This has been the strangest year.
Pretty much everyone on the planet can make such statements but I told myself that I can take a few minutes to marvel and move past the insanity and the ridiculousness of this year. Sure, we can talk about bad men and bad choices. We can talk about politics and policy. The crazy thing is that I’m not even going to allow myself the distraction of all that. Because I’m really good at letting myself focus on other things so that I don’t have to shine the light on all things Jill. I just Scarlett O’Hara my way through it and tell myself to think about all that later.
You see, the problem with actually writing down everything that has happened this year is that I feel stupidly dramatic saying it out loud. It’s easy to joke about the 27 times our cars broke down this year but then admitting that I was ALSO rear-ended a couple of days ago makes me roll my eyes. (Okay, it might have only been eleven or twelve car trouble incidents, but if I’m going to sound dramatic, I’m going full speed ahead.) (Believe it or not, no pun intended. But I’m going with it.)
There are also things that I can’t make sense of, no matter how hard I try. A couple of (professional) projects that really didn’t go as planned or didn’t go at all. My kids going through really hard things. One of my favorite aunts dying. My father in-law almost dying and being diagnosed with a weird (and still slightly unknown) cancer. A friend I love and respected dying after battling cancer. And that doesn’t even scratch the surface.
And then there are things I had almost forgotten about. Like a situation from earlier this year when my daughter was on the receiving end of unwanted attention from a young man. He made some really odd threats that we just brushed aside as a kid looking for attention. And maybe it was. But all of that came into sharp focus when just two weeks ago we came face to face with the terrifying reality that this same young man showed up to school with a loaded handgun and a knife. And I have no idea if he also came with a list but I’m here to tell you that the “what-if’s” are just as dangerous as he is.
It’s not easy for me to admit when I don’t have it all figured out. It’s hard for me to type most of these words because I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining or seeking sympathy. (I’M SUPER NOT.) But I’d be lying if I said that I’m not coming off a two-day pity party after Abby and I got rear-ended (oh, didn’t I mention we just got rear-ended?) as I just try to figure and process and make sense of things that really don’t make sense.
Making sense of things and how I feel about them is why I started writing in the first place. It’s taken me a long time, and story-time by Sarah, to remember that.
It’s funny what your brain focuses on when there is so much to process. A few days after the scary, scary gun at school incident at school, an entire water bottle emptied into my bag. Instead of flipping out, I worked so hard to try to make my brain come from a place of gratitude after all that had happened that week. I don’t know how many times I repeated the phrase “My kid is safe, these are just things. My kid is safe, these are just things.” in my head while I laid out all my personal belongings from that bag on the asphalt to dry. To this day, I wonder how it must’ve looked to all the parents and students walking around us at the high school band competition as we tried to salvage what we could.
The water had gotten to everything. It had completely doused (and ruined) my iPad and some important notebooks but what really hurt my feelings was the ruined Bible. We have a family Bible at home, and all sorts of Bible apps at our fingertips but it hurt my heart to see most of my notes and scribbles and memories smeared or washed away. After everything that had happened this year, the little blue Bible that could was another (small) casualty that hurt more than one would expect. It was the tiniest piece of straw that broke the camel’s back. Albeit a super water logged piece of straw. I cannot begin to tell you how much water a bible can hold. (I also cannot begin to tell you how important extended warranties are on iPads. TRUST ME ON THIS.)
If I’m being perfectly honest, a lot of this year took its toll on me. I can pretty much Pollyanna my way through any situation but this year tested all of my powers. Don’t get me wrong – there was SO MUCH GOOD that happened. I should write about all of that, too. But I also had to stop and recognize that the hard stuff did some damage and it knocked me down a little. Actually, it knocked me down kind of a lot. And it took my confidence with it.
It would be so cool to tie all of this up with a fancy red bow and say that I’ve recovered and that my confidence has made a miraculous return. I’m not quite there. But I will tell you that even at the lowest of lows, the highest of all was also there. Through every piece of the difficult and the sad, I can also see God’s hand in all of it.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)
We all know I’m probably not any more mature than I was a year ago, but I’d like to think that I’ve done a really good job finding joy even when it seemed impossible. You know, every time one of the cars broke down, I’d start chuckling. It was better than crying myself into a puddle on the side of whatever road I happened to be on that time. I mean…it really was kinda funny. But each time it happened, I just thought of that scripture. Consider it all joy? Sure…I can persevere with that. Who knows? Maybe 2018 is when I find some of that maturity he was talking about.