Greetings to all this Advent season, 2005. Where did the year begin? Where did it end? It began with L. in the second-trimester of pregnancy, with Kara entering the second semester of pre-school, and with me … er … commenting on the whole thing on the blog. There was Sunday worship and meetings at our church, NSBC. Monday through Friday was spent at EP or doing Pampered Cheffing or managing house. You, Marc, were the Guard in Antigone. You and I, John, were pulling up chairs to Saturday morning Greek. You, our parents, were running a tour agency, digitizing a hospital and juggling an entire department of techies (as well as fretting over us!) Joanna, you were keeping us company with an extended sleepover, all of us holed up in our little place in Manchester-by-the-Sea. All was life as usual, winter white and cold in breezy New England. We were bundled up and unaware of how it would all end.
Rivers go where water cooperates. The Mississippi is just hydrogen and oxygen going in the same direction. Winter 2005 found me anxious and depressed. I constantly worried at the go-nowhere of my goals, trying to figure out a way forward. On the one hand, there was work, and on the other, theology. In between was life itself, constantly squeezed and under pressure. In desperation one day, I decided to climb the hill in Ipswich and visit Ascension Memorial Episcopal church. On 9/11, Ascension had opened its doors to the entire town, and most came. EP emptied and made its way into a wooden pew under Ascension’s nineteenth century stained-glass. Impressed by that service, I went there alone that day to pray, and obtained permission to continue to do so during lunchtime. I even began attending a service every Tuesday noon. My soul couldn’t stand up any longer, it needed liturgy and the Book of Common Prayer to carry it. Now a few months before, in the Fall of 2004, I had the opportunity to go to Yale for a conference on trust. Jürgen Moltmann delivered an address entitled “Control is Good, but Trust is Better.” I felt like I was going through the motions. And then, during anxious prayer on the way home, I thought, “You know, religious publishing puts everything together.” I interviewed with Hendrickson on a frigid February 24. On March 1, they thanked me for my time. No matter, by then I’d begun reading Heidegger, and writing about Karl Barth for Reviews in Religion & Theology.
L.'s time was spent managing the rest of us. She must have done something terrible in a previous life because, with my revels and Kara’s rainbow land, she spends a good deal of her time simply keeping us on planet earth. Caleb was still an unknown personality, and so the pragmatic thing to do is prepare. And that is what she did. She measured our apartment to figure out how to make our 3 into 4 in a 2. (She’s mathematical like that.) She picked out crib sets and re-sorted baby clothes. She grew out of her own clothes. Kara helped her prepare by making L. take her to school in S. during the week. Kara (with me) also contributed to her well being by making her exercise in the form of cleaning up toys. Pampered Chef helped by making L. responsible for her team, and by keeping a party here and there on the calendar. Our beloved midwives at LT Midwives helped her prepare by scheduling appointments and doing ultrasounds.
One time, the midwives asked us to go into Boston for an ultrasound, and we came back with a 3-D picture of Caleb! It wasn’t long before we saw lots of Caleb. Caleb pushing with his feet. Caleb chillin’. Caleb waving his arm. Caleb waving, um, other things.
And then, in May, our church nearly died at the hands of its pastor. I and my family, with the family of our fellow deacon, were often slandered in the name of ministry. People we had known for nearly a decade were deceived, entertained lies, and denied what was right in front of them. Thoughts of growth were changed for desperate sorties under heavy fire to rescue the dying and wounded. Sermons fell like wormwood from the pulpit where should have gone the life-giving manna from God. When it was over, most had been saved, though through fire. But one family did not make it. I had the painful “priviledge” of moderating their application, and then they were gone. It broke our hearts.
Love, however, picked up the pieces. Love always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. We were like beaten tin, smashed and discarded, but love found us in innumerable ways. In June, I backed the truck over my Fender acoustic. Members of the church replaced it with a Martin. My Dad and Karen gave us their Nissan Pathfinder. L’s parents (and soon her Brother and Sister-in-Law) moved to Nashville. Friends kept in touch by email, by snail mail and by phone. Sir Walter Raleigh and Queen Elizabeth hugged us, ate meals with us, remained our friends in the sight of our church, and played with Kara. And then, on July 23, Caleb was born.
Kara and Caleb. Kara is moving, talking, singing, climbing, building, drawing, cutting, taping, gluing, little-girl-go for the whole of her waking day! In the winter, she and I went to see a production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. The Queen of the Night, played by various Little People, has since been the royal nemesis of many make-believe dramas. When Gramma & Papa came up for Caleb’s birth, Papa became a giant, a mountain and the man of a thousand voices. She loves school, loves her friends -- K, J, A and M -- and loves tape. Caleb, on the other hand, is meditative and content, an infant epicurean. He loves to chirp and smile, to attempt to roll over, to watch Baby Einstein, and, above all, to be dry.
At the end of the year, we are preparing to move to Nashville. As of December 19, I am an editor for Thomas Nelson Publishing. SWR & QE are expecting a baby of their own. Joanna again endures our tired couch to help us pack. The slow work of ministry continues at North Shore, despite its hurts. And, by God’s grace, we are putting down a new foundation with the friends who left our church and, we thought, left us as well.
Adventus. Theologians use that term to say something about the future. It means the past doesn’t say everything. The past does not dictate what comes after. God’s goodness has intervened. The future is made free in the hands of a God who is altogether trustworthy. And with it, we are made free. Free to hope. Free for faith and work. Free to love and be loved. Thanks be to God.