Motherhood is not the hardest job

Okay, so maybe my inner cynic is showing, but not too long ago I read yet another post affirming motherhood as the hardest job and the highest calling and I think I rolled my eyes. For sure I sighed. I may or may not have sent a snarky text to my friend (who, incidentally, may or may not have replied with a hearty assent urging the authors of such pieces to go ahead and get over themselves).

My friend and I don’t mean to be cynical. I do understand the authors’ intent with such articles. I do. Really, I do. No doubt I’ve written similar sentiments here on the blog. Motherhood is not easy, not by a long shot. It can be overwhelming and confusing and all-encompassing and, well, just plain hard, yes and amen. Not always but sometimes.

And maybe my snark is because I’m nearing the end of my daily responsibility as a mom. My nest is emptying; hence my curmudgeon-ry grows. Could be. Certainly my cynicism may well be closely related to my angst about transitioning out of this stage of life.

Regardless of the motivating factors, it’s not the assertion of the difficulty of the task of motherhood that gives me pause but rather the superlatives. The hardest job ever? The highest and best calling? If that were true, what about my life now as I near “retirement”? Am I to conclude that from here on out whatever my hand finds to do is somehow less important, of a less critical nature? And what about the implications for those who are single or who do not have children? Is our message really that motherhood is highest and best?

Besides, parenthood as we know it, what with medicine and healthcare and preschool and answers to any and all questions available with a few clicks of the google, is it really the hardest job? There are eternal implications to be sure. But I can’t help but think of friends who are laboring in parts of the world openly antagonistic to the gospel, where they do not know any other believers apart from they themselves; surely their job, their calling, their mission is hard, if not impossible.

Why then the repeated assertion of motherhood as highest and noblest? Does saying such really foster encouragement and joy in the task? For me it often had the opposite effect. I would grow depressed and discouraged to know that * this * ought to be the height of what I do and who I am; yet I was so often bored or overwhelmed or a complete failure. Some days, to be frank, seemed devoid of meaning and purpose in what was supposed to be the most important job of my life. Forget highest and hardest, while I knew days full of all that is good and grand about mothering, a lot of days just weren’t. If this was to be the end all, be all of my existence here on earth, shouldn’t I be better at it? Or find more joy in it?

Yes, indeed, dear mother, your task is difficult. It is a high and holy calling to raise children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. There are fabulous days and glorious days of sheer joy. There are also dark days and boring days and long days. Rest in the provision of your God no matter which kind of day you find yourself in. Do the best you can in the wisdom and provision of God, knowing your motherhood doesn’t define you. There are hard things and high callings beyond this stage and what matters is not necessarily the task at hand but the glory of God the Father who calls and empowers and sustains.

On friendship and complicated awkwardness

Reading Recommendation: Messy Beautiful Friendship by Christine Hoover

I think I was in eighth grade. I don’t remember the specific contributing factors but I do remember that it was at church on a Sunday morning just before Sunday school. I remember thinking my heart would break over a friend’s betrayal. I remember sobbing unconsolably while one of the Sunday school teachers attempted to comfort me, no doubt assuring me that the sun would come up tomorrow, that the world had not, actually, ended.

Here was our problem: there were three of us middle school girls attempting a BFF trifecta, which, as anyone who has been around preteen girls knows, is an utter impossibility. Someone is always left out or hurt or betrayed. That Sunday it was me and I was utterly heartbroken.

It was my first taste of the complications inherent in friendships between women.

Though I no longer find myself weeping on the Sunday school teacher’s shoulder–one reason being I am the Sunday school teacher after all–I continue to find friendship awkward and complicated, still, all these many years later. I understand that the common denominator has been me and I freely confess:when it comes to finding and being a friend I am awkward and I am complicated.

