What If vs What Now

Nineteen days. 

Two Saturdays ago I was walking across the grass towards my elder daughter’s soccer field and noticed a little prick of pain on my foot and by the time I sat down on our blanket I had red splotches and streaks in three or four places on my feet. I took my shoes off and noticed a couple of ants in the footbed… It was fire ants. I confirmed it when we got back to the car, and saw that our parking trestle was the center of a line of ant beds. Great. 

I got on a plane two hours later, so I didn’t really get a chance to do any first aid, or really even notice my feet as I was going through security and making sure that my bags all fit under my seat. But by that evening, waiting for my cousin, I kept noticing that, yes, I needed something to take the edge off of the pain. 

They kept me from sleeping soundly the whole time I was out of town, sleeping in a comfortable yet strange bed, with family I had’t seen in three years. 

I checked the internet, and it said that fire ant bites last four to ten days. I made sure to treat them with allergy meds and inflammation meds, and I didn’t scratch them, or pop them, or anything. But finally, I decided to put some bandages on them, but I couldn’t tell if that was helping or not, and still they haven’t healed. 

All five of my bites, one on one foot, four on the other, still are angry, red, unhealed. Nineteen days later. I mean, they don’t hurt anymore. They don’t itch. But, I’d been hoping they’d heal faster. 

But that’s the thing, isn’t it? 

Healing takes a while. 

Maybe WebMD only meant when they’d stop hurting, or itching. 

The internet has no clue how long it takes for my scars to heal. 

And so now I’m wondering if I should have put bandages on them earlier, or if I could have used ice on them (but when, who knows) or if I should have been wearing socks or if I could have avoided them altogether if I’d noticed the ant beds under our car as I was watching the busy parking lot as our kids got out to go across two lines of traffic…

There are a lot of what-ifs, I suppose. 

Maybe I should think about a what now. 

I mean. This is about covid, right? (I actually do have 19 day old ant bites… but) this is about covid. And little things adding up. And how we have so many what-ifs swirling around us… that now I really want us to switch to a what now. It’s not really helpful to say that we didn’t realize we’d be in whatever situation we find ourselves in. It’s not helpful for me, at least, unless it is to create space for grace in the situation. (Because, well… some of us did imagine that we’d still be wearing masks two years in. I did.)

And so, now: what now? 

We get our kids their shots, we get the boosters for folks who are with the kids, and those at risk, and we do what needs to be done so that our community is safe, so that our people are cared for, so that we can work together to do together what we need together so that we will be together as we live together. 

And it might be small. And it might be annoying. And it might last far longer than we ever expected. And the solutions now might not be what we do later…

But we don’t let the what-ifs overtake the what-now.

What do we need to do, now?

Epiphany Revealing

Sing:

You don’t have to sing it right/who could call you wrong?/You put your emptiness to melody, your awful heart to song/you don’t have to sing it nice/but honey sing it strong/at best you find a little remedy/at worst the world will sing along/so sing.

—To Noise Making, Hozier

Oh. There is so much. The unveiling continues. The cracks are showing in the foundations. The brokenness built into this country is echoing it’s purpose loud and clear. 

And I? Broken and brave. Refusing to be silent in yet another atrocity in a line of atrocities cast by the very system itself.

You know, democrats now have control of the house, senate, and as of January 21, the presidency. You know that right? That was yesterday morning’s news. Is that why they mobbed? Because they do not know how to exist and lose? 

Lord, white supremacy doesn’t know how to exist and lose. So let it not. Dismantle it. My hope from this is that this is yet another breaking in the foundation of white supremacy. A shattering. 

When a coup is instigated by the outgoing president, and an insurrection happens with a mob of angry white people, who storm the U.S. Capitol building and take it by force, and the police manage to not use deadly force as the very Capitol is occupied… this is who we are. This has been building since the foundation of the nation. For four hundred and two years since the first enslaved African survived the middle passage to be claimed as property by my ancestors who had no right to do so. 

