The best and worst of 2015

The truth is I’ve never read The Tale of Two Cities.

After spending 20 minutes scouring SparkNotes—yep, SparkNotes (the shame of it)—and reading quick online plot summaries and popular quote interpretations, I found myself sitting at my white handmade desk at 11:15 p.m. the night before Christmas Eve, tissuing away tears. It might have been the mention of the Christ-figure Carton and his martyrdom, or maybe it was Manette’s inability to tear himself away from making shoes even after being released from prison that got me choked up. I don’t know. But I decided to order a copy of the old classic and conquer it in 2016.

What drew me to the text in the first place was my recollection of the infamous opening paragraph and how well it reflects my sentiments regarding 2015.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way. . . .

I won’t even begin to apply the quote to the universe or to philosophize about the state of the Union or the world at large, ISIS, global warming, technology and its effects on Generation Z (or the rest of us for that matter), or the countless other sociopolitical problems we face.

For today, I’ll stick to my own neck of the woods and my little life.

I wish I could not relate to the opening lines of The Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I wish I considered these lines ridiculous and over the top. But I relate—I relate very well.

Each autumn, I attend a women’s conference that renews me spiritually. I participate in a group meditation that’s particularly meaningful to me and am handed a phrase which seems to always ring true in the coming year. Call it self-fulfilling prophecy, if you like, but I consider it a positive promise of sorts from God, or something hopeful to work toward or claim. In 2014, the phrase I was handed was “Blessings fill your life.”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Indeed—blessings have filled my life this year. Some of them have overwhelmed me with their enormity. God has blown my expectations out of the water in many ways, redefined “miracle,” and allowed me to observe others’ miracles, too.

But this year also brought bone-crushing, soul-splitting grief. I lost several friends whom I dearly loved—and the means of loss were ugly, confusing, and left me with more questions than consolation. When I asked, “Is there no balm in Gilead?” I didn’t hear a pretty piano playing a sweet hymn in response. I heard nothing.

In those times, I tried to keep doing what worked for me spiritually—to daily maintain my spiritual condition. But sometimes, many times, I just sat outside at night and looked at stars and said nothing at all, and I think He was okay with that. Other times I hated Him and all but spat at Him. I’m pretty sure He was okay then, too. He is God, after all. He is a Big Boy and can handle my humanity, even when I am embarrassed by it.

During those times, I had no idea how “Blessings fill your life” applied to me, but the card emblazoned with the phrase haunted me from my bulletin board. I wanted to throw it in the garbage but never did.

I’m glad I didn’t.

The best of times made their way back around again, and when they did, they did not disappoint.

There’s too much of the best to spell it all out, and quite frankly, some of it is too personal to share. A long time ago God somehow explained to me that we’d share many amazing moments that would blow my mind and steal my heart along this journey together. I learned that if I shared all of them, or even most of them, they’d lose their power somehow. So I pick and choose what I share.

One of the biggest miracles and strangest turn of events occurred in relation to employment. In June, I reconnected with a friend/business acquaintance, and dozens of prayers, careful decisions, and two months later, he and his wife offered me my current position as Content Manager of their company. I’m not joking when I say that I’ve dreamed about working for this company for a decade; seeing God fit multiple pieces of a complicated puzzle together seamlessly this summer was nothing short of breathtaking.

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With my bosses/mentors/friends, Steven & Faith Rothberg

I recently traveled to Minnesota to train for a few days. We worked like dogs, but I never felt tired until I closed my eyes at night. While recalling specific conversations and moments with a team member recently, I realized that not once while training and brainstorming did my bosses say, “Oh no, we just can’t do that,” or “That’s not a good idea.” Perhaps THIS is why I’m overcome with gratitude every time I think about work.

This year I also realized that losses and flaws are often my greatest gifts.

While driving back from the airport after traveling to Minnesota, alone, tired, and ready to see my little Maggie who I knew would be ready to see me, I hurriedly drove at sunset while chugging cheap coffee. I suddenly felt a moment of panic when I realized I couldn’t recall if I’d taken the right exit or not. What if I didn’t, and I am heading in the wrong direction? I really have no idea where I’m going. I paused, took a deep breath, and prayed for guidance. I decided to call my husband for help even though I hated asking for his help while driving because believe it or not, he can be a little cocky at times.

When he answered the phone, he was calm and helped me right away. I was heading in the right direction after all.

Something in my mind clicked; God seemed to be saying If you never felt fear, you would never trust Me.

Oh my God. You’re right. Thank You for my fear.

I couldn’t believe I was driving down the road thanking God for my FEAR. What a gross thing to be thankful for. But for me, an egotistical, independent perfectionist, a little fear may be necessary to keep me coming back.

That got me thinking about the rest of my “best of times and worst of times.” The most painful moments when I have been smothered by grief have felt the worst, but those moments led me to seek the Comforter, the only One who can fill gaps in me. I’ve felt frustrated and at a total loss when my toddler doesn’t comply and goes in the opposite preferred direction, but this reminds me I’m not in control and Who Is. There have been many times this year when I felt too overwhelmed to speak or write. I learned that God and I communicate just as well as two silent beings.

