Tag Archives: friendship

Women of Advent

Winter Forest

I showed up 20 minutes late to meet my friend Mary at a small, hip coffee shop in the suburbs last week. We greeted each other warmly and chatted about our lives, curled around hot drinks to ward off the winter cold.

Although she is 15 years older than me, Mary and I are dearly connected friends who have shared similar pains in our lives over the last year. She feels like a kindred spirit to me, and these moments to catch up are sacred.

As we got up to leave, she handed me a copy of a Janet McKenzie painting of the Visitation between Mary and Elizabeth. It showed the two dark-skinned women, wrapped in layered shawls, standing close together with somber faces and closed eyes.

My friend pointed to the women and said, “Look, it’s us! We are both having something mysterious and new being born into our lives, we just don’t know it yet.”

The story of the visitation is a happy one: the delivery of good news, the treasure of shared experience. But the women in this painting look serious and intimate. Sometimes, my friend explains, joy is not smiley. Sometimes it is deeper, quieter. Sometimes the mystery we bear in our lives, though beautiful and good, is heavy and powerful.

My Advent expectation has been like that this year — more still than hectic, more weighty than cheerful.

I took the picture with me to my office at church, where I taped it up next to my computer. When I look at it, feeling my kinship with Mary, the expectant mother of God, and Mary, my friend who walks through life with me like an older sister.

I look at the faces of the women in this painting and I remember that it is holy to carry joy, even if it is carried quietly. I remember that newness will be born in me, even if I am solemn at its coming. And I remember that through the process of becoming, I will never be alone.

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Filed under Advent 2013, My Faith Journey, Spirituality

Getting the Story

Three small stories about stories

Every Sunday, he is the first student to arrive for class. He seems quiet and disconnected. He doesn’t like the songs we sing. He doesn’t say hello to me.

But I ask him about his bike, and he lights up to tell me about the places he rode, the races he won, the jumps he’s conquered.

I love his seven-year-old tales of glory, his sudden brightness and hand movements. I love that this is our ritual every week, and that every week the stories get bigger and bigger.

Sometimes getting the story is about asking the right question.

We are split up into groups of three, and I notice an elderly couple all by themselves. I pull up a chair and introduce myself. The prompt question is about a time of valuable learning in our lives. I’m worried this exercise of group sharing might be too hokey for them, too out of their comfort zone.

But they tell me incredible stories about their marriage, raising their children. They tell me about sudden devastating illness and quitting smoking cold-turkey together, as a couple. They tell me about gaining wisdom and sticking together.

I soak it all up, and I don’t even get a word in edgewise.

Sometimes getting the story is about listening more than speaking.

For the first few months, she won’t even return my phone calls. I know she’s been hurt before, and I need to earn her trust. I’m nervous about approaching her, but eventually we end up at lunch together, across a table of BLTs.

She knows everyone in the diner, greets them with hugs and laughs. We talk, of course, about the program we run together, but also about everything else: how she likes her coffee, her favorite neighborhood haunts, her health and relationships.

I get the honor of hearing the story of those past hurts, and I’m moved. I feel the powerful of kinship spread between us like warm sunshine, and her story becomes my story because I understand. And then we are two.

Sometimes getting the story is about waiting until you’re invited.

Friends, have you noticed how many people are incredible storytellers? I keep finding them everywhere! What have you learned about getting the story?

Don’t forget to hop on over to Emily’s this week and meet some other storytellers.

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Filed under Musings

Infinite Possibilities

May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May today there be peace within.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received,
and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones, and
allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of you.
(St. Teresa of Avila)

Today I swept the kitchen, first thing in the morning,

to prepare for more visitors.

This house is like a way station, and one guest is hardly gone

before the next arrives. I feel grateful and full.

– – –

Today I walked home barefoot

because the sidewalk was warm and the air was cool

and the world was beautiful —

and I believe a beautiful world should be felt up close.

– – –

Today I ran into a friend at the train station,

an unexpected delight to us both,

and someone made space for us to sit next to each other

so we could chat.

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Filed under Musings, Spirituality