This is the Season of New Beginnings

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Diana Trautwein -Open Season3

Stepping into Epiphany is always a mixed bag for me. January 6th means that Christmastide is finished for another year. Now we are headed for Ash Wednesday, which comes quite late in 2017. In some ways, this shift in seasons is a relief—all the red around my house comes down and is packed away for another year. The ornaments are gathered off the tree and the candles are stored in a cool place. The nativity sets are stacked into a plastic bin, each baby Jesus safely secured in a corner somewhere.

Although I don’t relish the work of lugging Christmas bins from house to garage, I do enjoy seeing the cleaner edges of my usual living space emerging from the red, green, silver and gold lavishness of the holiday season. I love Christmas, truly, I do. But I’m glad when it’s time to turn away from the celebrating and re-enter a more ordinary season. My capacity for holiday decorating seems to have diminished with time!

This time, however, it feels like something important is missing as I move more fully into this new year. Since my retirement from parish ministry six years ago, I have gladly embraced a more open schedule and relished the monthly visits from an ever-changing list of people seeking spiritual direction, either here in my small study or via Facetime or Skype. I have also appreciated my monthly opportunities to write for two magazines, one online, and one in print. Occasionally, I even try to fill my own blog space and I’ve recently started writing a newsletter.

But at this turn of the year, with 2017 opening before me, it feels like my capacity for the good work of spiritual direction and writing is larger than the demand for either one. People I thought were committed to my one-on-one work chose to drift away, usually without any formal farewell. A possible temporary job situation didn’t pan out. Both the inner drive to write and the outer call for it seem to have fled the scene.

So what I’m left with at this moment in time is a noticeable sense of emptiness. Maybe openness is a better word; I am open for more in my life. Because I like projects, love people, enjoy regular interaction with others and appreciate the satisfaction of a job reasonably well done, I wonder what this strange new time is all about.

Perhaps the long-awaited final decline for my mother is in process. Maybe there is a health issue looming for me or for my husband. It could be that one of our children or grandchildren or a dear friend will need more of my time and energy in days ahead. Maybe that’s why I sense this curious clearing-away-of-the schedule, this poignant sense that the baton is raised, but the downbeat has not been struck. I do not know what is coming; yet I feel certain that something is on the way.

Last Sunday’s sermon reminded me that Epiphany is a season of beginnings, of newness, and of particular reflection on the life of Jesus. We’ve come through Advent, remembering his birth, anticipating his coming again. On March the 1st, we’ll enter into Lent and reflect on the last ministry of Jesus, that self-sacrificial offering of his own suffering and death on our behalf.

But now—in the seven remaining weeks of Epiphany—we reflect on those three years of walking-talking-praying-eating-feeding-cajoling-warning-blessing-exorcising-healing. Those years of dusty roads, personal encounters, laughter with friends, tears over the city, and lovely acts of compassion and healing.

Last Sunday, our pastor chose the story of water becoming wine at the word of Jesus. He reminded us that this first miracle in John’s gospel is all about taking the ordinary and making it special, about changing what is common into something remarkable. It’s about the best being saved for last.

I want to remember that truth, to grab hold of it with hope and trust. I mark another birthday this month, one step further into the eighth decade of my life. The last season. And I am looking for a little wine somewhere along the way, the wine of transformation, of change and newness. I am eager to hear the word that only Jesus can say. In this season of openness, I invite him in.

