When a New Year Isn’t

Isaiah 61:3

Fresh off the heels of the contemplative gratitude of Thanksgiving and the unadulterated joys of Christmas, we head into the celebration of new beginnings and fresh starts. This is our chance to rectify unhealthy habits, initiate productive practices, and emotionally embark on a brighter day.  Occasionally, though, the new year isn’t new at all.  The only thing in front of us is a continuation of the old, the sequal to a bad movie. 1973 was like that for me.

The year I was to enter my teens was fraught with disappointment.  I was happy, enthused, even giddy to be entering seventh grade. I would finally be able to play football on a school team, real tackle football, with the slap of leather, the introduction of budding testosterone, and male camaraderie. Knocking other guys senseless would now be officially sanctioned in the name of education.

That July, my dad accepted the call to a small Baptist church in a small town that had a small school which did not play football. No, they played basketball. I ask you, what use is basketball when it’s actually a penalty to way-lay an unsuspecting opponent? Not only was there no football, there were no new kids in school, except me and my siblings.  We had not been born and raised there; we were transients.  I owned no cowboy boots, and I wore long hair.  You know what they say, time wounds all heels. Things only got worse.

In September, my father was diagnosed with inoperable untreatable lung cancer. In November, four days after his forty-first birthday and two days before Thanksgiving, he died. At Christmas, the church presented me and my brother with identical 10 speed bicycles, and my sister got a guitar, as she was a budding musician. What a thoughtful gesture. Two days later, they informed my mother we would need to move from the parsonage, so they could offer it to a prospective pastor. Before school resumed, we moved to a two bedroom trailer house. Let me clarify. This was not a mobile home; it was a trailer.  My sister got one bedroom, my brother and I shared the second, and my mother slept on the couch.  While my mother had purchased the trailer, we did not own the lot. She had only a few days to buy a lot and hire someone to move the trailer across town (with his John Deere tractor). This new year was not new at all.

By the time February rolled around, we were finally regaining some sense of normality, but that was short-lived.  One weekend my Mamaw and Uncle Eddie came to visit. Mother and Mamaw went shopping in the nearby town, and we kids were enjoying a nap in the living room.  Suddenly, Pennye, who had been preparing for a bath, came crashing through. “Get out! The house is on fire! Get out NOW!”  We were used to such practical jokes, but she and the billowing smoke quickly convinced us this was real.  With no shirt and no shoes, we ran outside into the biting February wind. The stickers made us do the one thing you never ever do, we ran back for shoes. It was God’s grace no one was hurt or killed, but there we four stood under the gray February sky in various states of nakedness, watching every possession, every shred of decency, and every hope of a normal life consumed in less than an hour. In that hour, we transitioned from orphans to homeless orphans.

In the following weeks, folks did their best to help us.  They brought cast-off clothing, they fed us, and they took turns hosting us for a night or two at a time. We alternated between a nearby motel (15 miles is nearby in the Texas panhandle) and borrowed beds. One fellow offered his vacant mobile home only 30 minutes away.  We stayed there until the insurance snafu was straightened out. It seems mother had been paying insurance payments along with the trailer payments to the mortgage owner, who promptly pocketed the insurance portions as well as the payments.  By spring, we finally had another trailer, which we were able to furnish with donated and garage sale items.

In this period, it seemed no one except God was being unkind to us. The church was only being reasonable, and the fellow who sold the trailer was only doing what any other savvy businessman would do. Almost everyone did the least they could do, and almost everyone looked at us with pity in their eyes. Folks said we were walking miracles, simply because we failed to die.

I’m fully aware of the cynical content and attitude of this particular post.  My point is, there are times when the events of life make us feel overwhelmed and cynical. I want to point out that we did survive, and things did get better.  My mother drove to work 60 miles a day to make sure there was food, shelter, and clothing.  I don’t tell her enough how I appreciate her enduring impossible circumstances.  My sister, at age 16, made sure supper was cooked and we had lunches packed for school.  I haven’t thanked her enough for this sacrifice. Soon afterward, in the depths of my grief and loss, my heavenly father spoke, “I am your father now.” He has fathered me ever since. God didn’t abandon us in our fire; he walked through it with us.

There are times when a new year is everything except better and hopeful.  Those are the times when God is all we have. Those are the times when He and only He can replace beauty for ashes. That’s the trade. I leave with you the words from a friend’s song.

I will praise You in the fire, Lift my face up for Your rain

When I do not understand, And all I feel is pain

When the storm is raging wild, I know I’ll never be the same

Still I will praise You in the fire, Lift my face up for Your rain~

wallup.net

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Published in: on December 27, 2017 at 5:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

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