Lamenting and Hoping: 2018 Reflections

lament post

I started 2018 with the word “lament” in my head and on my heart.

I realize that choosing a word like “lament” over a new year is strange and counterintuitive. But I wanted 2018 to be a year of pruning, one where I learned more about the Lord and my sin and what work I needed to do to grow in my faith and relationships and profession. Through my Bible reading and lots of prayer, and some other books and podcasts, I learned a little about how to lament and how it’s an important step through confession and to repentance. After some reflection, I realized I had never intentionally mourned over hard things- not my own sin, or the awful, systemic things happening in our society. Instead of lamenting over my fallenness, I tried to ignore it because I felt bad about it, because I didn’t want God to be disappointed in me, because it stung too much. And instead of really leaning into the hard injustices of this world, I typically, honestly, ignored them because I was privileged enough to do so..

Lament was really foreign to me, and after recognizing the value and necessity of it spiritually through Scripture and other teachings, it was something I really wanted to be intentional about this year in my own spiritual practices.

I spent my year of Bible reading paying more attention to how people in Scripture grieved and confessed and repented and rid themselves of their sin by turning to the Lord again and again, and I journaled my way through that process. But 2018 brought a whole lot of external good-byes for me too, and a whole lot more things to grieve than I expected.

For six months, I met with a nutritionist and followed a strict eating plan, saying no to tacos with friends and cake on my birthday in hopes to heal my body of issues that had plagued it for the past decade (it’s worked so far- PRAISES). Matt and I got a puppy and I coached tennis and he did grad school like a champ. Our routine together completely shifted in ways we didn’t expect, and it took some work to catch up and reconnect. Matt applied to a church in DC and we flew here in April to meet all the people and accepted it a week later. I raced to revise my resume and apply to all the jobs while preparing to say goodbye to a school and community and students and friends I loved. I accepted a job at an urban charter school with the desire to learn how to teach well in a diverse setting, which I knew would require a lot of humility and listening and learning about systemic injustices that our students face. We found an apartment on Craigslist and drove hundreds of miles with our pup in the backseat to see all the family before we left Indy. We moved in June.

In those six months alone, we said so many good-byes. Good-byes to routines and normals and communities and friends. See-ya-laters to living closer to family, and to a life that was really comfortable.

This year was littered with loss and change and adjusting and different. The lamenting that was happening in my heart, it was happening in my external life too.

Then my dad died.

And grief has now become my new normal in ways I didn’t intend, because with one phone call in August, it felt like everything blew up. 

My dad unexpectedly dying was a strange and coincidental thing to happen in my year bannered with lament, or maybe not. Maybe the Lord just knew that this was a word that would fit my year, that would prepare me for something a whole lot more tragic than I could have anticipated. Regardless, I spent a whole year focusing on grief, and honestly, it was brutal.

But as all things in faith, hard things lead to beauty and joy and hope because Jesus was resurrected, and that’s the narrative that dictates the Christian life, my life. And as I shed buckets of tears this year because adjusting to new realities is hard, I also started to tip-toe my way towards a deeper dependence in the Lord, and to learn over and over that it’s truly the best way. We’re experiencing the care of the church in our grief and growing in our new opportunities, and tightening bonds with our family and lifelong friends in really beautiful ways. This year has been defined by these paradoxes, of lament but hope for a better eternity, deep sorrow over lost things, but also great joy through the Lord and new opportunities and our local church.

This year, through all of the loss and good-byes and death, it’s making me believe in Jesus more. It’s making me believe more deeply in the Gospel and the resurrection and hope and eternity, because I think being close to death and loss forces you to really consider these things. It’s making me experience grace in new ways because I was aware of my desperate need for it more than before. 2018 was messy and hard, and I’m ending the year exhausted and hurt and a little confused. 2019 will bring more grief, I’m sure, but I also know it’ll bring beauty and grace and joy and hope, just like I saw this year, and I’m really excited for those moments to come. 

Words from the Porch

Each day at the Brick House I look forward to sitting on the porch in the evenings.

I’ve spent many hours on this porch so far, both alone and together with my housemates. It’s an idyllic porch, with five chairs and string lights, a solid, flat concrete surface and a sturdy overhead covering. I imagine this will continue to be a place of conversations and laughter, of quiet contemplation and random aloud-blurbs of news and quotes from the papers and books we read. It will be a space for hugs and welcomes, tears and a sense of belonging. This porch is a place of gathering and richness, of refreshment and a place of new perspective as we learn to live differently and more intentionally in the coming year.

In my times alone on the porch, I have found it to be a place of peaceful solidarity, looking out to the cornfields and other small homes that line the quiet, peaceful street. I’ve found hope and healing through contemplation in this space, reading and listening to God’s words that encourage and uplift, protruding deep into my soul as they replenish the cracks and brokenness from the past year. I’m learning to dream wider dreams on this porch, reflecting on the moments that have made me feel alive and allowing my newfound passions to propel me into doing the work I love. I’ve reflected on my weeks in the classroom, thinking up lesson plans and trying to conjure the names of the many students in my mind, visualizing the seating plans I’ve stared at so many times. The porch has been my space to navigate a new stage of my prayer life, making my way past the distractions and trying to focus on truly being alone with the Lord, allowing His presence to seep into my mind and soul as I truly relax and let go of the day. 

And together, I have found this space to be one of laughter and of pure conversation, gathered around an old barrel with a citronella candle lit and tea warming our hands. The string lights twinkle against the dusk-filled sky as we tell stories from years past and uncertainly voice our hopes for the next year. This simple space of concrete and posts has become a beautiful place of gathering, filling my heart and soul with words and giggles and nods that have proved the simple, in-between moments build my life to where I want it to be, one of meaning and purpose in my everyday spaces. Each time on our porch we connect just a little more, nudging towards a deeper understanding of each other’s struggles and hopes and deeply beautiful qualities.

From this porch, I have gleaned the benefits inside and out. Inside my soul, I have found fulfillment in the peaceful solidarity I’ve learned to dwell in. And on the outside, I have found fulfillment in the fellowship I experience with my friends, being present in the conversations I enter into and experiencing a deep sense of belonging and meaning. I’m learning to find fulfillment in the simple moments this year, finding richness in my life through reflection, prayer, and lots of conversations. My heart settles down in these moments, finding peace and contentment in this new place and with these familiar people. I’m thankful for another space I can call home, one where I can wrestle and learn and be refined by words and people I love dearly.