It was January One. While most were resolving and footballing, toasting and parading, I was retrieving a schoolroom blackboard from the wall of a stranger’s new house.
A house occupied by my grandparents for all of my life and a majority of theirs.
A house built by my grandparents’ own hands.
A blackboard built into the kitchen wall, at the center of the house.
For over 60 years, it held the numbers and names of folks they might call. Lists of groceries to fetch. Errands to run. Dates to remember. The blackboard was the centerpiece of it all.
Until a month ago, when the house was sold, a few months after my Grandma’s passing.
The transition of clearing out the house and putting it for sale left no time to attempt blackboard removal, risking wall damage no one had time to repair. The blackboard would leave our family and remain inside the four walls on Dixie Lane.
As 2016 was wrapping up, I got an unexpected email and then a phone call. Word had gotten to the new owner about me. About my desire to keep the blackboard in the family. And when last minute plans landed me minutes from her house, 2017 would start in an unusual way.
It was unclear how difficult the removal would be and what sort of damage it might do. In the end, it came down without much fanfare or surprise. Into our car it came and off we went. On to a new adventure.
In its first life, the blackboard had been filled with arithmetic and grammar. By day, educating my grandma, her siblings and friends. By night, erased by my great-grandfather, the school’s janitor. When the grade school in Grand Tower, Illinois was closed and torn down, a relative crated it and shipped it via rail to my grandmother, who was finishing construction on her new house. This blackboard was given new life.
It saw 60 years of every day life in that Detroit home. Mornings and evenings. Breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Childhoods, adulthoods and everything in between. High times and low times. Winters and summers. Feasts and famines. Holidays and rainy days. Homework, bills, paychecks and catalogs. Frustrations, surprises and relief. It was there through it all.
And now, by the grace of a stranger – connected only by an address and walls so familiar – it is off on the next adventure. A story yet to be told.
This blackboard has been given new life, by the grace of another.
January One. A day to look back at all that has been. To bid it farewell or to wish it good riddance. A day to recall what was. And to pack it in past tense.
January One. A day to look forward to all that might be. To predict, to aim high, to decide, to declare. A day to hope and to intend, to plan, to organize, to prepare, to set a course. To speak in wills and mights and wonders and can’t waits.
My story has been given new life, not by the grace of a calendar which rolls from a six to a seven in the ones-place of a four-digit age. As it turns out, yesterday, today and tomorrow were all the same. Mornings that turned into afternoons that turned into evenings. A tag of 2016 or 2017 is inconsequential. The calendar labels the experiences, perhaps even crudely categorizes them, but does not give me new life.
My story has been given new life, not by the grace of a calendar, but by the grace of a sovereign Creator-Savior.
It’s by His grace I’m being given another year, another day, another breath. It’s by such grace that I will change and grow and improve this year.
2017 me hopes for change. Hopes to grow thinner, to be more on time, to be more rested, to be kinder, to be more patient, to be more selfless, to be more disciplined, to be healthy, to pursue dreams, to grow friendships, to learn, to experience, to accomplish, to discover. And 2017 me believes it in a way 2016 me did not.
I’ll see things I’ve never seen. I’ll do things I’ve never done. I’ll go places I’ve never been. I’ll meet people I’ve never met. I’ll live stories I’ve never heard.
But, in 365 days, it’ll still be me. Me with stories behind me and stories ahead. A blackboard on its next adventure. Perhaps uprooted and replanted. Unhinged and then re-bolted. Taken apart, transported, reassembled and secured. But, still me.
2017 brings me new stories to tell. Standing on this end of it, I can declare words over it and dreams for it. I can prep it and shape it and outline it and expect it. A year is a fine amount of time to look forward and look backward.
But, I’m just going to take it one day at a time.
His mercies are new every morning. A year might be getting a little ahead of myself. I’m going to see where He takes me today. How his grace impacts me. How his grace uplifts me. How his grace uproots me. How his grace secures me.
There’s a story there. It might unfold in 2017. It might be told in 2017. It might be lived in 2017. But, the grace for 2017 comes from the God who wants to know me and made a way for me to know Him. There is grace for today, so that’s where you’ll find me.