Tabernacles, Too.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Personal photo

A year ago – on March 5, 2020 – I sat on this bench and stared at this church and took a photo just like this one, feeling something stir within me. I was visiting the Catholic University of America campus in Washington, DC, discerning enrollment in the university's PhD program in English in Fall 2020.

With ample spare time between lunch with a pair of current students and a meeting with the Director of Graduate Studies, I wandered into the campus library. As a visitor, I found the building map difficult to decipher and, in searching for the literature stacks, stumbled into the philosophy and religious studies reading room instead. Surrounded by so many motivated students, quietly toiling away in the study carrels before their spring break, I felt that I should read something, too – and that some extra prayers wouldn’t go amiss right then. So I pulled a lectionary off the shelves and flipped to the readings for Mass that upcoming Sunday: the second Sunday of Lent, Year A. The first reading explained how God called Abraham from his homeland to a land that the Lord would show him: away from all that felt familiar and comfortable.

I reflected on these words again at Mass the following Sunday, after returning home. Was the Lord calling me somewhere new?

Then, two days later, I sat with my friend Kat in the Colorado sunshine during our lunch break and shared with her all that was vying for attention in my discerning thoughts. “I just don’t know,” I said. “It would be such a big risk. How do I know if it’s the right one? And…” I hesitated to mention the part I was most nervous about, “what if I take the leap and God doesn’t catch me?”

Kat sighed thoughtfully – as she usually does before she’s about to drop some wisdom – and leaned back on the bench, stretching her legs out in front of her. “You know, I think we usually believe that we have to have all the answers before we can trust,” she said. “But trust is what happens when you jump. You build it in the not knowing. You build it when you allow Him to show up and catch you, moment by moment.”

We all know what happened after that. Three days after that conversation, we all jumped – every last one of us on this big blue planet. We didn’t know where we were going as coronavirus took hold of our hopes and dreams for the foreseeable future, and schools, venues, and restaurants closed in rapid succession. We were all called, like Abraham, to leave the familiar comforts of our homeland and journey to a place that God and God alone would show us, because goodness knows we were powerless to conceive of it.

It seemed so counterintuitive to look all this uncertainty squarely in the eye and add more uncertainty to it.

And yet. When the world got quiet, I could hear myself think. And more than that, I had created space for the still, small voice to speak to me. And God called me to leave my homeland and follow Him to Washington, DC.

So I did.

I wish I could offer some sort of resolution to the story, and say that after moving here, everything unfolded with ease and perfect understanding. But I left campus that day last March with more questions than I had answers, and I have them still. Trust is a dance I’m still learning to do, daily.

But here’s the thing I’m learning, a fact which isn’t a resolution but is maybe, at least, a promise:

If God is Mystery, then uncertainty is sacred. The not-knowing, the blurred vignettes of our daily existence: these are tabernacles, too. He is here. And as we are walking together, I am learning to trust Him so much more deeply than I would have if I had only stayed still in fear. Because trust is indeed built in the dark, but more than that, it’s built in companionship. And when I move without knowing, that’s when I allow God to show up by my side.

So I keep forging on. And because I know that He goes with me, I walk with confidence.



Mission Statement: To Seek and Share What's Beautiful.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Photo by SPACEDEZERT on Unsplash

I think it’s time to update my mission statement, especially seeing as how I never really wrote one to begin with. Oops.

There’s an “About” page on this blog that comes pretty close, I think. But while it shares a little bit of my story and explains where I derived the name of this blog from, it doesn’t really describe what I want to do in an active, mission-oriented sort of way.

People talk a lot in the writing world about “serving your reader.” Who is your reader? What do they need? How can you encourage them?

For a long time, I didn’t know the answer to that question because I was writing just for me. Or for a person just like me: someone searching for her place in the world. I’d write whatever stirred up in my heart and hope that it would resonate with someone else, too. It wasn’t an unhelpful way of proceeding, but it did feel a little as though I was missing something. What does the world really need? I wondered. And how can I serve it?

I realized that at the heart of the encouragement I hoped to provide for others lay the determination to show people that this moment -- whatever anxieties or fears it might hold -- is not the end. That there is Resurrection hope and glory on the other side of the longing, of the mess, of the transition. That there is a surplus of beauty worth clinging to in this world.

Recently, I logged back on to Instagram after a months-long fast to find a single post from a college acquaintance named Georgie about how she was choosing to step out in bravery, trying this new blog writing thing and sharing her heart with the world. Encouraged by her “yes,” I reached out to see if she wanted to be writing accountability buddies -- or just writing friends, more generally speaking. She agreed, and we chatted for an hour one evening last week about inspiration, fighting lies and impostor syndrome, and living bravely: what it looks like to call forth the good in other people and in ourselves, to champion others’ success, and to see the world for all that still shimmers within it.

In listening to me share my own reasons for becoming a writer, Georgie repeated something to me that I had known intuitively but never really owned about myself: that my “theme” is seeking beauty and sharing it with other people. “What a time to be doing that!” she’d said. We need beauty now more than ever.

But really, there is never going to be a time when the world does not need beauty. I hear this call -- this cry -- issuing from every human heart, and I want this blog to be a space where it’s answered. Where the dreamers and the romantics and the storytellers can be satiated. Where we’re brave enough to cling to the promise of hope and joy in the middle of the mess, where we refuse to settle for the gloom and dismay that the world often peddles us instead. 

To seek and share what’s beautiful.

That is my mission. 

Join me?