I look up to a Monday moonrise after stepping outside for a break from choir parent assistant duties. Walking a winding path to the hilltop, I stop and survey my surroundings. The view is breathtaking, calming, peaceful. I feel grateful for the gift of space and beauty.
This Monday was particularly challenging from the start; one of those days that feels as if there is no chance for recovery after the initial stumble into it. Thin margins equal no margin. Each bit of today’s margin was swallowed by the previous thing or the next thing, leaving very little space to actually be in the present thing.
The moonrise calls me back to what is now, not what was or what is coming later, because there is still more left in the day. There are still at least two more things that will go wrong. I do not know this, yet.
Returning to finish out rehearsal, I am faced with more that is unexpected, and at this point try to just lean into it. I am glad to be able to work tonight and not be home with a sick child or two. I am thankful that in the midst of the many challenges there is health.
I thought outside of the box today. After choir, while shopping for black flats for my chorister, I realized my bank card was in the hands of another who had run an earlier errand. Rather than following my usual defeatist mentality and leave the store once I realized this, I chose to continue to shop with my child for the shoes and then order them online to pick up tomorrow.
In the midst of all that was hard and all that felt discouraging, at the end of the day there were filled water jugs, ordered tights and shoes, eggs, milk, and bagels in the refrigerator, and expanders in a different child’s mouth, preparing for a journey with braces. There was a mug of hot tea.
Also, this song which seemed fitting for this Mondayest Monday.
I exit the house a little after noon, stepping into glorious fall sunshine. I pass a friend with her two littles, returning from the Lucy F. Simms Continuing Education Center, our polling place. The older rides his glider bike expertly while the younger kicks his legs in the stroller. We exchange brief greetings and continue our separate ways.
Seeing neighbors out and about going to and from the polls is a part that I love about election day.
I follow a series of right and left turns, passing two little boys playing in their yard. They look at me quizzically. I smile and cross the street where a tree with burnt orange and brown leaves overhangs the sidewalk. I make a mental note to take a picture on the way back.
A final left leads me to the parking lot lined with polling signs. Turning into it, I follow the sidewalk to where the volunteers pass sample ballots and chat with their peers. A man steps forward to offer a guide while the others look at me and keep talking. It feels strange. I take the guide and continue walking.
Walking towards the polling place is a part that I dislike about election day.
As I approach the entrance an older man and his adult son exit. The older man’s foot steps halfway off of the sidewalk where it turns at an angle, and he falls to the ground. Immediately everyone stops what they are doing to offer assistance. The slow fall into the grass seemed more embarrassing than painful to him, though I am sure he will feel the bruising. He rises quickly on his own and refuses the offer of a call for help.
People coming together in spite of their differences to help another hurting human is a part that I like about election day.
Grateful to have pocketed my driver’s license before leaving the house, I state my name and address and show my photo when asked. Familiar faces, aged a little more since last year, check me in, hand over a ballot, and direct me to the voting tables.
Seeing the friendly faces of the poll workers each year is something that I like about election day.
How far we have come since the early days of voting in a booth with a curtain around it!
Marking the ballot is a part that is hard for me on election day.
It always reminds me that politics is messy. It is truly an exercise of discipline and will for me to mark the ballot and make movement from table to scanner, which I do. This year the lady monitoring it has stickers. Unlike last year, I am early enough to get one. We laugh about that while waiting for my ballot to scan. It has to be re-inserted.
Waiting for my vote to count is a part that is hard for me on election day. Laughing with the lady at the scanner makes it easier.
I turn to exit through large glass doors that look as if they should slide open. My mind thinks, This isn’t the grocery store! My body stops awkwardly and waits. I do not know how to work these doors, and unlike years past, there is no sign to tell me.
Awkwardly not knowing what to do in any situation is something that is hard for me always! Election day just intensifies the shame.
I figure out which door to push, aided by the kind lady holding stickers, and exit the side of the building. Exhaling, I realize I have been holding my breath. I take air deep into my lungs and begin the walk home.
That is when I realize that I am wearing a red shirt today and that red and blue are colors that hold meaning on election day. The odd looks and vibes I sensed while walking in begin to make sense. Why only one person offered me a sample ballot feels more clear. Usually I am peppered with pamphlets.
Alas, my choice of color today is not due to a political leaning or subconscious voting clue or statement. It is out of necessity that later this evening is a choir event where parent assistants are asked to wear SVCC colors of red, white, and black.
Making sense of something that feels off to me is something I like any time!
