At the turn of a calendar page–be it month or year–I am inclined to fits of organization. This month, when the year changed, I had a list ready: kitchen cabinets (the ancient crusty skillets, the untouched pastry shaper, the stacks of plastic takeaway kiddie cups); closet (the stay-at-home-mom Frump Girl wardrobe); and the address book (the pages of scribbled-out and rewritten snail-mail addys). Purge, purge, purge.
I couldn’t just pitch my address book without replacing it, so I found a new one with nice big pages, clever “correspondence” quotations, and cool vintage graphics. I dutifully sat down with my old book and the new one and braved the traumas of carpal-tunnel to rewrite the names and numbers and streets and cities of our friends. Many of them are military families, who, like us, move house every two or three years, and my ten-year-old book was beginning to look like a pen-and-ink tornado had swept through it.
I hadn’t even made it off the ABC page when I had to stop. The very first page of my old book contained the dear names of parents and siblings; friends from high school, college, seminary, my first real job; and families from our overseas duty station in London. DEF included the crossed-out contact information for friends who are now divorced, and a British family from our childbirth-prep class in the U.K. when I was expecting our older son. GHI had my grandma’s address–she went to her true Home last summer. (Oh, how I wish the post office delivered there!)
JKL reminded me that the young people I used to know are now adults; from my book I can see how they’ve moved from their parents’ homes, into college dorms, and now into their own first apartments. MNO was friends we’ve lost touch with entirely; the Irish lady who was Sam’s first babysitter in England; and my young cousin’s address from her boot camp days. PQR was my husband’s grandparents, who also passed away in 2011; STU had several new babies (who are now big kids!) jotted into the margins. VWX was all of the above: a snapshot of my life and relationships all on one page, with friends from decades ago, and from across the globe.
I didn’t write all those addresses into my new book. It’s part of the reorganization: get rid of what doesn’t work, what no longer fits, what sits in disuse. I certainly don’t need all those old addresses, those No-One-By-That-Name-Lives-Here-Anymore bits of information. I don’t need to keep on keeping the postal codes and street names of people who were in our lives only for a season–as lovely a season as it may have been–but who, like us, have moved on.
And yet I couldn’t quite bring myself to throw the old book into the bin. As I sat flipping through its pages, deciding whose name and address I’d use again, who should make it into the new book, I felt like I was looking at a scrapbook of our life over the past years. Though I didn’t feel inspired to reconnect with every one of them, each name brought memories of places, of times, of shared histories. They’re the past now, and that’s fine, but are they really disposable?
It got me thinking: Isn’t that just like life? We move on, we cut some ties and let others dissolve naturally. We grow up, grow old, need more space, go a new direction . . . find ourselves relocating. We spend our lives sending and receiving “change of address” notifications, as our street addresses, our relationships, our vocations, our inclinations change and change and change again. When God calls us–as individuals, as churches, as women–to a new place in life, when God calls us to be new people and to be with new people, it can make for a messy address book. It makes us reorganize our expectations, and it makes us choose wisely: Who will be our constant contacts? Who will receive the yearly update of Christmas cards? And who will stay fondly (or perhaps not-so-fondly) in our past?
I lift a prayer of gratitude for that old book and for the people whose phones I once called, whose addresses I once wrote. I’m deeply thankful for the friends whose names have begun to fill the lines of the new book. And I’m already glad–and so curious!–to discover the new friends for this new season, who will be added to the pages. I’m ready.