We are not surprised. Appalled, yes. Angered, yes. Even furious. But I am not surprised. This is just another example of how terrible we are. Our sin. Our recklessness with human lives. 

How interesting, as well, that it took place on Epiphany: that this revealing took place when the church calendar marks the time when a political occupying force was so afraid of losing power that a generation of children were murdered. Shine light on this, then. Let’s reveal it for the brokenness it is. And for the way that our systems of power laid the groundwork for it. In clear daylight. Let’s see it. Look. 

The unveiling is happening. O God, open their eyes. Can the people who have been so blinded to how they have been manipulated see that someone is trying to pull their attention away from the truth? And those things I have chosen not to see, the things I have turned away from, turn me to action, in the midst, to healing from the root. 

I could not have written my reflection without the influence of the Black women and activists from whom I have learned so much in the last few years, namely adrienne marie brown, Prentis Hemphill, Morgan Harper Nichols, and Austin Channing Brown. I’m still learning.  

Revel in the Revelation

My thoughts are jumbled up and caught in the midst of a deep knowing and a precipitous drop into a wild learning that I’ve been searching for these past five years. 

Everything has been layering into place to get me to here.

Right now. 

Revealing this. 

I’ve been taking lessons from my own body. Learning to trust it when it says yes, and no, and wait, and rest. Maybe everything was simply too loud, before. 

And now I’m listening for the gentle voice of my own being, created, good, and whole, and returning to fullness. 

I became thin, a veil to my own self, and rather than thickness I’ve built into this fullness, even as my milk runs dry and my tears run dry. 

From the thin place I entered, I have been guided to a place to understand my own theology of touch. 

I’m learning where the yes comes from. I’m learning more about how the yes has been closed off and told it was inappropriate and shamed and negated and gaslight and relegated to the smallest portion imaginable. 

But I am not settling for crumbs. 

There is more than enough to go around and I will help you get your enough while I seek my own. 

And I will listen to the gentle rhythm of the rain and my heartbeat and the wind in the trees and the rushing of the creek and I will dance with my whole self. 

Dance like my five year old and my two year old and dance like I’ve learned it already and like I’m creating a new kind of dance and there is only the true way to do it if you are dancing with the creator of the dance. 

There are no wrong steps if you are trying to listen. If you are able to say you are sorry. If you are willing to confess where you have been wrong and where you have hurt others and if you are willing to be contradicted with grace and learn. Learn. Learn. 

Then. 

Then we can move together and learn to hear our bodies together and listen to the voices that have been ignored out of ignorance that claimed it was innocent and now. Now we have seen that what is harmful is not holy, now that it has been revealed as the opposite of good, we can turn to the revelation and see. Actually see. 

And now that we see, we can help others see. And as we reveal our full selves, we dance and sing and twirl and party and circle around with joy and pleasure. We Revel. We cultivate this joy that cannot be denied or shut up or blocked out or dissipated or disappeared or ignored. Rather, we move, sing, embrace, listen, experience, breathe, and rejoice in this freedom. 

Nothing is created out of context, and I want to acknowledge that this is a response to what I am reading and hearing and listing to in this current time. Right now, my conversation partners are adrienne marie brown, Prentis Hemphill, Monica Byrne, Heather Willet Olsen, Kate Bowler, Sarah Howell-Miller, and Rose Eveleth. I wonder what I will learn next.

Good Enough

Its a little meta, but I am being good enough at having grace for myself. 

I’ve been listening to a lot of Kate Bowler’s Podcast, Everything Happens and her main point is that there’s no winning at life. She asks: what happens when you can’t “live your best life now” and really does a great job at deflating that concept in the first place. 

It’s really healthy for me to listen to. 

Because I’m not what I considered to be an over-achiever, and I really didn’t think that I was obsessed with perfection or anything, but because I picked up some messages along the way that excellence was the only measuring tool for accomplishments, and I also keep thinking I have to accomplish something or my life isn’t worth something.

Which is all shit, by the way.

I don’t need to publish a book in order to be a full person. 