When I was a young woman–be it college student, newlywed, or young(er) mom–friendship was fairly easy and free and abundant and without all the drama of middle and high school (yes and amen). My friendships then were born of proximity and commonality. Whether it was in the dorm or over playdates at McDonald’s, we were doing life together and not as a catch phrase but for real. It was life, real life, spent together, hours chatting on the phone, hanging out, taking trips even. True, we were an homogenous group but our common experience and circumstance provided a rich foundation for friendship.

As my kids grew older, friendship became more difficult, no doubt due to the general busyness inherent therein. On top of this, not one but two sets of our dearest friends moved away. Left to my own devices I began to realize how bad I was (am) at forming deep friendships. I discovered I had no idea how to make friends, true friends, apart from the ease that comes with proximity and commonality, not to mention the always surprising grace of someone seeking to be my friend first. Hello, awkward and complicated, with a little diva on the side.

I have lots of “reasons” for my complicated awkwardness. I mean, being friends with women can mean comparison and jealousy and cattiness as well as work and vulnerability and time. Not only that but I’m an introvert. I’m a homebody. I’m independent. I think too much. I crave solitude. In other words, I’m not exactly the stuff your dream BFF is made of.

So when a friend suggested we read Messy Beautiful Friendship for our first summer book club title, I knew I needed it. But I was also wary and maybe even a little frightened of what the book might expose in me.

Christine Hoover’s book is a treatise on the importance, nay the necessity, of Biblical, gospel friendships. We need each other, not in the idealized sense of The One True Bestest Friend Over All Others Forever and Ever Yes and Amen, but in the fellowship and accountability as prescribed by the Word of God. She writes,

[T]he goal of friendship is to secure ourselves to the sure, steadfast anchor of Christ and, while holding to that anchor, give and receive the gift of friendship as we have opportunity. The goal is to enjoy God together with others and, as we move through life, to sharpen and allow ourselves to be sharpened by friends. We imitate Jesus with one another, willing to face the stark realities and consequences of sin, all the while persevering in our efforts to offer love, grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, comfort, and care to one another. In doing so, we display to one another the world how God loves and, through this, bring him glory.

Yes, Christine discusses awkward and complicated and repeatedly encourages us (me) to vulnerability. She is honest about the reality of disappointment and hurt and that friendship is risky and, as the title suggests, messy. She warns against comparison and harboring an idealized BFF wish-dream. She addresses conflict and confrontation and how to do both well in the spirit of love and gentleness. She advocates for wisdom, especially in our social media pursuits, one of my favorite chapters in the book. She reminds us that our friendships point to the greater and true Friend who laid down His life and who will one day, one glorious Day, answer all our longings with Himself.

I am continually surprised that there are those who genuinely want to be my friend and I am grateful for the women who come alongside me in companionship and fellowship. However, I want to be a better friend. Thank you, Christine, for your guidance and wisdom to that end. I needed this book and I daresay I’m not alone.

Real is best

I write on a Tuesday and I have to admit to you that today and the past three or four Tuesdays prior, I’ve felt off, floundering about like a fish out of water. Generally speaking, my Tuesdays are spent at a podium or around a table, studying God’s Word with a group of women I love and esteem. However, our study is on break for the summer and, though summer breaks are necessary and good, a Bible teacher without a class feels, well, a little lost.

We just finished a study of selected Psalms and while I knew it would be good–hello, it’s the Word of GOD–I think it will go down as one of my favorite times in Bible study. I am always overwhelmed and humbled by the sheer goodness of God, how He tenders our hearts to His Word, how He reveals Himself and His gospel in beautiful and glorious ways, how He teaches and transforms. This go ’round He did all that, even more so. He is so good.

And my Bible study girls? What grace they are to me! Each and every group is different but all encourage me and sharpen me by their participation and presence. I know that no teacher can exercise her gift apart from students to come alongside but I am always–always!–happily and humbly surprised there are those who choose to join me.

I was wondering the other day just how many women have passed through one or more studies with me. Not that I see such a number as a trophy or something to seek after or boast in, but rather I see each woman and her attendance as a trust, a gift, a privilege wholly undeserved. I am not worthy but I am grateful.

