An Epiphany: Picture for the Year

The tired Christmas lights wink at us on our way out the door and I understand. The boys are grumpy because it’s their first day back to school in a week and it’s 14 degrees outside. I’m a little grumpy too.
“Why does school have to be so early?” Jeffrey moans from the back seat. He is counting the vices of our educational system.
“It rips families apart,” he says dramatically. “It wakes us up unnaturally. And it kills trees. See? Something must be done.”
I nod sympathetically into my coffee cup as I maneuver through morning traffic–think again of some of the warmer advantages of homeschooling…
But we soldier on.
After the boys are dropped and I’m alone in the car I start to talk to God, wonder aloud about how things might have been. On mornings like this I feel all the ache of the lost opportunities.
“I wish, Lord, I wish…”
But I don’t know what to wish for; I don’t know what to say. So I turn the music up and get lost in the local scene.
And I think about it now and I know that I have too many wishes to express. I wish I’d started out different, discovered this love for words earlier and fostered it. I wish I’d gone to seminary or studied theology. I wish I could share faith talk with my mom and dad and brothers and sisters—wish they knew this deep love in me. I wish my husband had been saved sooner and we had raised the boys rooted in faith together instead of all that struggling I did alone in the early years. I wish…I wish it felt whole to be right where I am.
 I wish…
And right in the middle of the wish-fest, from right where I’m sitting, I catch sight of one of those wise men. He’s peeking out at me from behind a berry wreath on the table and the sight of him stops me cold. 
It’s a game we play with the nativity in our house and I shared about it in my sermon on Sunday. It’s tradition in our home to hide those wise guys from our nativity set throughout the house during our Christmas waiting. Whoever finds one—well, it’s his or her duty to hide him again. The trick to the game is to find a clever spot, one in which the wise man will be discovered in a surprising way—sort of a hiding in plain sight. Imagine the surprise when one goes to don a shoe and finds a wise man inside. Or, when turning in for the night, noticing there is a hard lumpy magi under the pillow. The goal, you see, is for the wise men to be found; it wouldn’t do for them to stay hidden. They’re on a journey—looking for the Christ-child. 
The game goes on after Christmas—the wise men wander on for the 12 days of Christmas—which start on Christmas day and end at Epiphany, or January 6. Epiphany is the day we celebrate the Magi’s discovery and worship of the Christ. Last Sunday–when I delivered my first sermon–was Epiphany Sunday. So I preached on this very thing.
The point of my sermon was that this whole faith thing is a long journey. We wander, just like the magi. And the long journey is part of the gift we give him.
So. I’m sitting here in the middle of the wish-fest and I start to consider my journey. Which is not a bad thing to do at the start of a new year, I guess. And I start to feel a little more “at home” in my humanity.
Mine hasn’t been the prettiest of journeys. But neither was the journey to the Cross. And there is something oh, so beautiful—more beautiful than my mind can conceive—in that.
In this post, Mary DeMuth opened my mind to finding a picture that might be a glimpse for me of the new year. As I ponder the journey that has brought me this far, there is no one word that names it. But a picture? Just maybe. Here is the one that has been singing into me.
It’s one of the photos I took when our family was at the sea for Thanksgiving. Every morning, I was up before the sun. What a wonderful gift to celebrate the first ray of light to fall into the ocean. I’ve never felt such peace–such joy to be in my own skin. And yet…the sound of the wave crashing on the shore reminded me that I am not alone; that there is a Power in heaven so great and awe-inspiring. There is such freedom in that. 
I’m going to be carrying this image of God with me throughout the year. And because I am on this great journey, I needn’t worry if it’s enough. I needn’t wish a different path that brought me thus far…
I’m not there yet.
With my sweet friend Jennifer today:
and with the amazing Jen:

Comments

  1. says

    I love the wandering wise men. And I smiled at your son’s statement that “school rips apart families.”

    But most of all I love your wistful wishing. I too, wish that things were different. But they aren’t. So in that reality, I am in the process of re-creation and will one day see it all for what it is.

    he can take the ugly, the mismashed, the broken and make it new.

    Thank you for your words this morning

  2. says

    Oh, I hope I really am THE FIRST to comment on this one…I could wish a few things differently too, but the journey, the journey, is truly the thing. And His Glory is in perfecting us, not in our living so efficiently and fully for Him. And I love your story…I know the pain is real and I love you for it and for all of the bumps and aches that make you, you. I wouldn’t approach you or the words you offer in the same way if they had come early and easily:}

  3. says

    Lovely.

    He is Able. Able to restore the years the locust have eaten. Able to take every broken place and build it up into Glory, if we say, “Yes, Lord.” He can redeem it all. And I am so very thankful. As we continue to die to self and be filled up with Him, He multiplies the fruit into quantities so incredible that it surpasses our ability to comprehend. The things which the evil one intended for destruction can be turned into the strongest foundations on which He is able to build. What an incredible picture to have as your theme/goal/inspiration this year!! This is gonna be good!!! Thanks for letting us watch as you unwrap this gift! 🙂

  4. says

    I ended up linking next you twice today, we’re neighbors! I love your game with the wise men and where you took the sermon on Epiphany Sunday. That the journey is part of the gift. I am also learning to embrace my unique journey and crossing out the “shoulds” in life. Looking back to move forward, instead of being stuck! Lovely post and the picture is glorious. I live a walk away from the ocean and take it for granted. The photo inspired me to go walk on the beach (after the cold weather subsides). Blessings!

  5. says

    “It rips families apart,” he says dramatically. “It wakes us up unnaturally. And it kills trees. See? Something must be done.”
    This line made my day. 🙂

  6. says

    Our wise men wander around the house as well, though we didn’t really do so well with that this year. I like the idea of hiding them so someone will find them. I need to get out the unbreakable wise men, though. 😉 I have wishes too, but we must move forward and follow the path before us. Thank you for sharing your heart.

