Life. What do you do when it literally knocks the breath out of you? A blow so hard, it rocks you to your core. It leaves you on your back- gasping for just one, one, single breath? Seemingly hopeless. Lost for words to speak, let alone how to get up or go on.
Grew up a PK (pastors kid for those unfamiliar to the churchy slang lol). First at church, last to leave, alto in every choir, perfect attendance award for every single event, and at 22- found myself unmarried and pregnant. Blunt force blow. Faced with the choice. Adoption or raise this child support-less. Blow. No job, in college, no plan. Adoption seemed inevitable. Adoption seemed the last hope, in my world of none.
8 weeks after the birth of this beautiful baby girl, I found myself haunted by the ghost of her. A ghost, that kept me sleepless, joyless and hopeless. A ghost, I decided, I could no longer live with. After several scary moments. Phone calls. Life changing words spoken. I pulled away from the adoption agency, my precious baby in tow, no idea where to place my next step. Driving in circles. Sobbing. Crying out to God from my heart because I had no words to utter. Faintly, I recalled the words of a familiar hymn.
“When peace like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say It is well, it is well, with my soul It is well, with my soul It is well, it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul It is well (it is well) With my soul (with my soul) It is well, it is well with my soul.”
The words to this hymn have been my comfort for a lot of years now. Through the many blows knocking me to my knees, planning to keep me there, I continued to say, with greater assurance “it is well with my soul”.
I don’t know what your “blow” is today. I don’t know the weight of the burden scavenging all of your breath; but I do know, you have a Jesus, who loves you dearly. I know, that without a shadow of a doubt, you are the apple of his eye. And I know, with great assurance that, this too shall pass. Because of Jesus and the price He paid, you can also say, with unwavering assurance- it is well with my soul- because He is by your side. He longs to carry your burden.
“Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”
1 Peter 5:7 KJV
The days, these days, seem to zoom by in a flash. Not enough hours in the day to get it all done. I often resemble a grown woman-sized, outward personification, of the rabbit from Alice and Wonderland. Scurrying around, muttering wildly under my breath, “I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date.” Always, I seem to be late (or in fear I will be late) for something. Trying to cram a size 8 curvy fit day, into a size 6 super skinny jean day (y’all know exactly what I’m trying to say).
Yet somehow, when the sun sets, and I finally plop down, it feels as though it has been weeks since that 5 am alarm buzzed. As I attempt to recount the various tasks, deadlines and activities of the day, it seems impossible that only a few hours has passed since, I so begrudgingly, parted ways with my fuzzy slippers. How does that even happen lol? I literally feel as though I never stop, but at the end of the day, feel like I accomplished nothing…how about y’all?
In my devotion time this week, I stumbled across a passage that struck me to my core. Words so eloquently written from the perspective of a busy woman, mom, wife, student, employee…just like me. A call to “begin again”. Despite the many challenges facing me today- I get to begin again. I knew immediately, I must share this prospect of new beginnings with you ladies.
One last thing before I share this little treasure with you- a promise…
“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High, Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” Psalms 91:1
Without further adieu…
“Always we begin again.”—St. Benedict
I am longing for ordinary, perhaps even experiencing a call to the ordinary.
We have lived in extraordinary for so long—twins, moves overseas, a baby born in the Middle East, moves back to the States, deployments.
I have always been drawn to big and dramatic and loud and exciting. And I have never been more ready for ordinary.
In the Christian liturgical calendar, there are two periods called “Ordinary Time”—a span leading up to Lent and then another span, which I am in as I write, that stretches from Easter to Advent. This second stretch is called “Trinitytide.”
Ordinary Time calls us back to our simple practices, our roots, all our tending that tethers us to the present.
Ordinary time is where we begin again.
Not New Year’s Resolutions or Lenten Commitments or Advent Waiting.
Not the big stuff. Just the ordinary.
Feeding the cat. Washing my face. Opening the mail. Reading a poem. Sending a card. Making the meal. Witnessing and being witnessed. Holding. Nourishing and nurturing.
I love the idea of the everyday-extraordinary happening in the Ordinary, the periodic elements of this dying-living we are all doing.
