & Peace for book club, and it doesn’t even count because I haven’t finished the whole book yet. Even if it did count it would only be one book, but two thirds of War & Peace is still about 900 pages which is at least two regular-sized books, maybe three. Anyway, next year I will read 30 books, I promise! Everyone knows you can’t break a promise you make to the internet.
Last year I made a vague fitness goal which I also failed miserably at. Please try to contain your shock and dismay. I barely went to the gym and while I did ride my bike to work in the summer, I have since let my fitness (and posture) slide miserably. This year I will try to ride my bike more often (when it stops raining, let’s be reasonable). And I promise to get back into doing all the posture exercises that Grace taught me.
I met some of my financial goals this year, but not all of them. I ended up spending a lot more money on travel and dental work than I’d planned. I have no regrets because all of my trips were wonderful and now I can eat ice cream. But I will try to stick a bit closer to home this year so I can save up (for more trips…kidding).
One new goal I have for this year is to memorize all of Romans 8. It will definitely take me an entire year to accomplish this, as I’m famously terrible at memorization. Anyone (Marc, Grace or Tiff) who has asked me to play a song I have played hundreds of times before without a chart can vouch for me on this one.
Did anyone close to you give birth?
There was one Very Important Person born into my life this year: my new nephew! William Jacob Miller was born on September 29 and already has his passport and one international flight under his belt, so you know we’re definitely related.
I also had two teammates go on mat leave this year: Nadia had baby girl Stella in September and Jackie had her baby girl on New Year’s Eve! A ton of my friends are pregnant right now so just wait until the 2020 year in review, it’ll just be a list of babies.
Did anyone close to you die?
Sadly, my Grandma’s last remaining sister, my Great Aunt Tory passed away in November.
What countries did you visit?
Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, New Zealand and the USA. I flew over 56,000 km and drove even more. Apologies to Greta Thunberg, but my carbon footprint this year was quite large. I had no idea back in January that I’d be on the road quite so much. Here are a few highlights:
- We stumbled upon a pub jam night in Dublin. The chords for all the songs were projected onto a screen so everyone in the pub could bring their instruments and play along. It was total chaos but I loved it.
- We took a Black Taxi tour in Belfast and learned all about the history of the Troubles. We’re pretty sure our driver was ex-paramilitary but he wouldn’t outright admit to it, obviously.
- We stopped at the Dark Hedges on our way up to the North coast even though not one of us watches Game of Thrones.
- I had an introvert adventure day and went to Windsor Castle by myself to visit the Queen. I’m 83% sure I saw Prince Charles drive away in a range rover.
- Through a happy scheduling accident, we were in London at the same time as Ben and Michelle Gadd and got to go see a play with them in the West End.
- I have no pictures of this, but we came very close to missing our flight home from London. Normally there’s a Thameslink train from St. Pancras to Gatwick (and it’s significantly cheaper than the Gatwick Express from Victoria station), but it was cancelled and we didn’t realize it until we showed up at the station. We had to take the tube back to London Bridge, change to the Overground station, take a (non-express) train to Croydon, and then change trains to get on the train to Gatwick. When Grace & I arrived at Croydon we saw the Brennans on the next platform over, boarding the train as it was about to depart. Steph yelled at us to “RUN!” and then managed to stall the train from leaving by pretending she was having problems with her stroller. We just made it onto the train as the doors closed behind us. It was very dramatic. We arrived at the airport about two minutes after bag check was supposed to close, but the gate agent took pity on us because the Brennans were travelling with a baby. I’ve never come so close to missing a flight and I wish I could tell you that I was totally cool about it, but I was super stressed and I cried. Grace was totally cool about it, naturally. The moral of this tale is, always check the Trainline app and don’t rely on Google Maps!
- Ginger Beer, Anzac cookies and Tim Tams stand out as highlights from my time in New Zealand. I also had the best scone of my whole entire life in Wanaka.
- We blindly followed the Google Maps fastest route up a treacherous mountain road that was wide enough for one car but was inexplicably used as a two-lane highway. At one point as we rounded a particularly treacherous corner, a local Kiwi driver came barrelling at us in the opposite direction and nearly ended up going over a cliff. I kid you not, one of his back wheels was hanging off the edge and we had to help push his car back onto the road. As the navigator, I was entirely responsible for this near-death experience.
What would you like to have in 2020 that you lacked in 2019?
A boyfriend and an Oilers playoff run. This is the same thing I answered in 2017 and I went 0 for 2 so let’s hope Connor and Leon can come through for me this year.
What dates from 2019 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
- April 29: The day I left for Ireland
- June 1: The day of the Safety Rodeo at work
- August 23: The day I left for New Zealand
- September 29: William’s birthday
What were your biggest achievements of the year?
I had a year full of growth and learning at work. It was my first full calendar year in my job and I’m proud of a lot of the content I produced, some new processes I introduced for our team, and the great #collaboration I’ve done with my fantastic coworkers. Other notable achievements included:
- Riding my bike up the main street hill in the middle of summer.
