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.