Partners in Prayer

Are you looking for an Advent study that takes seriously the call to “prepare the way” for God’s justice and reign on earth? In this year’s “Partners in Prayer” devotional, young Christian leaders from various backgrounds and walks of life write about the future that is emerging in this generation and the incarnation of God’s presence in the marginalized places of our world. I had the honor of editing and writing for this devotional during the last Advent season, and its stories, reflections, and prayers reveal the transformative, justice-seeking hope of Jesus’ coming.

Find the devotional here.

Fall journal excerpts – Activity, passivity, and becoming dry bones

I’m always hesitant about writing these journal-entry-posts.  Since these words were scribbled quickly in a notebook with a pen (no eraser/backspace), it’s not my most polished writing.  But it is my most honest.  And if I want to show a movement into the home space, I have to start with where I was.

Different times in our lives require different speeds of movement, but I have noticed something about my own tendencies.  I have a lot of steps I need to move through.  It takes a while for me to adjust to a new routine or a new space.  How I get there varies, but in the end I always have to come to this conclusion before I start moving upward again: I will never get where I want to go until I let myself go where I need to go.  Sometimes I need grieve and mourn.  Sometimes I need to rest and slow down.  Sometimes I need to find myself stripped of my own strength so that I stop relying on it.  

Ezekiel 37:1-14

The hand of the LORD was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.  He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry.  He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

 I said, “Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!  This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.  I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’”

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone.  I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.

Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’  Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel.  Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them.  I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.’”

 September 4 

It was easier to fight back melancholy and malaise in Ukraine.  I had a purpose and a goal.  Teach English.  Get through the year.  Here, back home, whatever that means, everything is much more nebulous and slippery.  I haven’t arrived here with a missionary mentality, I have no sense of what will be short term and what long term, the well of strength I pulled from has been all used up.

I start my new job in two days, and I am excited to have a regular schedule again.  I’ve felt I should take advantage of all this free time I’ve had, but I’ve not been very good at it.  All the things I’ve had down on my running “possibility list” would perhaps tempt me under different circumstances – crocheting a rug, making a collage booklet, reading, working on the dollhouse, writing letters.  The problem is that after spending most of the day alone, it’s hard to look at that list and get excited about doing one more thing alone.  This was an issue in Ukraine but expected there.  I’m supposed to be home now.  And I think I might have, by the end, had more friends in Transcarpathia than I do in Bloomington.

I don’t know why, but going to bed here always seems so terribly anti-climactic.

September 19

In Péterfalva, I had an evening snack of bread as often as I could, plucked from the bread-scrap bag left out by the cooks after dinner.  Sometimes the students had picked over and hoarded everything (I often saw them the with foot-tall piles of bread as they walked toward the dormitory), and I was lucky to get a few heels. But, oh! the bliss of a few chewy slices of bread as I sat down to watch my latest BBC infatuation.

Tonight we actually had good bread in the house – Mama purchased it especially for me – and I ate two small slices with banana in between.  That was a combination I ate in Péterfalva a few times, usually as part of a on-my-own meal, bread being the cheapest available food and bananas, surprisingly enough, being the most readily available fruit.  I remember how lonely and, yes, bored, I was sometimes in Ukraine.  But I can’t help feeling homesick for the simple, pleasurable routines I created there.  For how small and big I felt all at once.  I really wish I could have one big debriefing session so that the whole thing would stop feeling like a dream.

September 27

I still can’t get used to strangers talking to me.  The woman tonight at the roller rink – in the U.S., being in the same place as another person creates a bond.  People who smile at me in the street – I can’t react fast enough.

October 24

[In reading my diaries from 10 years ago that I found in the basement, I’ve found another thing] I need to be careful about: over-committing myself.  My 14-year-old self was spread too thin. Soccer and violin and youth group and Conference Board of Youth Ministries, and ballet and musical theatre, and playing music with Dad, and sign language, and writing, and leading worship.  Oh, yeah, and I was a freshman high school student.  And a daughter and a sister and a friend.  No wonder I was feeling overwhelmed.  In the pages of my diary, I constantly bemoaned why.  I think I believed that I couldn’t be over-committed if I liked everything I was doing.  I put all the blame on loathsome math, convinced that this one thing I didn’t like to do was causing most or all of my stress.  Hogswhallop.

