Over the past few days I’ve seen a couple references to selecting a “word of the year”. The concept seems to be that you pick a word to focus on during the upcoming months.
I asked the Holy Spirit for some pretty firm confirmation that this was the word He wanted me to meditate on for the next 360-something days.
That Christmas was the last time our whole family got to enjoy the friendship of another family in that way. The last time Ken and I got to spend easy, completely comfortable time with a couple we had fun with and had so much in common with, while our kids and their kids called each other best friends. That time, that golden Christmas, was respite from the challenges we were about to face (and in some ways are still facing) in moving to New England.
So the word “respite” conjures up bittersweet memories for me.
Add that to the fact that just the other day, I had some women from the local homeschool group sitting around my dining room table. We were planning for an art class we’re co-teaching, and the surprising thought flashed through my mind that these women were ones that I would like to get to know better. I enjoyed their company, their conversation, and their kids seemed to be getting along well with mine.
On the heels of that thought, came this one: ”You’re starting to make friends, to put down roots. Timer’s started, and within 18 months you’ll be transferred out of here, too.”
Now, I have no idea if or when we’re going to be transferred again, but still, that specter is always there.
So when the Holy Spirit revealed the word “respite” to me, I froze.
Respite from what? Another move? A health issue? A job loss? A spiritual battle? What?
Then, I got this email from a friend of mine, who had no idea that she was writing to a loony tune woman freaking out over the concept of respite. She just thought she was writing to a loony tune woman freaking out about possibly being transferred again someday:
“Okay, you and my husband are exactly alike. Exactly! This is you simultaneously loving and hating the exact same moment because you fear that loving it will lead to disappointment so you’re bracing yourself for the inevitable crap-fest waiting for you on the other side. Do not do this! Do you know when he starts dreading Monday morning? On Saturday. “Because it’s practically Sunday and then Sunday goes by so fast so it might as well not even be a day off at all. Pretty much I should just go to work right now.” Embrace the new friendships! Let Connecticut give you what measly fun it has to offer (insert winky face here). That way no matter what happens it will be good instead of no matter what happens being bad. Because truly anything in the world could be the beginning or the end of either something good or something crappy depending on which part you call the beginning and which part you call the end.”
When you ask the Holy Spirit for confirmation, He does not mess around. “…you’re bracing yourself for the inevitable crap-fest waiting for you on the other side. Do not do this!”
(Yes, I think the Holy Spirit would use the word “crap-fest” when talking to me. It’s the kind of language I understand.)
Doing this would be completely counterproductive. You can’t get relief- even brief relief- if you refuse to take it when it’s offered. There’s going to be a crap-fest, yes. But there’s always going to be a crap-fest. That’s the nature of our fallen world. That’s why it’s called a “vale of tears” and not a “vale of laughter” (plus, “vale of crap” sounds sort of vulgar). So to turn my back on those moments of relief and rest just because they’re surrounded by crap-festivities is stupid.
So now I get to meditate on times of respite this year. Both when I’m experiencing them, and when I’m offering them. I will try to be mindful when they’re happening (like the 40 minute drive to Costco this evening, when I focused very hard on enjoying singing to the radio with my kids as a means of rest before the horror of dragging those six kids through the store), and I will try to relax into them in order to regain strength, rather than seeing them as occasions of weakness.