On Time Travel and Brand New Things

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On New Year’s Eve, I sat on the edge of the couch in my basement, staring at 1,000 jigsaw puzzle pieces. On the television, Ryan Seacrest, Jenny McCarthy, and Miley Cyrus counted us into to 2014. “Happy New Year!” I said to my daughter, who shared the couch with me.

We are such party animals.

I sipped hot cider from a hand-made mug, and watched the revelers in the streets of Times Square. I’ve been right there. Not at midnight, of course. Remember, I’m an introvert at heart. But I’ve been there on New Year’s Eve.

Years ago, when we lived in Connecticut, we’d make the drive to New York City several times a year. One year, all of my family members joined us for the holidays. That New Year’s Eve day, while the sun was still high in the sky, we piled into two cars and hurled ourselves with wild abandon, down the Merritt Parkway and over the bridge into the city.

Whenever we talk about that day, the first thing anyone says is, “It was SOoooo COoold!” No matter who says it, the way they draw out those last two words makes us shiver with the memory.

But the next thing anyone says is, “It was so much fun!”

This past New Year’s Eve, sitting on my couch, sipping cider and staring at 1,000 puzzle pieces, I knew exactly what it felt like on the streets of Times Square. I remembered the gritty cushion of the asphalt streets beneath my feet, and I imagined the steam rising from sidewalk grates, and the rumble of the subway as it lurched and choked and carried on below. I knew it was magical, and the people with the noise makers and the gigantic, plastic eyeglasses molded into the numbers 2-0-1-4 were having what may well have been the time of their lives.

New York City is a beautiful place. And, New York City, in Times Square, on New Year’s Eve, must be awesome. So, I watched the show for one more hour — Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve, minus Dick Clark.

It will always be the Dick Clark show, won’t it? Even though the craziness of time and space makes it seem like what my friend Leanne would call, “half a bubble off.” This show that celebrates a brand new future, and helps us put a well-timed cap on the year that was, will forever be a legacy to a man no longer with us.

An hour after the ball dropped in Times Square, I turned off the lights in the basement and made my way upstairs. Outside, I heard fireworks and, the digital clock on the microwave glowed 12:00 because Nebraska is an hour behind New York City. I’d gained one whole hour in my ascent of the basement stairs. It was an odd transition, and it took a few minutes for me to figure out just what had happened. Had time stood still? Was I getting a Mulligan on the new year? A do-over? Had I done it wrong the first time?

I stood there on the linoleum floor for just a few seconds in the dark, while time sorted itself out in my mind.

I’ve wished for this. Haven’t you? A chance to go back in time and space and relive or redo or, perhaps, undo? By the same token, I’ve wished for a chance to skip over the present and plant myself firmly in some future moment, where I can escape embarrassment, or pain, or boredom, or loss.

Last September, I sat in a small room in Texas, and I let Christine Caine straighten me out on this whole bit. “We are always so busy rushing off to the next thing,” Christine said. (Or, I might add, crossing my fingers and clicking the heels of my ruby slippers three times in the hopes of finding a time machine nestled beneath the Pin Oak tree in my backyard. I’d use that time machine to make quick trips into the past, fixing all my mistakes, and always returning home before dinner.) “But,” Christine continued, “God says he isn’t worried about the next thing. God is doing a new thing — right where you are.”

Time can be as slippery as a list of New Year’s resolutions — filled with promises at one turn, but pointing an accusatory finger in the next. And so, I skip and flit and wring my hands, trying to pin it down or reign it in or point it in the direction of my deepest desires and — right beneath the sole of my bare foot — a green shoot of promise and brand new things is pressing its way through the asphalt. If I’m not careful, my big toe might mash it into nothingness.

I stood in the dark on the linoleum floor of the kitchen, the glow of the microwave clock over my right shoulder, laughing on the inside at my personal time travel experience. Thank God he’s bigger than time, or past, or present, or future, or legacies, or gritty asphalt New Year’s Eves. Truth is, all at once, God stepped into time and Times Square and all our pasts and futures and steamy sidewalk resolutions.

It’s all brand new. We’re brand new.

So, revel on, my friends. Drink the very last drop of that cider in your cup. Press the puzzle pieces into place. Let time sort itself out in your mind. Breathe. Walk soft and brave on the soles of your beautiful, bare feet.

And revel on.

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This week, over at The High Calling, we’re talking about transitions. You know. Moving from the old to the new. There’s some great thinking going on over there, along with powerful storytelling in featured articles from T. D. Jakes, Karen Swallow Prior, Laura Brown, and Charity Singleton. Consider giving time a back seat, and click through one of the links to join the conversation.