The Savannah Chronicles By Mandi Aldridge
2021 ended no less crazy than it began, a sense of instability in the wake of the pandemic that proceeded it. Life has felt anything but stable since 2020, am I right? Never mind that after 15 years in Tn, I packed up my whole life, mid-pandemic, mid-2020, and moved to Ga. Alone. Wild.
It has been a crazy year and a half. Not one thing worked how I thought it would, or planned for it to. 2021 disappointed every plan I had. It shattered all my misplaced hope. It humbled me right down to ailments that served as visceral reminders of my desperate need of Him. 2021 brought me to the end of myself, in every way.
And in it’s close out, 2021 would not lose theme, but brought with it the crescendo- the loss of my job- an end I knew was coming, but not quite as soon as it did, nor in the way that it did. It was a hurtful and somewhat comical end- dark comedy is a theme I’m all too familiar with, so…
I remember getting that job, and I knew after two weeks at that job that it was not a long term fit- many heard me number my days.
However, it ending was an answer to prayer, a confirmation of things to my weary and insecure heart who didn’t want to make a ‘wrong’ or premature move.
They let me go.
And I believe it needed to be that way. It was clear. And I needed clarity from the Lord.
It’s an ending to a long chapter…
I’m a hairstylist. I’ve been doing hair for over 15 years and I don’t think I want to do hair anymore. I believe that chapter has ended. Saying that is still… hard to get my head around, I thought I’d be doing hair forever.
But, what do I want to do now?-
Travel the World over… sell all my belongings and live out of a van and just drive from one corner of this continent to the other, bathing in rivers and writing prose on mountain sides.
Yet, that doesn’t seem to be what the Lord currently has for me.
Maybe it’ll be part of my future?
I went home for Christmas, (home is Ky. I reside in Ga.), and I extended my stay longer than planned, partly because I got sick, and partly because I had some unfinished business to settle with my previous life there, and also because I wanted some clear space in order to think about this next … phase of life.
I’m in my 40s and unmarried, and not sure I’m even genuinely interested in the notion any longer? I think I hold on because it seems like what I’m suppose to want- and probably because I still have some unhealthy attachment to the idea of what it will do for my ‘value’ as a woman- who knows? I don’t know one person who got married without some kind of hang up or whack idea about the union. *insert lighthearted laughter here*
Anyhow, here I am in my 40s, unmarried, no kids, and now no job. 9 hrs from any family I’ve ever known. Alone in Georgia. No spectacular career. No great ministry established. Still round and fuzzy haired. My health and body changing rapidly, choices catching up, and just the wear and tear that comes at 40 I suppose.
(Before you go deciding the tone of that, pause a moment, and wait, because it is upon that bleakness that great things have happened this year. Isn’t that how it typically works?)
I’ve been so worried my whole life about what other people think about me, trying to compensate for all my shortcomings to the point I was near insane. I’ve tried to build a life that could and would be approved of by others. A life that proves I was a worthy investment of the Lord, but when have I taken the time to deeply consider what He, the Lord Almighty, thinks about me, and what I think about me in light of what He says?
A right view of me, of my life- circumstances and all, is contingent on a right, centered view, of Him. I so often get in my own way.
In losing everything this last year, being broken down to the point you think you’ll never get up again; rejected on repeat in all facets of life- professional and personal, in a job with people that represent what you thought you wanted, only to find you loathe it, at a church that is great, but no less messy than the last place you were- they just dress better, *more lighthearted laughter*, meeting men you think grandiose thoughts about and then realize, they aren’t as big as you thought they were.
In the wake of all that disappointment you are left with yourself- who else you gonna turn to? Everyone is stinky!
But then, you come, again, fresh as the first time, to the Truth that you too are incredibly stinky and small and messy. You are not grand. You are not great.
You are just… what?
All this ‘tragedy’ and whack circumstances; unexpected surgeries, ambiguous behaviors, job losses, friends that don’t know the meaning, American Christianity at it’s worst, singleness and bareness, and the threat of homelessness.
All this just serves as a stage, a cornucopia of deflated things that become the foundation for…
the most …
simple and steady and still and soothing Truth…
The Lord is what remains.
The Lord is Who remains.
I am not a Phoenix.
He is what rises from the ashes of a scorched life.
His beauty. His love. His faithfulness.
His greatness. His aroma of life. His kindness. His Truth.
And you see clearly…
with bated breath…
that the only lasting and significant part of your life is Him.
It’s Him in and through all things.
His Kingdom. His purposes. His Glory.
It’s not that I don’t matter, but
I matter because of Him. He is Who, what, gives my life meaning. He is Who, what, makes my life experiences more just a statistic. He is the One that uses all the fallout of life circumstances, the disappointments and heartaches and bewilderments and tragedies, for our good. He is the One that makes good on all the suffering we endure.
He is what makes anything interesting, or lasting.
When my life is viewed through the lens of His Person and Truth, things just… mean more, and less.
It isn’t bleak or hopeless or despairing. And the details of things matter, differently.
Being single is not about value or viability, but opportunity and utilizing.
Job loss isn’t about being good or liked, but again, opportunity, release, redirection… possibilities.
I could go on, but I trust you see my point.
This hard and disorienting year ended on a beautiful note,
Repentance and hope.
I have yet to find a job.
I’m not worried.
I’ve been out of work for weeks and weeks now and somehow He is providing.
Manna for each day.
I’m prepared to lose everything.
I’m one missed payment from eviction.
It could happen so easily.
And yet… I’m not the least worried.
He keeps my head above water…
for His own purposes.
And if I drown…
it will be for His own purposes.
I used to cling to these images of how I thought my life should look… if ‘this’ didn’t happen, then ‘this one’ or ‘this one’ and so forth.
I currently have no image but Him.
He is to what I’m clinging.
He is the image I have in mind.
I have lost everything to find that I possess the only Thing that is worth anything- Him.
And He possesses me.
So, here’s to 2022 and the blank slate upon which He will write more beautiful and captivating stories of His Glory, may we all be pliable and willing.
A wordsmith for Christ, painting pictures of Eternity and His tender love.