We watched as red and black balloons drifted up slowly into the winter sky and then out of sight. Gone. Like my friend’s husband of 39 years whose memorial my son and I were attending. Gathered in masks on a cold December afternoon, we stood in the quiet of the field, eyes lifted, honoring him. A grandfather, a deacon in the church, a dad. Gone, gone, gone. Late that night, and many others that follow, I lie down on my living room floor. I like to feel the solidness of the hardwood beneath me. It grounds my prayers, especially in this bittersweet holiday season.
Love is spacious. This is what I am learning amid a global pandemic that requires us to keep our distance. Ironic, perhaps. But the wide embrace of God’s love brings me solace.
“Why not joy?” my spiritual director asks me. In the face of this unrelenting year—laden with loss and injustice—why not eek out as much joy as possible? Find hope amid the pain? We call this a “both-and” in spiritual direction: the idea that opposite experiences exist side by side and that each has value in and of itself.
Today, watching the lake lap the shore, I am reminded that all things pass. My son and I leave the beach as we arrived, masked and hand-sanitized. A sense of repose has found me. I wrote this Godisbig reflection in 2014 as I waited through the unknown. May it speak to you in this moment too. Praying that you are staying healthy and safe.
I still remember the day I was the only white person in a crowded school gymnasium. My third-grade students had asked me to come to their basketball tournament. I was 22 years old, teaching in Houston, Texas. I had not been formally trained as an educator and was new to the south.
I never used to pray for people in my younger days. I might have offered to pray, but I rarely delivered on my promise. I didn’t exactly see the point. In the face of adversity, my resilient and independent twenty-year old self believed that I could do more than just pray. I could mend what was broken.
The table is set. Fine china and crystal at all four place settings. I quickly replace my son’s glass with a less-breakable one. My mom, at 84, is bustling around a tiny kitchen. My dad, reading the paper. My eyes scan their new retirement apartment. The china cabinet of my childhood stands firm, unchanged. The buffet table too.
This time of year is hard. So much expectation. So much pain. The contradictions of the season abound. Just the other day, I was sitting in Starbucks working on a self-imposed deadline. A young woman wearing several layers of clothing and torn boots wandered in and approached my table. I barely acknowledged her.
I am addicted to Snickers bars. It started as a tribute to my aunt. She died not long after Thanksgiving last year. When she was first diagnosed with cancer, the doctors suggested she might have five years. She lived fourteen more. I am still in awe of her fortitude. I envied her sense of place.
I kill plants. I don’t set out to do this. I doubt anyone does. But still they die. To my surprise, this summer my son and I decided to turn a patch of weeds in front of our building into a garden. I let him pick flowers to honor his birth-mama and his birth-papa.