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Fill in the Blank New Year!

sparkler burning

In Sparks House, this week marked the official end of a very full and warm and musical and LONG Christmas season. Seven weeks to be exact! At the end of December after the Santa sacks and Christmas stockings are folded up and stored in bins, the phrase and greeting that fills every day for the three weeks to follow is “HAPPY NEW YEAR!”

I feel the same confusion and conflict about that phrase as I do the annual, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” (The insult of the vagaries of social media “friendships” is the actual reduction to “HBD”…how grim). As the true mildly melancholy always introspective guilty feeling if I’m not who you like Syrian-Russian woman whose olive skin God dressed me in, I wryly bristle at the casual command to be happy about anything.

Is that really what we want to say?

I am troubled that when one might ask an American parent what they dream for their child, the response most likely will be, “I just want them to be happy”.


It’s not that I don’t want my precious children to be happy, but as I consider the complex and conflict ridden world that my beautiful daughters and sons are created and called to live in, the anointing I would pour on their heads would not be the oil of “happy”!

I pray for them to be true.

I long for them to be unfettered from the chains of comparison.

I hope for them to walk strong and shameless in their beautiful and glorified scars.

I live for them to witness a life overflowing with the ordinary and miraculous every day love of Jesus.

Is that happy?

Not always.

Joyful? Content? Aware? Expectant?

Pretty much always.

Once a week when I walk out of my 95-year-old father’s room at his nursing care facility, my heart drops so low it breaks. every. single. time. I fantasize about shrinking him down to pocket size and stealing him away free of that wheelchair so we could sing strong and loud his favorite gospel songs the whole way back to Pittsburgh.

My father was one of nine. He was born into a poor immigrant Syrian family who heated their home above the corner store with coal gleaned from what spilled over onto the tracks as the trains passed by.

My dad is father to nine. The home he and my mom made for us was noisy and spotless and smart and creative and full of music and books and building projects and cooking and friends and the sounds of growing families.

My father now spends his everyday in the ghastly quiet.

His body is well cared for by the healthcare professionals who some, I suspect, are angels.

But Dad’s heart is sad and desperately lonely for his sweetheart of almost eighty years and his kids and grandkids and great grandkids eating and laughing and making so much noise around his enormous dining room table.

Happy New Year? Probably not.

I think about those words and the weight in them as I look to the next eleven and a half months ahead. I have absolutely no idea what they’ll feel like or sound like or look like.

But by this time next year, I’ll be able to fill in those blanks.

So my greeting to you?

Be true this year.

Don’t compare yourself to others because God made you to be beyond all that.

Count your scars, stop covering them up and consider the stories they tell. Jesus has scars, too.

Wake up every day expecting to see the beautiful face of Jesus. You will find him in the most surprisingly ordinary disguises.

Give up on the happy.

Pursue a better word for 2018.

Fill in the Blank New Year!

- Rebecca Sparks

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