There are Christmas tree ornaments scattered across the carpet, hither and yon.
The tree has long since dried up. It has shed a layer of crunchy prickles everywhere. But I haven’t stripped it of its decorations yet.
Instead, right when I should have been starting dinner yesterday, I cleaned out the pantry. That took over half the kitchen and the living room. The tree was a distant last place compared to making food for my family and navigating the obstacle course I’d created around our dining room table.
I don’t experience the new year like a fresh palette. I don’t know that I ever have. I feel it heavy with more of the same. More figuring out who I am and what I need to leave behind and what I need to bring with me.
Maybe December just helps underline that fact.
I’ve been asking my friends what they want to leave behind and what they’re hoping to bring with them this year.
Our cats are oblivious.
They’re lying next to me stretched out across the school uniform my son dutifully laid out before he went to bed. He has an interview at a new middle school tomorrow. Just a blink ago I was changing his diapers. Now he’s changing schools. And he wants to pick up Hardees on the drive over.
This is real.
This is happening.
My daughter had a stomach ache and I picked her up early from school. My middle remembers on the first day of back-to-school homework how much he hates spelling lists.
I remember too.
But the pantry is finally put back together again so I can notice the dying tree. The stranded ornaments. The shoe closet that you can barely walk into and the boys’ bedroom that – well, there aren’t really words. If you have boys. Or kids in general. You already understand.
We can plan and set goals but so much of who we are has already been decided. This frightens me now that I’m in my 40s.
How can I grow up to be more than the girl who loves to binge watch TV after her kids are in bed if I’m already grown up and this is still what I do?
My dad prays for me today from South Africa. He often calls me on his drive home. He could never be bothered to figure out the world of free apps that would have let him call me without cost. Instead, he just dials me direct from his cell phone.
Somehow it makes me feel so loved. Deep in my bones. Like nothing will get in the way of my dad calling when he wants to hear my voice. Certainly not technology. He calls me and tells me what he’s learning. He’ll be 70 this year and he’s always learning. I press the phone tight against my ear because there’s a delay and I don’t want to miss it.
He tells me that what we really need is to – and now I can’t remember his exact words, but the gist. The gist is that we need to get out of our own way. To get over ourselves. To want more than ourselves. To want to follow Jesus more than we want to follow ourselves.
This is a good word. I believe this.
But do I live it?
I don’t make resolutions but I ask questions. They make me nervous now that I’m half way through with the business of living.
Am I getting out of my own way? Or am I so set in my ways I can’t really even notice the difference?
My friend Janice leaves me a message to remind me of all that I’m releasing into the world this year. She says it over and over again – that beautiful word – releasing.
I play her message again. I don’t want to forget to let go this year. To let go of what I can’t fix or change and to let the things God is trying to fix and change in me be just that – released. Sometimes they look like books. But sometimes they look like lessons I learn between 10 and midnight by myself over a cup of coffee and coffee cake. (I know, I know, late night eating choices fail.)
But I want to release so many things. I want to let them fall off me and give them back to the only God I believe can actually carry them into the New Year. They’ve always been too heavy for me.
I want to trust that I won’t miss it. That I won’t miss what He’s doing because I’m so busy catching up on the next episode. I’m selfishly short sighted.
I don’t want to miss what He’s doing in and through and for my husband and kids.
I don’t want to miss that someone has a kidney stone or secret fear because I’m so busy not paying attention. Or paying attention to the wrong things.
I want to walk away from myself and leave as much of her back in the old year as possible.
This is a hard thing.
Sometimes I don’t realize it’s the right thing to do till I write it down.
So I’m slowly taking first steps into the new year and away from parts of myself. And toward parts of my life that it’s easy to miss. To skim. To only catch glimpses of out of the corner of your eye.
I want to be one of those who knows she’s listening and seeing when Jesus says, let those who have ears hear and those who have eyes see.
I am not making resolutions. But I am walking forward away from some things and toward others.
Hold my hand.