I’m watching the sun rays slide down the roof tops outside my window. The temperatures dropped and we’ve been shivering around small heating units and drinking hot mugs of mint tea. The rain drives down in waves and runs in little rivers down the streets. I shiver with the memories of other Grecian winters, and my heart is saddened by the reality that so many families are huddled together in small pop up tents trying to stay warm in this wet cold.
We are celebrating 2020 with a Grecian New Year’s cake called Vasilopita. It is rich with butter and Eric squeezed a few fresh oranges for the flavor. I almost sprained my elbow trying to whip the egg whites, but it came out of the oven perfectly browned and looking fine. It is baked with a coin inserted, and our friend Cameron was the lucky recipient. The house was alive with chatter and fun as we warmed milk and added raw sugar and cocoa powder and stirred and tasted until it was perfect, then added big dollops of cream and some chocolate shards. I sprayed huge mouth fulls of cream into the children’s mouths and we waited for the New Year with the Rummicub game and snacks spread all over the floor. We sang in Farsi and Arabic and then everyone expressed their deepest wish for 2020.
One of the youngest boys said, “I just want a normal life again, like we had in Iraq.” His Mother broke down in tears as she said, “I just want to see my sister and brother again.” Another said her deepest wish is for a home of her own, and another that He has felt called from God for years to move back to his country, and this year believes he will go and work on starting a Christian school.
I pray all their dreams come true.
We grabbed the last of our sparklers and took the elevator to the very top of our apartment building to cheer in the New Year. The children yelled and ran around crazy as the fire works and sparklers lit up the sky. The little girl in my arms was mesmerized with eyes as big as saucers and all she could do was yell, “LOOK, LOOK, LOOK!”
I grabbed my tattered planner this morning and sat down with Eric and a lovely latte to discuss 2020. I marked out my 2019 goals with relish, and skimmed over the months passed by and the objectives I had. My brain was spinning with new projects and ideas, but as I reflected I felt Jesus speak into my planning.
Last year I had all my projects posted on my fridge as a daily reminder. I took the biggest ones and cut them down to monthly and weekly goals to make them palatable. I loved the result of cutting away at my big plans little my little and finally marking them off my project sheet.
As the years go by I look back and gauge my success by how many lines I can draw straight through a goal I had.
I’m not really sure that’s possible anymore. It sure doesn’t matter how many initials we have behind our name, how many certificates we have gained, or how much income we have earned if we are so distracted by projects we miss daily opportunities to show the fruit of the spirit.
It’s hard to gauge success through the lens of kindness, or have a project labeled “love difficult people”, or mark something off our list when we bring the homeless poor into our homes. So easily the very material that makes our life rich with meaning is discarded for temporal nothings.
Maybe that’s part of the reason many of us are floundering this new year. And perhaps why I find myself in tears somedays, feeling the restless longing to do something significant.
How does one measure significance?
I cracked open my bible to Acts 11 this morning.
“When he (Barnabas) came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose. For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.”
Steadfast purpose. Unwavering meaning.
Plans and projects fail us. Bank accounts dwindle and checklists are stuffed into cupboards on hectic days. We tread the water of schedules and appointments and duties and try to be Christian while we’re at it.
When our vapor of living is ended here, we are going to stand before God and the checklists and projects that seemed so paramount here will fade into nothing. How well we loved and how long we were kind will be much more important than how many stages we walked and suits we wore. How intentionally we chose joy will be far more important then the size of our bank accounts or the status of our job description. How faithful we were to walk in the Holy Spirit will be much more significant than how much our name was promoted.
As you discard your old planners today and enter new goals into fresh pages, resolve to exercise with steadfast purpose the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Look for every opportunity to bring the homeless poor into your home. Give many cups of cold water in Jesus’ name. Be extravagantly loving. Pray in the Spirit over broken people. Savor the gifts of beautiful friends and new mercies.
The checklist might remain undone, but our Father will say, “Well done.”