Yesterday I celebrated my 35th birthday. It was a beautiful day of special greetings and love. It was also a little surreal. I remember when I was about my daughter's age and MY mom was 35. She was the center of my world. It wouldn't be until years later that I would realize that she was an "older" mom for her time, having had my brother 13 years prior to my birth. She would always be older than my peers' mothers. Yet I stand in a different time when many of my friends waited until later to have children. It's a mixed bag for me...somedays I feel older than my years (with the gray hairs to show it), and other days I still feel like a kid playing dress-up, waiting to "feel" like an adult.
It's also interesting to me that this is commencement weekend at Hollins University. My own college graduation was 13 years ago, an amount of years that it took a calculator to figure for me. And yet, it seems like yesterday in a sense. I think that's the thing about the cyclical nature of time. Although the calendar continues its relentless march forward, we are granted seasons and milestones to remind us that it ever circles back. Fall always makes me think of new beginnings, just as if I'm preparing for a new school year (and in this case, I was). Spring reminds me of being sent out...graduation, marriage, births...a new beginning that is more uncertain, more adventurous.
There are so many milestones this Spring. June will mark my 10th anniversary with my husband, and we just celebrated the 6th and 4th birthdays of our children. I await news of whether my interim position will become a permanent calling. One of our dogs ended his journey with us and began a new one in Dog Heaven. There is so much change, and yet, so much is familiar. I can still remember the feelings of that Jenny beginning high school, graduating from college, starting seminary, getting married, having children, seeking a new calling. She is close to me, although she feels like a different person; she is a different person.
What a gift that God gives us in time...in chronos and kairos. It is infinite, and yet with many endings. It is linear, yet it cycles. It is full of new beginnings, only some of which we recognize at the time. When I was preparing prayers for commencement, I couldn't help but think of the ironies of this celebration of the ending of a degree program, when the word itself points us to beginnings. And that is truly what it's about. We focus on the goal, the destination, the ending, and yet God is always there, pointing us to the new journey, the new beginning. One ending is just the step to the next adventure.
The past year has been one of my best, but it followed a couple really rough ones. Through it all, I've learned so much about trust, about letting go, and (as I'm talking about in my Baccalaureate sermon) the importance and power of struggle. From this perspective, I can see how all the endings I faced in the dark times were really the start of new beginnings. And this is my gift to share now. May we all see and seek new beginnings, trusting in God to lead us through.