Barefoot & Preaching is a syndicated monthly column in The Catholic Register.
Saving the open document on my computer, I close my door with intention, mentally leaving the worries of work inside my office. I wish my coworkers a good evening and check in with myself as I walk to daycare. We drive to school to pick up the big three while I review the evening’s supper plan. My oldest is finally big enough to sit in the front seat. We chat about our days while the small three connect in the back. The days blend together and I am keeping my heart fixed on Barbara Brown Taylor’s question: “What is saving your life right now?”
The question catches me off-guard almost every time because I forget that salvation is a moment by moment process instead of an end of time event. God reaches into reality to deliver me through difficulty, to sit with me in suffering, and to save me from destruction – when I consent to the saving. Sometimes I prefer wallowing in the weight of my losses than allowing God’s saving presence to find me.
The pandemic has shrunk our world, reduced things to the essential at home and at work; it has magnified the dysfunctional and destructive, at least inasmuch as the hard places are much harder to ignore and avoid. And our family was living in grief, one day at a time, for three years before COVID. This question has become an essential spiritual practice.
The answer changes constantly. In the first days of the pandemic, letting go of my expectations for normal was saving me. It was going to bed on time. Sitting, if only for a few minutes, working out my grief with knitting needles. It was the curve of my favourite mug, warm against my palm. Then, as winter gave way to spring, it was digging in dirt, and planting life. Staying close to the hope and miracle of seeds sprouting in the yard.
The God who has held me for every moment of my existence does not offer a heady salvation from a massive throne on a far off judgement day; the Spirit pours the saving into creation and wraps itself around me in every moment.
For as long as he has had breath, Atticus’ deepest joy has been laughter. He prefers giggling to lullabies. When I stop seeing bedtime as one more thing on the to do list, his chesty, toddler laughter saves me from my resentment one more time. A friend of Eliot’s sent pumpkin seeds for a contest. I had no idea that every morning in July and August, I would sneak out early in the morning to check on the blossoms. Those orange flowers gave me something to put my hope in for weeks on end. And then they gave way to two round, green pumpkins we checked on every afternoon.
School brought more change, and we are settling into yet another season in a pandemic world. God is saving my life with occasional walks with a friend, changing leaves, and the routines that have us sharing work. A couple weeks into school, our collective short fuse irritated me to the edge. I reflected at supper time that we get to choose the emotional temperature and weather in the house. It’s okay for us to feel hard feelings, and we can all choose gentle tones instead of reactive ones. I did not anticipate how much deep breaths and trying another way to say something would be saving us just a few weeks later.
The question is not concerned with what saved me yesterday or could save me tomorrow. Salvation is worked out in the present. Today’s answers may have been unimaginable yesterday and completely ineffective tomorrow. Three years of grieving before a pandemic have taught me to search the mess. In the middle of the mess is the thing that is saving me from my own despair and cling to it until I need the next thing. I need only to give myself over to God, present and healing, in this moment. Creation is infused with the Creator, so that saving can be done everywhere and in all things. Allowing myself to be held and saved here is the sacred and saving work of my life right now.
I want to practice curating beauty, participating in its fleeting possibilities, being carried away by the impossibility of it.
At different seasons in my life, I needed the protection Resistance offered because I wasn’t ready to face reality. She sheltered me from greater pain and gave me space and time to grow. Having grown and healed, however, I am recognizing that I have outgrown my friendship with Resistance because she brings more pain that she shelters me from now. It just took me awhile to see because the resistance has become an insidious habit.
As I prepare to celebrate the God who comes to us where we are, again and again, I am delighting that who God is always exceeds my experience and understanding.
Photo Credit: Jon Hansen, CsSROriginally Published in Living with Christ, Wisdom from our friends For most of my life, Advent was a time of preparing for Jesus’ coming, a joyful and prayerful time. We baked cookies and froze them, eagerly anticipating when it would be...
I got to spend two beautiful evenings with my Grandma in the week before she died last month. While I held her hand and listened to her stories, and then to her breathing when she couldn’t speak anymore, I was flooded with memories. Picking raspberries and eating more than we put in the bucket. Sitting on the swing in her garden. Watching parades and going camping. Crawling into bed on Saturday morning after Friday night sleepovers. Sometimes, remembering is effortless.
Thanks acknowledges what is as well as my need. Gratitude pours me out so I can be filled. Thanksgiving pushes me toward the next right thing.
I am convinced there is no moving on from the wounds that break our hearts; there are only shifts.
Photo Credit: Blake Sittler “Overdrawn,” I thought, as I drove out of the city on the first day of vacation. “I feel like my whole life is overdrawn.” The metaphor has been slowly revealing its roots over three weeks away, gradually giving over the gifts that can come...
Weather was at the front of my mind as I headed out to the lake for the long weekend in July with four kids in tow while my husband was away working. Temperature, sunshine, rain, and wind speeds affect packing and planning, and perhaps most significantly, our moods....
When I posted about being here on social media, a friend posted in response: Hearts are so so much bigger than places. He is so right. My heart could sort through back packs and listen to competing stories over pizza, let an ordination live stream in the background and facetime with Dad. I felt connected to all the people and deeply satisfied with being here in one.
On Being Barefoot…
Before the burning bush, God asks Moses to take off his sandals, to notice and reverence that he walks on holy land. This holy land continues to burn before me, before us, signaling God’s presence before we arrived rather than because we did. This life we are living was holy before we existed in it. This land and creation we call home is the first book of revelation, God’s love letter to us, bearing witness to the Creator of it all.Our lives and the moments that make them up are the stuff of sainthood, our invitations to participate in Divine life to be swallowed up and fulfilled by God. At the grocery store, in the false solitude of our cars and commutes, in our laundry rooms, and over text messages. My shoes run the risk of “protecting” me from the sacredness of this naked moment. And how I love shoes, and how my sensitive toes resist the prickles of grass and the mess of sand. But barefoot is how my spirituality works, daring to live an embodied and earthy love of Jesus who took on flesh. I’m wandering through this life, yearning to let go of my shoes, to walk reverently and with deep attention to what passes under my feet and to what isn’t yet my path. Barefoot is how I write, how I speak, how I work. Experience shored up against an insatiable thirst for knowledge; direct honesty honed by sensitivity; and vulnerability chained to a commitment to competency. And an unapologetically barefoot tendency to speak it as I feel it, which leads me to…
I’m a preacher without a pulpit, with words that burn until they are spoken ~ aloud or on a page.
My ministry is one of colliding words and ideas, reaching out to find a connection with God’s amazing people.
The world seems to me to be spilling over with grace and we seem to be people who, all too quickly forget that all of this is pure gift.
When I’m driving, eating, visiting, resting, cleaning, working, playing, and almost everything else, I’m frequently stunned by the pure miracle of what simply is.
It’s not all promised joy and ease, but it is all presenced and remembered by the One who gives it. And I can’t stop talking about it, proclaiming it, preaching this good news that we have not been forgotten or forsaken in any moment of this life.
For reasons I don’t quite understand, my words seem to be given to encourage and inspire. In a world where women and girls are still too-often silenced or secondary, I’m barefoot and preaching because my soul won’t rest any other way. If my words can be a gift to you, then that is a gift for me.