When we touched down in London on January 2nd, after two weeks with family in the Arizona desert, I disembarked with malaise after being knocked dizzy with a head cold. Adding jet lag to a cold virus is like looking drunk at life through a plastic translucent shower curtain. I could make out the shape of things – I’m at home in a foreign country where people drive on the other side of the road and it’s dark by 3pm – but I landed into the New Year disoriented.
Slow at making plans and discerning fresh ways forward, picking a word to name the year seemed like chasing the wind to me. I didn’t really care. I’d just been with my people for 16 glorious days in the sunshine, eating copious amounts of Mexican food and driving – driving! – down familiar streets in a convertible. I decided discerning what’s next could wait another week because God is in control of my future anyway.
Slowly, we entered back into routines of setting alarms, curating online grocery orders, hiring a car for shopping at Costco and Ikea, walking to the market for bread, collecting garbage on Monday night, refilling water pitchers, and burning candles. I grieved the carefree convertible closeness with my people. And the lack of sunshine, oh, the sunshine. But familiar rhythms provided reorientation back into new normals.
And then we received some terrible news and the flu became an unwanted close companion.
After one of our spiritual fathers passed away from a cancerous brain tumor, my H did a U turn and flew back to the US on the same day I awakened with body aches and chills from fever.
I took the forced Sabbath as permission for remembering the markers of my past, praying between pages of books, contemplation, and journaling all the things. That time was a capsule of uninterrupted intimacy with Jesus. I practiced listening and adoration more than requesting and seeking help. I anticipated silence and waiting. And became comfortable with my son’s ability to sustain a diet of eggs, cheese and tortillas.
A week later, lunches with friends and opportunities with volunteerism replaced the grief of those early days in January. Then the flu returned with a vengeance. I now wear an invisible badge of honor that reads, “Recovered from influenza twice in one month.”
My pillow became soaked with the grief of cancellation — lunches, dinner parties, coffee dates, radio interviews, hair appointments. Starting 2018 has been like driving a car on bad gas, stuttering into the New Year.
January brings hopeful aspirations that coincide with sorrowful resignation. We want to experience change, transformation, the beauty of purposefulness, but the realities of the mundane inhibit perspective until the details of what we once envisioned are barely discernible. It feels as if a Grand Canyon separates what we long for and what we have.
And just like that, it’s February, the month we remember that we are loved.
I began to interpret the theme of January — two steps forward and one step back — as God’s almighty discipline. Or more honestly, His abandonment.
But when we allow the wilderness of our current circumstances to define the future, our view becomes translucent to God’s transperance. We can’t dream, forecast or envision how life might look different from the way we currently experience it when we fear disappointment; when we are afraid that we are a disappointment to Him.
Between idealism and reality is a sacred lesson: life is fleeting but love remains. God wants us to live with him in the here and love him in the now when we are tempted to rush ahead and control how a year in the life should turn out.
Two steps forward and one step back seems to be His favorite dance. The new in a year is for new conversations that pull us back to renewing our mind in Christ when we are prone to dance into the new year absorbed with self and guided by futility.
Maybe, just maybe, the first month of the year has been more of a setback for you and less of what you envisioned while watching the ball drop.
Envision this: Jesus is taking one step back while holding onto your hand. Lean back, into his chest, feel his breath blowing on your face and allow Love to lead as your waltz into February.
And while you wait for Love to twirl you into March, here are a few book suggestions to keep the light of hope glowing in the dark.
Deeper Waters by Denise Hughes – I had the pleasure of endorsing this book and re-read it while I was convalescing. I am captivated by Denise’s storytelling and deep knowledge of the Bible. She inspires me to read through scripture with fresh eyes, curiosity, and attentiveness to the Spirit.
Utmost Ongoing – I’m honored to be a contributing writer for this book that celebrates the legacy of Oswald Chambers. The stories are rich and thought provoking, much like his classic devotional, My Utmost for His Highest. I’ve savored one essay a day during morning prayers.
Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership by Ruth Haley Barton – I found this one on my H’s bookshelves in his office at church and I have loved the spiritual formation in it. If you are in ministry or a Christian leader in any capacity, I highly recommend it.
A Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman – Because I realized my reading list for 2017 was low on fiction and I have never read Alice Hoffman, I chose this one when I discovered it at Half Price Books in Phoenix. I can’t wait to read her The Dovekeepers next. If you value good writing, she’s your author for keeping the lamp on past your bedtime.
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles – I loved his Rules of Civility and received this one from my daughter for Christmas. I’m only one third of the way through but understand why everyone is raving about it. He keeps you curious about what will happen next.
February Printable Calendar
For those of you who have been patiently waiting for the printable calendar pages that coincide with each chapter in Rhythms of Rest, it’s been two steps forward, one step back on changing the dates from the old year to the new. I apologize for missing January. Download the February 2018 printable calendar to persevere in resting in God when busyness threatens to overtake you.
I realize it’s been a good long while since I posted anything here. Actually, more than a month which a record of silence for me. You can find more of my writing in your inbox every Friday by subscribing to the Sabbath Society here. Because sometimes a friendly letter is easier to write than a blog post.