She comes in softly and deeply.
She comes in sharply and steely.
She is in the field past the grove of trees, ice shards blanketing over hidden pools of water from yesterday’s thaw.
She is in the light that blinds.
She is in the sting of tears when there is too much beauty and pain. Sometimes I have to close my eyes even when I don’t want to.
It always happens when the landscape here in the north bites white under blue.
In January, all at once my town goes hard and flinty and soft and shabby.
My beautiful, ugly little town.
Gnarled and broken elms grasp toward swaying pines.
Wedding cake trimmed houses overlook broken down, down, down dwellings.
Sprawling lawns give way to trash-laced, chain-linked yards.
A kid runs to school, hurdling a snowbank and skipping over the big ditch, his LLBean coat cape- flapping behind him. Another kid barely threaded, barely coated…zipperless, runs beside him.
The Haves stand fence to fence with the Have-Nots.
The Satisfied sidles right up to the Empty.
January is like that.
And on the first of her days she always begins with a clean page.
A hope canvas. Words shout through my pen.
Things are going to be different around here.
I will be kinder, gentler, happier.
I will remember people. Just because.
I will wish them more than a Facebook happy birthday.
I will remember thankfulness is a way of life, not just a way of saying.
I will embrace sorrow and repentance like the healing balm that it is.
I will remember I need to be washed in it daily.
Then January second happens.
Then January third…and January fifteenth.
The tension of beauty and ugliness living side-by-side is not just on my street, but in my heart.
A January thaw is needed to melt the hardness that is me.
Forgetting I am beloved and beautiful to the One who sees, I slam a door and whisper ugly on my tantrum walk up the street.
Forgetting the blessing of abundance from the only One who can create anything, I still put too many leftovers in the trash.
Forgetting that I’ve been given a coat of righteousness, I keep picking up the dirty strait- jacket of selfishness.
I remember so much on January first, but by January second, I’ve lost my memory. Like the house, it can go so dark this time of year.
When January speaks Hope amidst hopelessness, when she proclaims New alongside broken, she speaks the language of the Divine and human.
Even if we don’t know there is anything or any One beyond what we can see with our own eyeballs, we all know that we are all broken. Even if we don’t believe there is anything at all on the other side of this life, we all know we are all hopeless.
The whole wide wide world knows it.
Anyone with a heart knows it.
And in January so many of us are trying to fix what it cannot possibly fix.
Not in January.
Not in February.
Not in July.
All is dark without the Light.
So when the sun goes down around here, I turn on some twinkle lights.
I’ve always needed light around me.
I’ve always needed light within me.
I’ve always needed the Light of the whole wide wide world.
And right there, on a January afternoon I saw it.
Wrapped up in dried straw and twigs the little silver medalion spoke loud and clear.
It takes faith to turn the page. It takes faith to ask for help. It takes faith to turn on the lights. Because in the doing of all these things we are saying there is more to be had, more to be done, more to be risked, more to be transformed, more to be loved.
January tells the truth.
She doesn’t hide the ugliness of winter’s beating, but shouts forth the glory of winter’s dazzling light and beauty.
January is fresh and fierce, she is light and dark.
She tells the truth about us and Jesus.
She lets the Light back in.
“You might think that your woundedness or your sinfulness is the truest thing about you or that your giftedness or your personality type or your job title or your identity as husband or wife, mother or father, somehow defines you. But, in reality, it is your desire for God and your capacity to reach for more of God than you have right now that is the deepest essence of who you are.”– Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms