Barefoot in the grass.

Christmas is nearly here and after that, the new year begins. I’m not one for new year’s resolutions so much as I am for last year’s reflections. I believe that we cannot move forward until we look back and acknowledge what propelled us to this place.

Much of my Texas life feels surreal. Even when it’s hard, even when I’m letting out frustrated sighs and muttered curse words and finding myself raw and bleeding from another encounter with a heart that’s hurting, it is still surreal. Because was it really a year ago that I told the Lord I was committed to staying in my wee house in my heartbreak town? Was it really a year ago that I laid down my other dreams for good and told myself that working in healthcare would be my path? Was it really a year ago that despite feeling like I was supposed to stay, I started packing up my house anyway because new things were coming and I could feel it in my bones? I distinctly remember the night I told some friends that half my house was already in boxes because my life was about to change. I didn’t know when or how, but I knew it. Somehow. They didn’t laugh, but they weren’t encouraging either. They thought I was crazy.

I was crazy. I was crazy tired of mediocre and half-assed. I was crazy ready for some new adventure, some new adrenaline rush, some wild thing to happen that would force me up and over the mountain. I was crazy with fear that what was in front of me is all that it would ever be.

Was it really only a year ago that I felt like that? Ready, but not knowing anything that was about to happen? Was is really a year ago that the Lord whispered gently: “For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19)

Was it really a year ago that I laid sick as a dog on the couch on Christmas Day, unable to breathe properly and dreading another year like the one before? I remember how it snowed so hard my dad had to load up his snowblower and drive across town to plow my driveway. That blasted snow. So pretty, but such a bear to contend with. Little did I know I’d be leaving it far behind and heading 800 miles south to see dreams come true just 7 weeks later.

Oh, this year. It has not been without its hard moments (and perhaps those will lend themselves to writing later), but it has been lovely. Far, far lovelier than I deserve. A redemptive year, you could say. My heart/mind/soul has been redeemed from the pit of depression. My career and academic goals have been redeemed. My perceptions about the church and how God writes the meta-narrative of my life have been redeemed. Some relationships I let go of have been returned to me tenfold and the welcoming has been so gentle and sweet. I love my job and my students and the passionate people with whom I work. My mind is exploding with ideas for books and dreams and adventures. Was it really a year ago that none of this existed in my life?

This time last year I was trudging through the snow, feeling burdened by circumstances and my heavy heart and lifting one world-weary boot in front of the other, hoping and praying for (but not believing in) changes so wild they could only be wrought by the hands of the living God.

I think the temp hovered around 0 degrees at Christmastime. It’s going to be a lot warmer here this year in my home in the piney woods. About 70, they say. I have plans to go to the lake and listen to the water at the shore and stand barefoot in the grass with my eyes wide open and my arms at my sides and not crossed in front of my heart. Life feels a lot lighter these days. And I’m right where I need to be. Because the Lord has been whispering again lately. To show up and do life in the ditches with my fellow travelers. To “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15). To be barefoot in the grass on Christmas Day, present and ready for another round of unknown and unfathomable adventures.

Waiting.

I have no patience. None. Zero. When something doesn’t meet expectations or deadlines – real or imagined – I smile and nod externally while I’m stomping my foot angrily on the inside. No patience.

I am especially impatient with the sorrowful times of those in my tribe. I don’t mean that I want them to get over it. I mean that I want their suffering to end and their lives to be lovely and light and unburdened. So right now, in the Christian Advent season, in the time when I’m supposed to be anticipatory and hopeful and breathless in awe and wonder … I’m real impatient with God.

Because people, my people, are hurting.

Because my cousins welcomed two teensy tiny baby girls into the world and they’re still hooked up to machines in the hospital. I so badly want one baby’s lungs to be strong and for her to weigh more than 1 pound and I want the other baby to be held unencumbered by her mama and I want to see them both grow up healthy and whole and run in fields and scoop up flowers by the fistfuls and drive their big brothers absolutely mad with their laughter and dollies laying everywhere.

Because my dear, precious friends now know why their sweet, darling little girl doesn’t feel well. May they finally get some rest and be assured that she will get well and grow up strong and healthy.

Because a high school classmate’s handsome little man 500 miles away is going through much the same as that darling little girl. Diagnosed within a week of each other. May his laughter always be a present experience and his illness just a memory. I want them all to be able to rest in the joy of knowing God as Healer and that this same God is bigger than tumors and chemo and endless hospital visits.

Because a dear friend/family member is wading through some hard stuff. And I want her to be joyful and unafraid.

Because my friend’s mother is in recovery but not out of the woods. And they’re all so tired. Long illnesses take a toll on more than just the sick.

Because last week I overheard a hateful and hurtful comment from a student that shook me to my core. And it wasn’t what he said about me that was the worst thing, even though it made me cry later. The worst thing was how those words changed a dynamic I thought was solid, and jolted my perspective about my university. As great as it is, hate and loathing still reside here.

Because I didn’t get what I long for. And despite every well-intentioned word, I wonder if I ever will. I wonder if maybe God forgot me, left me behind to do other things. I know it’s not about me and it never was. I just didn’t expect to still. be. here.

Because sometimes dreams don’t come true and we get tired of waiting. So very tired. We want our kids well and our people whole and our hearts unshattered. We want people to be kind and compassionate and respectful of the humanity and the divinity that resides in us all. My 33 years have held enough life for me to know that I may always be stomping my foot in my impatience with the fact that so many people are walking wounded.

It’s Advent. It’s a time when I’m supposed to be joyfully waiting on the Lord. It’s a time when I should be drawing nearer to and further in. Instead, I’m just impatiently waiting. Watching. Wondering. And absolutely convinced that all of this hard and holy mess is gift. advent-candles