The walk back feels lighter, and I stop under the overhanging tree branches and look up to take a selfie documenting the moment. The effect is not quite what I had in mind, but, satisfied with my sticker and thankful for all of the ways I have exercised today, I return home.
It is Easter Sunday, a time to celebrate the resurrection and all things new. Yet, even on Resurrection Sunday, many sit in Saturday still, the space of death and loss. It is a tough bind to hold, that of rejoicing in the hope of the resurrection, while simultaneously mourning that we remain here in the death.
Yesterday’s news of the untimely loss of a precious child I was blessed to work with this year in the SVCC and this morning’s news of horrific attacks on worshipers and tourists in Sri Lanka, make the words I was so eager to share today seem flat and trite. How does the story I want to tell even begin to matter in light of the bigger picture?
I think it matters. I think it matters that beauty and hope can be found in unlikely places, in personal ways. This week’s resurrection story came at the perfect time, in an unexpected way, and I share it here now.
Wednesday was full of goodness. I worked on an online class in the morning, created in my art journal after that, had a Facetime call with two dear friends, did the after school pick up.
I noticed while driving past my house, that there was a box on the front porch, a package. I did not remember ordering anything, but sometimes Steve or one of the adults does, so I made a mental note to check when I got home.
Then I forgot.
Afternoon routine involved connecting with kids, preparing supper, wrapping up the day, watching a favorite Youtubechannel while working in the kitchen. An unboxing was happening there (go to 15:53 if you click on the link), reminding me that there was a box waiting on the front porch. I stopped what I was was doing to go check it out.
It was labeled as containing 50 hangers. This struck me as interesting and odd at the same time. I use a mishmash of hangers and wondered if maybe Steve wanted to start using nicer hangers or if one of the adults had gifted me with a box of them.
The return address was local, but unfamiliar, and read Shoot for Your Dreams. The closer I looked at the box, the more dented it appeared, and I began to feel an odd sensation relating to opening it. Was it a good idea?
This has happened twice before. I was afraid to open an unexpected package and felt an unreasonable anxiety that maybe there was something dangerous inside. The first one held cherries, the second, a thoughtful gift.
Bracing myself, I opened this box.
I removed this.
Untying the strings at the top, I pulled out a gorgeous spring Gucci bag. I. Was. Stunned.
I took it to show my son who began snapping pictures and researching the pattern and authenticating numbers. Yes, it was a real Gucci bag. The mystery deepened, and remains. I had suspicions that did not pan out, and clues that have not come all the way together.
I decided to receive the beauty and rest in the mystery.
For this particular gift to arrive in the midst of Holy Week, felt significant. I wrote in this post a story of loss. A death, if you will. Out of the dented hanger box came something beautiful, brimming with images of life, flourishing like my word this year. I was overwhelmed.
It felt so personal and kind, this third surprise package. It reminded me of another gift of three.
This is my resurrection story today. It is the resurrection of new beauty in a new season of life. It is the receiving of a generous gift that holds deep meaning from a giver that I cannot see. It is relinquishing the need to know everything and trusting the evidence that I have been given.
I am seen, loved, celebrated, encouraged.
Dear Mystery Giver, Thank you for this generous gift. You have no idea, or maybe you do, how blessed I felt to receive it. In this season of stepping out and showing up and starting something new, your thoughtfulness and generosity reminded me, once again, that my labor is not in vain. God works in the unseen spaces and brings to new life things we thought have died. He provides exceedingly, abundantly above all we could ever imagine or dream. I certainly did not imagine or dream the contents of this package! My husband, the giver of the original bag, told me that this one is amazing and so much more beautiful. And I agree. I loved carrying it to church this morning. Blessings and Love to you!
Dear Reader, Thank you for staying with me to the end of the story. I don’t know where you find yourself this Resurrection Sunday. Maybe you, too, are rejoicing at seeing a glimpse of the goodness of God in the land of the living. Maybe you are grieving a deep death or loss and don’t believe there will ever be goodness. Wherever you are, please know that you are seen and loved by the one who cares about the things of your heart, even the loss of a bag from your teen years. He is in the business of restoring and making things new.
My final post of the year was unplanned, yet begs to be written. A New Year’s Eve twist finds me at home rather than out celebrating downtown. A surprise sum of money collected earlier in the day finds me with funds to donate when I was unsure there would be any. Now I need to write about it.
For the past several years, I have donated to theRed Tent Living team in their efforts to raise money to combat human trafficking via Dressember. Cheering them on from a distance, admiring their choice of outfits, I never participated fully by wearing a dress myself or calling attention to the movement.
