Everything is Different This Time

In recent years I’ve found solace in the Church calendar. The rhythms of Lent, Ordinary Time, and Advent orient my soul to a cycle of renewal each year. It keeps my focus on the bigger picture, the collective experience rather than a self-centered view of the world. 

I thought I understood Advent until this year occurred. I grasped it in theory prior to 2020, but this year the idea of waiting took on a whole new meaning. I yearn for things to be restored, for new to arrive. I feel like we went from Lent straight into Advent. I’ve spent the better part of eight months in a state of waiting, a state of uncertainty, a state of wondering when things will change. 

Yes, I’ve found bright and encouraging moments over these months of distancing…but it doesn’t negate all of the hard, often painful things we’re enduring. 

I can count on one hand the number of hugs I’ve had in eight months. 

My sister is growing a human inside her…and my experience of this process is relegated to images on a screen. I’ll never get to put my hand on her belly and feel my nephew kick. 

I watch from a distance as my loved one battles a debilitating disease…and I can’t sit at her bedside to hold her hand. I can’t be with her in the moments when she needs someone to encourage her to fight. 

I can’t spend extended time with Mom. I have to consult weather reports and figure out distancing logistics just for us to spend a few minutes together. 

None of this is fair. We didn’t ask for this. But we take steps now because we are anticipating a change in the future. We have faith that a vaccine, an antidote, is on the horizon. 

These months feel like an eternity…

Imagine waiting centuries for a break in the silence, a break in the waiting. The waiting became a way of life. Generations of waiting. I cannot fathom such a concept. 

I yearn for a change, for a break of light on the horizon. Advent is no longer theoretical for us. It’s not just symbolism and remembrance. It’s reality. The whole world is in the midst of a type of Advent right now. 

May we carry the experience of this year with us – to remember the uncertainty and frustration of what it’s like to truly wait for something. 

Growth Cycles

For the first time in years, I have a backyard.

In the spring, I cleared all the debris and made plans: hammock, string lights, and a vegetable garden. I did all kinds of research to find the best planting containers, the ideal crops for my climate, the right soil to use, and the best times to plant each crop. I got all my necessary supplies and told all my friends of my intentions. 

I planned all kinds of posts for this site to document my progress, my harvests, and yummy recipes created with my produce. 

I marked the planting dates in my calendar…and when the time came, I put seeds in dirt. 

It felt meaningful to plant seeds and care for them. Every day after work I went out to the yard, anxiously waiting for something to sprout. 

And then…seemingly overnight the planters went from dirt to luscious greenery. 

I had this overwhelming sense of accomplishment as the plants grew! 

The excitement was short-lived. 

We had flooding rains for weeks followed by extreme heat.

In the end, none of my plants produced any vegetables. 

I was frustrated. The venture failed. 

But did it really fail? I learned things in the process. I have more knowledge about planting and soil conditions than I did last year. I know that I’m capable of growing things- plants did sprout- I just have a couple adjustments to make. I know what to improve next time. 

The whole process seemed like a lesson for certain aspects of my life: So many seeds planted, so much potential – yet nothing grew. 

I’d grown weary of getting my hopes up, sharing the anticipation with others and then having to share the let-down. Mourning dreams is a grisly business. 

But every once in awhile, I’d take a look around and notice a few things. My dreams may not materialize in the manner I expect, but the essence of what I hoped for shows up in various ways – A dream for a family manifests itself, for now, as a solid community of trusted friends who share in my journey. A dream for a fulfilling career manifests itself, not in a new job, but in role changes and support from my supervisors. 

The spirit of Advent reminds us that the things we hope for, the things we wait for, may arrive in ways that are wholly surprising. 

What’s caught you pleasantly off-guard lately?