I love beginnings. The blank page, the clean slate, the plans not yet laid – the anticipation of new.
But in order to have a fresh beginning there must be an ending.
At the end of December I began to take stock of 2018, and initially felt like it was a failure. In January I’d written down goals, hopes and prayers for the year and was disappointed to see that very few of them had come to fruition.
Yet, on the eve of my fresh start, as I was thumbing through my journal from 2018, I realized fundamental shifts that looked insignificant on the surface had taken place. Themes of facing fears, living in the rhythms of grace, and baby steps toward creative expression kept popping up in my musings. At first glance they were seemingly minor changes – a lesson learned here, a moment of letting go there.
They seemed small on the surface, but they were foundation builders.
I remember from building houses in Jamaica that the process of laying the foundation always felt painfully slow. The summer after I college I worked with an organization helping to facilitate church groups that came to serve alongside Jamaicans in a small, inland community. Among other tasks, the teams would work with local site leaders each week to help build one-room concrete homes for families.
The majority of the time spent building these homes was spent on the foundation. We’d move rocks, clearing the site of the largest obstacles, and haul bags of smaller stones mixed with silt, known as maul. This maul was an essential ingredient for the concrete foundation, but the load was often dumped at the bottom of a hill, far from the worksite. After hours spent moving it uphill, the maul still required sifting to remove the unnecessary stones from the finer sediment that was needed.
Even when the ground was primed, the sifting complete and the concrete mixed with the silt, it still felt like the site wasn’t making much progress.
We’d put up a wooden border, marking the area for the new foundation, and begin pouring the mixture into the frame. The wet concrete would be smoothed, the trowel running over the surface again and again. The site leaders would pull out a spool of white string that served as a level, pulling it across the wet concrete to smooth out the highs and identify the lows that needed to be filled. It had to be done perfectly because the rest of the house hinged on a strong, even, firm foundation.
From there things would transform at a rapid pace. The walls went up quickly and the site became an entirely new place. It was finally clear that a house was forming.
Currently, I feel like I’m smoothing out my foundation. The string is pulled tight and the concrete is being leveled. The hard work of moving stones and sifting through the dirt has been accomplished. The foundation is still wet, but it’s setting. The anticipation of putting up the walls is palpable. We’re on the brink of something new.
This past year wasn’t a failure, far from it. It was a year of shoring up my foundation. It was long and hard and quiet and slow, but it was good and it was necessary.
This time next year I’m confident that I’ll look back and see more drastic change. It’s going to be exhausting and imperfect, no doubt. A wall may be lopsided and have to be shifted or even rebuilt, but the supplies are all here and the Master Carpenter has already been hard at work.
I don’t know what the end product will look like yet, but I feel strongly that 2019 is going to be a year of walls and a roof. And I’m ready for it.