January 13, 2017

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Approach 2017 with an optimistic and peaceful heart

Patti LambA few days before Christmas, my 9-year-old daughter was jubilant when she found a certain book in the children’s section at the library. She had never expressed such enthusiasm over a book. I silently cheered, hoping to myself that she was finally coming to love reading.

Then she explained the reason for breaking into her celebration dance in the middle of the young readers’ fiction section.

“My teacher is reading this book to us at school, and now I’ll be able to read ahead, mom!” she shrieked.

“Each day she finishes reading to us, I’ll know what happens next!” she added.

She gave a content smile.

Later that same week, I sat down to fill out our calendar for 2017. At the end of each December, I take that year’s calendar and, beginning with the former January, transfer important dates like birthdays and anniversaries to the calendar of the New Year. As I write the dates in the calendar for the year to come, it gives me a chance to look back and reflect on the events of the past 365 days, which I had taken care to note in the calendar.

These are just a few of the events I had included:

  • “Deanna’s 50th Birthday”
  • “Pick up new puppy”
  • “Take Meal to Anna’s Family (New Baby!)”
  • “Aunt Dolores’s Funeral”
  • “Margaret’s First Communion”
  • “Nathan’s Second Annual Memorial 5K”
  • “Erin’s family visits from Seattle”
  • “Job interview”
  • “Henry’s first track meet”
  • “Help Emmitt move”
  • “Take meal to Mike’s family (Chemo treatment)”
  • “Michael & Katie’s wedding”
  • “Courtney’s surgery (Pray!)”
  • “Family vacation to St. Petersburg”
  • “The unfortunate house flood of 2017”
  • “Archbishop Tobin becomes a Cardinal.”

While I was working on the calendar, my daughter darted into the room and shared an unexpected twist that she read about in her library book.

“When we go back to school after Christmas break, I’ll already know what happens!” she said, giddily.

I gave her a congratulatory wink, and then I typed these words:

Sweet Margaret, one who feels so wise at the age of 9, I love your enthusiasm.

In life, however, it’s not so easy to know what happens next. There is no reading ahead. Many of the events in this past year’s calendar were the furthest things from my mind.

As we embark on this New Year, how convenient it would be to know what happens next, and to make plans and allocate provisions accordingly.

But we don’t know what lies around the corner.

And that feels quite scary, and deeply unsettling.

The good news is that, while we’re not sure what happens next, we do know how it all will end. This is because we believe in Jesus Christ, the son of God, who suffered and died to absolve all the sin, shame, anger, or whatever weighs us down, to redeem us.

And this is what we must remember, Margaret. We must stay connected with our source, no matter what happens next—even if that “next” is death, addiction, job loss, fire, flood or illness. (The list continues.)

When life appears troublesome, or seemingly hopeless, from our own vantage points, we must keep the faith, remembering Psalm 136:1: “Praise the Lord, for he is good; for his mercy endures forever.”

By his death and resurrection, he has already seen to it that—ultimately—all will end well.

So let us approach the New Year, and whatever is to come, with optimistic and peaceful hearts.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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