- Revolutionizing our team recognition system at work by introducing Christmas candy grams. Four for you Glen Coco.
- Navigating around Auckland by myself, driving on the opposite side of the road.
- Finally Breaking My Habit of Over-Capitalization.
- Figuring out how to make Anzac cookies after I came home from NZ.
What was your biggest failure?
Looking back over the year it’s hard to single out one big failure. But don’t be fooled— I had tons of small failures. I can think of many examples where I wish I’d been kinder and more patient with others. There were also a few times where I felt wronged by others and I had a really hard time forgiving, letting go and moving on. I’m thankful for God’s grace that covers my failures, big and small.
Also one of my small regrets of the year was going to the Titanic Museum in Belfast instead of to Guilt Trip Donuts. The museum was fine but not spectacular. By all accounts the donuts were spectacular.
Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nothing beyond the occasional cold or aching back.
What was the best thing you bought?
My bike! And all those plane tickets.
Whose behaviour merited celebration?
My pastors and alliterative friends: Matt and Melissa Menzel. Matt became the lead pastor of our church at the beginning of this year, and since then he’s had to lead through a season of nearly constant changes. There have been some hard decisions and mistakes along the way, but through it all he has led humbly, with a lot of grace and wisdom.
It must be hard to discern what’s right or where God is leading your church today. There are so many churches out there doing cool things, so many pastors preaching great sermons and it’s all available to us on the internet. How do you figure out what’s right for your church? How do you lead the people you’ve been given and not get caught up with trying to implement something that worked well for another ministry?
I’ve watched Matt and Missy faithfully and prayerfully follow the Lord in this season and do their best to love and shepherd people well. I can only imagine the joy and pain that must come with leading a big church like ours and I’m so thankful for their servant leadership and friendship.
Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
Where did most of your money go?
Airplane tickets and dental work.
What did you get really, really, really excited about?
I was excited about all of my trips, but particularly my trip to Ireland. I also got really excited about my new nephew (but no one was as excited about him as my Mom).
What songs will always remind you of 2019?
I’m starting to wonder if I’ve reached the age where I’m just totally uncool and no longer interested in new music? I was trying to think of albums I loved that came out this year and I can only think of Kings Kaleidoscope’s Zeal. Of course I listened to Kanye’s album and tried to get into the new Harry Styles album (I loved his first one but so far this one isn’t really doing it for me). But I listened to old favourites more than anything new this year.
The two best concerts I went to were Kacey Musgraves in Seattle and Maggie Rogers at the Orpheum this past September.
And, bonus! My favourite Podcasts:
- I listened to The Daily well, daily.
- There’s No Such Thing as a Fish –Brit humour, my fav.
- KXC Church Podcast – Brit sermons, my fav.
- The Jason Gregor Show with Jason Strudwick. To keep up with the Oilers, plus these two make me laugh. *technically this is an old school AM radio show, but I listened to it mostly via podcast.
Compared to this time last year, are you:
- Happier or Sadder? About the same, maybe a bit sadder.
- Thinner or Fatter? Slightly fatter.
- Richer or Poorer? About the same.
What do you wish you’d done more of?
Reading, riding my bike and spending time with Jesus.
What do you wish you’d done less of?
Looking at my phone and eating out for lunch.
How will you be spending Christmas?
My favourite part of the Christmas season this year was Hope Alight at Westside. We gathered on the stage for a candlelight service and sang traditional carols (including a rousing rendition of the Twelve Days of Christmas that Gramma Miller would’ve loved). It was joyful, beautiful and full of awe and wonder.
I flew home to Edmonton after the Christmas Eve service and then spent a few days with my family. All the “kids” went to see Star Wars in IMAX—it’s becoming a Miller Family Christmas tradition and I don’t know what we’ll do next year when there are no more new movies. For Christmas I gave Will a baby Herschel backpack (thanks to Micah D. Brennan for the fashion inspiration) and a stuffed pig that looks a lot like the one I got for my first Christmas and then carted around for the next twenty-odd years.
Did you fall in love in 2019?
What was your favourite TV program?
- Derry Girls – There were a few moments in this series where I laughed until the tears were streaming down my face and had to pause and rewind. If you grew up in the late 90s/early 2000s I highly recommend.
- Schitt’s Creek – Happy to have some CanCon on this list. Ew David.
- Would I Lie to You?
- Chernobyl – This will probably be on all those official best-of lists, deservedly so. I learned so much and you barely noticed that all the Ukrainians/Russians spoke with British accents.
- Peaky Blinders – Tommy Shelby WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO YOU?
- Line of Duty – I watched the entire fifth series on the plane to/from New Zealand. Readers, it is a thrill ride. The first four seasons of it are on Netflix if you’re interested. Caveat: the first season is the weakest, in my opinion. Seasons two through five are some of the best television writing around.
What were the best books you read?
