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April 2022 (Belated): What's Saving My Life Right Now
Better late than never?
Well…it’s May 4, yet here I go anyway with the audacity to date this newsletter “April.” What I planned to send you on April 30, I also had planned to send on March 31, but it’s still here in an open tab in my web browser, a few paragraphs still in-process. I am trying to allow the space and grace for slow writing, trusting when my gut says the ideas aren’t quite fleshed out as well as I’d like just yet.
And yet, I have some writing pals (hi there!) who have gently nudged and reminded me to send April newsletter. So here I go, late but determined.
What’s Saving My Life Right Now
This prompt comes from Barbara Brown Taylor, or rather from a congregation to whom she was speaking once. They asked her this question, and it’s one I love to reflect on from time to time.
Today is a day when the news of the world, yet again, feels very heavy. People are throwing around the word “unprecedented” again, and I can’t say it isn’t warranted. Here in Indianapolis, yesterday’s sky was dark and rain fell in buckets for much of the day. And so it’s helpful to return to this idea of what’s saving my life, to remember the bits and pieces of joy and in the remembering, savor them. It’s like Mary Oliver said—joy isn’t meant to be a crumb.
Here’s what’s saving my life:
Watching Harry Styles and Shania Twain perform “Man, I Feel Like a Woman” together. Some of my most clear and distinctive childhood memories are of the music our family would listen to in the car. (I remember how exciting it was the first time we had a vehicle with a CD player!) A few albums and songs, in particular, take me right back to singing loudly with my mom and sisters, and one of those albums is Shania Twain’s Come on Over, which begins with this song. Here’s the thing: you simply can not watch this video too many times. It is pure fun and pure delight. I dare you to watch without dancing in your seat.
Ruthie’s drawings. These days, Ruthie walks around with a notebook and sparkly backpack full of markers, stopping at every available opportunity to fill up its pages. She draws these very distinctive heart-people. It started with simple lopsided hearts, and then she added smiley faces. Eventually, they gained arms, legs, hair, and even clothing. What’s more is that she finds the greatest delight in sharing her art, and I’m amassing quite a collection of these pieces. They make me smile and are also reminding me of what’s true about creativity.
The book Psalms for Young Children by Marie-Héléne Delval. Our church is preparing a summer series in which we’ll look at the Psalms together in our Sunday gatherings, and in preparation I returned to this book. It’s one of my very favorite spiritual books for children—the text is simple, clarifying the emotional resonance and relevance of the ancient psalms, and the art is beautiful. Highly recommend, whether you have children in your life or not.
Marco Polo (still). I remain perpetually delighted to see a little red “1” (or, if it’s a really good day, 2 or 3) next to this beach ball icon on my phone screen. Marco Polo became a lifeline during the pandemic and remains a source of connection. These days, we’re all sharing video tours of our yards and gardens, and what a delight to watch spring bloom in the lives of my friends, in real time. And speaking of that…
The spring flowers—tulips and daffodils— in my front yard. Back in January, Evan found an on-line deal on spring bulbs and purchased a “variety box.” The shipment was supposed to contain 150 bulbs, but instead a giant box of over 500 showed up. The internet convinced him we could plant in January and still have decent results, so on an afternoon during a thaw, we dug up our front flower bed and got to work. I was skeptical it would work, but lo-and-behold, the front of our yard is currently bursting with color and life. This just goes to show that sometimes it pays to go along with my husband’s crazy plans.
Returning to the truth of Matthew 11:28-30. This is one of my favorite teachings of Jesus, but it’s a passage I’ve heard so many times, it’s easy to gloss over. But it’s been coming to mind often over the past few weeks, and so I’m trusting that nudge and leaning in. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” When, if ever, are “gentle and humble” the first words I think of when I think about God? It’s giving me life to remember how very true this is.
There you have it, friends: a few things saving my life right now. Please share what’s saving your life in the comments!
The Good Stuff
Each month, I like to share a round up if some of the good I’ve found out there in the world, inspired by Louisa May Alcott’s admonition: “Keep good company, read good books, love good things and cultivate soul and body as faithfully as you can.”
A good book: Wandering the library recently, I saw When Stars Are Scattered on an end cap and scooped it up. That’s how it came to be sitting on my nightstand when Meg Tietz recommended it as one of her favorite middle grade books on an episode of the Sorta Awesome podcast. This graphic novel tells the true story of Omar, a Somali boy growing up in the Dabaab refugee camp in Kenya. I’ve only read a handful of graphic novels in my life, and it’s really not my favorite genre, but this is a beautiful book and I highly recommend it.
A good conversation: Kelly Corrigan Wonders is one of my go-to podcast listens these days. (She publishes a lot of episodes and I tend to only listen to the longer-form shows, only for the sake of time!). Her recent interview with Father Greg Boyle of Homeboy Ministries was wonderful. In that episode, he shares that when former gang members come to work at Homeboy, members of rival gangs are paired up to work together. I can’t stop thinking about this idea.
A good word: Morgan Harper Nichols really has a way with words, and this encouragement for a new month really resonated with me.
This month, I’ll let Mary Oliver send us off with one of my favorite poems:
If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don't hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that's often the
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don't be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.
Wishing you joy and hope in the month ahead,