The day before my twenty-second birthday I got dressed and ready and started an ultra-marathon race in Colorado. I had not prepared well enough at all, so I walked the first 10 miles of the route, then tapped out and hitched a ride back to family with the race organizer’s husband. I was both a little humbled, not being entirely surprised that the altitude and magnitude of the race were too much for me, and proud of myself for doing a 10 mile hike in the mountains all alone. On my birthday, we relaxed and had some delicious ice cream. And thus began year twenty-two.
June blurred past. My grandpa was hospitalized and the diagnosis got progressively worse, then better, and then one day I was at work and got the call no one wants to make or receive: “Come to the hospital to say goodbye.” I had not prepared for this either. He always recovered before. And when I got there, my words of gratitude and love for my grandpa didn’t flow. I froze. I cried. But when I met him in the eyes, his love for life and his family were evident in his deliberate gaze. He was seventy-nine, very close to eighty, so this day was not fitting in well with his Hundred-Year-Plan. We gathered, we prayed, we stayed together. Late in the evening some of us left to get some rest and I was on a pallet on the floor by my parents’ bed when the text came that he was gone. He had joined the ranks of Heaven and was in pain no longer.
His life was celebrated at churches in two different states because his ministry and investment were significant in both places. We his grandchildren heard stories of his Christlike, optimistic care for people we had never met. His life had been full because it was so poured out and dedicated to people. What a legacy.
Summer kept moving. It was the first summer since 2013 I was not at Laity Lodge Youth/Family Camp and I felt somewhat displaced. I read East of Eden. It exceeded my expectations. Roommates and I enjoyed summer nights seeing a play or watching movies on the Magnolia Silos lawn. My college roommates/best friends visited. I taught in the first and second grade class at church on Sundays. Summer came to an end.
People asked how my summer had been. I said, “Good,” mostly because you don’t just casually say, “My grandpa died and I’m still figuring out how to process that loss since I’m close with my grandparents and this is new for me. Grieving this way is new for me.”
Fall arrived on the calendar, the weather didn’t quite follow suit, and I was Stage Manager for a fundraising event for Waco Civic Theatre and I took a short acting class and I signed up to participate in a community art and poetry event focused on mental health and I began a course on world missions at church and I was still teaching Sunday school and the fall was busy at work. Life was full.
I journeyed to New York City to see my dear friend and a Broadway show and it was quite a good trip. We had a grand cousin reunion in Iowa in October and then it was November and I began Stage Managing for Baskerville and recited a poem of mine at Ekphrasis and gradually got behind on my reading for the Perspectives class at church and then it was Christmastime.
I agreed to take on a speaking role in a small play that was set to run in January. January came and we began Baskerville round two in Killeen, which meant late nights and carpooling and laughing and being sort of exhausted all the time. The Autobahn show got moved to February. My brother got engaged (wooo!!) and Baskerville ended and I got an ensemble part in Three Musketeers, performed in Autobahn and somehow it was March. And then it was April and Easter and wow I had been absent from lifegroup for months, but could now return. The friends there took my weary self and hugged me right back into the fam, and I wept.
The busyness of the past months had been full of wonderful new friendships and stepping into roles I was built for and all kinds of growth, but it had also been full of loneliness, unease, and a feeling of not quite reaching my potential. The months were also ripe with turmoil in our nation and world and shifting of family relationships as siblings’ lives adjusted to their new normals and wow look another Facebook friend is engaged and no, there is still no special man in my life, and yes, I am still in Waco working. I process strong emotion through writing and it was a prolific year for me. Stressful moments met with contemplation and a sincere hope that Jesus is really in control when the near things and the huge things seem hopeless and depleted.
When spring came and I made room for rest, He continued speaking, as He had been all along, and I finally began to listen. Whether directly or through conversation with friends or music I’m sure was crafted to speak straight to my soul, Jesus is continually holding my heart and soul and looking me directly in the eyes to remind me of His love. He crafted my heart for intimacy. He gave me the gift of feeling things richly and the bent to express those rich feelings in words. He set my mind up to care about doing my work well and with integrity, and through His miraculous sacrifice and resurrection life, offers me the chance to accept grace and humility when I don’t meet my own expectations. He calls me daughter, beloved, and asks that I keep my focus on Him.
For Mother’s Day I had the honor of standing with my mama at my home church and reading some of my poems as part of my mama’s sermon about God’s heart for His children and the unique love and the calling of motherhood as a mother in the Kingdom. Then we did Baskerville again for a third (and final?) time at an art center in Clifton, Texas and it was a joy-filled reunion run. I’ve stepped into a Director role in the World Changers kids ministry at my church. I am slowly working towards learning what it means to sing and play piano (wish me all the luck and patience).
I am looking into my twenty-third year with an abundance of peace and awe and giggly joy and hopefully an increasingly humble spirit because the Holy Spirit is within me. I have locked eyes with the King who crafted me with care; He is moving and speaking and breaking through shadows and strongholds. He is generous and loving and so much more than enough.
So to year twenty-three: Welcome! I’m open to all the adventure and rest and growth you may hold.