I read an article yesterday about, of all things, whether pastors should use social media. In the article Tony Reinke describes the pressure many pastors feel when they compare their offering with the level of excellence widely available with the mere click of the mouse or scroll of the phone.

I get this. Currently there is much discussion on social media about women and ministry (indeed, when is there not?), particularly in terms of online and parachurch platforms. For many women their primary source of discipleship comes from outside their local church, and why not? Most of the popular teachers and podcasters and bloggers are so because they are good at what they do. They are funny, they are skilled orators, they are relatable, they are super fashionable, and did I mention they are funny? Me? I can’t compete with that.

My offering is humble, simple, ordinary. While I may have once resented it, I now not only embrace it but see it for the sacred privilege that it is. I believe we need to be in Bible study with people who know us, who know our name, who look us in the eye, who hold us accountable by their very presence, who see us at football games and the grocery store and other times when the mask is off and the real shows in all its realness, who know our hypocrisy, and who point us to the only hope, the gospel. To do so for another is a privilege and a trust. My Bible study girls are this, and more, for me and I hope and pray I am the same for them.

Books and blogs and podcasts are good, indeed they are. But they are no substitute for real people in our real lives living the real gospel side by side with us in the midst of real life with real problems and real need. Virtual is good; real is best.

So for my real friends who join me each Tuesday, thank you. I am grateful for the real fellowship we enjoy with the real God who in His providence placed us in real proximity to seek Him and to know Him and to study His Word together.

Goodness undeserved and astonishing

I write this on Good Friday. It is the Friday afternoon at the close of a difficult week. Not difficult because of difficult circumstances but difficult because of a funk and things said and a migraine and failure and sin and, well, you get the picture.

Weeks like this remind me why I need Good Friday. Today Christians remember and commemorate the death of Jesus, which is weird, if you think about it, that we celebrate death but that’s exactly what we do. We celebrate the death of Jesus because without it we come to the end of a difficult week or a difficult day or a difficult phone call or a difficult season or a difficult conversation or a difficult diagnosis and we have no hope.

It is easy and, I think, common to glance over Good Friday to get to the joy of Resurrection Sunday. Good Friday becomes incidental to the real show. Of course the Resurrection is the hope and foundation of our faith, yes and amen, glory to God. Paul says that without it, we are pitied because our faith then is in vain.

But today I feel the despair of my sin. I see my weakness and my utter depravity. I know–I know–that my sin is real and my utter insufficiency overwhelms me. I need the truth that Jesus resolutely set His face to His death, that by one sacrifice He paid it all, that here is the love of God demonstrated in that Christ died for sinners. This is the goodness of Good Friday–that Jesus, my Savior, has borne my griefs and carried my sorrows and healed me by His wounds. Yes, please, Lord.

I pulled my copy off The Valley of Vision off the shelf to put word to my need…

EVERLASTING CREATOR-FATHER,
I have destroyed myself,
my nature is defiled,
the powers of my soul are degraded;
I am vile, miserable, strengthless,
but my hope is in thee.

If ever I am saved it will be by goodness undeserved and astonishing,
not by mercy alone but by abundant mercy,
not by grace but by exceeding riches of grace;
And such thou has revealed, promised, exemplified
in thoughts of peace, not of evil.

Thou has devised means
to rescue me from sin’s perdition,
to restore me to happiness, honour, safety.
I bless thee for the everlasting covenant,
for the appointment of a Mediator.

I rejoice that he failed me not, nor was discouraged,
but accomplished the work thou gavest him to do;
and said on the cross, ‘It is finished.’

I exult in the thought that
thy justice is satisfied,
thy truth established,
thy law magnified,
and a foundation is laid for my hope.

I look to a present and personal interest in Christ and say,
Surely he has borne my griefs,
carried my sorrows,
won my peace,
healed my soul.

Justified by his blood I am saved by his life,
Glorying in his cross I bow to his sceptre,
Having his Spirit I possess his mind.

