An Uncommon Year
It was an uncommon year. So much happiness and celebration. So much sorrow and hardship.
From January 3, 2017, when my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, to July 28 when my dad died, our family crammed into the in between months 5 graduations, a baby and a wedding.
And I’m still not going to church.
Yes, an uncommon year.
So, now what?
What about 2018?
My mom’s doing great in her new apartment home, making new friends, and spending time with old friends. She’s closer to her church and Macy’s, and the Charles Shultz Museum (of Peanuts fame) is around the corner.
And I miss my dad every day.
On our refrigerator I’ve taped pictures of him:
- the time he dyed his hair green for a Rotary fundraiser
- behind the wheel of a motorhome we’d rented one summer in the 70’s to see some part of the western US
- in his tux the day of my wedding
- sitting in the red Adirondack chair on the backyard hill watching the grandchildren harvest the olives from his beloved trees
Every trip to the fridge I marvel at the man and his life and how much I long for one more phone call, one more discussion about UCLA sports, one more new book recommendation, one more question about when I’m coming to visit next. I’d even love one more bewildered comment about why I’m a Democrat.
We’re almost one month into another year and I’ve decided to read through the Psalms from The Message, Eugene Peterson’s contemporary rendering of the bible. The tone, the rhythm and the everyday language are a balm to my battered soul and heart. The holy, honest words are settling in and soothing the angst and the awkwardness of how to move forward when everything is all so different.
Here are some of the nuggets —–
God charts the road you take. 1:6
But you, God, shield me on all sides; You ground my feet, you lift my head high . . . 3:3
Real help comes from God. 3:8
Once in a tight place, you gave me room; Now I’m in trouble again: grace me! Hear me! 4:1
I’m thanking God, who makes things right. 7:17
God’s macro-skies; and my micro-self. 8:3,4
God holds the high center . . . 9:7
God’s a safe-house for the battered, a sanctuary during bad times. The moment you arrive, you relax; you’re never sorry you knocked. 9:9,10
He keeps his eye on us, registers every whimper and moan. 9:12
God’s grace and order wins . . . 10:16
He’s in charge, as always, his eyes taking everything in, his eyelids unblinking . . . 11:5
God’s on his way to heal the ache in the heart of the wretched. 12:5
God takes the side of victims. 14:5
My choice is you, God, first and only. And now I find I’m your choice! 16:5
I’m staying on your trail; I’m putting one foot in front of the other. I’m not giving up. 17:5
. . . grace-graffiti . . . 17:7
God is bedrock under my feet, the castle in which I live, my rescuing knight. 18:1
Send reinforcements . . . dispatch fresh supplies. 20:2
That’s as far as I’ve gotten, but each day I leave to do my life and know my emotional and spiritual tool belt is filled with what I need for the day. From these nuggets I lean in and hold on and hope.
We’re totally into the Netflix show, Stranger Things. One of the narrative threads is called, the Upside Down —
The Upside Down is an alternate dimension existing in parallel to the human world. It contains the same locations and infrastructure as the human world, but it is much darker, colder and obscured by an omnipresent fog.
When that’s not representing EXACTLY my life as a middle school sub (alternate dimension, parallel universe, omnipresent fog — yep), it defines the uncommon year I’ve had and my efforts to get back to normal, to reality, to my old life.
But I can’t go back. That life is gone. That other normal, that other reality died last year. The upside down is my new normal.
But God is sending reinforcements and fresh supplies. It’s not so dark and foggy.
Yes, it’s been an uncommon year. And there are things that are gone forever.
But Barbara Brown Taylor writes,
“To be a priest” (and the bible says that all believers are a royal priesthood) “is to know that things are not as they should be and yet to care for them the way they are.”*
Can I do that? Can I learn to care for things, for people, the way they are not the way they were or should be?
I guess I’m going to find out.
*Quote taken from: Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church, by Rachel Held Evans