The first month of 2020 ends, and maybe we feel a little let down because we haven’t moved into the infant year like we intended. Typically we expect January 1 to offer hope and opportunity. For some it does. For others, it is the same old routine, the same hurts, the same struggles, following us into the next thirty days.
I recall years, attested in my journals, when January 1 was exactly like December 31, me wondering if I had the strength to persevere. How often I prayed, “O God of new beginnings and fresh starts, it’s me again.”
Still, I am a fan of new months and weeks, a brand new day, a new adventure. There is expectancy in an unfolding promise.
The grey days of winter have worn a bit thin. I eagerly awaited the first glow of dawn. I noticed blue sky breaking through clouds and looked for sunsets.
I lit candles early morning waiting for darkness to vanish. I turned on lamps throughout the house to brighten the atmosphere as evening descended.
Already I weary of a winter without one really good snow. I tried to notice the lengthening days, incremental though they are, anticipating spring, warmth, and sunshine. I hoped the purple crocuses beside the front walk would surprise me one day.
I hosted a bridal tea party in January, celebrating the freshness of two lives soon to become one. This young couple met at our house one evening at Bible study, and it’s a story I love to tell. In just a few weeks they will vow their forever covenant of love.
I pulled out the pretty dishes, platters and cake plates hidden in closets and cupboards, dusty from non use. Preparation for the event reminded me of days when the grand girls were young children and welcomed any excuse for a tea party. They disappeared into the back bedroom where the box of dress-up clothes were stored and emerged like butterflies. They picked out tea cups from my collection. We spread the table with cheese and crackers, store bought cookies, hot cocoa, or whatever was handy. It wasn’t about the food, it was about the event of a tea party, of being together and enjoying the experience.
I began listening to the Daily Audio Bible with Brian Hardin, joining my cousin to journey through the Bible in a year. I enjoy the daily interchange as Brian expressively reads and I hear something new in old familiar stories. It is a spiritual discipline enriching my life.
I spent time with friends this month. Some are suffering in different ways. It presses hard on them as they walk paths not of their choosing. My heart aches for people I love. I want to ease their pain. I know I cannot. My only offering is a gift of time, a listening ear without judgment, and prayers for the awareness of the the God of all comfort.
January 2020 is a memory, and in a way I don’t understand, it seemed slow, unlike my usual fleeting days, me barely aware until the months’ end appears on my planner. But not this month.
I’m pondering what made the difference. I said “no” to a couple of opportunities, trying to listen to my heart and set boundaries for myself, a skill I’m not very good at. I made and effort to work on projects, reckoning with my time and energy.
February begins, offering another new month, another opportunity, a promise unfolding. I want to live it well.
It is a new year with all the looking backward and looking forward. We evaluate, resolve, set goals, plan projects. What worked? What didn’t? What needs to change? How can I improve? The fact that it’s a new decade means the pressure is on.
I’ve heard enough in the few days of 2020, how to make the best of the next 12 months, and I’m already tired.
There’s no judgment, because I am a planner and a goal setter with the best of them. I’m just trying to look toward this year differently.
Having lived seven decades, I know myself better than twenty years before. I acknowledge my strengths. I grimace at my weaknesses. I want to be the best me possible with the time remaining. I want to be authentic and genuine. I want to be the person God made me to be.
I’m a work in progress, an ongoing transition of being transformed. I am becoming.
Time looks different to me now, limited in a way I had no concept of when I turned eighteen. Sweet William and I attended too many funerals last year, reaffirming the truth that life on this earth, in this form, is not permanent.
How can I make the most of what is left of this one beautiful life I’ve been given? This I ponder. I want to say ‘yes’ to what I’m called to do. I need to say ‘no’ to what I’m not. My candle burns short. I want the flame to burn bright.
I fear sleepwalking through the rest of my life, barely aware of the path I’m on, moving in autopilot, doing what I’ve always done.
I hear the call to live life fully, no matter the circumstances. I ache to do something significant, though it be small.
Challenges await me. Hills and valleys will be part and parcel of my journey. There will be sunshine, and there will be rain. I will experience great joy, and I will cry.
