I learnt a new word today – Pete Greig’s writing in Lectio 365 speaks of ‘these strange, liminal days between Christmas and New Year’. I so often brush over words I don’t truly know the meaning of, thinking the context suggests enough for enlightenment. Many times I get it wrong, and so lose some essential extra in what is being said.
There are two meanings to liminal:
Both meanings fit my mood and purpose at this time.
I bought a diary for 2024, as I do each November for the next year, and realised I have nothing to put in it! Excitement welled up and over me. Halleluia! I have time: time for coffee with friends; time to write; to paint; to garden; to klutz around however the mood takes me! This must be the first time in about fifty years that I have a clear calendar year ahead of me. What utter bliss!
This year has flown by in a flash and blur with the usual mix of good and bad times, the highlight being reaching the milestone age of 70.
I come from a family not renowned for its longevity. My paternal grandmother made it to 84, but the rest went out for paltry scores. The other grandmother made it to 64, my grandfathers I know not as neither of them were alive when I made my debut. Neither of my parents made their half centuries, so my chances of a long life seemed slim. I didn’t know what to do with myself when I turned fifty – I had never thought beyond that.
The need to celebrate this grand achievement of reaching my three score years and ten was pressing and I set to planning something utterly outrageous early in the year. So many people to whom I owed a debt of friendship, whose love and support over the years meant much, so I needed a venue with space, and I knew the exact place.
I approached my friend, Annène Labuschagne, whose home on a farm outside White River provides the best of venues.
“I want to ask a favour of you.”
“Yes,” she said. “Whatever it is, the answer is yes.”
Such an amazingly generous spirit.
“I want to have my 70th birthday party at your house.”
“Great. Done. I love it. We will talk nearer the time.”
My other great desire was to spend a night or two at Punda Maria, the northernmost camp in the Kruger Park. I was last there when I was thirteen – an epic holiday with a large group of family friends, most of whom are no longer here, those that are live in far distant lands and contact has dwindled. I wanted to make contact with those memories, overlay them with now.
My first thought was to book out the camp and take the whole world with me. Wasn’t feasible, and unfair to put that financial burden on friends.
So that part of the celebration became a family affair with my sons, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren. We all spent two nights at Skukuza, the younger members had school and plays and places to be, so we bade them farewell on Sunday, and my Festbon and I made the pilgrimage north. A lot of driving, a lot of unpacking and repacking the car, but worth every step and every mile.
I will share this journey in stages, much as we travelled it, as I will the birthday bash in future blogs.
For now, I want to talk about why I find myself in this liminal situation. Just love that word!
It is ten years since I was widowed. Ten years since I took a step that changed the course of my life.
Earlier this year in Mozambique I sat on the piece of land that I still own, that was my haven all those years ago, looking out over the familiar view of the sea, my view. Some time ago while praying, I saw a vision of my Lord Jesus over the sea in that place, facing me. He was enormous. I was puzzled but sensed He was telling me that I had been healed in that place where I met so intimately with Him after fleeing my marriage, my life as I knew it. I know I have received much healing, but it has taken a full ten years to feel completely whole and free from those shackles of my past.
As I sat on that dune, in that familiar spot, I asked my Jesus about that vision, what it meant going forward. I understand that healing can take time to manifest, especially emotional healing, but it has been ten years. His words when they came, were clear: Let it go, let all of it go. Your past, your fears, your plans, and your dreams. Are you willing to let go of all that is familiar, all that you think you are?
I took slow time to answer. I was pretty sure I wanted to say yes, but I had to be sure I could say goodbye to all that had made up my life to that point, from there until now, and then look forward to whatever. At this age.
Paul’s words came to me in Philippians 3 vv13,14:
Brethren I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,
I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
And so it is with a sense of excitement that I look forward to the next decade, to what all my Lord has in store for me, what adventure awaits, who all I will meet along the way.
And it all begins with an empty diary.
Roll on in 2024!