Lord, grant that my religion may not be occasional and partial,
but universal, influential, effective,
and may I always continue in thy words as well as thy works,
so that I may reach my end in peace.

-“The Mediator,” The Valley of Vision

Talking on the phone and learning to be needy

My friend called me this week and when I first saw her name on the caller ID, I admit my first thought was that she was calling with bad news. She lives out of town and we rarely talk, like with our voices, so for her to call, while welcome, was also disconcerting.

It wasn’t bad news but rather the best sort of happy news and we chatted and laughed and talked, like with our voices, for quite some time. It was great.

I once talked on the phone all the time. Way back when my babies were just that, I had friends with whom I would talk on the phone about everything and anything. For instance, I had one particular friend that either she or I would call the other right at 9 am nearly and we would proceed to talk for an hour, sometimes more. Every day.

This is crazy, particularly in comparison to my current phone talking habits which are nearly nonexistent. I’m not (exactly) a hermit; I do converse with people but with the more narrow medium of text messaging.

And I love it. Text messaging, as I’ve asserted often, is an introvert’s dream. Short, direct conversations which can be easily avoided or abandoned, what’s not to love?

Years ago I was on the phone with a friend, conversing like with our voices, me bemoaning the general state of my life. I can’t remember my specific circumstances but I do know that the laundry wasn’t done and the dishes were piled in the sink and I sighed and whined and complained about both and probably a wealth of other things besides.

About fifteen minutes after I hung up with my friend, my doorbell rang. It was my friend and she walked straight through my front door to my kitchen sink and began to wash the dishes. THE NERVE. Not only that but she refused to leave without taking a few loads of laundry with her to wash. I allowed her the boys’ laundry and some towels but not my or my husband’s dirties. My dignity, what was left of it, compelled me to draw the line somewhere.

I was mortified. And embarrassed. And utterly humiliated.

Evidently I reserved the right to complain but not the right to accept help. And there was no quid pro quo here. Her kids were grown and out of the house and she had all the time in the world for a friend’s need as well as her dishes and laundry. In the end I could only receive her help and I hated it.

In Sunday School I am teaching through the book Side By Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love. Author Ed Welch asserts that in any healthy community, the members both give and receive help. This process of walking with another begins with each of us realizing we are needy.

I am needy and that truth rankles, as was so obvious when my friend administered very real, very practical help to me all those years ago. I don’t think I’m alone in my dislike of my helplessness. We all would rather appear strong and like we have “it” all together, whatever “it” may be.

Admitting our need feels risky. We conceal our neediness, or we revel in it, like some kind of weird misery contest, but in reality, we are embarrassed by our weakness, we are afraid of what others may think, and we fight to appear competent.

Welch states the obvious: in order to receive help I must admit my neediness. But there’s a less obvious dynamic at work: in order to effectively give help, I must also admit my neediness. In fact, my honest admission of my weakness, according to Welch, is one of the greatest gifts I can give the church. Wait. What?

Honestly assessing who I am and living in that honesty make me a better helper. Self sufficiency, on the other hand, may really be arrogance. Our community will grow together in love and humility as we each of us understand our weakness and our need for each other. This is the grace of the gospel, is it not, that I am so weak and flawed I needed rescuing and the Lord did just that. It is humbling and humiliating to be so weak and so needy but it is also beautiful.

Help is given and I only receive. I cannot earn it and I cannot repay it. My friend taught me as much all those years ago and I am grateful for her example of friendship and of gospel grace.

The impossible

I started 2017 off with the best of intentions and by that I mean I attempted to implement a new Bible reading plan, a new Scripture memory plan, and a new plan to journal.

Please, please, don’t ask me how any of those plans are going currently. Let’s just say there’s grace, much grace, for those of us with the best of intentions and the worst of follow through.

Just keepin’ it real.

Anyway, so in order to effect my newfound determination to journal more regularly (yeah, I know), I began to write out my thoughts regarding these ten questions for the new year. Self evaluation is always good, and biblical too. We are to examine ourselves and to ask the Lord to search us and expose any grievous way in us. What better use of my journaling endeavor? And, hey, automatic fodder for writing so win-win.

