This is what I must remember

This morning at work, after the normal morning tasks of coffee making and ice gathering, after cleaning up the conference room from last night’s dinner,

after scrubbing dried/soggy lasagna off of a plastic utensil in a sink that won’t stay on consistently because hello, plastic utensils are very much worth this kind of cleaning effort,

after reading just the beginning of another blog post about laundry and tedium and the desert fathers who sought the spirituality of the most menial tasks, after clicking to something else because that kind of truth feels like too much this morning, after reminding myself: you have a job, this is good, be grateful,

after that, I poured myself a cup of coffee, sat down at my desk, dumped a couple packets of creamer, and just stared into the smooth, unperturbable surface, its color embarrassingly closer to white than black.

I feel stretched thin, and I don’t know why; my life is so good. I don’t want more. I don’t want better. I just want to feel less exhausted.

I want to embody hopeful anticipation, without haste, without impatience. I want to be kind and generous and open-palmed, all those things I’ve never been all that good at, but boy would life be easier if I was.

I want the advent to wrap itself around me, to change me. I want to embrace this real hope and good light that won’t be muddled by the mundane or rocked by my failures.

And it’s hard without a church, I tell you. It’s hard without community. It’s hard, sometimes, to force yourself to create the thing you know you need, because if you could just have it already, it would be so much easier to get started.

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I tried to remember the last time my heart and soul and mind felt this weight, these frustrated, negative thoughts that seem to fly through my mind faster than I can shoot them down. The last time I darn near hated myself for my own inability to just be happy already.

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I know it was like this shortly after I moved to Abilene. Oh, I hated Abilene. I hated its endlessly confusing roads. I hated the complete lack of a drainage system that resulted in a biblical flood every time in rained for more than 20 minutes. I missed my family. I missed my church. I missed Super Target.

I missed the life I had expected for myself. The one where I went off to college, and suddenly became a different person, where making friends was easy, and I was not only the most brilliant student of all time, but also the life of the party.

I think I was disappointed by how much harder it is to live in the reality of a moment than to imagine it. And I think I missed out on a whole year of loving that place because I was too busy focusing on the life I expected.

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The Sunday before graduation, we met one last time at the house in which we had gathered for almost two years. Each arriving to our little family holiday, laden with food and gifts and grace, greeted with hugs and cheerful exclamations.

We laughed uproariously, talked of deep things, drank more than our fair share of Mark’s darkest of dark roasts. We repeated our stories, shared our tears, offered our endless thanks.

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And before we left, Gina, the kindest of hostesses, commissioned us. Reminded us that we were about to go out, that we had been given this gift of real and true love for a time, for a purpose. 

We knew a community that was real, a community of joy and hard questions and “I love you” and “this doesn’t end here”. We would not be fooled by the cheaper imitations, we would not be placated by shallow and nice.

And so we left Abilene, left the house on Lincoln, but carry with us not a bitterness of what we left behind, but a hopeful charge, a belief, that here too, anywhere, we can cultivate a garden that blooms in generosity and faithfulness.

We are not passive victims of our circumstance; but willful participants. So we can bake the cake and offer it with open arms, invite them in, surrender our home and our coffee, gather around the table and share the bread, even if we don’t call it that.

We’ve done it before. It just takes time.

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So maybe the moral is that I’m still being taught patience, after all these years. How to be patient with new places, how to be patient with myself, how to wait happily, expectantly, resting in the gracious gift of this one, spectacular life.

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