With my part-time teaching job, Christmas break should have been the perfect time for me to set some goals for 2019. That didn’t happen.
I’ve done this goal-setting thing for the last several years—taking a look at various categories (physical, spiritual, financial and so on)—and forecasting what I’d like to achieve or improve in different areas.
Goal-setting is not a bad thing. It can help with focus and intentionality. That said, life has a way of turning our best-laid plans upside-down, sometimes in subtle but powerful ways.
So this New Year, I’m in that foggy, food-hangover, unstructured stretch of days between Christmas and going back to work.
What day is it? What time is it? Have I had pancakes?
I pull out my goal-setting binder and put it on my desk. It sits there for days.
I can’t review 2018. I’m paralyzed. All I can think of is it’s been a year since my father died.
In the short, gray days of the season, I feel like the calendar has folded back on itself, connecting December 2017 to January 2019 as though nothing happened in between.
Of course, plenty of stuff did happen. Except for the grieving I somehow didn’t manage to get around to.
Papa went home to Jesus on December 30th, 2017, having literally fought for his life to make it through Christmas. We honored him with a memorial on January 13th, 2018.
For three weeks, a flurry of purposeful memorial planning activity kept me preoccupied. The service itself was unforgettably sweet. I saw church folks I hadn’t seen since my teen years.
My sister chose the Chris Rice song, “Come to Jesus,” and my sons performed it. Everyone was moved to tears.
I still couldn’t cry.
When I got back on the plane to fly home to Idaho, leaving my mom and siblings behind in California, I could hardly bear to tear myself away.
Life went on. 2018 was a weird year for my husband and me.
Devastated by the simultaneous loss of both our jobs in late 2017—vocational ministry jobs which we loved—we struggled to recover from the shock, praying and looking for what was supposed to happen next.
Our routines got disjointed, our finances shaky, our feelings unstable. There would be no long-anticipated trip to see my cousins in Germany (it’s been forty years). There would be no vacation at all.
One of our daughters-in-law landed in the ER and still has medical tests ahead. Another suffered the loss of one of her twins in utero.
Nothing about 2018 was predictable or easy. We still find ourselves wandering in a strange wilderness, disoriented, under-employed, feeling small.
All these losses kept me from paying attention to the hardest-hitting one.
But now the calendar folds in on itself as though 2018 never happened, and I play, “Come to Jesus” over and over again, flooded with memories of my father, sobbing until my eyes swell and my stomach muscles ache and I can scarcely inhale.
“With your final heartbeat, kiss the world goodbye,
go in peace, and laugh on glory’s side;
and fly to Jesus…fly to Jesus… fly to Jesus and live.”
I miss you , Papa.
I am lost, a ship drifting anchor-less. I am an orphan. Abandoned. Alone.
I cry out to my heavenly Father, the plea rising from my gut, I need Your presence, Abba. Please. Let me know Your love.
And this desperate cry becomes my one, single, burning desire for the next year.
For my life.
Death and difficulty remind us how fragile we are. We are not in control, no matter how hard we try to plan out our lives.
I’m not on top of my game enough to set a bunch of goals this year. I’ve been too humbled by unfinished grief, unresolved problems and unanswered questions.
I’ll let this year be about God’s agenda, not my next grandiose to-do list.
Maybe that’s been his desire all along.