This year I began pondering what it might be to participate by wearing a dress or skirt each day. The month of November found me wrestling the idea, torn with ambivalence and struggling with what was going on inside of me to offer such resistance.
On December 1 I put on a skirt, telling myself that I would regret not wearing one if I decided to go through with the challenge. That day was an early-morning choir rehearsal for the Shenandoah Valley Children’s ChoirChristmas concert. I am a parent assistant and received many compliments on how nice I looked that early in the morning.
The following day was Sunday and was natural to dress for church as well as for the choir performance. Day 2.
I continued through the month. On Day 4 I wore a dress to my exercise class. It was the one I wore to my son’s rehearsal dinner the month before. The other ladies in the class admired it and seemed surprised that I would wear it to class, but they did not ask further details and I did not offer any.
The month rolled on, and each day I wore a dress or skirt. It was easy because I have so many of them. In fact, what made it easy is also what made it difficult. I realized that my story with dresses and skirts is what was keeping me steeped in ambivalence.
At the final exercise class of the season, I determined to share why I was again wearing a dress while exercising. There was a new participant, and at the end of class when we were talking I shared why I had worn a dress to the previous class and why I was wearing one now.
I looked at the newest member of the class and said, You could just think I’m that lady who wears dresses all of the time which I am not. I have already been down that road.
Because I have. And that is what made this so difficult. My story with wearing dresses feels shameful and confusing, and to call attention to the fact that I was wearing one triggered deep feelings tied to clothing and body image and a whole list of other related baggage.
Having purposed in my heart to wear a dress each day, I continued to the end. Confident that I would find some extra money to donate, I waited. Christmas money was absorbed by medical bills and other necessaries. Time began to run out. End of year finances tightened to the point that Christmas cards still remain on the mantle, addressed and waiting for stamps.
The final day of December, the final hours arrived, and a message came, thanking me for a job I had done for a loved one. She told me there was money to pick up for it. This was an unexpected twist in my day.
Grateful, I stopped by and collected a generous amount. It gave me $20 to donate, which is not much, but it is something. These days, to me, it is much.
I have my dress on, though my New Year’s Eve plans changed. I wonder if they changed to give me time to write this final post. To share my journey and struggle and wish that I had sorted all of this out sooner.
This was the time to share. I am still sorting, struggling, pushing through.
Shame says It’s too late. Why bother? You should have made this decision at the beginning of the month.
Standing backstage, I realize how much of my life mirrors this space I inhabit with rows of choristers, their accompanists, and other parent assistants. Together we work to prepare for a concert about to begin.
I pass tissues, bandage fingers, collect trash. I smile, encourage, and whisper final blessings as sparkling children step out to take the stage. Then the space is empty and quiet.
I wait backstage to receive the choristers after this first number and to help them prepare for the next. In this waiting I look around, take deep breaths, collect my thoughts.
Empty bins line the wall. Some rest on a rolling cart. Their contents decorate the auditorium. A tall, glittering Christmas tree, large golden stars, white lights, and colorful hanging banners all have been pulled out to say Welcome Christmas.
Music drifts back, muffled by the curtains and acoustic shell that surrounds the risers. I know its sound. I have listened as it was created, sat as singers worked through it, encouraged and supported those creating it.
I imagine the conductor in her sparkly black gown on stage, drawing out the beauty of the children’s voices. This is her gifting and glory, and it is apparent as this concert begins. My glory is in support. It is backstage that I sparkle.
I navigate behind the scenes well so that others can take their place on the stage. Behind the scenes work happens to create the magic. Laughter, tears, blood, nerves, these all bring life to a performance as it is pulled together and placed on display.
It takes hours backstage to roll out a polished performance. Not all get the privilege of knowing where broken spotlights hang waiting for repair or how many plastic totes it takes to pack up the Christmas sparkle.
I see all of this and more.
My gifting is in seeing and supporting. It is calling forth potential from deep inside of another. It is in naming glory, and this day is glorious. These children and their directors are glorious.
I sit with myself in this tension. Rather than blessing my backstage beauty, I question what is wrong with me that I am not the one on stage. Not just here but in other realms of life. Why do some seem to hold the spotlight naturally, to pull things together, to speak from the front lines with confidence?
Ideas come to me. Memories. Thoughts. We cannot all crowd the up front space. Doing my job well supports others in theirs, and as we each find our unique place, we create beauty. It is not about who is center stage but about how we come together in support of one another for the sake of something bigger.
Deep gratitude and joy flood my heart as I witness and participate in the thunderous applause and standing ovation following the final number. Glory radiates, flowing over the crowd as we celebrate together those on the stage, and I celebrate inside the backstage beauty.