Friday, December 30, 2016

Pouring Out The Bitter To Taste The Sweet


It's the last week of 2016 as I sit to write and likely the last plunking of these keys I'll manage before 2017 arrives in all her fresh resolve and ruddy winter glow, which is fine by me. This tiny space of time somewhere between post-Christmas hangovers (I'm talking about the child sized kind, times three), and pre-new year wonder has been a breeze of peace to the whirlwind these last few months never fail to be. No matter how carefully I map out the holiday season it always manages to run on ahead of me, much to the delight of three curly headed babies here at home. The excitement and anticipation, glow and glitter, they ate up every bit of it with voracious appetites, thus the "hangovers." So this breathing space of a few days is treasured and I'm spending it partially snuggled away with the girls (feet propped near the hearth while poor Will's turn to ice in his makeshift office - love you, dear!) and partially ignoring 2016's parting gift of a freak sinus infection plague.

Is it just me or was the year of the monkey as temperamental as its namesake?

I suspect I'm not the only one looking back and thinking these sorts of things. What went right? What went wrong? What to leave behind? What to carry on? All of the usuals have been plaguing me as I tidy up the Christmas things and organize around a blank calendar, but I've shoved away the answers more roughly than I ought. I already had the year sized up long before the itch to review came knocking: 2016? The year of the bitter cup, or at least so I decided.

There, there, you don't need to stop reading, I promise this isn't a letter of complaint. I mean, I'll own that I spent an embarrassing amount of time becoming proficient in my own bitterness, but that's just it, it was my own bitterness. The year was merely a cup for the filling.

I wallowed, though. Wallowed right on through the year on up until yesterday morning when I was thumbing through A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. Or was it this morning, I don't really remember. Anyhow, I was marveling a little bit at the shouldering of responsibility for blatantly idiotic decisions by some characters, and how it seemed a type of humility, no matter how steel bound, that allowed other characters the shoulder space to stand a little higher and be a little better. Something in there struck a chord of "I need that!" and kept striking in a way that kept me thumbing until I realized the connection. I didn't have to look far to figure out where that needed to be applied.

But that's all I'll say about it because I refuse to add the straw that breaks the back of my mess of a camel by being what George Macdonald calls a "creeping christian."  Who "gaze at the marks of our own soiled feet, and the trail of our own defiled garment. . . . mourn over the defilement of ourselves, and the shame of it before [everyone]. . ." That would be going out with a real bang now, wouldn't it now.

With myself out of the way, the view is explicitly different. Rather than the bulking shadow of my own petty struggles, all I can see is grace brimming the cup and running over on the landscape of the year like sunlight might do on one of those gorgeously clear, blue sorts of days.

It was the year of Wrennie bird bursting into our lives with her life song.
Of Lanna marking her fifth year and finally summoning the courage to dance.
Of celebrating two years of Selah and her housewifely, joyous little soul.
Of falling asleep next to Will and waking with three small heads to look over and cold dolls tucked against our backs.
Of dropping deeper roots of faith together through prophesies and Spurgeon.
Of anniversaries and birthdays that are more important than last year's and less so than the next.
Of having enough bread flour and buttermilk to tempt curious hands to cover the kitchen with it.
Of fattening bookshelves and finally finding the right souls to wander with in their riches.
Of a perpetually filled kitchen table and overflowing coffee and tea pots.

No, I'd not change a bit of it, and I think I can see where things went wrong now. My heart prayer of "Lord of mercy" that covered every little thing really should have been turned inward. It shouldn't have been "Lord have mercy on this messy kitchen, this burned meal, these tantrums, those missed opportunities. . ." No, it should have been "Lord have mercy on me for not seeing You here, for this flash of anger searing clear vision, for that moment completely emptied of faith just now. . ."

So for me, I hope that 2017 will be different in that way.