The God I serve has a plan I cannot comprehend. He knows the way, charts the path. He orders my steps, and sometimes makes me stop in my tracks.
As I contemplate Jesus’ life, His three years of ministry, I marvel at His focus to stay the course despite opposition, in spite of friends and enemies who wanted Him to dance to another tune. He would not. He marched to the beat of a heavenly drum. He knew His mission. He listened for His Father’s voice. He followed the plan calculated before earth had a foundation.
Sometimes we make it too complicated with our rules and regulations, our action plans and resolutions. Jesus made it simple. Love God. Love others. Do the right thing. Hold to the truth.
The prophet Amos spoke words to the people centuries before me. They seem profound and yet simple. They seem appropriate.
This is what the Lord says to Israel: “Seek me and live . . . “
Perhaps this is the map I’ve been looking for. This is the way to life.
January has been different. It’s the only way I know to describe it.
With health concerns in the forefront of our minds, Sweet William and I began the month on the road, heading west to be with our precious ones. We needed the comfort of being with them. It’s the way we weather the storms of life sometimes, because we’re better together than apart.
Time spent with those we hold so dear was sweet, and the outcome of a surgery was positive. After a week, we headed home feeling relief and giving thanks to God for always providing His grace for our needs.
This trip we left Maisie at home with a house/pet sitter we trusted. Being our first experience, it created a little anxiety for me. I kept texting the first few days to see if everything was OK. It was beyond OK. Maisie got to play more than usual, and the house was freshly clean when we came home. It was an incredible welcome after long hours on the road, unloading the car and beginning the task of laundry and putting everything away.
I’ve been reclusive this month. Maybe it was the cold weather and too many grey-sky days. Maybe it was a case of the blues as I tried to iron out unruly thoughts. Maybe I needed the calm after the bustle of Christmas and the unexpected of New Year.
I journaled pages, scribbling and sorting through what troubled me. It’s like a free counseling session as I get emotions out of my system and onto paper. It is my hope that whoever may read my words one day will give me grace for being human and understand that I was in a difficult place.
I busied myself with inside projects and recognize it as a mechanism I use to deal. When something is out of control, whether that be me or circumstances, I do what I can control, like cleaning out a closet.
I’ve been between a rock and a hard place of trying to hygge with lit candles, snuggling in quilts, and cozy fire sitting while, at the same time, Marie Kondo prescribes that I tidy up my surroundings and turn loose of anything that does not bring me joy.
I briefly “read” (more like scanned) a book about minimalist decorating and decided I am not a fan. The pictures of rooms looked like no one lived there with their grey industrial walls and bare surfaces. I am fond of my stuff, the things I willingly dust around because each one reflects back to me a person, a memory, or simple beauty. I can find balance with my belongings without being overtaken by them.
During my January organizing, I went through old photographs, finding some treasures. One of my granddaughters recently developed an interest in studying her ancestry. I was happy to share pictures and stories with her. And one of these days, I really am going to put the black and white images in albums, especially now that someone will treasure their history.
Among the photographs, I found a couple of V-mail letters my mother had written to my father during WWII. The handwriting was tiny, but I recognized her familiar script. Her words were sentimental and romantic, a new bride of two years who longed for her husband far from home. It was poignant to read, witnessing my parents tenderly young and deeply in love. They were beginning their lives together, dreaming of a future when they were together again.
I’ve sort of recently discovered podcasts, and I have a few favorites I enjoy listening to as I do some task. In one interview, a man spoke about his life spiraling downward with overwork, alcohol abuse, and depression. He realized he had to change his habits and wrote a book about it. One of the habits he recommended was meeting with a friend for an hour every week. That sounds simple enough, but is it? We are busy folk, distracted, multi-tasking gurus. Or perhaps reclusive. It takes intentionality to set aside time, to turn off technology, to focus and quiet the heart for a face-to-face with another. I have found it worth the effort and one of the most refreshing things I can do for myself.