Question 2 asks, “What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?”

I have to confess: my first thoughts skewed toward the more personal, wildest dreams kind of answers. The sorts of things that are, if I am honest, more improbable than impossible, and certainly more about me, my comfort, my ambition, my happiness.

But as I pondered a little more and scribbled a little longer, I had to ask myself: what sorts of things are humanly impossible? What is it that only God can do and what among those things will I dare to persist in prayer for?

Among the list of humanly impossible things I came up with: The saving of souls. The spread of gospel zeal across churches and communities and around the world. Partnership and community that spans socioeconomic, ethnic, and racial divides. Babies no longer aborted but wanted and welcomed and loved.

We cannot effect any of these apart from the power and providence of God.

I grew ashamed of how little I ask for these impossible things.

When I ask for what only He can do, I am asking to see His power, to see His kingdom accomplished on earth as it is in heaven, ultimately to see His glory. The smallness of my prayers–confined only to my world, my life, my concerns, my wants–reflect the smallness of my faith. When I am only asking for my own comfort and the granting of my deepest desires, it is no wonder I find prayer difficult to the point of nonexistence.

What humanly impossible thing will I ask God for? What will you? Let us pray big and bold prayers, prayers that stretch beyond the reach of the probable into the realm of the impossible, prayers that dare to believe that God can and will answer according to His providence and His wisdom. Let us believe that the humanly impossible can be made possible by the working of the will of our good and gracious God. May we see His kingdom advance in power to save, to inflame, and to transform, and may we rejoice with the humble wonder of knowing we asked Him for it.

On death, grief, and the bent of my life

We were staying with our Mam Maw, our maternal grandmother, my sister and I were, when we got the news. Mam Maw hung up the phone and turning toward us, she pulled us to herself as she told us that our other grandmother, our dad’s mom, had died.

My sister immediately burst into tears while I, no less sad or bereft, stood there shocked by the loss of death and, if truth be told, perhaps somewhat embarrassed by my stoicism.

Of course if you knew me or my sister as girls you would probably say our responses were spot on. I have always been the more reserved–dare I say the more boring–of the two of us. My sister would drift through the house singing at the top of her lungs and I would be in the quietest corner I could find hunched over a book.

One Halloween my sister and I got the inspiration to trick or treat our own house. Our home at the time had several doors that opened to the outside so we decided we could go “door to door,” in the assumption our mom would indulge us by skittering from one door to the next with the requisite candy.

Meanwhile my dad had his own inspiration to attempt to scare us. He grabbed a sheet and as we made our way across the yard he ran by on the other side of the house with the sheet waving behind him. I was frightened out of my wits, frozen by my fear, unable to move, my mind immediately racing with how and where we could retreat, hide, escape. My sister, on the other hand, propelled me forward, laughing, barely containing her excitement and was it joy?

That’s us in a nutshell, particularly in terms of strong emotion. Me, frozen, thinking, standing back. My sister, embracing, transparent, eager even.

My husband and I received a similarly heartbreaking phone call a couple of weeks ago. This time my husband got the call and he immediately wept upon receiving the terrible news. Our friend Ron had been killed. I didn’t cry right then but prayed over and over, aloud and silently both, “Oh, my God.”

Some of us cry and others of us brood. I’ve brooded much in the days since that phone call as the truths of life and death gain greater weight and urgency. I’ve been moved to action too; in the tradition we Southerners have of marking all of life’s events with food, I’ve cooked a pork tenderloin and a Dr. Pepper cake and a squash casserole, all meager offerings in the face of the family’s devastating grief. Necessary and needful but still inadequate. What is a casserole to assuage the loss of husband and father?

Ron’s death was sudden and shocking. As I brood and ponder, I sometimes cannot wrap my mind around it. How very bizarre it seems, and I don’t mean that disrespectfully, but to consider that one Sunday Ron was there at church with us, serving and conversing and singing and praising, and by the next he was dead and buried? It is sad, unspeakably so. It is heartbreaking. It is shocking. It is sobering.

