Friday, January 27, 2017


Today I turn thirty-two. Thirty-two years hold a lot of memories, some good, some bad; some incredibly hard and sad. The years hold memories full of laugh-until-you-cry hilarity, of wonder that humbles and hushes one. Some memories are rich with tender sweetness, with glory unspeakable and beauty that can only be felt deep inside.

I marvel at the pressed-down, shaken-together, overflowing gifts I have been given in thirty-two years. They come in a variety of persons and a myriad of heart shapes. They come in funny little packages, wriggling and red all over, crying their first cry. They come in meals and conversations around tables of all sorts and sizes; on dorm-room floors and grassy bowls, under stars and up rocky paths. They come in sacred moments of stillness, in loud hullos and hugs in airports, and in all the vows I've heard spoken before God's altar. They come in overwhelming swells of music that raise one's heart to God, and in unexpected finances taking one across the Ocean. I have been given the gift of two ears and a lot of time to listen to story after story, sigh after sigh, laugh upon laugh, and so many words of truth and encouragement.

To enumerate the gifts, sheer gifts, I have been given would take many trees and all the books they would make. If I look at just one of my family members or friends, I could write pages about all that we have shared, experienced, or thought through together. Each person God has put in my life is a story of their own, and I love that our stories intertwine—even when some of our together-story has had rough parts. God has used even those sharp, painful, unkind things to shape me—and often a repaired relationship is even stronger because we had to work together (under God) to bring about that healing and repair.

Thirty-two has dawned bright with Colorado blue skies. It has dawned with hope—hope that whatever steps God has for me to take this year, they will bring me closer to Him. Whether I stay right where I am and seek to change, or whether the road takes me on a new adventure, change inside is necessary. Ever since my dad had cancer and other unexpected, devastating things have happened in our family, I have been different. But it hasn't been a good different. I have, in fact, been indifferent. Unconcerned. Uncaring. As if all of my joy got eaten up by a different kind of cancer and betrayal.

For a year or two I had friends tell me I was different, not myself, etc. I felt it—felt like I had turned into someone else, someone I didn't like. Someone who didn't have time or energy to be filled with joy, to simply revel in each day. I miss being that person. I miss being full of vivacity. In the process of recovery, I got sidetracked by a couple of relationships that inhibited my healing. I have prolonged my indifference. Because of that, I told a friend the other day how excited I was to turn thirty-two and put the past three or four years behind me. He didn't ask me why, he instead asked me what I loved about the last year. I began jotting down a short list of highlights, which burgeoned into a hefty paragraph or two. Thirty-one was filled with wonderful people, new experiences (cross-country skiing, for one), beautiful views, the weddings of my very best friends, a lot of prayer, growth inside and professionally, lessons learned at great expense, and some really honest moments.

One of those honest times birthed some some healing that is ongoing. It opened my eyes to a truth I didn't know was true about myself—I feel like everyone thinks I am inadequate because I think I'm inadequate. I spent a lot of thirty-one focussing on myself and my needs, because I've been in recovery mode. I still am, but recovery mode doesn't mean focussing on myself. Healing doesn't come from myself. It comes from God. I want to know God and pursue Him single-heartedly, single-mindedly. I have felt warped and drained by passive aggressive people and by work many times in the last year—my mind divided and scattered. I have felt crushed by the mound of paid and unpaid work I had on my plate. I even felt exhausted by my dear friends, when it seemed like every evening was full and I had nothing left to give. My thoughts have been flighty and undisciplined. I have been living without purposefully sought, well-invested margin for far too long. I have been unstructured in my down time because I think I deserve a break.

Freedom doesn't mean a lack of structure or boundaries, however. Freedom means utilising the boundaries I have been given to become more fully who I am. I am created in God's image. How can I be fully myself, or myself well, if I don't know God well? Not knowing more about Him by reading books, per se, but knowing HIM, like I know my family's inside jokes and habits and moods... I want to know God like that, and so much more than that. Socrates said, "Know thyself," and he was right, it is important that we know ourselves. But we cannot possibly know ourselves if we don't know the One whom we image. We image. To say that make the noun a verb. We image. By being, existing, we image God. And yet we image Him even more clearly in certain ways—caring unselfishly, loving what is good, true, and beautiful—and sharing it with others in a variety of ways; by being single-minded, by being truthful and kind.

Thirty-one wasn't horrible. In fact, it wrapped up more perfectly than I could have asked. The week began with dancing, I got to host a couple of dinners with friends, there was a helpful breakfast conversation with my supervisor and co-worker, I caught up all my looming projects, editing is full-but-doable, and I spent last evening in earnest thought and conversation with a friend whose zeal for the Lord and for life breathed fresh insight and life into me. And much tea was drunk yesterday. So. Much. Tea! And all manner of things are well...

And all manner of things shall be made well. Thirty-two is just a number. But I hope and pray it is a number that reminds me of the year in which I became single-minded. The year I began to know God more deeply than I could have dared to ask or dream...and that I get to live the dream.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Resounding Joy

New Year's Day flames out in peach, pink, and periwinkle. The evening air is full of the scent of snow, woodsmoke, and savoury dinner as I step onto my porch to watch the repose of the day. Inside, candles and fresh tulips nod their cheer as the five o'clock greyness rolls over the foothills.

I love winter and fresh starts. I love being up in the frosty night to greet the new day and year with fireworks. I love bright sun spilling in my window and waking eyes, church bells tumbling me out of bed, and the brisk walk to worship. I love blank pages waiting to be filled and new years feeling hopeful in the face of the unknown. At any other time of year, the unknown has a way of frightening me a bit; but at the beginning of the year, the unknown is exhilarating. My expectations are much more malleable in January than they are in June. In the crisp air I feel awake and ready for what God is going to bring. By the wilting heat of summer, I feel drowsy and resigned. 

At the beginning of things there is life and energy and optimism, and those are needed to propel us into another year. The New Year opens in the midst of Christmastide, when the Candle keeping the dark at bay has come—He is the hope of Easter redemption. Winter is dear to me with its variegated grey clouds, heaps of snow around dried grasses, chipper little birds piping their carols, bare branches stark and striking against the stars; its sharp, pure air breathed out in little puffs, in warm fuzzy slippers, copious pots of tea, stew simmering on the stove, hot bread all flaky from the oven. . .Winter is joyous.

Winter is both the cosiest and the most invigorating season. No wonder our fresh start comes just days after the winter solstice and the "dawn of redeeming grace" of the Incarnation. There is something comforting about God slipping into flesh, becoming vulnerable and subject to want, need, and humanity. Yet there is something enlivening, exciting about it, too. Dawn has pushed back those grey skies with honey-coloured sunlight and sharp air in our lungs. There is hope that the Light—whether of day or of moon and stars—will illuminate our path. That the Light will guide us into His ways. 

As I scrambled out of bed this morning I felt inspired, awake. The bells beckoned me to tread the icy path to the little white church around the bend. There my eyes were greeted by life-sized shepherds, wise men, and the Holy Family. I smiled, glad to see them back, as they had been vandalised a couple of Christmases ago. I sneaked in on the opening hymn, my three-year-old niece's favourite song: Joy to the World! I was totally unprepared for the garlands of greenery, the woodland pine and branches, the red berries, and a huge live tree covered in poinsettias and lights. The clean plaster walls looked merry, as did the gentleman I joined in the pew. My winded voice sang out, "Repeat the sounding joy!" and we did. In the Eucharist, like the angels told the shepherds, and the shepherds told everyone about the baby in the feeding trough, we repeated the resounding, reverberating joy that God became flesh and tabernacled among us—that our redemption is nigh.