Another book of interest this month was The Language of God, A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief by Francis Collins. Collins is renowned for his leadership in the Human Genome Project. The book was deep and made me think outside the box regarding science and faith, which often seems to be at odds with each other. I appreciated his unbiased approach, presenting the facts and then asking the reader to think for herself.
This quote from Albert Einstein has meaning for me: “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” I understand better now that faith and science do not have to be in conflict with each other.
The last couple of days of the month, the electric company appeared on our lane with heavy equipment. Sweet William and I heard the noise of the machines and strained to see what was happening. To my horror, they began to cut a 50 foot tract through our little woods, ripping brush and saplings, crushing everything in the path. I drove the car down the lane and saw the devastation.
I enjoy my little woods. It has taken years for the trees to grow and fill in the area. I wanted to cry.
The electric company had every right to do their work. They purchased that stip of land years ago, underneath the high wires that run from east to west. My trees were sacrificed for the greater good of having electricity in my home and the homes of my neighbors, close and far. On the frigid days of January ending, I have been thankful for a warm house. Still I grieve the loss.
Many times as I have driven to town, I noticed yards along the road where branches have been cut to prevent them from tangling with wires. It looks butchered to me, the branches severed, trees lopsided, nothing esthetic or artful. They stand in their naked brokenness.
Yet spring and summer reveals their continued vigorous growth, leaves filling out the cut and jagged places. Often when I observe them, I think of the pruning in my own life, things cut away, often severely, leaving me feeling lopsided and naked. Is it somehow for the greater good?
Only God will tell me the reasons one day. I expect in some way or another, He will explain life to me, the whys and the wherefores of pain, suffering, loss, the cutting away that He knows is necessary for a more fruitful life. He knows the purpose He has for me and others.
Until then, I must learn to trust Him, knowing He is wise and good. This life is not about me, after all. It is about Him. Perhaps this one wild life I live will in some way point others in His direction. Perhaps God will shine through the cracked and jagged places in me. Perhaps the pruning will result in more fruit than I could have imagined.
Perhaps in the wisdom and sovereignty of God, He will produce something beautiful in me, something that will give joy. Perhaps I will even reflect His glory to the world.
“Happy New Year” is past and January 2018 is well on its way to become mid-month. Sweet William and I waited for the predicted winter storm to move from warning to reality. It took half a day to get here. We have milk, bread and coffee.
I’ve been quiet on this blog since December, enjoying the rhythm of moving gently into another year.
Many were the feverish years when goals were written in categories, along with steps to achieve them: work, house, personal, spiritual, physical. I was regimented and orderly. These days, I am tending toward becoming a student of slow and steady, like the tortoise.
I enjoy the days where nothing is penciled into my planner. I guard myself from my natural tendency to fill up a week in a lickety-split minute. This is a different season of life, and I want to live it well.
I am task-oriented, and I know it. Even now I must be purposeful in the commitments I make. Too often I’ve been quick to say “yes” without considering the consequences of time and energy, without understanding every “yes” equals a “no” somewhere else.
Our little girl, Maisie, teaches me about living at a slower pace. Life is simple for her. She likes to eat, sleep, play, and take walks. She sprints ahead of me with pure joy, then lingers long with her nose to the ground. This is her job after all.
My 2018 bullet journal is filled in, the pages bearing calendars and lists and things I’d like to accomplish in the next twelve months. I have a page titled “Bucket List” which includes learning to play the ukulele, something Sweet William is trying to help me do.
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve read advice about the new year. I’ve done this so many times, and often I drove myself to accomplish much. Did I think it would make me more valuable, more worthy, more acceptable? Perhaps.
I know my year will include meal preparation and clean up that together take longer than eating the good food. I will do loads of laundry and fold and re-fold the same shirts, underwear and socks for the zillionth time. I will dust and vacuum and make up the bed. I will prepare at least 365 pots of coffee. I will shop for groceries, pay bills, and file papers.
I will drive to doctor and dentist offices more times than I like.
I will invite people in to share our table, and I will accept invitations from others. I will attend church, Sunday school, and Bible study and pursue relationships.
