Ands and Be (Words of the Years)

I would be either a dirty liar or a living in delusional denial if I said that I was not mostly glad to see 2015 go. Or if I said it did not leave me feeling like I was a school girl walking to class, going against the sea of people. And they kept bumping me knocking my books out of my hands, and every time I would turn to pick one up, another person would barrel into me knocking down two more. And then the gust of wind came through the open window and blew the stack of papers I was carrying, but it wasn't just a stack of papers. It was my final essay, one I had been laboring over for months, years even. It contained pretty much everything I knew about pretty much everything I know. And it was written with passion & tears and it was filled with just the most perfect words strung together in the most eloquent way. And then the wind took it in its gnarled grip and with a gust none of it was quite the same. Some pages were just wisked out the window, some were trampled under the feet of all the students racing by to beat the bell. The sea of navy uniforms (because I went to Catholic High School), sweeping them up in their waves, spitting them out the other side, only to be swept away by the current of them, coming. It happened so quickly, too quickly for me to stop it. And so slowly, as if I was watching it happen to someone else. And I saw my exaggerated slow motions grappling, feebly chasing down what was lost. The papers never went back in the stack the same way. Some gone, some torn, some smudged, some hopelessly out of order-out of line. And then the bell rang. And entire year, gone, as if it was only a 3 minute passing time. 2016 found me choking and sputtering on all the "ands". The nds that kept coming from every direction, each one so blindsiding yet so familiar, like the pit in my stomach.

2016 leaves me begging for a new word of the year. Well, actually first it left me wondering if it was even worth deciding on one. I certainly hadn't picked "And" as my word for the previous year. What destiny could a word really conjure up anyway?

Before I chose one, I forced myself to sit to count the fruit from 2015. Because as full of "ands"as it was, it was full of other words too. I realized that the ands brought with them more than just weariness, confusion, clenched fists and hot tears. They brought with them a tangible, palpable grace. So I don't want to leave 2015 without harvesting the fruit. I want to carefully glean the fruit from this year-the things God taught me, the ways I was hardened & softened, the lessons I learned that tasted like blood in my mouth, the redemption that tasted like honey (well I don't like honey as much as chocolate. So let's say "the redemption that tasted like chocolate). I want to gather them all up. And as I do I see they are too many to carry. Abundance from the "ands".

So I take them and lay them down. I pile them high, atop one another. Grace-unmerited favor at the base. God's pruning. Faith. Trembling Obedience. Forgiveness. Compassion. A vessel to hold my tears. Joy. Laughter. Victory springing from defeat. Generosity. Hands open. A tree with roots by the river; a well watered garden whose springs do not run dry. Wisdom. Crumbling weakness. Strength. Comfort. Peace. Hope. As I lay them one by one they reach heavenward-an altar, one sure to stand for longer than 12 months of ands. I will revisit this altar. I will offer the sacrifice of self on it. I will bring my graven idols and let them crumble at the feet of this altar, made of more than stone. The ands turned to fruit will forever stand as a testament to the goodness and glory of my Father.

As I walk into 2016, I feel pulled to write a new story for this year but also simultaneously pulled to stop writing altogether. I feel a call to more self-discipline, more action and yet an echoing call to just sit- eyelids resting shut, hands open to the Sky-maker, plans blowing in the wind like sheets on a closeline. These seem like they meet at such a juxtaposition, these thoughts of doing & waiting, going & staying, working & resting. But the more I think about it the more I know they aren't. It took probably the whole mess of 2015 and all its ands to realize this. (So it certainly will take me more than this blog post to craft something from scrap-thoughts into meaningful words.) But from this springs forth my word of the year. If you were reading all this mess just to find out my word, then I am sorry to keep you waiting. Here it is.


For me in conotates both a posture of peace & stillness AND an attitude of contentment & purposefulness. I can't help but smile at how the symmetry of it all- all the ands bringing me to (rugged, imperfect, work-in-progress) soul understanding of the juxtaposition of abiding & working it all out.


I want to stop obsessing over what I do or have to do or don't get to do or don't do right, as if that is what defines me & gives me worth. I want to practice just being with God, allowing Him to wash over me before life does...or so life does not. I want to rest in who He is, marinating in that until it seeps into all my pores, all the hollow cavities in me and saturates me with goodness & truth. I want to let Him move first-in my heart, in my plans, in my home, in my situations. And then I want to step out to follow where He is leading, to tread where He has tread.


I want to be present in my interactions, especially with Peter and the kids. I am way to easily distracted or off in some distant land inside my own head. I want to learn through practicing it, how to devote myself, all of myself, to the task at hand. I know what my people, what my God, want most from me is me- my presence, my true attention, my choice of joy. And that is what I deprive them of by not just being. "How you spend your days is how you spend your life." I don't want my legacy (or how my kids remember me) to be as distracted or impatient or grumpy or restless or discontent. Instead I want them to remember not what I did necessarily, but who I was-the essence of me, which they will only remember if I am present.


I want to press into God as I continue to strive for contentment. Contentment in what God has given me, in who God has made me to be, in where God has me in life right now...not comparing, not looking ahead & wishing the present away, not regretting yesterday's failures or misfortunes, not bustling on to the next with no enjoyment of what the present holds or celebration of the small gifts of grace & victory.


Where I still feel my soul ache for heaven I feel another calling to view this life here as not just drudgery or a place to bide my time. I feel the calling to make the most of this life, to work for God's glory. And I feel the longing to enjoy this life. To laugh. To play. To let my hair down. To stop cowering and grimacing, but instead to stretch, to drop my shoulders past my chin and to just have fun.

Just as 2015 became a year of ands despite that not being its given word, I don't know what this year will bring. I can be assured it will bring challenge. It will bring moments so full of deep, pulsing heartache that they take my legs out from under me. It will have moments so full of beauty that I forget for a moment that my feet are on the ground and I feel as though I am flying. May both such moments beckon me to the cross. I know this year will be full of opportunity and disappointment. My heart will soar and it will sink. I will be bored by the mundane and surprised by the unexpected. May I count it all grace, all gifts from my faithful Father. As 2016 ends, no matter what specifics it brings or what stories it leaves me to tell, may I choose to call it "good". May I choose to practice being, even if there are more ands coming at me from all directions (because as I am sure you know, ands don't know how to read calenders). May I build an altar from the fruit, an altar to my good, good Father who is the the I AM among the ands. And may I be.

"We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.  For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.  So death is at work in us, but life in you."
2 Corinthians 4:8-12

"You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it."
Psalm 139:5

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