Learning to love wine with my cheese...

It's the end of another year. 2006 is over and done with, and we face 2007 as if we're strapped into a roller coaster, and coming to the top of a drop - we can't look back, we can't slow down, and we're strapped in tightly whether we want to be or not.

As a writer, I like to describe things concisely and thoroughly in neat little paragraphs. These "things" that I so often attempt to define by small groupings of words include the seasons of life. Isn't it wonderful when you can look back over a semester, slap some words on the page, cross a couple out that you realize too accurately describe some emotion, rearrange a few more to make decent sentences, and then step back and look at 4 months all wrapped up in a 4x6 inch space on a stark white sheet of paper? Although I've made it sound so inhumane and emotionless, it's actually quite satisfying. My paragraph looks clean and purposed; it's evenly spaced, contains exactly what I want to remember from that season (leaves no room for upsets or mess ups), and gives me a sense of closure. I can now set that paragraph or season aside, and move forward with no overlapping of relationships, events, or personal struggles and triumphs. That paragraph is complete.

I've done this for several years now - maybe not on paper, but in my mind I enjoy creating closure. I will reflect on a semester, glean what wisdom I gained that I should take with me in life, burn the bad memories, summarize briefly, and move on. As I look back on this year, however, and start my synopsis of my life contained in 2006, I'm struggling to end my paragraph. There doesn't seem to be a neat and tidy way to close it off.

I look back, and so many of my joys are so intimately connected with sorrows, that I would have to remove the joy in order to "clean up" my description of the hard times. The people God has connected me with, and re-connected me with, cannot be summed up in a word, because my relationships with them are ever-changing, ever-growing. I can't possibly close a chapter with one person, and open another one with a whole set of new people. The one must remain a character in the story. As soon as I can accurately define my relationship with someone, it changes. My roommates became my sisters, my best friend became closer than a brother, my brother became my best friend, the girls I was leading in Bible Study became some of my greatest teachers, acquaintances became friends for life. How can I confine these to a few sentences and leave them at that? To do so would be to confine life.

I compartmentalize. Our human nature is to want things to stay the same, to stay comfortable, to be neat and tidy, all wrapped up in a little paragraph. Life is messy, though. It's wild and untame. The joys in life don't always come in separate packages than the sorrows. Sometimes the two are inexorably tied together - you can't get the joy without the sorrow, you can't get the sisters without conflict, you can't get real love without heartache. It's a mess - of hurt and pain, tears and broken hearts, side-splitting laughter and genuine smiles, sacrificing friendships and love, misspoken words, purposed encouragement, jealousy, honesty, respect.

It's beautiful, though. He's in there amidst it all. Jesus is in the wild mess of what we call life, and He's there. Not a spectator, but a player. He's there and He WANTS to be there. He doesn't want me to make a feeble attempt to wrap it all up "neat and tidy." He wants me to thrive in the mess of it all. To love and to be loved. To worship Him because of ALL of it - the joys and the sorrows, because the two cannot be separated. To embrace change - in people, in relationships, in myself.

When I was three, my Mom taught me to read, and one day, from the backseat of the car, I read a bumper sticker out loud to her. "Sh*t Happens." Well, sh*t does happen. There are things I cannot explain, things I can't see purpose in, and things I wish would change for what I think could be better. And yet, my life is beautiful. Our lives are beautiful. The mess is beautiful, because He is good. I would say that my summary to what I've learned this year would be broad, unspecific, and similar to the bumper sticker, but less cynical -

Life is wild and unpredictable. Relationships can no sooner be defined or limited than you could tame a bull. For me to separate the joy from the sorrow is like eating the cheese without the wine. The wine may be bittersweet, but it is rich. When we can learn to take life as it's given to us, be thankful for it, and thrive in it as it is, we will be rich in Love like Him.


The Tree (Job 14:7)

A tree,
planted in the desert, the bark stripped raw from
the winds
and sand.
She waits in the dry seasons for
the rain;
her roots
cling to what little solid ground lies underneath the shifting surface.
Her eyes sting from
the sand;
tears may fall but
her roots
do not give way, even when attacked by
the wind.
Her hope
comes with the scent of
And yet, the glisten in her eye is always there to guide her laughter on
the wind.
And when the drought ends, she drinks deeply of
the rain
and is restored again.
A tree
always has hope, for when it is cut down by
the wind,or exhausted by
the sand,
it will grow again, and it’s new
will not fail.
They are rooted
in a Love
that does not die.
This tree
will dance forevermore.

*I wrote this for a dear friend who has inspired me to take life as the Lord brings it to me, to laugh at it, to Love in it, and to dance because of it. And above all, to always have hope, because the Lord is gracious to restore abundant life. Thank you, Lauren.