There is a river, and it has washed my slate clean.
New home. New baby. New friends. New church. New weather. The year is new, and my days are full of new things.
Strangely, not one bit of it feels new. These are déjà vu days, and everything in them feels familiar and comfortable. As if I have already worn deep grooves into this daily life.
My baby daughter looks exactly like her sister, my firstborn. Holding this baby, nine years disappear, and I am a new mother again. I sit in the same rocking chair, she wears the same pink dress, and I sometimes can’t tell who is in my arms, the first baby or the last.
I tuck her into the same blue pram, and we walk beneath maple trees on our way to meet the school bus. I remember this stroller cutting through the icy winds on Chicago’s sidewalks, and I think I must have always known, somewhere deep within, that I was headed to this good place.
It is simply too familiar. I am not surprised by any of it. Only grateful. Deeply grateful.
I once wrote that I was living the first half of this verse: “Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear down … so I will watch over them to build and to plant” (Jeremiah 31:28).
Now I am living the second half.
My firstborn was a firecracker of a baby, and she broke me. In so many good and necessary ways, she broke me.
My fourth is like gentle rain in spring. One fierce and one gentle, they have both been good gifts.
There were years when all was uprooted. Now new things are growing. Both are necessary. Both are good.
I have been hearing this whisper for months, but now it is a shout: “Return! Return!”
I have said, “Yes, Lord, I am coming,” again and again I have said it until this moment, having just tipped over into this new year, I know I have arrived. I have returned.
And every day of this year, I will wake with one word in mind: return.
The poet T. S. Eliot says “We shall not cease from exploration / And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time.”
I have journeyed to my own beginning, and there is no surprise in this. Haven’t I always felt most at home with the One who names himself Alpha and Omega?
He is my beginning, and he is my end, and I have come home. I have returned; I am, every day, returning.
“My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them. I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.”