I will play the piano, tend the gardens, and watch the sunrise as I drink my morning coffee. I will walk with Maisie, slow to her pace and appreciate each one of the seasons.
I will kiss Sweet William good morning, and join him as we pray for people on our prayer list.
I will seek to hear the tender voice of the Spirit and ask to grow deeper in wisdom and understanding, compassion and mercy, love and forgiveness.
This begins another year of my life. I want to accomplish things and cross them off my list. I want to make a decision, move on, and learn something new. I want to keep trying and grow in so many worthwhile ways.
I want to live this wild and wonderful life I’ve been given. I want to help someone along the way, be a blessing, help bear a burden, let someone know she is loved.
I’ve not written all that in my bullet journal. Some things cannot be measured by list and accomplishment. Isn’t it the intangibles, the investment of time and attention we make in a life that takes more than 52 weeks to complete? And yet, it is the weightiest act of living.
The year lies ahead. The opportunities are before me. They will come one day at a time.
As December goes – it is the best of times and the worst of times.
The joy of Christmas mixed with the stress of the holidays can do us in. Sometimes we sigh with relief on the 26th and breathe “I’m glad it’s over.” Been there and done that.
But December 2017 was different from years past. It seemed slower, quiet days intermingled with a manageable busy. The month started with a Christmas recital of my piano students at a senior assisted-living facility that was great fun. The residents enjoyed our familiar carols, and we enjoyed talking with them.
People dropped in to share a meal or a cup of hot tea and cocoa with us. Two days Sweet William and I had a house full of girls which made for a lively Wright House. They brought conversation, giggles, and a lot of fun to us.
We spent time with friends and family, planned and spur of the moment. I am thankful for the people in my life who enrich me in ways I can’t even describe, but I recognize it when I see myself growing, the fruit that comes from companions who make me better.
My decorating was simple this year. While the Christmas tree is not my favorite thing to do, Sweet William loves it. So it was the first thing on the to-do list. Somehow completing that one task made the rest easier. Our pre-lit tree began to shut down one branch at a time, so I made a stop at the dollar store to purchase LED lights. We added them to a fully-decorated tree, and in the spirit of Charlie Brown’s friend Linus, it was not a bad little tree at all.
My December goals were simple:
1. Learn to listen better and speak less
2. Walk in peace and offer peace
3. Purge Christmas stuff as I put it away
I’m still working on one and two. Three didn’t happen. I did a major purge last year, and it seemed to be less than I remembered. So I boxed it all up and once again stored it behind a closed door.
During the month I was reading Eve Schaub’s Year of No Clutter: A Memoir. Her efforts at emptying an overstuffed junk room and eliminating clutter in her life revealed some of the reasons we collect and keep, store and even hoard. Being the keeper of memories, I began to understand myself as I read about Eve’s issues with stuff. It helped me turn loose without guilt and to stress less about keeping what is precious and memorable to me.
Speaking of books, I tracked the ones I read this year in my bullet journal. It is an interesting discipline that now shows me the variety of material I’ve consumed. Reading was not something I enjoyed in school when I was required to do book reports. Thankfully, I have learned to love the written word, and find non-fiction as attractive as fiction.
It is not surprising then, that I am interested in bloggers who list their favorite books. I take some of their suggestions as I make my list for 2018. I check my library first. Because while I am a collector of things, books being one category, I now want to read a loaned book rather than purchase another that must find room on the shelves. (Though I am still buying books. What’s wrong with me?)
As the hours of 2017 are dwindling, I become reflective, reviewing the 365 days I spent so casually. Did I use them well?
And what of 2018? A new year emerges as a clean slate, an unwritten notebook, a fresh start. As I prepare my new bullet journal, jotting down goals, aspirations, intentions, resolutions if you will, one thing I do want is to be aware of the exquisiteness of life. It is ths gift of years, days and seconds we have been allotted. The bequest of breaths I take should count for something. It is not about filling my days full of activity and proclaiming my mantra, “I’m just so busy.” That’s no way to live.