Hands down the best book I read this year was Say Nothing: A true story of murder and memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe. It’s narrative non-fiction, told mostly from the perspective of two IRA operatives. I read it after travelling to Belfast and it helped the book come alive for me, but I don’t think you need to have been there to find it interesting.
I also read and enjoyed a lot of four start books this year: Lethal White by Robert Galbraith, The Chilbury Ladies Choir by Jennifer Ryan and Princes at War: The Bitter Battle Inside Britain’s Royal Family in the Darkest Days of WWII by Deborah Cadbury. And of course there were a few, Armand Gamache and Flavia De Luce mysteries thrown in there.
What was your greatest musical discovery?
At a songwriting day earlier this year I was able to sit down in one afternoon and write lyrics to an entire song. The song was terrible, but I finished it! Usually I’m able to come up with a verse or chorus I like and then I get stuck and never do anything with it. My musical discovery was to force myself not to edit too much the first go-around and remember that I can always come back and perfect it later.
Also, Marc got a Wurlitzer just before Christmas and I can’t wait to discover all the songs that will sound sweeter on a Wurly. (I know, I know, that was a stretch).
What did you want and get?
A trip to Ireland, a blue Draisaitl jersey and cardamom buns from Fabrique bakery.
What did you want and not get?
Besides the obvious Oilers playoff run? A T3 Curling Iron. I’ve wanted one of these for years but I can’t bring myself to spend that much money on a curling iron, so I have refrained from buying one up until now.
What were your favourite films of this year?
- The Farewell
- They Shall Not Grow Old
- Apollo 11 I went to see this documentary in the theatre and the people sitting next to me brought their three year old (!!!). Naturally I needed to see it again without a small person loudly saying, “WHAT ARE THEY DOING?” every 90 seconds, so I made Tiff and Chris watch this with me on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.
Sidebar: I’m not always sure I’m a true Enneagram 5, but then I do something like put two documentaries on my favourite films of the year list.
What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I (sort of) had two birthdays this year because I was in New Zealand. For my Kiwi birthday, we stopped for coffee at a roaster called Miller’s in Auckland before hitting the road to Coromandel. I drove on the left side of the road for the first time! On my real (aka Canadian time zone) birthday we went to Hobbiton and I celebrated with Bilbo, because I’m basically eleventy-one anyway. As someone (a university student) told me this year I’m: “like OLD old now.”
How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2019?
More oxfords, pink accessories and scrunchies than any one girl needs.
What kept you sane?
Jesus, a supportive group iMessage and peppermint halo.
Which celebrity or public figure did you fancy the most?
Tommy Shelby and Leon Draisaitl.
What political issue stirred you the most?
Ugh. Politics has become the absolute worst, hasn’t it? “All have turned aside, together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” I’m so tired of the left-versus-right, activism-is-the-answer-to-hopelessness crap that our culture tries to sell us. All of the outrage is exhausting, and to me it seems so disconnected from the actual day-to-day stuff of real life. I probably just need to stay off Twitter, don’t I? Anyway, I voted in the Canadian federal election, but out of a sense of duty rather than any actual strong political convictions.
Who did you miss?
Let’s get the obvious answer out of the way: I always miss my family. Even though I spent a ton of time with them this year—I went to Edmonton four times, took a two-week trip to NZ with my parents, went camping with Kev and Micaela and ended the year with a family trip to Hawaii— it’s not the same as living in the same city and being able to share normal life together. I don’t regret making a life out here on the west coast, but I often wish I could meet up with them for lunch or a movie without air travel involved.
I also really missed Grandma Miller this year. She’s been gone for three years but there are still moments when something makes me think of her and I feel the loss all over again. We liked a lot of the same things, so I often find myself wishing I could tell her about a book I read or a TV show I watched. Her last remaining sister, my Great Aunt Tory died this past November. It’s crazy to think that whole generation of my family is gone now.
Who was the best new person you met?
Our church community group this year is tiny. During the fall semester there were only six of us! It makes for a very different dynamic than in years past. It’s less structured and more like having a standing hangout time once a week with a small group of friends. It’s meant that we’ve been able to eat a lot of meals together and get to know one another in a more natural way. So I’ve really enjoyed meeting and becoming friends with Tim, Sharla and Josh from Community Group.
Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2019?
When I look back over the year and think of the times that were especially hard or things I agonized over, in hindsight they were never as big a deal as they seemed at the time. I don’t say that to minimize anything I went through, but it’s a good lesson that most things are not quite as bad they feel in the moment. I hope that I can remember this as I face suffering or hardship in 2020, and trust that God is in control of the big picture, his ways are not my ways, and he is bigger and more powerful than anything I’m facing. Let’s be real, I’ll probably forget but maybe I can read this again in June and remember.
Quote a song lyric that sums up your year
I have listened to and sung Psalm 145 a lot this year. I won’t type out all the lyrics here, but these two lines consistently pop into my head and I think they’re a fitting theme to end on:
I will bless you all of my days, Lord. I will praise you always my God and King…
We have seen your splendour and glory, we have seen your wonders and stand amazed…