For loose holds and the last day of class - Seven Gratitudes, vol. 49

For loose holds and the last day of class - Seven Gratitudes, vol. 49

This week I am grateful…

1

For Christmas trees in Advent.

Embracing the liturgical year is a beautiful thing, but it is also a conflicting thing. The Year has cost me some expectations and traditions I grew up enjoying because the Year invites me to dwell deeply within the dynamic story of God’s love for the whole world. This means good news, but it also means I sometimes have to give up the kinda good for the better.

I have come to know that knowing God means holding things loosely because God is always better than I hope, more benevolent than I imagine, and wilder than I can fathom. Trusting God, therefore, is a risk. The symbols and traditions I come to love so much can all of a sudden and drastically not fit the grace I experience, the glimpse of the divine that She gives. Love confounds and breaks the handholds I contrive.

Let them be signs, beloved, reminders and pointers—temporary shelters, not permanent dwellings. Go where I go, hold onto Me. There will be more signs and wonders…

Practically speaking, holding on loosely has looked like an assessment of personal practice and traditions. Aaron and I have been intentionally trying traditions together as a family. It is both fun and frustrating. We have enjoyed listening and learning from the multitude of signs the Body of Christ has recognized over the centuries—form the silly and superstitious, to the sanguine and sacred. But I have also at times gotten stuck in my deliberations with questions like, for instance, when in the WORLD should the Christmas tree go up?

I know some folks put theirs up at the beginning of Advent. Others do a progressive tree dressing: they set up the tree on Advent 1 and add to it every week, with the lights coming on St. Lucy’s feast day and the star on Christmas Eve. Still others save the whole shebang for a solely Christmas Eve tradition, the tree staying up ‘til Epiphany. I have been conflicted about the entire question—I mean, what even IS a Christmas tree anyway?

And then a gift unfolds in the doing. A sign emerges.

My roommates and I put up our tree last Sunday because Holly wanted everyone to be able to enjoy it before we go our separate ways. We gathered. We untangled lights and unwrapped ornaments. We argued tree placement—here or there? This angle or that? And it was perfect.

Meagan pulled out these adorable magi and held them just so, and, just like that, I saw the sign of the Christmas tree for this Year.

I saw pilgrimage and anticipation. I felt the Advent, Christ’s coming, but not yet. I felt my own place on the road, in step with the wise ones from the east on their journey toward a Star they knew meant something wonderful.

The tree became a symbol of Advent. It became a guide for the mystical liminality of this season.

As the magic magi travel up the psychedelic spiral of our colorful Christmas tree, they are leading me onward towards Home.

Thanks be to God for simple signs and wonders.

For Advent's approach, our anniversary, & completed drafts - Seven Gratitudes, vol. 48

For Advent's approach, our anniversary, & completed drafts - Seven Gratitudes, vol. 48

This week I am grateful...

1

For communion, contemplation, and contemplating communion.

St. Matthew’s Episcopal welcomed me to the table on Sunday morning, Christ the King Sunday. The meal warmed my belly and buzzed my mind. How overwhelming is God’s grace sometimes! It often is a gentle hand on the shoulder or the faintest whisper of fond greetings. But Sunday it was a radiating pulse of re-orientating love. It was a welcome home. Again.

The next day I sat to do some major work on my school capstone project, musing for hours on the topic of cosmic communion and praying with the nature of matter (which is a story I hope to tell soon!). Several things became clear, and I will share two of those things here.

First, I love, love, love communion. The more I think about the practice and experience it in my body with the gathered community of faith, the deeper the thing becomes, the more encompassing and transformative, the more the truth of it dwells in me, making me a citizen of God’s reality.

Second, contemplating the ways God dwells deeply in and with the ever-unfolding creation gives me life—it makes me alive.

I love God, I love creation, and I love to think. It is grace—an unexpected and utterly free gift—when God meets me in the communion of it all. 

For feasting, Lucky, & Christ the King! - Seven Gratitudes, vol. 47

For feasting, Lucky, & Christ the King! - Seven Gratitudes, vol. 47

This week I am grateful…

1

For community lessons in real time.

I have only three more weeks with my Winston-Salem roommates, but I am already counting the lessons they have taught me about living life in community. Last Saturday we had a roomie check-in date at our local Chikfila where we talked through our household expectations, etc.

Which is much harder to do than one would think.

It is a blessing to dwell with folks who want to live well together, not just get by. I am thankful for these three and the ways each of them have helped me see Reality from different perspectives.

For Thor Ragnarok, Morning Voices, & Dogs in the Classroom - Seven Gratitudes, vol. 46

For Thor Ragnarok, Morning Voices, & Dogs in the Classroom - Seven Gratitudes, vol. 46

This week I am grateful…

1

For my Thor Ragnarok experience.

Three great things: Thor was funny, my friends were there, and the Coke ICEE situation was, you know, SELF-SERVE & FREE REFILLS.

I still might be rattling from the sugar and caffeine, but, gracious, I had a good time at the movies last Friday. Thor’s my favorite male superhero—though he better watch his footing when the new Black Panther stuff comes out in a few months!—and I have been anticipating the fresh tone of Ragnarok since its first trailer dropped.

Definitely did not disappoint.

I heard on NPR that in Norse mythology Ragnarok means, basically, apocalypse. It is the death of the universe that cannot be avoided, but it also is never the end of the universe. Ragnarok is only one part of the rhythmic, never-ending cycle of ultimate reality.

The Marvel film played with Ragnarok’s meaning. There were some chilly moments when Death looked like imperial colonialism and unchecked ambition. Other times she looked like a duped daughter. While I watched I wondered, since death and life are necessary to one another in our world, if Thor would somehow learn to redirect Death’s misunderstood or misinterpreted purposes in order to live and reign alongside his sister, the goddess of death.

I will just say that, in the end, Ragnarok was costly, but, somehow, good.

Reconciling. Unifying. A call for renewed hope.

It was also just fun.

Thanks be to God for interesting stories and Marvel-ous modern-day mythologies. 

For My Womenfolk, Vocational Duty, & Hot Soup - Seven Gratitudes, vol. 45

For My Womenfolk, Vocational Duty, & Hot Soup - Seven Gratitudes, vol. 45

This week I am grateful…

1

For my womenfolk.

In this photo are women on my mother’s side. From left to right: me, Grandma, Aunt Monica, Mama, and Granny.

Leanna, Doris, Monica, Michelle, and Earlene.

We took the photo after Granny and Poppy bought us all breakfast Saturday morning.

Mom and I were down for the weekend with Aunt Monica in her forest home. I am not sure if we knew it going in, but it was definitely a YaYa kind of weekend for the three of us.

A weekend for sharing and receiving stories, daring to be present to one another and to see one another as the women we are. It was a weekend for falling asleep as we talked Friday night because we can relax together and rummaging through antiques Saturday morning because we can be honest about what inspires us and what doesn’t. It was a weekend for tears, laughter, and trust, trust, trust.

It was a weekend for my women, the ones whose blood runs through my veins, whose stories echo deep within me.

And it was—