One thing I can say unequivocally about Ron: he loved the Lord Jesus. That I can assert without a shadow of a doubt. He certainly did not know that the Lord would call him home on that particular Wednesday night but it didn’t matter, not ultimately, because this was the bent of Ron’s life. His love for the Lord marked him; it was how he lived.

All my brooding has led me to this question: should the Lord take me today, tomorrow, or four decades from now, is the love of the Lord the bent of my life? Could you stand over my casket and say without a doubt that this girl lived for the glory of her Savior? It was so of my friend and I want it to be so for me. I think Ron would be happy for this to be his legacy: men and women saved from their sins by the grace of the Lord and living the rest of their lives, however long, however short, aflame with affection for their Savior.

Yes and amen.

It takes a village

As many of you know, we had a wedding in our family last summer. In fact, my son and his sweet bride celebrate six months (!) of wedded bliss today. 

The wedding didn’t get much coverage here on the blog but, hey, nothing’s getting much coverage on the blog. However, today as I was poking around on my laptop and uncovered a few draft posts in a word document, I found the following unpublished post and thought I’d share. I’m so very thankful for those who bless me as stewards of God’s varied grace and I honor them today.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about weddings in general and my gig as mother of the groom, it’s this: weddings take a village.

The responsibility as mother of the groom is, admittedly, far less involved than that of the mother of the bride but I have to tell you, even with the lesser load I could not have pulled it off without a little help from my friends.

My main duty as mother of the groom included planning and hosting the rehearsal dinner. One friend lent me her beautiful tablecloths and toppers; another friend catered the desserts; yet another friend helped with setting up and arranging the room. My neighbor gave me free reign to cut some of her gorgeous hydrangeas for the table arrangements.

During the meal itself I had friends who filled cups with ice, refilled the tea dispensers, replenished the food in the serving bowls, and kept the cheese dip from burning. The evening was all the more beautiful thanks to the efforts of my sister who can take pebbles, candles, and succulents, as well as a stack of black chargers, and make a memorable evening stunningly gorgeous.

A friend made chicken salad for our house party to have here for lunch as well as sausage balls and cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Another friend dropped by with a plate of deli sandwiches.

Hear me when I say I could not have survived the weekend, certainly not as well fed or with as little stress, without the care and support of others.

When my husband wrecked his bicycle a few years ago and was in a wheelchair for eight weeks, we were the humble recipients of a similar outpouring of help. Naturally the circumstances could not have been more different but both remind me of how critically we need each other and how beautiful it is when the church serves one another as stewards of God’s varied grace.

Some of us have tablecloths to share and in our generosity we can minister to others. Some of us make chicken salad and sausage balls and so exercise hospitality. Others of us devote their culinary skills to bless others, with chocolate for example, yes and amen, and thus make the world a happier place. Some of us like my sister leave beauty in their wake and bring joy and happiness to the rest of us, especially those among us who can’t even.

A friend remarked on the success of the dinner and I could only give credit where credit was due: the caterers, my friends, my sister. If it were up to me, I admitted, we would have still enjoyed the delicious meal but I would have probably just stacked some paper plates at the end of the buffet line and considered my duty done. Not that I don’t appreciate beautiful décor, sometimes I just would rather not fool with it.

I am grateful for those who do. I know that the more “prominent” gifts-teaching and preaching and the like-are sometimes assumed to have more worth and those of us who exercise them may seem the more spiritual. This is baloney and I say that as one who teaches.

Generosity, hospitality, service, these too are important and critical in the life of the church and in the proclamation of the kingdom. I esteem those of you who exercise these gifts with grace and generosity in the joyous service of our Savior. Thank you.

Favorite reads of 2016

One of my favorite things about this time of year is the “best of” reading lists. I voraciously and carefully read each one I come across, often comparing my favorites (and my non-favorites) and always, always adding to the ever growing list of books I want to read. Someday, one day, maybe.