So much of my mental energy, too, was poured out in other ways: feeling out of place, the tension of being at an in between age, loneliness, heartbreak at my new discovery of how senselessly evil our world could be, questions of identity.  How could I expect myself to move gracefully through those growing pains if my schedule was jam-packed?

I have a lot of growing to do right now, too, and at 24 I think I’m more resistant to growth than I was at 14.  I’ll need more energy to do it.  So in my clamor to find meaning and purpose and a life outside this house, I need to be mindful and respectful of my limits.

November 1

As I neared the end of the final Emily of New Moon book, I felt all my internal organs tying themselves up.  I knew I would cry if she did not marry Teddy … and that I would cry if she did.

It had a happy ending.  Teddy and Emily came together in the end.  It was all very rushed, as if L. M. Montgomery didn’t know how else to fulfill the dream than with something dream-like itself.

I read my life and passion on Emily’s pages – until the end.  The end that I so ached for but also ached over.  Because my story doesn’t hold that ending (not yet), and I was left trying to convince myself of what should be a self-evident truth: I don’t need a romantic attachment to make me feel fulfilled, I won’t dissolve into the same loneliness Emily had without Teddy.

When I got up to clean the bathroom, I felt myself itching all over.  I wanted to tear at my skin, itch every cell away until that large, fleshy organ was gone and I was left only with bones and muscle.  Not raw.  But de-layered.

Life Cereal is giving out a few $50,000 prizes.  I thought about what I would do if I won.  Pay off my loans.  Donate to the family shelter in town.  Pay taxes.  Buy a ticket to Ukraine in time for graduation.  Work with the Roma preschool until November.  Go to Taizé.  Stay for 9 months.  Then?

I like that plan.

I told [the Bird] today, as she was looking at me in the rear-view mirror with exhausted eyes, that since our bodies get tired when we are having a physical growth spurt, maybe we also get tired when we are growing mentally and spiritually.

But what about when you itch?  Not growing pains, but an unbearable itch?  Is that when your body wants to shed some growth?

What if I became dry bones?

Be ever thankful (2)

This week I was thankful for:

– a long phone call to a faraway friend; sometimes it’s easy to pretend that we’re actually just sitting across the couch from each other

– a mother who lets me decorate for Christmas as part of my rent

– a workplace that lets me decorate for Christmas as part of my job

– clementines; it’s so easy for me to imagine how these little orange spheres of goodness featured so prominently in Christmas stockings of old

– the book The Vigil: Keeping Watch in the Season of Christ’s Coming by Wendy M. Wright; I’ve been wanting to read this book during Advent for probably about 10 years, and I finally pulled it off the shelf in time for the beginning of the season.    This slim but full volume has provided me ideas to rejoice over and chew on, and I probably don’t do it justice by reading it just before I fall asleep.

Advent, the season of waiting and preparation that comes before Christmas; as someone who often finds herself in in-between spaces, it is comforting to know that there is an entire liturgical season that the church has dedicated to in-between-ness.  More on that later.

be ever thankful (1)

It’s always easier to be where you are when you know where you are.  (Say what, Yogi?) And what better way to know where you are than to recognize what you are thankful for.  Every week, a new list.  Every day, a new brick. (See be ever thankful tab.)

Things I am thankful for this week:

– improving health (being sick is dumb)

– noodles (especially: the slurping of noodles)

– Miracles on Maple Hill, a delightful children’s book that kept me company one of my sick days

– woolly socks

– a mother whose acts-of-service love language was speaking loud and clear this week

– a flexible and understanding workplace

– the return of sunshine

– a moment during the sunrise this morning when the too-large red sun behind the bare trees started setting upwards behind a cloud

– frost

– peppermint tea