People usually discuss new beginnings in January. Warning: this post is more about endings. Last April, I boarded a train not knowing where it would take me. I needed to figure out my parents’ future. Eight months later, I landed at my destination. In December, I moved Mom and Dad into assisted living and emptied their home of a lifetime of possessions.
Everyone who has been through this process understands the enormity of it. It feels like a closed door forcing you to climb through a small window. Hoping to avoid regret, you resign and resolve—I prayed for no regrets while resigning to what had to be and resolving to forge ahead. After months of trial and error, the Lord affirmed our final decision with the wonderful blessing of a sold house. The buyers purchased it “as is” for our asking price, and we proceeded without the burden of realtor fees.
I would need to keep reminding myself of this provision in the packing and purging process. Each drawer might contain meaningless trash or valuable family papers dating back to my ancestors, or sometimes both! It was a painstaking process, both physically and emotionally. I couldn’t decide which was worse, the crick in my neck or the ache in my heart.
My own home is now overrun with evidence of this move’s aftermath. I wonder at what point in this new year I will finally finish going through the boxes of items stacked up in my dining room. Another neck-breaking, heart-wrenching purge awaits me.
An aftermath is a consequence or result; the word can also refer to the period immediately following a ruinous event. This is the perfect word to describe my current condition. Yes, my parents are settled and the house is cleaned out, but I am still recovering. And I will be for some time. There were many days spent in solitude, sorting and purging and packing and lacking. I was lacking joy. I felt very much alone. My brothers couldn’t travel to help me. My own family was too busy with their December demands. Friends came in and out, but the bulk of my time was spent alone with my trash bags and boxes and a million thoughts of both what was and what is. Admittedly, much of this process could be done by no one other than myself.
My father had remarked several times during this move, “My joy is not in things, but in the Lord!” I confess I had numerous pity parties where joy was no where to be found. Tears, frustration, and loneliness were my constant companions. But the Lord was faithful to remind me of the blessings that have always been mine and continue to be so. I am extraordinarily blessed.
One early morning, He whispered in my ear all the ways I wasn’t appreciating the blessing of His joy. Through repentance, my joy returned. We hear so much about the “Joy of Christmas” in December. I do not believe an unrepentant heart is capable of true internal joy.
On one of my last days of packing, I found my mother’s sewing kit. Inside it was one of those red tomato pin cushions that were popular in the 1970’s. Holding it again brought on instant childhood flashbacks of pulling pins in and out of it while trying not to get poked. Poked is another perfect word for this season. Every part of me has been poked, but it’s the poking of conviction that has changed me most, and for the better. And now, at the end of this figurative train ride, I find myself dealing with the same three Rs. “Lord, let me lay down all regrets as I resign to our new normal. Help me resolve to live out this aftermath with the joy that is found in You alone.”
“…And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
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