03 January 2011

Looking Back, Moving Forward

It was a good day. I made my second-annual New Year's trip to the city to take in some time on my own and see what God had to say to me. As chatty as I am, I find I really thrive on alone-time. The quiet. The awareness to detail. The ability to take in my environment without immediate responsibilities. And though I may or may not be actively looking ... God often shows up.

This time, He showed up in the Bijou Cafe while I was enjoying a solitary breakfast. Sweet Potato, Chicken and Kale Hash, if you please, and a cup of black coffee, too. Sitting by my lonesome, happily, I eavesdropped on the excited buzz of the morning patrons. Seems a lot of people like to start the new year with a good meal. After mine was thoroughly polished off, I pulled out my bible and notebook and smiled with an affirmative nod when more coffee was offered. 

On a whim, I began reading in Jeremiah. I was pulled into chapter 20 and read the prophet's opened soul in verses 7-18. 

• A cry of the confused: "... I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed ..."
• A cry of the worn out: " ... his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot ...
• A cry of the comforted: "... But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior ..." 
• A cry of praise: "... Sing to the Lord! Give praise to the Lord! He rescues the life of the needy ..." 
• And once more, a cry of exhausted despair: "... Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame ..."

Oh fickle, faithless, believing, wavering Jeremiah. I do so identify with you.

For you see, this past year has been, quite possibly, one of the most difficult I've experienced. I'm no chosen Jeremiah and my trials are paltry compared to many. My year was no shocking hardship, it was just mine and it was just hard. I cried out to God in exhaustion, confusion, in comforted joy, and in wretched, full-on-cry-me-a-river self-pity. And. All by my lonesome. The girl who loves her alone time was called to journey through a desert, for a long while ... alone. Sometimes we are given burdens to bear with God as the only refuge. The only comrade. The only promise of hope. 

And even in the midst of His fullness, the doubt and worry and plain ol' selfishness can creep in ... just to stir the bubbling pot a bit more. Ever the frugal gal, I found myself, this past year, looking to please my aesthetic sensibilities to their fullness. Translation? I went shopping for pretty things. Now, I'm far too controlled by practical good sense to really go crazy, but you know the nagging feeling ... "Did I really need that? Should I really be spending right now?" ... yup, I became quite familiar with that sensation.

While I feel like I have been delivered from my gut-wrenching sojourn (without going into detail, God stepped in with a mighty and ... nothing short of ... miraculous hand), I've been struggling with my newly formed habit of retail therapy. Pretty things are nice. Shopping is fun. But spending wisely is better.

To pull you back to my New Year's Day morning, after contemplating Jeremiah and musing over the spending issue, I spent the next three hours in a monster new/used book store. Heaven. I read, drank coffee, read, ate a pistachio gelato, and read some more. I had a pile of books I wanted to adopt, yet strangely, I purchased none. 

Back into the car to leave the city behind and head on home, I passed a little thrift shop. Now ready to get home, I buzzed through the shop quickly. Nothing really caught my eye until I spied a little blue book on a shelf. A sweet old copy of Sense and Sensibility for $1.99. I had to laugh to myself. In Jeremiah I found a relatable man who struggled in his immaturity, yet found his faith growing because of who God is. In this small title, I found encouragement in my spending dilemma. It was if God suggested to me, "Anna, I know of your penchant for pretty things and your aesthetic Sensibilities. It's okay. I made you that way. Let's just keep it combined with good Sense. Don't worry, you're not on your own. We'll work on it together."

And so. He provides. He comforts. He stands by His promises. He is faithful and unwavering ... even though I am not. Praise God. 

Moving forward, Friends ... Happy New Year.