Blessings have filled my life after all.

 

Platitudes

In memory of my friend Tara’s father, Jerry, who recently relocated to The High Resting Place, and in celebration of National Poetry Day (October 8), I’ll share this poem I wrote today during my lunch break. 

Platitudes

I am tired of losing
good people.

Contaminated by asbestos, you never
even lounged around, smoking Marlboro Reds,
drinking Budweiser or downing whiskey shots.

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Tara and Jerry

You built a farm
while you were young
and able-bodied. You taught and led
countless lives.

You focused.

You were relentless.

You raised your girls
with all your might,
then turned back the clock
30 years later and fathered
your grandson in lieu of
cruises and red car pursuits.

You gave every ounce of yourself.

Praying over you, soaking your
hands with tears in silent sobs,
I only asked Him
to let you go.

Enough is enough.

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Liam, Jerry, and Tara

Platitudes make me puke. But I
understand this now:

“Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

–Bethany Wallace, 10/8/15

Crying over spilt coffee

Finally napping

Finally napping

After performing crib gymnastics and break dancing for half an hour, Maggie finally crashed and began her brief nap. I painstakingly held the alarmingly loud button in on our microwave door in order to retrieve my cup of coffee, which I’d reheated three times due to lack of opportunity to properly enjoy a cup of coffee while caring for an infant.

Apparently my memory of how to correctly use a microwave oven has also been affected by a syndrome commonly called “baby brain.” The coffee was bubbling inside the mug, and the minute I touched the handle, I dropped the half-full cup of coffee all over the floor. Molten brown java sludge covered my floors and soaked into my socked feet. I danced around while silently cursing, trying to remove my hot socks in order to prevent any real burns on my feet. I saved all but one of my big toes.

I laughed at myself, grabbed a dish towel, and crawled around my kitchen floor, cleaning up my messy mistake. Then I noticed the dark brown speckled cabinets surrounding me. The day before,  I’d carefully scrubbed each cabinet door and handle with a clever combination of Lysol disinfectant wipes and a Magic Eraser, removing all traces of crumbs, drips, and crud. All my work was in vain. I’d have to spend another 20 minutes cleaning the bottom cabinets.???????????????????????????????

That’s when the laughing turned to crying.

That day, which happened to be a Monday, of course, was not my day. Honestly, ever since getting pregnant last February, I’ve struggled to maintain my faith, my attitude of gratitude, my decision to be kind and loving toward others, and at times, my sanity. Pregnancy was tough on my body, not to mention my emotions. I did not have a beautiful, wonderful, happy experience. I worked through repeated physical setbacks over the course of 41 weeks before giving birth to my beautiful daughter. The delivery was ugly and complicated as well. The recovery was not terribly painful, but after undergoing a blood transfusion after giving birth, it took my body a few weeks to return to anything resembling normal. I never knew that having the right quantity of blood in my body made such a big difference in my sense of well-being. Who knew having plenty of blood would help me avoid episodes of blacking out and fainting?

I wish I could say things are all peachy keen now, and that I feel like I’m on top of the world, but that would be dishonest. I love being Maggie’s mom. I would not trade that for the world. But being a new mom is tough sometimes. I get frantic when I can’t immediately detect the reason for Maggie’s tears. I detest looking in the mirror because my once absolutely perfect abs are not so perfect anymore. I often feel overwhelmed by the stress of managing motherhood, graduate school, and homemaking. And life has also thrown me some additional lovely curve balls lately. I’m not referring to the tiny ticks and fleas of life; these are serious, private, heavy matters.

The speckling of my stark white cabinet doors didn’t really merit tears. The speckles were just the cherries atop my terrible turd sundae.

As I scrubbed the floor as quickly as possible in order to prevent the molten java from oozing into the cracks in our hardwood floors, I heard God say to me, in that mysterious voice that assures me that I’m not just talking to myself, “Think about how many times you’ve done this to me, right after I cleaned up your mess.”

Touche, God. Touche.Goo

He has. Countless times. I’ve made those stubborn Hebrews wandering in the desert due to disobedience look like saints. I’ve been battered and bruised and scraped and scarred, and He has been my Good Samaritan, bandaging me, paying my bills, and sending in the Great Physician to heal me. He has scrubbed clean more than just the surface of my life. He’s renovated it.

Photo by Bethany Wallace

Photo by Bethany Wallace

I can cry over spilt coffee. But then I must clean it up, stand up, change my socks (after applying aloe vera to my throbbing big toe), and take the next step forward.

If I’ve learned anything in the past 12 months, it’s that if things seem dark, it’s not because there’s no Light. It’s because I’m not looking at It. It’s always there waiting to transform my perspective.

“This is your time of grief. But I will see you again. You will rejoice, and no one will rob you of your joy.” –John 16:22