When Our Cathedrals Burn

The title of this post came to me weeks before I knew what the content would be. I thought I’d be writing about Notre Dame and the collective response to it, but I was wrong. While we were all glued to the news and watching the fire, a woman I’d never met was fighting for her life. I say I’d never met her, but I feel like I did. Her writing and social media engagement made many of us feel as though we knew her. For weeks, I checked twitter several times a day for her health updates, praying for good news. She had to recover. We needed her to keep writing, to keep questioning, to keep inspiring us toward openness.

…and then suddenly she was gone.

I was helping with a youth retreat and didn’t look at my phone until late at night. When I saw the news of her death, I found myself sitting in a bunk crying and grieving for someone I’d never spoken to.

The community Rachel Held Evans fostered online and through her writing was one of my cathedrals. It was a safe space where I felt welcome to work through my questions, doubts, and misunderstandings.  It was a place where I found other people who felt the same way. Once she passed, it became evident how many thousands of people are at a loss now. It was all so sudden…and so many strangers are part of this bereft family.

Rachel went public with her questions and her journey to find a faith that addressed the very real problems in this world. She articulated things I couldn’t put into words, but had felt for years. She did not shy away from expressing her views even when she knew the critics would vehemently attack. She was not afraid to be wrong. And she was not afraid to apologize. She fought tirelessly to encourage people to keep their faith…because God was bigger than any human construct or behavior. She gave the outcasts a place to feel loved and welcome. She used her success to lift up and draw attention to other voices who needed to be heard.

When our cathedrals burn, we don’t abandon the cause. We rebuild.  

I’ve written and deleted so many posts over the years because I didn’t want to be misunderstood. No more. I’m ok being misunderstood by hundreds of people if it means one person feels known. I will be vulnerable with my thoughts and writing…and if it means I have to apologize for getting things wrong along the way, so be it. Rachel may be gone, but she influenced thousands of us who need to carry on the cause.

I’ve dreamed of being a writer for my entire life. The fact is: I am a writer. I don’t get paid for it, but I have a voice. I will use my voice to draw attention to issues that matter, to encourage people to think about new perspectives…and to build cathedrals where all are welcome.

Reflecting on a Habit

My planner for 2018 included monthly, weekly, and daily pages. I used the monthly and weekly spreads for actual planning and decided to use the daily pages for journaling. My method was more “document what you did and who you did it with” rather than “this is how I’m feeling or what I’m thinking.” It started as a goal to improve my cursive handwriting. I wrote the majority of my entries in cursive…but my handwriting is no better than it was a year ago. Still, I enjoyed having a reason to write in cursive. I still use the second grade rules, so my script is very generic and rigid. No one will ever hire me as a calligrapher!

Sample pages from my year of journaling.

 I missed less than ten days of journaling for the entire year. I’ve written in journals throughout my life, but this was the first time for a daily practice. At times, it felt like a chore that I was just doing to fulfill a commitment, and some of the entries were very bland.

But you know what? When I switched planners in 2019 to one without daily pages, I realized I missed journaling. It was neat to look back on all the things I did in a year, and to look at all the days spent with various people. The practice forced me to examine my days and find something to document. Every day I found something to say.

I’m not journaling daily in 2019, but I am making an effort to write notes on my weekly pages when I spend time with people or when interesting things happen. I had a very complete picture of my 2018 experiences – many things I would have forgotten by year-end if I hadn’t written them down. The process helped me reflect with gratefulness on things I would normally forget. My year was full of people, places, and memories I loved. Maybe someday, decades from now, someone will find my planner documenting an ordinary life in 2018…and get a glimpse of my world.

Are you trying something new in 2019?  Do you have a practice/habit that surprised you with its usefulness?