Sunday, December 29, 2019

A New Year, A New Decade, A New Beginning

“Word of the Year”

It’s the beginning of a brand new year. Do you ever wonder what lies ahead? Have you ever chosen a single word that will be your goal for the new year?

Last year at this time I had an impression that Tom and I would be going into a year of transition. Offhandedly I told him that our word of the year was “transition.” I had no idea what I was in for---and I apologize for not being able to keep up with this blog. If you prayed for me I thank you---I needed it, and please don't stop!

Transition is that part of childbirth also known as “hard labor.” But I am happily past that part of my life so no hard labor for me, right? The word usually just means change. It seemed like a reasonable word for the year because we planned to switch our membership to another church. That wasn’t an easy decision; I’d leave my job at the church’s school too. I loved my job, but it was the right time to leave. The hard labor of transition seemed like an appropriate term for our change, but I didn’t give it much thought.

However, a few months later Tom reminded me of our word of the year and said it might be more than I’d thought. Within days he was without a job.

It was a perfect storm. We were between churches. Now we were both between jobs. We put our house up for sale. We decided it was time to down-size. We didn’t need extra bedrooms, playrooms or workshops. And what about my chickens--Natalie, Emily and Marti? They were the first things to go along with their sweet little chicken coop. (To a 4-H boy, not the stew pot!)

There’s much more to this story, but on top of it all my dad died. My mother had passed away sixteen months earlier but when my dad died was when the loss of them both really sunk in. I’d been wrapped up in trying to help Dad deal with his grief; and then seeing him come out of his shell and start relating to us kids on a whole new level as a sweet, godly man and a very good friend. But now my parents were both gone. Their apartment was emptied and rented to someone new; I could never return. There was no longer a phone number to dial; no more birthdays or anniversaries to celebrate with them. Their earthly lives are my memories, some tombstones in a snowy cemetery in Wisconsin and what feels like a dark weighty stone in my life.

God could have given me the words “Unemployment,” or “Death” to prepare me for what 2019 held. But have you noticed He never gives us words that don’t embody hope? Transition is the last phase of childbirth so I must ask myself, “What is God up to? What new creation is coming into my life now?”

My year of transition still cannot compare to the sorrow of widowhood--that still stands as the hardest time of my life, but God does not change. He consistently and faithfully offers hope in the very deepest of losses and darkest of days. This is a truth that I’ve been fighting very hard to understand and apply.

I can’t tell you all I’ve been going through, (I even moved 2 times!) but one day when I was at one of the lowest and loneliest points of all I cried out to the Lord to please encourage me and let me know I wasn’t alone. Eventually I dried my eyes and wiped my nose. I got up from the floor ready to get on with my day. Then I checked my email, and like a hug from above, there was a note from a stranger.

“Hello my name is Joyce Miller and I am part of a group called Broken Restoration, a support group for widows and divorced ladies. We are wondering if you would consider coming to Ohio for Valentine’s Day for a seminar?”

Oh my! I was so surprised! Of course I wanted to go but really, there was no way I could. Ohio? In winter? Ice? Snow? Driving all that way? I asked Joyce to give me a few weeks to see if my life might settle down a bit. After a few weeks it did not, so I told her, “I’m sorry, I can’t.” But in my journal I wrote, “It’s impossible but I really think God wants me to do it.”

Joyce graciously let me know she was disappointed but she understood. And then about two weeks later she asked me again.

So I will be in Ohio. In February. In the snow, and cold, and the winter coat that I did not let go of when we were downsizing.

I’ll share about the words I did not let go of either: words from the Bible like truth, grace, kindness, rest, honesty, love, mercy and most of all hope for when life transitions in some hard and unwanted ways. Would you like to come? I’d love to meet you.

Save the date: Saturday, February 15 at Fairlawn Mennonite Church in Apple Creek, Ohio, in the heart of Amish country. Let's begin anew and get through the year ahead together. I'll send out details asap.

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