Thankfully, Robert and I got to have an overnight getaway before he left. During the holidays, and especially when the house is full of guests, there's not much time to "be married." It was so nice to be away from the house, eat two meals out at nice restaurants (via his birthday gift cards!), stay in a hotel, and to talk and reflect on the past year. Over dinner on Tuesday night, we went through a set of questions designed to help with the reflecting...
What was the best moment or time of the last year?
What were the biggest obstacles?
What were the greatest joys?
What were the unexpected difficulties?
List three words to describe the past year? etc.
The answers to each one are blog posts within themselves!
After two days together, it wasn't easy to drop Robert off at the Hartford airport and say goodbye for 12 days.
Driving his red truck, we pulled into Starbucks on our way out of town. I had been fighting with the sun visor which has a CD storage thing-y dangling from it. It's full of CDs, so it swings heavily if you pull the visor down to shade your eyes and becomes only a source of injury and frustration beyond any shielding it may do at that point. I had taken the thing off a few weeks back (no one listens to the CDs anymore), but my hubby had returned them to the visor fearing they would be stepped on by some teenager riding in the cab jump seats.
Since I was driving at sunset and really needed the shade, we pulled the CDs off the visor again. Jokingly, Robert pulled out a CD and popped it in. I rolled my eyes expecting to hear Sting's "In Your Eyes," but to my strange delight it was Twila Paris instead. Maybe that will give you an idea of just how long that CD holder has been dangling there.
I had forgotten how much I love the music of Twila Paris. After I dropped Robert off, I put this particular song on repeat all the way back home.
Courier valiant, bearing the flame
Messenger noble, sent in His name
Faster and harder, run through the night
Desperate relay, carry the light
Carry the light
Obstacle ancient, chilling the way
Enemy wakened, stoking the fray
Still be determined, fearless and true
Lift high the standard, carry it through
Carry it through
Mindful of many, waiting to run
Destined to finish what you've begun
Millions before you, cheering you on
Godspeed dear runner, carry it home
Carry it home
Runner, when the road is long
Feel like giving in, but you're hanging on
Oh runner, when the race is won
You will run into His arms
"Runner" by Twila Paris, 1986
(The music is so great, too. You should really take a listen here. But don't watch the video. Just close your eyes and listen.)
I have been in love with this song since I was a sophomore in high school, and may have even scripted a few lines of it on a photo collage for my boyfriend at the time, but I really had no idea back then exactly what those poetic words meant.
Before we left for the airport yesterday, I read some of Hebrews. Somehow, it just didn't seem the right time to start back at Genesis even though I just finished reading cover-to-cover. I was greatly affected, overwhelmed by this:
God...in these last days has spoken to us in His Son.
Hebrews 1: 1-2
He speaks to me, to us. In Jesus. Jesus is the near and bodily form of His Word. His voice. Himself.
In Jesus coming as a baby...He speaks compassion to me.
In Jesus living humbly and purely...He speaks encouragement to me.
In Jesus being nailed to a Cross...He speaks sacrificial love to me.
In Jesus forgiving the undeserved...He speaks grace to me.
In Jesus dying...He speaks forgiveness and love to me.
In Jesus rising...He speaks hope and victory to me.
And now by His Spirit inside...He speaks help and wisdom to me.
Truly amazing grace.
But this race is so long and hard that it's easy to become deaf to His speaking.
For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Hebrews 6: 10-12
He has taken note of previous work and ministry. Nothing I have sacrificed has escaped His notice, but He wants me to keep going. He knows it's the only path to hope.
2015, as far as I can tell, will be full of pretty much the same things that previous years have been...motherhood, homeschooling, church ministry, ministry to women, lots and lots of grocery shopping, even more cooking, cleaning bathrooms, doing dishes, scheduling, driving to activities and events, returning lots of emails...
Good, important things. Necessary things. Things that God has not forgotten nor will forget. I used to be so excited about all of those things, but they've lost some of their luster. Maybe you are chuckling at my naivety. Some folks start with a more realistic set of expectations than I did. Maybe it's easier for them, but I often feel pretty sluggish, not wanting to lace up the running shoes of life. Oh, the external diligence it still there, and the internal sluggishness is sort of a recent development. The pace of life has always felt too fast for me.
God knows all of this and yet still requires diligence ~ for my sake and His. He knows that diligence will bring me full assurance of hope, and that is certainly not something I want to miss out on.
So Twila's words were so comforting to me. The music was inspiring, and I sang it loudly for the hour it takes to get back home from the Hartford airport.
And the encouragement came...
This is an important, noble, crucial calling.
There is an enemy and there will be obstacles.
Many have gone before me and they cheer.
Others will come behind me and they watch.
The arms of Jesus are my sure finish line.
That Twila knew and felt those things in 1986 (seems so long ago!) was so encouraging to me. She's one who has gone before me (at least by 12 years) and she's cheering.
Truth is, folks knew these truths and realities in 1950 and in 1860 and even in 1620. They knew them in 1066 and in 586 and in 70AD.
More comforting than all of this is that Hebrews calls Jesus the "forerunner."
So, if this post seems hopeless (I really hope not, though), let me assure you that I actually look forward to running the race in 2015. He's taught me so much in the last year, and though they have not all been enjoyable lessons, I feel stronger in Him because of them. I trust Him more, because I've seen His faithfulness, though not usually in the way I desired it displayed.
Yesterday was my first run of the new year. It was a Thursday, so I met Betsy for our usual 5 miles around UMass. I talked her into a 7:30am start time ~ an hour past our usual, but then I ended up being awake until about 3am (long story involving teenagers out on new year's eve), and it was 19 degrees outside. I did not want to run.
But it was good...and necessary. Layered tights and ski mittens, hat and new thermal vest. (I wish I'd taken a picture. You might not have recognized us.) Cold air burning our eyes, we shared stories from Christmas, hopes and goals for the new year. It was all warm hearts and bodies when we finished, and it felt so great. So hopeful.
And I'll be out there again tomorrow. And next week. And next month. (Lord willing, of course.)
And all by his grace, so as to experience the fullness of the hope that is in Him, and to enjoy the warmth of His embrace at the finish line.
Here's to running toward a growing hope in Christ in 2015 ~ in the midst of the best moments, the greatest challenges, the unexpected difficulties, and the great joys.