We danced in the kitchen to Cindi Lauper. We made big sloppy messes on canvases with real paint from mommy’s stash of art supplies. We bought a pass to the city water park and squeezed in as many days of splash pads and sunscreen as we could between exploring new city parks and trips to the library. We soaked up joy. For two years, joy was my star word, the word I used to guide my days and my dark. Last year I chose tenderness. I don’t know if I did well cultivating tenderness in my life, but I do know that I cried more in 2020 than in any other year, it was a hard yearand at times definitely felt like a lost year.
I’ve had the tradition for several years of picking a word that I use as a guiding star for my year. Just like the wisemen in the Matthew narrative traveled by the light of the Bethlehem star to guide them closer and closer to the holy, a star word, a word selected to guide, challenge and deepen can be a spiritual tool. For me, choosing a single word both helps me narrow my year down to a single point and provides a touchstone by which I can check in with when discerning what to do next. As I have talked about before, my word comes from what I already sense God is doing in my life, the word names what God is already up to and helps me get with the beat in joining God.
As I spent time on spiritual retreat at the end of 2021 (don’t get too jealous…it was a half day I had set aside) I discovered that while 2020 wasn’t the year I planned it still had value. I made progress, just not the progress I thought I would. I completed projects, just not the ones I had set out to create or complete. My 2020 goals were a total and complete bust, a straggly wreckage trailing behind me, the source of guilt and fodder for my inner critic. But in their place other things grew and flourished.
When I looked at what grew in the strange soil of 2020, it was everything I gave my steady attention to day in and day out, week after week. Scraps of time on the fringe of my day to write turned into multiple submitted (and some published) pieces. A few hours each evening saw the second year of my bi-montly newsletter not only completed but thriving, adding new members to this little community of people interested in faith, books and other nerdy things. Training after training amounting to twenty hours invested in becoming an anti-white supremacy small group facilitator within my faith tradition. An hour or two a week adding up to steady work helping guide white Christians through the hard conversations of anti-white supremacy work. Work with clients shaped around the contours of virtually schooling two small humans on late afternoons, squeezed between school Zooms and on weekends expanded my work slowly including more ministry partners to this work. For nearly a year of pandemic I showed up and said “what small thing can I do to make progress?”
It turns out that being steady creates impact.
This is hardly revolutionary. Steadiness is the foundational understanding of spiritual disciplines. You show up in a posture of prayer day after day, week after week, month after month and its not what you do in the time, but rather that you engage in God’s presence in the here and now.
The steadiness of our presence meets God’s steady presence and creates space for the holy. Both the mystics and activists amidst us know that the work is not flashy, fast or fancy. It’s steady.
I don’t know what 2021 will bring, if the first two weeks are any indicator we have some deep spiritual and cultural work to continue in the midst of a global pandemic. In short, I am not sure that 2021 will look much different than 2020. So what can I do in light of the uncertainty?
I am committing to being steady.
Steady in my ministry working with congregations to think through staffing and leadership development for the next phases of ministry.
Steady in supporting ministers as they seek rest, renewal and reframing through preaching support and coaching.
Steady in caring for the people in my sphere of care–my family, friends and neighbors. This was the most demanding year of my parenthood, but perhaps most rewarding. Why not name the huge commitment of time and responsibility in a global pandemic to childcare and make it a part of the expectation of 2021?
Steady in writing. I am so deeply grateful for the Louisville Institute for their unwavering faith in my writing project with their grant support. I cannot wait to finish drafting this project as well as continuing my writing in a variety of spaces.
Steady in my ongoing work to disciple people of faith in such a way that we dismantle the many manifestations of white supremacy in the small, necessary ways we can in our communities of influence.
Steady over remarkable.
Steady over goals.
Steady, one day at a time.
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