I read fifty some-odd books so far this year; a few I loved, some I hated, some were surprisingly good, some surprisingly disappointing. Apparently there were many I was just ambivalent about. For those of you who may be curious about my “best of” list, I offer the following favorites among the books I read this year, in no particular order…

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. I can’t stop talking about this one. If you’ve had any sort of extended conversation with me about politics or culture or anything really, I’ve probably mentioned this book. It will open your eyes, break your heart, and make you think. Related: I also appreciated Between the World and Me by Ta-nehisi Coates, a look at the black experience in this country, equally eye opening and heartbreaking.

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness: The Path to True Christian Joy by Tim Keller. I think the title says it all. You can read this little book in one sitting and be convicted for a long time after.

The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood. Loved it. My favorite novel I read last year, and one I keep recommending, is A Man Called Ove. This story evokes a similar sense of hope amid grief. It is not as sad as the description may make it sound!

Look and Live: Behold the Soul-Thrilling, Sin-Killing Glory of Christ by Matt Papa. I need to have this one on re-read yearly, monthly, weekly maybe. So, so good.

Honorable mentions:

I read a lot of fiction this year; no newsflash there as I read a lot of fiction every year. I don’t know if my standards are getting stricter or if I just had an off year, but only the one novel stands out as a favorite. In fact, I track my reading at Goodreads (otherwise I could never remember if I read any given book much less how many and which I might have liked); only a handful of the fiction titles I read I deemed a four star or higher. Interesting.

What about you? What did you read this year that stands out as a favorite? Have you posted a year end favorites list? Let me know in the comments so I can check it out!

Note: this post contains affiliate links.

New mercies on January 3 and every day

So it’s 2017. I’ve spent the majority of this new year either sleeping or blowing my nose. Nope, no somber contemplation of the year past, no careful goal setting or one word choosing. No organizational plans undertaken nor health and fitness changes implemented. Instead, the dawn of this new year is marked by a wad of tissues, regular doses of meds, and the occasional death-wish. The worst of it? I’m three days behind in my read the Bible in a year plan. Already.

Though our family had much to celebrate, not the least of which being the joys of a wedding and two graduations, 2016 was an interesting year, am I right? I am glad to put it behind us, if for no other reasons than acute disgust in the political process and profound disappointment in certain so-called evangelical leaders, you know, just keepin’ it real. Politics aside, 2016 was a sad year and not just nationally and globally. I grieved with more than one friend enduring profound and heart-wrenching loss. One of my friends who recently suffered the loss of a loved one told me she was ready for 2017 if just to know that this year of heartache was over.

Of course there is nothing inherently magical about January 1 as opposed to December 31 and my friend admitted as much. However, we tend to see the newly numbered year as representing something deeper–our collective desire for a fresh start, a new beginning, the old gone, the new come, and the chance to become someone different, better, happier, and yes, often more organized and skinnier. We make plans and dream dreams and formulate resolutions all because we are hopeful that something better awaits.

I have often said that New Years is my favorite holiday, not counting of course my current sickbed status. I claim it as a favorite because it is a day free of obligations and materialism, no gifts to buy, no decor to wrestle, no pomp and circumstance to observe, but rather a day of football and rest and general relaxation, a welcome sigh after the craziness of Christmas.

But I also love New Years because of that very desire for a fresh start and new beginning. It is a holiday marked by hope and I am hopeful, not in any resolution I may make nor goal I undertake because, hello, I know come February or even sooner, I will have failed. No, my hope lies in the One who makes all things new, Jesus Christ who offers fresh starts and new mercies and lavish grace not just on January 1 but also on January 3 with its wad of tissues and on days of grief and days of frustration and days of happiness and days of exhilaration and all the ordinary, boring days in between. All that New Years promises us–redemption and renewal and hope and the promise of something better–Jesus gives us in Himself.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.” -Lam. 3:21-24