The Hundred-and-Sixteenth Letter: Marking Time & Social Distance

Dear Daughters,

With all of our activities cancelled, it has been difficult to keep track of our days, especially for you two. Normally, each day heads toward whatever the plan is for the afternoon and evening. A good example is Thursdays: on Thursdays, all day, you often say “it’s TRG day” because we co-host a theology reading group on that evening and you get to eat with and play with the kids of our co-hosts. You love TRG days and talk about it all day long. But we rarely call them Thursdays.

Without those markers, you’ve been a little disoriented.

It’s not that every day has been the same; it’s just that we have lost our weekly pegs to hang our schedule on. I can imagine it’s even more disorienting to children who normally head off to a classroom every day and are suddenly finding themselves at home. But even for us homeschoolers, it’s been hard.

We’ve lost our ways of marking the days.

As soon as our church cancelled two weeks of services–and I’ve really appreciated how proactive our church, local community, and Kentucky as a whole has been with setting high standards for social distancing–I looked at our Lenten calendar and knew.

I knew it would be disorienting, girls.

This year, only a few short weeks ago, I downloaded a free printable Lenten coloring calendar and printed 3 copies on cardstock so we could use our watercolor colored pencils every day. I wanted us to mark time together throughout the season.

I have always loved the liturgical concept of marking time, and your dad and I often try to get you to help us mark time throughout the liturgical year. Throughout the full year’s cycle, we have our weekly wooden “clock” of the wall, and we let you turn the dial one little dash every week. And during Advent and Christmas we have lots of ways to mark time, but we’ve not often cultivated a Lenten family practice that visually shows us that journey of Lent.

And so, when the two week service cessation was announced, and I looked at our Lenten calendar, my heart felt a bit heavy. I saw with my own eyes how close to Holy Week that would bring us–only one week before Palm Sunday–and I knew I wouldn’t get to see you wave palms this year. I also knew, as pretty much everyone does, that two weeks of social distancing wasn’t going to cut it. The likely scenario was that services would be cancelled straight through Easter.

It hasn’t been announced yet, but I wanted to write this before I know exactly what Holy Week and Easter will look like this year.

Because the truth is, whatever it looks like, however we honor the season, it will still feel disorienting. Because we’ve lost our pegs to hang our liturgical coats on. For now.

But it will be okay.

I’ve taught classes about and written often about how one of my favorite things about the cycle of the liturgical calendar is precisely that it happens over and over again. And when we honor it as a community, we get to walk alongside others and remind them, even when circumstances suggest otherwise, that we are still on the journey. That it’s okay to not “feel” a season. Some years, people die on Christmas Eve. And some years, babies are born on Good Friday. And it’s okay. We keep marking time and pointing to the work God is doing in the world through us and through the church.

Still.

I wanted to say this, here on this fourth Sunday of Lent: It doesn’t feel like Lent to me.

Days go by sometimes, and apart from coloring this little piece of a broken cross on our printable calendar–you’re the ones who realized that every four shapes make a cross, by the way–apart from this calendar, I can go days without reflecting on Lent.

But the truth is, it doesn’t matter whether I “feel like” Lent or not. The liturgical calendar isn’t about how we feel.

Because the truth also is this: we are currently living through what is perhaps the most Lenten of seasons the world has known in my lifetime.

So there’s that.

And it will be okay.

Love,

Your Momma

The Twenty-Second Letter: Labor Day & Marking Time

phonto

Dear Daughters,

I shared a story in church a few months ago that I hadn’t shared widely prior to that morning. It was kind of a big deal, standing at the pulpit, telling my story.

We’d decided as a church to “mark time” together during the liturgical season of Ordinary Time–that long, uneventful season from Pentecost to Advent–by sharing stories of the ways we individually keep track of time, the significant events in our lives that have shaped the way we see the world. These can be beautiful moments, but usually, if we’re honest, it’s the painful ones that we remember most vividly. The painful ones that keep coming back to us.

After I shared my story, a friend of mine, someone who is also a writer, asked me if I was planning to write the story out to share it more publicly. I said no, probably not, because while I’m pretty comfortable with strangers reading things that I write, I’m aware that much of what I write for public consumption has been tweaked and edited in such a way as to distance myself from the message. Most of what I write isn’t personal, even when it may seem personal.

There is something about being vulnerable I just don’t like. But my friend thinks that it’s important for us as writers to be as vulnerable and honest as we can because that is what offers hope to the world. Hope to the world.

She really thinks that voicing our pain and our trials and our struggles–being honest when life is hard–and saying me, too, is the way we offer hope.

So.

Maybe there is hope here.

This is the story I told our church:

On Labor Day 2013, I was six weeks pregnant and I had a miscarriage.

I called my doctor, and we decided that it was a textbook case and as long as nothing out of the ordinary seemed to happen, I didn’t need to go to the hospital or even make an appointment for his office–which was good, because I didn’t feel like sitting in a doctor’s office, crying my eyes out. I could barely talk to my mom on the phone to relay the news.

This was the week of our revival at our church. I went to every service but I didn’t tell anyone who superficially asked how I was doing.

I had never experienced loss like that before, though many of my friends had. It was a difficult and dark time, to put it in the most generous terms possible, and I decided, within days, that I never wanted to be pregnant again. My eldest daughter, my sweet girl, would be enough. I couldn’t risk this kind of heartbreak again. I wasn’t strong enough. I cried a lot.

A week later, I was dry heaving on runs and throwing up, and so I did go to the doctor. I found out that there were two embryos in my uterus. A nonviable embryo, which had caused the miscarriage symptoms, and an embryo with a heartbeat. It was good news, shocking news, and also nerve-wracking news. There was reasonable concern about this pregnancy, and it was considered high risk.

You might not know this about me, but I am a worrier. And not just a little bit. A lot. So this whole “high risk” business was excruciating. It weighed me down. Every day. I came to terms with every worst case scenario I could think of. And I still worried.

I worried in Advent as I began to share the news that we were pregnant. As friends and family expressed excitement, I worried inside. I couldn’t be excited because I was afraid.

I worried through the season of Christmas when we had our ultrasound and found out the baby would be a girl. Even her on-screen health didn’t reassure me very much.

I kept worrying through Epiphany and then Lent began. Would she come early, like her sister, and be a Lent baby, or during Easter? I wasn’t the only one wondering. My OB didn’t think I’d make it past Palm Sunday.

She arrived April 25, the Friday after Easter.

Our baby girl’s first name means “light.”

Her middle name means “pearl.”

Two of Jesus’s images for the Kingdom—a light in the darkness, the pearl of great price.

All of that—the darkness and light, the worry and the pearl of great price—is wrapped up in Labor Day for me.

Love,

Your Momma