  7. says

    God hides his wise men and women sometimes. Just when we think we’ve been forgotten, we’re discovered, and we are oh so glad for the disclosure.

    Words store up in us when we’re hidden. Dreams as well. Not time wasted but rather time cultivated.

    Let Him cultivate, sweet friend. The best discovery is yet to be… not far from the horizon you’re looking at today.

    I love you.

    ~elaine

  8. says

    Your son’s words made me chuckle…so dramatic 🙂 Your journey down wishful thinking lane resonated with me…grateful that He redeems our pain… Thank you for another encouraging and lovely read and pictures…blessings to you, my friend 🙂

  9. says

    I just LOVE this tradition…I may have to try it out with grandchildren someday. (Although even my “adult boys” would enjoy the hide and seek!)

    I just finished writing about the beauty in imperfection today, Laura. You’re right — we needn’t wish for a different path because the beauty is right there in the imperfection.

  10. says

    This is one of the most beautiful things you’ve written–about your journey and your family.

    Off to read it again.

    And your son’s comments about back-to-school made me laugh out loud.

  11. says

    Love the wandering wise men! My boys hid the Christmas angels. I would find them in various positions in various places. Hilarious! And neither of them ever admitted to doing it!

    You KNOW I understand this. And I would say to you, first, thank you for your honesty because it will help others. Second, in the words of Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” God may have surprises in store.

  12. says

    Laura,
    This is beautiful and in many ways, the words fit me like my own history. Thank you for ministering to me with this writing.

    But Abby’s comment?
    “And His Glory is in perfecting us, not in our living so efficiently and fully for Him.”

    That was God speaking right into my heart, today.

    Wow.

  13. says

    Oh, what a special message for me this evening. I feel so very blessed to be a part of this community, knowing that the words on this page are words that God can ingrain in me as I ponder them further.
    As a retired elementary school teacher, I just love your son’s words about school. Just great! I read them to my husband and his comment was, “He is going to be something. Don’t quite know what, but he will be something!”
    loving you this day and every, ~ linda

  14. says

    All the “what if’s” and “If only” are regrets that cannot be rectified. We have today to deal with and must live it as best we can. God will have a lot of answers for us later on. For now, we get up at that un-godly hour and drive our children to school, or go to work, and they (and me too) wish we could just sleep in.

  15. says

    I wish, I wish…

    Whenever I start that game, I remind myself that God was in control the whole time. Never me. And that He knows the end from the beginning and is putting all the pieces together. And the result will be perfect.

    I want to play the wise man game next year.

  16. says

    Hiding the wisdom in plain sight…there’s a lesson in that one.

    Your son’s arguments are terrific 🙂 and bottom line is: still have to go to school munchkin 🙂

    I’m so thankful GOD doesn’t give me everything (or even most things) that I wish for…but He does give His best.

  17. says

    Oh, how I love this. You write so beautifully Laura. I can’t help but doubt we’d be the same person now if our beginnings had been as we wished for. I wonder, would you have the eyes to see, or the compassionate heart to help, or the writer you are if you had not had your life experiences? I think one of the ways he redeems our past is to give us the gifts of his eyes, his compassion, his pen… (from Luke… satan has demanded permission to sift us like wheat, but Jesus himself prays for us so that our faith may not fail and when we have turned, we strengthen others. You are strengthening others (me) =)

    Somehow that velveteen rabbit is more beautiful because it has been dragged through the mud and stitched back together in various ways. Laura, his light in you shines as beautifully as your photo. Thank you, dear sister. =)

  18. says

    I find myself wishing many things were different too, and all my wishes tend toward the ideal, like yours. But one thing is missing when things are ideal. Compassion. When the journey includes suffering rather than the picture perfect, we gain the ability to feel for others, to know something of their pain, their afflictions, rather than being too quick to judge and judging harshly. I thank God for that gift. The gift of compassion. It comes through hard journeys only.

    My 3 year old daughter was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis back in October, with both knees and eyes involved. I mentioned it briefly in my Christmas letter, asking for prayer for her. One person responded, writing that they are sorry she is dealing with something so painful. That person has had a life littered with suffering. It hurt me that only one person responded with a kind word, but I know why that is. The gift of compassion was missing from most of their lives, because so far their lives contained nothing incredibly hard or disastrous–or at least nothing like that in a very long time. It was a reminder of the beauty of compassion and how God cultivates it through the hardest experiences he tucks into our journeys.

    I pray joy for you, and blessings through the God beauty in your sunset picture this year. Thank you for this post! Beautiful!

  19. says

    Your photo and words are beautiful. And I adore the game your family plays with the wise men:)
    As far as the journey, it’s interesting, I was just thinking on all this with my eldest girl’s birthday. Her birth and the next six months were traumatic, and every year I seem to replay some new aspect I’ve yet to fully assimilate as it approaches. This year God showed me a perspective I’d never considered with one hurtful area, helping me see it was actually used for good. I know that’s always the case in reality, but my heart doesn’t seem to know. As I read your thoughts here, I could see your willing heart for the true journey and the bigger picture of good. It’s all so very good, really.
    Glad to get to share in the beauty of your journey here.

  20. says

    I read your post about a week ago. It keeps coming to mind now and then.I can relate to the wishing. Wishing I had found writing sooner, not been afraid to step out in His purpose for me quicker. I wish the path behind me looked different and my present more like I want it but I recently had someone tell me it is all part of the journey. Everything is used to teach me. Perhaps I have not done it all wrong after all.

    Thanks for your post.

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