In the south hospitality is a way of life. I grew up watching my grandparents stop everything they were doing to just enjoy the company of others. When visitors arrived, they graciously opened their homes and simply welcomed them. They made whoever stopped by, whether they were a friend, family, or stranger, their sole focus. Before a conversation even began, drinks were provided, the most comfortable spot on the couch was pointed out, and the temperature was adjusted to make the guests more comfortable. The television was turned off, the phone went unanswered, and the duration of the visit was about giving their guest their undivided attention.
The goodbyes often took longer than the visit. Guests weren’t just walked to the door - they were walked to their vehicles, goodbyes were said and then inevitably another conversation would begin. And then another. Oftentimes excess produce from the garden or fresh eggs were given away, baked goods were wrapped in tin foil and a loving care package was sent as a token not only of generosity, but also appreciation. In my family, I know that I need to start my goodbyes a good fifteen minutes before I actually need to leave. I love those goodbyes. I hear “take care”, “drive safely”, “call us when you get home”, “glad you came”, “enjoyed y’all being here”, and most importantly, “love you”. They are the longest goodbyes ever and they end with an invitation to come back soon.
I know the proper way to see a guest off, but I didn’t see 2019 to the door as it left last night. I didn’t extend to it any gracious parting words, gifts or well wishes, as a matter of fact, I went to bed before it departed. It had more than outworn it’s welcome, and quite frankly I was over it. It came in, sat down, and proceeded to do its best to be the worst guest it could possibly be. It walked through my front door and sat down luggage that included burying my first born son,losing my home, losing my job, the dissolution of many friendships because my loss was too much for them to bear, the fracturing of our family foundation at the hands of an extended family member, and the disappearance of someone I consider a sister. Through it all I watched my 16 year old grieve the loss of his first best friend, and try to process all that followed that day. I endured the worst pain during its visit, saw the worst in humanity, experienced fear like never before and on more than one occasion asked “Is this really MY life?!”
What 2019 deserved last night was the bird. Straight up, double middle fingers, and words that I admittedly thought, but won’t share. I considered sharing a farewell message to it, a sort of “thanks for stopping by but don’t let the door hit you in the rear on the way out” farewell, but decided it had received enough of my attention.
I awoke in a new year, a new decade even, and with a new perspective. New. Yes, 2019 took everything it possibly could, but for each piece of my soul it tried to take as its own, my Jesus interceded. While 2019 was taking, He was making all things new. I have the assurance that while I buried my sons humanly vessel, it is only a temporary separation, and with his passing, I have found new purpose. I have a new home in a quaint old neighborhood that is nowhere near where my son took his last breath. I have a new job with an employer who is a Believer that allows me to be a mom, advocate and be source of support to those suffering through devastating circumstances. For each friendship that dissolved because of my loss, wonderful new rich relationships with those that understand it completely took their place. While the family structure is fractured it is not shattered, and even though there was an agonizing wait, the one I consider a sister was found safe.
The enemy tried to use 2019 to steal from me, to kill me and to destroy me, but the Lord promised me that nothing formed against me would prosper. And it didn’t. Maybe 2019 should have gotten that double finger, but instead I am going to praise God for all that He did to defend me during the attack. Because of Him, with the worst, came the absolute best. I have Him and He has me. I have my Weston, who daily astounds me with his heart and ability to thrive in the darkest of times. I have my precious daughter-in-love Tyler, who allows me to love her and chooses to call us family. I have a large,amazingly loving family and a circle of friends that remind me with their love and encouragement that I’m not alone. And can we just talk about my grandson for a minute?!? Have y’all seen him?! My heart in size 2 Pampers and the source of unexplainable joy that the Lord snuck in behind 2019’s back.
To 2019 and the enemy I say “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.”
And to 2020 I say “Can I get you something to drink? We’ve got sweet tea and brownies! That spot at the end of the sofa is the most comfortable place to sit. Let me turn the heat up a bit, shut this television off, and put my phone on silent so we can talk about what you’ve got planned.”