I don’t need a raise to show that my call to ministry is valid. 

I don’t need to cook a particular diet of food to prove that I understand nutrition and all it’s facets, and I don’t have to get every new recipe perfect the first time I try it. 

I don’t need to spend at least three hours a day outside with my kids a day to be a good parent. 

I don’t need to attend every protest in a hundred mile radius to be a good advocate for justice.

I don’t need to lose those ten or fifteen pounds that I lost when I was significantly unhealthy and unable to care for my body well. (That wasn’t a healthy body… it just looked like it could have been. Or maybe what normative/opressive beauty norms say are right.)

I don’t need to have sex every night with my husband to be in a healthy, committed, romantic relationship with him.

I don’t need to keep up with twenty people and know how they are to the depths of their souls in order to have friendships and connections with my community.

Sometimes the pictures are misleading. (Scratch that.) The pictures can only ever show a part. And there are some things that will never be able to be captured in a photo still. 

Life isn’t a series of stills stitched together linearly to describe a progression. 

Life can be cyclical. Life can be dark. Life can be found in the quiet moments. Life can be found in an expression and glance exchanged over the dinner table. 

I think I feel like sometime soon someone is going to ask me what I want to do with my life, and I want to say, this… but… maybe with a particular thing added. But if I add something, it’s not because this, whatever this is, isn’t enough. It will be different. The balance will shift, an exchange will be made, and I will figure out a new pattern with the people I live my life with. 

And I want to begin what ever I start doing with the expectation up front that I am not trying to be perfect, but I am endeavoring to be whole. 

But first, I think I’m going to go eat another cookie and get another sticky hug from Roar. 

Fasting in the midst of a Pandemic

I’m getting lonely and restless. And this is not a sprint, it is a marathon. We are giving up so much so that we can help our community. We are fasting in action, in community, in gathering, in communal worship, in sharing touch outside our households.

If you’ve ever heard me talk about my call, you know that Eucharist is the primary source and focus of my call. The Lord’s Table is the way in and the end goal of my calling to ministry. And I don’t know when we will be Celebrating again. We are caught in an age of uncertainty, now even made more uncertain by the pandemic surrounding us. It would be comforting to share some Welch’s grape juice and King’s Hawaiian bread right not. And, we might get some to go with our green grapes on Easter. But it won’t be communion. We won’t have the body with us.

We may pray the prayer that the National Cathedral shared, for Spiritual Communion, a statement of yearning for the presence of Christ.

The Invitation to Holy Communion

A spiritual communion is a personal devotional that anyone can pray at any time to express their desire to receive Holy Communion at that moment, but in which circumstances impede them from actually receiving Holy Communion.

The presider invites the following prayer to be said by all:

My Jesus, I believe that you are truly present in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. I love you above all things, and long for you in my soul. Since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though you have already come, I embrace you and unite myself entirely to you; never permit me to be separated from you. Amen.

(St. Alphonsus de Liguori, 1696-1787)

We yearn. We yearn for the presence of Christ. We yearn for the gathering of our community again. We yearn for the table of our Lord to be shared. We yearn for the Kingdom of God to come.

But these things are not for now. For now, we fast. We shelter at home. We are apart, but we are not alone. And we pray.

Fasting – based on Matthew 6:16-18; written for St. Andrews UMC pastored by Rev. Sherri Barnes 

Holy God, we confess that we are unsure of what fasting looks like in the midst of great sacrifice. We are tempted to point to what we are giving up in the midst of social isolation and canceling everything, and say all of that is good enough. 

God, it is hard to not look dismal these days. 

Haven’t we given up enough?

Though we mourn what we are losing, turn our hearts toward what you offer us. 

You see us where we are. 

Guide us to find you in the midst of our empty spaces where we do not know what we are doing or where we are going. 

Remind us of your presence when we are frustrated, confused, and worried. 

Help us to be examples of hope in the midst of the unknown, in the name of Jesus Christ, and the strength of the Holy Spirit; Amen.