Not exactly ringing in the new year

I have always enjoyed turning the page at the beginning of a new month, and putting up new calendars at the first of the year. This year, not so much. After my mother’s requiem, my older brother declared, “Well, now you’re the matriarch of the family.” Yikes! Besides feeling like a heavy mantel, it emphasized the reality — I was no longer a daughter. I’m a senior member of the oldest generation in our family. Those thoughts focused the limited time I have left, wiping away my childish view that life would keep going, would get better if I just waited long enough. Then recently I had to deal with Social Security’s life expectancy tables, which hit between the eyes. Even in the best of circumstances, my days on earth are very limited. All that makes “redeem the times” echo in my thoughts, like a jingle you can’t get out of your head.

Old family clock w Eph 5 16_17

That’s just darn depressing.

At first, it was as if a shadow had passed over me.

Then I heard a snippet of a sermon on the radio. Tony Evans said, “We are either walking from life into death. Or we’re walking from death into life.”

Reality burned the fog off as I remembered I am follower of Jesus, so this world isn’t my home.

Given the shape it’s in right now, what a relief!

Like my mother and brother before me, when I leave this world I will really begin to live for the first time. This life is just a preamble, a preparation, barely a glimpse, at its very best, of all to come.

But another cloud hovered, an anxiety-filled urgency about all the things undone or unfinished: the books I’ve written and am editing and preparing for publication, the one not completed, and all the others waiting a turn in the wings of my mind, all sorts of projects I’d like to accomplish, and I want to enjoy way more time with my family. I love watching my children grow, seeing their personalities mature and flourish. I want to see my grandchildren, all nine of them, grow up, to dance at their weddings, and even hold a few great-grand-babies. Most important, I’d like to see them all secure in their eternal future. Walking from death into life.

And I’d love more dinners, lunches, reunions, games or hugs with other family members spread all over the world.

And more chats with friends, sharing in Bible studies, more songs to sing, not to mention beaches to walk and waves to ride . . .

I better stop here. You have the idea.

This goes way beyond seizing the day, and making the most of every moment. Like the lavender essential oil I diffuse into the air around me, I want to infuse every waking moment with eternal meaning.

Since my desk faces the opening into the kitchen, my first question after typing that was: eternal meaning when I burn the roast, or clean doggie footprints from the freshly mopped floor? Eternity in peeling squash or running the blender? Moving wet clothes from washer to dryer?

Yes. I think it calls for a combination of two mindsets.

Intentionalality — being completely present with whatever I am doing (which is rare for me, especially when doing mundane tasks)

Gratitude — giving thanks as I take this breath. For being able to move my fingers. Stand on legs that can support me and allow me to walk. Eyes to see the reddened almond leaves flutter in today’s cold sunlight, knowing they will be gone after almost-freezing temperatures tonight. (Yes, that’s severe winter weather here on the Florida Gulf coast.)

Some may have stopped reading by now, or you shake your head, wondering how I arrived this far in life without figuring that out. Some of you actually live that way. You inspire me.

Others, those who have grown up shape-shifting or mind-shifting to avoid dysfunction, pain, fear or chaos, understand what a challenge present-living can be.

I’ve hit on gratitude and more purposeful living before, but this is another layer deeper. This lap around Mt Sinai is closer to the top, higher, and the view is clearer, further.

I don’t feel like I’ve expressed what I’m experiencing well, but I am hoping to live it well.

So teach us to number our days, That we may cultivate and bring to You a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

Tell me, what comes into focus for you when you number your days?

Are New Year’s Resolutions going to change us?

We spent Christmas with YD and family. After the Christmas Eve service and dinner, my daughter read their daily Advent devotional from Ann Voscamp’s book. I haven’t stopped thinking about Ann’s image of trying to wipe my world clean with dirty rags.

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift
Unwrapping the Greatest Gift

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I didn’t think I was trying to make my world perfect, but when I went to bed that night I began my usual scan of the day, thinking of good things, but also going over things done and left undone, said or unsaid that I could/should have done differently. Besides being a terrible way to get my brain to shut down and drift off to sleep, I realized I was actually trying to correct my day, or make preparations to fix it the next day.

To wipe my day clean with dirty rags.

But I can’t change my mistakes and omissions. No amount of analyzing what I have done or confessing will ever make a perfect day.

That’s why God had to come as a human being

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to enter our very dirty world, walk through the muck of it all, to take on everything the enemy has to throw at us, including death — and triumph.

Resurrected, he came out absolutely clean and alive.

Promising fresh new life for us all.

Why would I want to ignore that, keep up my silly efforts with my filthy cloths?

How many New Year’s Resolutions are going to change what I am working with? — Frail humanity and a world infested with evil, sickness and death

Oh yes, there is beauty all around me. There are wonderful, lovable people. I’m blessed with a whole family full of them, and friends.

And I relish all the ways God speaks through nature, and the creative processes of the arts.

But none of it will ever make me good enough. Or make me impervious to the pain of loss.

My New Year’s Resolution is to give up trying so hard to get it right. To trust him to make it so.

To relax, and go for the water of life.

This is what God says, the God who builds a road right through the ocean, who carves a path through pounding waves, The God who summons horses and chariots and armies— they lie down and then can’t get up; they’re snuffed out like so many candles: “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands. Wild animals will say ‘Thank you!’ —the coyotes and the buzzards— Because I provided water in the desert, rivers through the sun-baked earth, Drinking water for the people I chose, the people I made especially for myself, a people custom-made to praise me.

Isaiah 43 16-21 MSG
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Just give me Jesus

What are your goals for the new year?