A Holy Experience – and hearing Advent anew

I love Ann Voskamp’s site, “A Holy Experience.” If you ever have one blog to visit in the early mornings or late nights, and ever want to pause and think about things like gratitude, faith, children and everyday sacredness, farming and food, beauty and noticing the small things, vulnerability and trust, love and questions, the power of words and of listening – then you may love her site as much as I do.

Today, I came across this Advent story she told to her daughters, a story told into and through their simple and amazing little lives. This story about what Christmas is really about, and the wisdom of a child, is about the best version I’ve ever heard – it’s retelling the sometimes too-familiar to feel awe-inspiring, yet powerfully eternal and poignant, story of Immanuel God with us.

Read it sometime if you like, and remember the power of God’s gift with a smile, some sniffs and tears, while a little person tugs at your pant leg – everyday ordinary meets wondrously sacred all the time on her blog.

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Anniversaries and Marking Time

The start of fall has always marked a change in the pace of time for me. It marks anticipation and I feel the uptick in my insides. It marks the start of another school year, another cycle, another new beginning, another start. This weekends marks my third teaching university classes, and my fifth working with churches in some ministry capacity since being ordained. This school year also marks my first year of NOT being a student in a class of some kind for, literally, 27 years. 8 yrs doctoral, 3 yrs graduate, 4 yrs undergraduate, and 12 yrs of gradeschool… That is unreal to think about. Both more important, and less important to mark – who says, “I am not in school this year” ? We all say, ” started school this year, I finished this grade, I am in this class, I teach this class, etc.” Yet it feels significant to mark that I am not in school, to note how time feels different, how I feel different in some ways, even while the chapters feel shadowy and elusive…

Lately I have been struck by how time moves. How time is marked, or allotted (or not), how I want Annie Dillard’s “net for catching days.” This weekend also marks the five year anniversary of starting this blog, which got me thinking about how writing, and reflecting, and living theology has shaped me, and been a constant and evolving theme woven throughout my time. This blog has been a companion of mine as I continued to learn how to integrate different aspects of my life – and I feel like I want to keep using this space, keep noticing things, keep recording them for myself, rolling them over in my mouth and on paper, and keep offering things up for others to help me understand and think through better. So lately I’ve been thinking about, how might I keep living my theology, keep integrating, reflecting and acting and relating – for another five years in this space?

This weekend also marks eleven years of marriage to my hubby, Peter. :) Eleven years feels like so much – so much to celebrate, to chew on, to remember! And a lot of it has been filled up by the everyday, the ordinary that really ends up being sacred, the work at being true to who you are – while loving and changing for another to also be true to who he is. Eleven years, one child, two major moves, four international trips, six degrees, too many funerals, a dozen or so jobs, thousands of emails/texts/phone calls, and countless laughs, hand squeezes, questions, jogs through the park, fights, nights out and nights in, stresses about big stuff, stresses about little stuff, and negotiating and learning and waiting and enjoying… We saw a movie with friends we’ve known for a long time on our anniversary night – this friend who I met as a freshman (sixteen years ago!), had help at our wedding eleven years ago, and that we sat with as a couple dating at Ravinia over a decade ago. Friends who we always want to see more of, who ask us random theology questions, who we can commiserate over stresses, or joke about parenting, or just do nothing with – it was so fitting to see these friends at the end of our anniversary dinner. A way to mark our time was to mark it with others; time isn’t just my perspective of it, I realized, time is how we spend and share and see it next to someone else in the movie theater or a hospital room or a midnight chat.

Then tonight we marked time with others at Ravinia (an outdoor concert and picnic area), sharing a night with some old friends who we met about ten years ago as couples in seminary. We sat under the same trees, with our wine and our stories, like we did back when she and I were both starting seminary – and it struck me that all of us are both the same and also different then the people we were when we first met. We are all still learning, still celebrating, still bad at certain things, still awesome at others, of course :). We are doing different things for our jobs – and yet, not really that different, when I think about it. We are all back at the same church, laughing at the same things, sitting around the same circle tables in the faded concrete basement fellowship hall. Their children are taller and older and of course wiser, and Eva is now in the world – so kids mark time in a significant way, to be sure. But maybe part of adult life is that time is trickier to hold on to, harder to keep between your fingers or numbered in file folders. Time feels like it is more in the ebb and flow, in seasons and the general feel of things, the energy or the struggle to do or to understand or to change or to get through the day. Marking time feels different, both more and less important at the same time. Maybe because time seems both more and less tangible at the same time lately.

I am so grateful for each of these anniversaries; for how life changes and for the ways that it doesn’t, for the feel of time when it is heavy and slowly drips through the glass, and for when it blows and knocks me over in its pursuit for “the next” and the further ahead. Mostly I am grateful for the people I get to share my time with, and the people that help me become, for those that I can look into and see my time, my seasons, and my future with. For the nights under the stars, the baggies full of children’s snacks and bottles of Italian chianti, the perfectly sweet perfume from my husband and the emails from friends, the movie nights downtown and the laughter that returns – the potential, the possibilities, the past with its photos and stories, and the present with its heavy, elusive wonder. What a beautiful time to be, to mark time, to notice it going by, to catch it, to live it….

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Overheard Musings

It is good to have others who have seen my insides and my cracks and my naive wonder and my hopeful dreams, she said.

It is good that others might be able to understand that maybe I can’t see where it all fits right now, she said. My shelf doesn’t hold the present – I feel like I keep rearranging my past dreams, my unfocused day to day, and my hopes… they don’t seem to go together. It’s more like they compete, knock each other around, or keep introducing themselves to each other.

This can’t be adult life, she said. This can’t be how it happens, where a slump drifts into a season that stretches into a lifetime of chasing fulfillment.

This just may be adult life, she said. But I want it to remain my life. My future, my intention; not my reaction, my fears. I choose a life full of the possible. Full of following God. Full of love for others. Full of all the bumps and bruises others may try to hide.

She said.
And I smiled.

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