There should be time to sit quietly, ponder and meditate;
time to listen as others speak without thinking of my response and what I want to say;
time to invite others into my life in a deep and meaningful way;
time to read good books, read again the aged manuscripts of God and learn anew;
time to serve with humility and grace;
time to work hard and do it for the glory of God;
time to be fully present in the moment, to enjoy and find joy in each one;
time to love freely and to let myself be loved completely.
Solomon said, “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” There is time, and it is an offering we give back in how we use it.
The passing of winter solstice, December 21, is encouraging as I anticipate temperatures in the minuses on New Year’s Eve. The days are getting longer, though imperceptible as yet. I know it is a truth. By February it will be a noticeable reality. Then spring will not be far away.
It is much like faith which is based on what we know is true. We trust and wait to see the faith become reality.
This is Christmas in all of its wonder and glory, faith built on truth. December is really more like the beginning than the end of a year. It reminds us to pause and reflect on the majesty of God’s love and His invitation for a fresh start, a new birth, a beginning to live real life abundantly.
I’ve not posted much in January, but I’ve journaled almost daily. My inside thoughts have been more prominent that my blogging ones. It’s been that kind of month.
A few sunny hours on a few days were rare, a welcome respite from the grey days. The glowing shades in sunsets were sweet because they were infrequent as Maisie and I enjoyed walking closer to 6:30 than 5:30 in the evening. The days really are getting longer.
In the middle of cloudiness, a letter from my granddaughter arrived in the mail. It brought its own version of cheer and sunbeams, eliciting smiles as I wrapped myself in her words like a comfortable old quilt.
Which is a perfect segue into the creative project I began this month. My friend is teaching several women how to make a sticks and stones quilt out of leftover scraps from her years of quilt making. I’m still a newbie quilter, this only my second, and I need the gentle instructions and reassurance that I’m doing it correctly.
Hopefully, mine will look something like this when I’m finished.
January creates an organizing frenzy inside me and the house. While removing and recycling my mess, some objects stirred memories of former joys, and I just couldn’t surrender them yet. I rediscovered a few items I’d been looking for, which is always a treat. And I gave away a couple of treasures to new homes, new owners who were delighted to receive them.
Sweet William and I attended weddings and celebrated an anniversary, and I asked a rhetorical question, “Who gets married in January?” Well, we did. Lots of memories surfaced as we thanked God for His indescribable grace to us.
I stayed glued to the TV during the presidential inauguration, the peaceful transfer of power from Democratic to Republican leadership. It was calm and dignified, an example of the freedom we live with and value in the United States. Still, the country is reeling in protests against the democratic process of making a choice through our right and privilege of voting. We are blessed with the liberty to choose and to protest. But eventually, can we just get over it and move on?
I read several books or listened to them on CD. Two of the most impacting were Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus andThe Insanity of God. The first was a biography of a young Muslim man who came to know Jesus Christ. His was a deep and thorough search, a studied reasoning against all he had been taught from his childhood. He struggled to relinquish what was familiar and the connection to his family. His story moved me. In addition, I learned much about the Muslim religion and examined my own faith.
The second book, The Insanity of God, was written under a pseudonym. The author visited the persecuted church in many foreign countries and marveled how the Christians were accustomed to spending years in jail and being tortured. To them it was normal. Yet the house churches were alive and thriving in a hostile atmosphere where Christianity is condemned. The stories of the persecuted believers humbled me and I thanked God for my freedom. I questioned how much I value this privilege and how seriously I take it.
Beth Moore’s first novel, The Undoing of Saint Silvanus, was an entertaining read. I happened to be at my library branch at the right moment to check it out. Beth’s characters came alive in the heart of New Orleans. I’m hoping for a sequel sometime in the near future.
I said “yes” to a leadership team, surprising myself with the decision. I thought I’d done my share of this sort of thing and was through. The group of women with whom I will be serving are diverse in ages, gifts, personalities, and experiences. I am looking forward to building deeper relationships with them and discovering where the Lord desires takes us.
The first month of a new year leads us toward what is to come. Annie Dillard says it this way:
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.
January is spent. February is fresh and waiting to be explored.