Tues. Dec. 31st, 2019
On this last morning of the year, I woke up early (5:30am), and did my usual routine. I made coffee, turned on the fireplace, and snuggled into my morning prayer chair with Charlie. For those of you that don’t know, Charlie is our rescue dog and he is truly a light in our lives. We have a friend who was struggling with depression last year, and you know what his doctor’s advice was? Get a dog. And he did. And he said it changed everything.
Dog lovers get it. I mean, I know many who own a dog, but owning a dog and loving a dog are two different animals, right? (pun intended.)
Dogs can teach us so much about living life moment to moment. They don’t worry about the future. They pretty much just accept life on it’s own terms and seem happy with whatever is given to them, whether little or much. They don’t hold grudges. They are always happy to see those that they love and don’t hold back on expressing their joy when you walk into a room. I can seriously just run to the grocery store and come back 20 minutes later, and the greeting I get is like I’ve been gone a year. With all the jumping up in the air, tail wagging, and whimpering with happiness he can muster, Charlie will always make sure I know that someone is glad I just walked through the door. He makes me smile every single day, and he is one blessing I am definitely grateful for in 2019.
I know many of you are taking this day to think back on 2019 and evaluate the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. Was 2019 a good year? Or was it a bad year? The truth is, for most of us, it was both.
Something I have recently come to understand is that more than one thing can be true at the same time.
2019 held tears of joy and tears of sadness. It gave us hellos and goodbyes. It gave us cheers and disappointments, happiness and sadness, clarity and confusion. But that is how life is meant to be, right? We can hold two truths at once.
We can feel love and grief.
We can feel joy and sadness.
We can be hopeful and scared.
We can be grateful for every single thing we have around us and wish everything could be different.
We can absolutely love the direction our life seems to be going and miss where we used to be.
We can be 100% sure that God loves us deeply and be completely confused about religion.
Personally, that last statement is where I’ve spent much time in 2019. My faith journey has been almost torturous these last few months. I’ve spent many days in what Richard Rohr would call the “disorder” phase of my spiritual journey, unpacking so many “truths” that were taught to me by well-meaning, but under-educated Sunday School teachers of my past. Boy, when you start understanding how many of those “truths” aren’t true, it can make you question everything. I cannot lie… it’s a scary place to be… at first.
But God’s love is liberating. It truly is. And I have found rest in that truth many days during my religious disorder. And I still do even now.
But back to this morning….
As I grabbed my journal and opened my daily devotion, I was led to Ecclesiastes 3. Many people know that chapter. It’s the one where King Solomon wisely talks about the seasons of life.
“To every thing there is a season
A time for every purpose under the heaven.”
Life is truly all about seasons. Spring, summer, fall and winter. Each holding beauty in it's own special way, even though you may struggle to find it in some.
Ecclesiastes 3 starts with a beautiful poem, both reassuring the reader that God is in control, but also sobering the reader to the mystery behind it all. Ahhhh…. the mystery of God. Another time that two truths collide at once for me. While my human mind wants answers, which means the mystery of God causes frustration, I also find comfort in knowing that God is more powerful and knowing than I am. I mean, who would want a God in charge that didn’t know more than we do? If my knowledge is on the same level as God, WE ARE ALL IN TROUBLE. :-)
But seriously, I am learning to embrace the mystery of God and understand that human beings are truly only capable of coping with the moment. We don’t need to know our future. It would probably make our heads explode. So God only gives us small glimpses into what is in store, because He knows it’s all we can handle. THANK YOU GOD. Thank you for leaving much in the mystery. I’m worrying about quite enough right now as it is. :-)
The bottom line that these verses bring to light is that while there are good things in life, the bad things cannot be escaped. NO ONE escapes the problems of this world.
I think it’s human nature to live in the “if only’s”:
If only I had more money, I wouldn’t have problems, and I would be happy.
If only I had fame, I wouldn’t have problems, and I would be happy.
If only I had that promotion, that bigger house, a newer car.
If only I had a husband (or wife).
If only I had children.
If only I had all the answers.
What is your if only? Are you placing all your future happiness on the shoulders of something or someone of this world? Truly think about it. What are you waiting on to be happy?
Listen friends, I don’t claim to have everything figured out, but this one thing I know for SURE….living like that will not serve you well. I know, because I tried it for years.
We don’t always have the power to change our circumstances, but we do have the power to choose joy. Even in the midst of difficult, even heartbreaking circumstances, I have felt and seen joy. Yes, it’s an unexplainable paradox, but it’s real and it’s holy and it’s beautiful. So so beautiful.
I recently started attending a new church in Nashville. After 6 years of avoiding any sort of organized religion I finally felt brave enough to look for a community of believers again. I was led to a beautiful place called “Spero Dei”. I call it a “place” because it truly has become a place for me not only physically, but emotionally as well. It's a place where my doubts and questions are welcomed. It's a place where the mystery of God is embraced. It's a place that includes all people, no matter what they look like, who they love, what they believe. It's a place where everyone's story has a home.
“Spero Dei” is a latin phrase. Most people know that Dei means “God”. Spero means “I hope”. So basically, “I hope in God”. It can also be interpreted to mean, “I believe, trust, presume, expect, anticipate and look for”. All of that is true. I may be a little conflicted about religion right now, but I definitely hope, believe, trust, presume, expect, anticipate and look for God these days. In all things.
I will finish this little year end note by saying this: I have no idea what 2020 will bring to you or your loved ones…. but as your friend, I promise you this: I will be praying for you. I will pray for you in general, by name, and often. And if you have a specific request, just let me know. Anytime, any day, anywhere. If you are needing someone to bother, nag and beg God on your behalf, I’m your girl. Truly.
And as for me and my gang, I have no idea what is around the corner for us either — but I am choosing to be hopeful (while at the same time scared). SO MANY UNKNOWNS. Will the same difficulties of 2019 follow us into 2020? Or will we embark on a completely new set of trials? I would appreciate your prayers for us as well. Prayers are a powerful thing. I have felt them carry me through my darkest days. I am truly grateful for my prayer warrior friends. So so grateful.
So as 2020 begins tomorrow, I will embrace the mystery of God and let go of needing to have all the answers. I will try to love those in my life as best I can. I will try to offer more grace, more mercy and more forgiveness than ever before, and I will pray those around me can find it in their hearts to offer me the same. God knows I need it.
And I will remember that above all this, my hope is in the Lord.
Spero Dei y’all. Spero Dei.
Love and blessings,