Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Road Goes Ever On and On...

The Road goes ever on and on
   Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
   And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
   Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
   And whither then? I cannot say.

~ J. R. R. Tolkien
We stand on the cusp of a new year, a road winding like a silver ribbon before us. Though the road goes past our safe little Hobbit holes, it is the very same road that runs through Mirkwood forest and the Misty Mountains. It looks unassuming, even beguiling, from where we sit in our cosy armchairs –yet as we follow the path with eager feet, we know not what errands or strangers we may meet. That is how this past year opened before me. Then I wrote of fears and uncertainties, as my family and I passed through the dark waters of Mirkwood (also known as cancer). I did not know then all of the errands I would be privileged to share in –trips to Florida and New Mexico, to Utah and Alaska. I had little idea of the actual mountains I would climb, or of the Smaugs I would encounter in my personal life.

Now I see a bend in the road ahead of me. There are plane tickets and plans. There are the golden gifts of friendships to cherish, and the knowledge that some of my dearest companions's roads will take them far away from me. There are physical goals and challenges I desire to meet. Yet I am sure there will be deeper challenges to face inside of me, and in my relationships with my family, friends, and God. As always, we only see the bit of the path we are on. Sometimes I can see far ahead where the road winds up the mountains, or disappears into a dim forest. Other times I see the shadowy form of the road I have already traversed... But whither then? Like Bilbo and Frodo, I cannot say. And though that risk means I may not be ready for hardships, it also means I cannot foresee all the blessings to come, either.

At the opening of this year I was praying for my Dad's health, afraid that he would be taken from me... But in those same first few days of the year, I also received the sweet blessing of a new friend, who has been a solace to me throughout the year. God knows the larger way our paths will go. Often when the terrors seem the worst, He gives us a companion or two to traverse the road with us, or He walks by us Himself, like the Ranger-King, Aragorn. We may not always recognise Him, but He will not forsake us.

On the brink of a new year, I recall to mind that we have just celebrated the Incarnation, the Word made flesh. This gives me hope that God, Who has made His dwelling among us, has good things in store for me this year. I am thankful for so much from this last year - my Dad's health; a sweet, sound niece; dear friends; long hikes in the stillness of the mountains; the wind in the pines; stars in a crisp sky; long walks and talks around Manitou; coffee and tea with various friends; grey jays and chattering squirrels; poetry and prose that have pierced my heart; and even the sorrow that has led me to press more closely into step with Jesus. It is good. There is hope. And now the rolling road winds into a new year, and I must follow –with eager feet– if I can.

~ Johanna

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