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Diana Trautwein
Married to her college sweetheart for over 40 years, Diana is always wondering about things. She answers to Mom from their three adult kids and spouses and to Nana from their 8 grandkids, ranging in age from 3 to 22. For 17 years, after a mid-life call to ministry, she answered to Pastor Diana in two churches where she served as Associate Pastor. Since retiring at the end of 2010, she spends her time working as a spiritual director and writes on her blog, Just Wondering. For as long as she can remember, Jesus has been central to her story and the church an extension of her family. Not that either church or family is exactly perfect . . . but then, that’s what makes life interesting, right?
Diana Trautwein

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Diana Trautwein
  • Pingback: Opening to the New Year — SheLoves()

  • Diane

    I resonate with so much of this. Still don’t have all my words yet, but these are a companionable start. I am about 2-1/2 years into retirement after raising a family while working in the field of special education in various capacities over multiple decades. Parent of two adults, wife, grandmother to four ( all of whom are sadly hundreds of miles away), daughter of an aging mom who also lives a moderate distance ( two hours). Friend, church member, neighbor, citizen. I am thrilled for the flexibility and reduction in intensive unrelenting daily work pressure. It took a while for me to back out of the typical ” work schedule” and mindset; to stop thinking I had to have a list of accomplishments at the end of each day. To embrace “be-ing” as much as “doing”; to reject guilt when I am doing ” nothing”. To reprogram my brain through my deliberate actions, visible and invisible. To revel in this gift of freedom and availability. Very much still learning, but very optimistic at this point. ( ask me tomorrow) . Being reminded that each season and its responsibilities has both its own purpose for me, others, and His greater kingdom, and purposes for future callings and demands. Trust means more and more each day. Thank you for this piece!

    • pastordt

      You’re welcome, Diane. And welcome to the interesting world of retirement! Many blessings as you continue to walk this road of both less and more.

  • Isn’t the church calendar so wonderful? Giving us these clear sections of the year each with their own purpose and focus. Lovely to focus on this season of new beginnings, thank you!

    • pastordt

      Yes! I love the church calendar and find myself orienting my life around it as much as I do around the Jan-Dec one. You’re welcome – and thanks for reading and commenting.

  • I’m inspired and challenged by the wisdom of your patience in this season — the patience of your wisdom. And I always learn something important for my own journey when you share what’s happening in yours.

    • pastordt

      Thank you, Michele. You are beyond kind.

  • Mary “Pat”Peterson

    My dear friend, how grateful I am that somehow over a year ago I found you here on line. My “wallpaper” picture is one you took from your backyard looking over your beloved Santa Barbara , where I grew up. Your gift of photography/art and your gift of spirit filled words always make me stop and ponder the goodness of our Lord.
    Happy Birthday! Hope you have a beautiful celebration !
    Today my husband of 56 years and I are celebrating his step into his eighth decade and I am just a few months from that privilege myself.
    I pray that our Lord will fill your year with exciting options and I hope that will include ministering to us out here “on line”.
    Gratefully,
    Mary “Pat ” Peterson

    • pastordt

      Such kind words!! Thank you, Pat. (I’m wondering if maybe your husband is stepping into decade #9 – 80? – as you’ve been married five years longer than I. I will be 72 on the 23rd) . . .

      • Mary Pat Peterson

        Oh my, you are right! Somehow 9 decades sounds longer than 80 years, doesent it!?!

        • pastordt

          That would be a great big ‘yes!’ We’ve been around a good, long while, haven’t we??

  • I’m learning to hold this “Ordinary Time” between Epiphany and Lent in a new way. This month or so of waiting, of expecting, of preparing to remember…. Praying for you as you start this year with openness.

    • pastordt

      Thanks so much, Annie!

  • Nancy Ruegg

    Beautiful and poignant as always, Diana. I appreciate your desire to invite Jesus into the new year, just as that couple from Cana invited him into their wedding celebration. As 2017 unfolds, we, too, will see him take the ordinary and make it special and change what is common into something remarkable. (Open our eyes, Lord, to such blessings.) As for the best being saved for last, we have heaven to look forward to! Thank you for the dose of expectation–even during ordinary time.

    • pastordt

      Ah, yes!! The best IS last. Thanks, Nancy, for your usual kind encouragement.

  • Your words always renew hope in me. Thank you.

    • pastordt

      What a lovely thing to say, Debby! Thank you.