It's a new year and we are surrounded by all of the same old, but plenty that promises renewal. Although computer limitations still remain and seem to be dragging on, they are accompanied by the gifts of time, restraint (though an imposed one) and reflection, and so the limitation is reluctantly but gratefully welcomed.
Another unexpected gift was a quick three day trip up to Beijing all on my own to visit a friend who is in many ways like a mother, and the mixture of these two things is one of the best combinations. My own mother has this duality as well and in the long stretches of time when I miss being in her presence, the time I can spend with Sue is a not something I can soon imagine taking for granted. Though she may (in reading this possibly) feel embarrassed by my stating it, one of the many things I enjoy when visiting with her is just the observation by osmosis of her life: the matter of fact way she takes care of things, her service of others, her tireless hospitality, her humor, her openness and directness coupled with her unassuming attitude. It's refreshing and peaceful, hilarious and entirely like being at home to be in hers.
Needless to say, these unexpected days of absence from my family gave me some precious time to read and think and just be quiet. I found myself piling several books to borrow from the shelves of my friends and over the few days was able to read Leslie Leyland Field's Surviving the Island of Grace, Dr. Helen Roseveare's Give Me This Mountain, Bob Benson's "See You at the House," and Paul Miller's A Praying Life. Though far different in style and content from one another, somehow they each touched a nerve in me and made me both reflective and visionary as I thought about the end of one year and the beginning of another.
In Surviving the Island of Grace, Field's recounts the journey of her life as a young newlywed moving to Kodiak Island in Alaska and learning the ropes of salmon fishing. She weaves memories of her unique and difficult childhood and similar years as a married woman and young mother in a memoir of outdoor struggle and adventure coupled with inward joys and sorrows. In the final paragraphs she describes a moment on the rugged and unforgiving beach, where she muses on the paradox of a barnacle who is confined by the prison of its own making, and yet is saved by this, the very grace that sustains it.
I was struck by this, thinking of all that reflections over the past and dreams of the future can do to you. In many ways it is true, that the sometimes confining prisons of our lives, our circumstances, perhaps our failures or our tragedies, or just the realities that we are less than content with, can also be the very graces that sustain us. Many times though, it is just not within the range of our vision to see or understand this when we are living those particular moments.
But there are some who do (which is why I enjoy reading their thoughts), and I think too, God is always at work to show us this. Among a few other little "resolutions," such as sending a birthday card to each of my niece's and nephews this year, or filing all our pictures into books we can actually sit and look at, this is something I want to mark this year, and those after it by... the seeing of this life, this day, as a gift covered and marked all through with the fingerprints of God.
May you see newness of life in this coming year!
Happy New Year!