The New Year has come and gone, the ball has dropped, and 2007 is over. Or, I can be a little more optimistic and say the New Year is here, opportunity is fresh, and 2008 has arrived.
Either way, I just can’t change the little itch in my life that’s taken residence in the areas that can’t be scratched. I’m itchy and introspective, reflecting on choices I’ve made these last 28 years, minus the first two or three years of life. Memories flash through my itchy and introspective mind, replaying images and conversations. No matter how many blessings my life has yielded, it seems as though there is one thing that impresses me the most about the New Year: it promises to bring new beginnings—all over again.
The truth is that I’m excellent at new years. I am comfortable at the starting line. I can easily make new goals, handle fresh choices, and embark on new adventures. New beginnings are exhilarating. They bring mass amounts of certainty. They hold my moments of greatest conviction. It’s in the beginning that I’m the most committed. Let me share a few examples.
To date, I have attended four universities, chased after three majors, accumulated 135 credit hours, and have failed to obtain even one piece of paper that says I have a degree.
In college, I invested $1,000 into a well-known Texan company so that I could have all of their items on hand for all four of my customers. I kept those four customers well supplied for an entire month and a half. Two years ago, I bought into yet another body-care organization, mainly because it was a bargain for only $250. If I go even further back into that deep, dark closet of mine, I can pull out a resume that requires 16 different lines for places of employment, all between the ages of 15 and 21.
For the past three Septembers, I’ve started homeschooling our oldest son. As December 1st arrives, the fatigue and self-doubt set in and erase the perfectly good reasons I had for choosing this admittedly abnormal and sometimes a little socially scary method of education. Usually, by the 20th of December, I’ve called the nearest school and enrolled him in class. Not this year—at least not yet.
Yes, I’m that person who purchases a new outfit, towels for the guest bathroom, and a vacuum all in one day, and then returns them less than 24 hours later with guilt and remorse and a little uncertainty that the color pink is really the best choice for a vacuum.
People warned me of the consequences of such behavior. Others reprimanded me. I simply excused myself and adopted the title, "Free Spirit." However, my high school track coach, Coach Kuzzi, said it so much better. That 105 lb. woman would stand at the finish line, voice booming, veins popping, hair whipping through the leftover winds of winter, screaming out to me, "GIRL! YOU HAVE GOT TO PUSH THROUGH!!! Why does your finish line seem to be located 20 FEET BEFORE EVERYONE ELSE’S?"
I didn’t really have an answer for her. Looking back I can see that, in the middle of life’s race, I lacked the big BANG! of adrenaline needed to catapult me to the finish line of whatever it is I started. The inability to finish with a BANG! on the high school track carried into the rest of my life. Before I knew it, I found myself starting almost anything and finishing almost nothing.
Five years ago, I married after a very short engagement. During that time, God began to whisper a verse into my ears. It is Zechariah 4:10.
Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabela’s hand.
I like the first half of that verse. I could stop there and be totally content and call it my life verse if only it stopped after "small beginnings." Instead, God gave me a plum line, which I had to go look up.
A plum line is a cord from which a metal weight is suspended. That weight points directly to the earth’s center of gravity. From this weight, one can determine the vertical line from a given point. I like that. I thought to myself, "What if all my ‘new beginnings’ were so centered on Jesus that great adventures were piled, one on top of the other, building one fantastic lifetime."
Last summer, one of these Christ-centered adventures taught me the value of the journey over the aspiration or even destination. I guess you could say that I found my BANG!, and an answer for Coach Kuzzi.
My husband, who is the ambitious and dedicated one, decided several years ago to start up a wilderness ministry. Last year was the first year of major operation. I watched him make preparations. I helped him type up supply lists, develop recipes, and fill spice containers. I scoured the internet looking for steals on great gear and even bought a pair of hiking boots that are firmly against any sense of fashion I might have previously maintained.
Then, the moment arrived. I agreed to go on a trip with him. I spent the week prior to that trip with large quantities of dried peas and powdered milk littering my living room. But I was excited; this was a new thing for me. I had never backpacked before.
It was June, and summer sausage has never again tasted as good as it did in the Big Horns. The weather was gorgeously cold. I awoke in the morning to legs and toes that tingled as my blood vigorously worked to warm them. As I bent over a rushing stream to wash my face, the water stung my checks and snuck it’s way down my sleeves. I could think of no good reason why this river wasn’t a sheet of ice. But something about the coolness of our environment made me feel alive on the inside. It forced by body to become aware of it’s own warmth.
My pack, at a whopping 45 lbs, hung precariously from my shoulders, not entirely wanting to conform to the build of my semi-petite figure. The tendon that ran from the back of my neck and outward toward my shoulder was putting up a slightly painful protest against such abuse.
On the last day of our woods adventure, we stumbled across a five-hour maze of trees that had fallen during a recent fire. With packs on backs we wove over and under branches and trunks. There was no definite trail to follow and we were all fairly certain that somewhere along the way, we had missed a TRAIL CLOSED sign.
Finally, early afternoon, the grueling mass of trees gave way to this incredibly tranquil green field sprinkled with early spring flowers. It almost had me fooled. Had I stayed there forever, I might never have guessed that a little piece of hell awaited us around the corner.
Enjoying a gorgeous view, balancing on a log, crossing haphazardly over a peaceful stream, I caught a glimpse of "the end of the trail." It was a hill that threatened my rhythm in life at that very moment. Our insane predecessors had decided to carve a winding path that guaranteed every possible step be taken between the bottom and the top of this monstrous mountain.
My lungs stretched until they burned, begging for just a little more air, please. My back yearned to break free from it’s bondage and I could almost hear it swear that it would never be the same for me again.
Just when I thought I couldn’t take another step without verbalizing my intense desire to just stop walking, the rains began to pour. The pellets were larger than life and the thin membrane of my hooded jacket just wasn’t offering the protection it’s tags had testified to provide. Yet, as I crested that hill and realized that my van was only one corner away, I thought to myself, "This is the sweetest rain my tongue has ever tasted."
So, my dear high school track coach, I found your answer. My BANG! lies in the coldness of a river’s water, the sweetness of a hill well-climbed, and the burn in my legs that used to show up in the last 50 feet of those 800 meter races. A BANG! that’s now teaching me how to push my commitments made on New Year’s into those itchy December days.
As I do, I’ve determined I will work to applaud all I’ve accomplished through December 31st, 11:59 p.m. I will not despise small beginnings, nor will I tire of them. Like Paul in 2 Timothy, I will strive to fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith.
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Ashleigh Slater, Founder & Managing Editor
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