Persistence as a guiding star

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Attempting to incorporate our faith practices into the rhythm of daily life, on Epiphany back in January, we adapted an activity from Traci Smith’s Seamless Faith. I purchased thin wooden stars from the craft store, and labeled around 20 of them, each with a different virtue. To make it fancy (since that’s a thing I do), I wrote in gold ink with artsy lettering.

Then, we read Matthew’s account of the magi following a star to find a young Jesus. After reading together, we had the little pick one of the stars out of the basket.

What was chosen: persistence.

J hung the star on our fridge. And we keep coming back to it as we hit bumps and snags in life this year.

Though the activity seems arbitrary, a bit like drawing straws or gambling, what I appreciate is how that persistence star helps us find meaning in life events the past few months. It’s become a guide for noticing the Spirit.

Rather than seeing everything as meaningless, I find myself asking — what does this teach us about persistence? Where can I grow?

Where is the Spirit working in this? Who am I called to be in this situation?

The virtue has been a flashlight — a thin beam of hope lighting a way forward in the dark.

When I felt chewed up and spit back out earlier in January and February, persistence became a way to hang in there in spite of the desire to run away. Persistence meant staying fully present all the way through to the end of a story, even when I’d rather rip off the band-aid early and be done with the nerve-wracking wondering and anticipation.

And it’s not that somehow I mustered up this capability through my own willpower. It’s the work of the Spirit, who somehow makes a way when there was none. Somehow even when I’d rather seal up my heart like a clam shell in anticipation of pain, the Spirit compels me to stay open, to stay soft.

Perhaps a small miracle, but I still claim it as miracle nonetheless.

Recently I wondered for the first time how this word might be a blessing not just for me, but for the little who drew it. I wept on the thought, but found it comforting as well. That even apart perhaps there’s something in this word still drawing all of us onward. Keep growing, little one. Keep persisting.

This Lent, persistence shapes this practice of writing. I read and write — with varying degrees of effort. Some weeks the words and ideas flow easily.

This week is not one of them. Today I’d rather hide and fritter the day away. But instead, I’m here. Slowly word after word appears, in spite of the inner critic harping on all that’s wrong with me.

Writing about persistence was not the tack I planned take. But all the other stuff I contemplated writing felt like an effort to fix things irritating me on social media. And that’s not a place where I show up as my best self.

It’s a middle road, this persistence post. It’s what is in me today. There’s some other drafts I’m working on for the next weeks, and I’m excited to see what develops there. But those things aren’t quite ready yet.

So today yet again, I’m still putting fingers to keyboard, attempting to be faithful to my best self and to my own commitment.

Showing up means seeing myself as a writer, even in the midst of doubt over my worthiness. It means practicing this skill that tangles me up as much as it knits me back together — often both at the same time. It means, despite the unhelpful self-talk, I choose to practice self-compassion and post anyway.

For you, in whatever season you find yourself, I hope you find the persistence to continue showing up where it matters for you.

Practice over perfect.

13a394e1-84c1-43e2-a059-f1dd91d35686.jpegWords came easily last week.

I thought the same magic would happen again. That I’d have another experience reminding me why I love writing.

And then, I tried to write yesterday and today.

I wanted the work to be fast and for the ideas that bounced around my brain like pinballs for the last few months to finally come to rest. I sat all day with journals and computer screen. I wrote words and words. I went for a walk. I sat in silence.

I waited for something to spark, for something to demand to be said.

Yet nothing came to me. All those words on a page aren’t ready yet. There are nuggets of value in there, but they’re not ready to be released.

Because the magic of inspiration didn’t happen, I thought about skipping the post altogether. After all, who would really hold me to this weekly commitment?

This thought came to me: I need to show up. I feel called to writing, and I’ve let this calling languish while I’ve juggled other priorities. In ignoring this process, I’ve missed connecting with my own story. I need this as part of my own healing and wholeness.

If all I can do is show up to my commitment today, it’s enough. I can learn. I practice my skills. Practice over perfect.

It took a crazy amount of effort to generate these few words. But, here I am.

If you’re in the grit your teeth and honor a commitment season of your life, you’re not alone. Sometimes showing up is what we can do.

But, the wonder is that sometimes showing up is enough. It’s authentic. We own our failures, we learn, and we can try again tomorrow.

A feast for the beloved betrayers

bread and juice for communionEvery year in the week leading up to Easter, I read the stories of Jesus’ crucifixion in the Gospels. After so many readings, I know how the story ends.

Even so, I find myself wishing for an interruption in the story. I’m like Peter in Matthew 16 who wants to deny that suffering will happen to Jesus. I want Pilate to stand up to the religious leaders. I mutter to myself about the folks eager to get Jesus crucified, and somehow I pray each time they find some hidden capacity for grace and love over fear.

Resurrection — yes, please! But this crucifixion part, I struggle to look full on in the face. Continue reading

Converting old jeans into rugs, or a metaphor for Lenten life.

Ragged jeans

This spring I’ve cleaned out closets. I gathered up the stashes of jeans I’d been hoarding and unwilling to chuck — not the jeans that are simply too big or too small, but the ones with worn-out inseams or missing buttons. The kind not even the thrift store wants, as likely they’d get thrown into the garbage or shipped off to other countries. Tossing the fabric to the curb seemed wasteful. Continue reading

Making lemon meringue pie out of sour lemons

Easter Lemon and Limes

I wanted a different life story. The vindication story. The one where God shows up, makes me victorious and I get to move on celebrating. The one where the miracle happens and I no longer feel forsaken. The one where I wasn’t left holding the short straw.

Maybe the days just before Easter are an excellent time to process this. I’m not the only one to have my story take an unexpected (and unwanted) turn. Continue reading

The Last Unicorn

For those tracking my blog over the last week, you might be noticing a trend by now: infertility. Words keep tumbling out from me. And I think that’s going to be a thing for a bit. I’m in process of naming a lot of things. This is helping me feel sane (even if it makes you worried about me), so I’m keeping on with this adventure. If you’re bummed you missed the last posts that started this theme, you can find them here and here.

022316 new life springs up

So, why all this infertility writing? I want the freedom to choose a different story, to be able, with God’s help, to resurrect life from ashes. In order to do that, I think I need to name the dream being incinerated and the pain of watching it go up in flames.

I’ve been talking about the death of the dream of biological children. And, how do we grieve death? We tell stories. We share what a person was to us — their quirks, charms and foibles. We mourn what we know we lost and also what could have been.

Continue reading

On Lent and the Death of Dreams

022016 old cemetery

This is the post I wanted to start with yesterday. And then I felt like I was throwing up a Jesus smokescreen and cheating. So, I held back and wrote the messy, gritty one first. If you missed it and want to read it, you can find it here.

To be fair, this post is probably depressing, too. Jesus just happens to be a bigger figure in this post.

Continue reading