Taking our meds. Confessing to friends. Breathing. Beginning again. Opening our hands and letting the wilderness— the unknown—be the wild place where new life begins.
This morning, I am back at my kitchen table, in the dark, hot coffee in hand. The heater is cutting through the morning chill.
I am reminded, as I type, sip, type, sip, of an idea my friend gave me: that any flat surface can be an altar.
She told me that wiping down a countertop or clearing the edge of a bathtub or tidying a desk . . . all of this creates a bit of space that becomes an altar if we will see it that way.
A place to commemorate and receive. A place to say thank you and to be loved. A place to surrender.
My prayer at the altar-table is this: God, give me only what I need for today.
I never want this part of my day to end, since starting to practice it. I go to bed looking forward to the heat and the coffee and the darkness. I have worshiped sleep in the past. Wanting rest more than I have wanted anything.
Now, rest is coming. And I am so very held and met in these dark minutes, maybe an hour. I want to harness it, stave off the light, but it comes. The sky begins to change. A child has forgotten to latch the chicken run tightly and the chickens begin moving in my peripheral vision. Important business, those chickens seem to always have, with the ground.
I’m never not surrounded by a stack of books, voices who meet me in this dark pocket. I see how I must get in bed earlier. I must turn the TV off the night before. I must take better care of myself if I am to get up and listen each and every morning.
The decisions to honor this time begin far before 5 a.m., and something about that feels right.
Feels congruent. Sacrificial and rewarding, like all worthy things in life. Now on to the altar of the countertop—lunch packing, breakfast making, dish clearing.
Every step an arrival, as the poet Denise Levertov wrote. An arrival into the present, which is always waiting for me to join it.
When I was minutes out of graduate school and brand-newly twenty-four years old, I drove from West Virginia where I had been in school, down to Virginia to pick up my little brother from college, home to San Diego, and then I slept for an entire day.
When I woke up, I found a book my mom left on my nightstand. A gift. Twilight Comes Twice. It’s a children’s book about dawn and dusk, a simple reminder that the sun goes down and the sun comes up. Every day. And twice, in between, we get the gift of these golden hours, these pockets of waking up and winding down.
No matter how beautiful and epic and glorious life is right now, the sun goes down.
And no matter how ugly and rejecting and hurtful life is right now, the sun comes up.
Something about this kind of saved me then and saves me now.
I was young and starting over geographically and professionally and relationally.
But more than that, the very rhythm of creation was reminding me that it wasn’t all up to me. Something was going on that was beyond me, behind me, below me, beside me.
And I just needed to join it, fall into it, beginning again and again and again.
I could join or I could resist.
But either way, the sun would set and the sun would rise—with or without me.
I could try to outrun the sun with my superhuman striving.
I could try to hide in the dark with my subhuman shame.
But the invitation, then and now, was to join the rhythm of creation, which is to be what we were simply and profoundly created to be . . . human.
Human. In all its extraordinary everyday ordinary.
If I am failing, stuck, and paralyzed, I always have the opportunity to begin again.
And if I am winning, elated, and propelled, I still must begin again.
None of us is too far gone, in the same way that none of us has arrived.
Could you and I join the rhythm of twice-a-day twilight that reminds us there are gifts in both the light and dark—illumination and stillness? If you’re in the dark, you can begin again.
And if you’re in the broad side of the light, you will still need to begin again. This is how we practice being human.
Twilight comes twice.
Yesterday afternoon, as dusk arrived, we were all in the pool, kids climbing on Steve’s back and jumping off the diving board in tandem, which I’m absolutely sure is illegal. The kids were screaming their heads off and the water sloshed up and over the sides of the pool from the aftershocks of their dual entries.
The setting sun made the pool water glitter like our own personal ocean. And it’s hard to imagine a sweeter moment.
But the sun goes down and we come inside and we rest.
And this morning I was up early, and the golden light was back again, the mountains out beyond the kitchen sink window backlit in blush.
And I was reminded anew . . .
Whether we are in crisis or chaos or calm, hope or disappointment, burial or resurrection, ordinary or extraordinary, we can—
because of the inexhaustible grace of God — begin again.
Thanks for joining me!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton