I’ve written the first lines
Of a million and one poems,
With time only for beginnings,
Half-finished thoughts and undeveloped dreams.
I chase fresh starts,
Looking for Perfect,
For This Is IT.
Instead I find Good For Now.
But here, the sun is shining;
The trees are shivering into salient green buds,
And I think that’s good,
So I’ll pause, here, for now.
I’ve always had sympathy for the apostles who fell asleep while Jesus was praying in Gethsemane. I have even more sympathy these days, when a Friday night finds me, more often than not, passed out on my couch by 8pm. I wonder if they could have stayed awake better if they’d known why they had to wait so long. Waiting always seems easier when you know why, so perhaps they could have kept their eyes open if they’d understood what was really going on in that garden.
We’re just around the corner from the start of Advent. Every year I give a little nerdy spiel to my students about how the word “advent” comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “arriving”. I tell them about why that matters, and that we use this time of year to think about two arrivals of Christ: the one already happened, and the one not yet here. I tell them we live in a time between, and that Advent gives us the space to reflect on that in a special way.
The problem is, outside of the Advent season, I’m often just killing time while waiting for that not-yet-arrived Jesus to show his face again. I’m tapping my toes and checking my watch as if I’m at the DMV, wondering why, for the love of all that’s holy, I am still stuck here. Just like the apostles, I am bad at waiting, and too often I fall asleep when I most need to be alert. However, I think I could be better at waiting if I had a deeper sense of what was around the corner and a greater purpose in what I ought to be doing in the meantime to help keep my soul awake. It’s one of the reasons I treasure the Advent season as a time to refocus and reorient my habits of waiting. It allows for a more natural rhythm of peace and reflection that can so easily elude me during the other months of the year.
My friend Becky shares my love for this season, and this year we teamed up and wrote a prayer journal specifically for Advent. Check out by clicking here. It’s full of different verses and creative exercises to facilitate a time of quiet reflection. In a season so easily overtaken by a flurry of activity, we hope it’s something that can bring peace and direction as you wait in Already-Not-Yet.
For the usual things
Made more special for their expectedness:
For things beautiful and strange:
Books with voices that strengthen my own;
An orange cat with winsome determination;
Crackling fires facilitating laughter and conversation.
And for things unusual:
Love beyond measure,
And grace that finds us
Even in the midst of our wanderings.
I wanted to be angry
When you started work on the decayed hallways
Lined with dim outlines of emptiness.
Dust filtered down
And the foundations shook;
What a mess you’ve made.
But this is the grace of sight:
Not that I can see the cracks and breaks,
But that through them
I may glimpse the sun.
They didn’t teach me
How best to express an ache
For people I don’t know,
Or how to help heal a wound
That never closes.
They didn’t teach me
Five steps to fix an evil next door
And a continent away.
But they did teach me how to love
They taught me to stand up
They taught me to be compassionate
Even when I’m afraid.
They taught me grace, grace, grace.
They taught me that no one is perfect
They taught me to listen, carefully.
They taught me “I’m sorry”
And they taught me apologies paired with action.
They taught me to paint with all the colors
Because no one ever made art
Just staring at white paper.
They taught me “all men are created equal”
And Jesus loves me, so He must love you
Just as much.
They taught me so many things
But here I am, still learning.
I stand ankle deep,
Clutching dirty rags in lonely fists,
Attempting to soothe my soul with bitterness.
Until you pull me further in:
You begin waltzing me through the dark waves.
You lead me back and forth,
Disregarding the rhythm I expected.
You move me.
And we dance,
Until every step glows in the midnight ocean.
It’s a sunny and perfect day again,
But this afternoon the airplanes
Remain on their straight paths across the sky.
I see a building with two colors of stone,
And a chronological sea of benches.
I thought never was a long time,
But then fifteen years
Still feels like yesterday.
Currently: A paint chip, “English Channel”,
From when we considered painting the living room
Some version of navy blue.
Previously: A gum wrapper;
An envelope with a Polish return address;
A strip of mint green ribbon;
A ticket I didn’t buy, for a Corinne Bailey Rae concert
Which I never attended.
Once, a hair tie.
Often, ripped corners of old coupons and junk mail.
I have a collection
Of real ones, neat and rectangular,
Complete with tassels and everything.
But rarely do they have the initiative
To be there when I need them,
So instead I fill the pages with bits of life
Snagged from side tables and pockets,
Colorful, folded, and sometimes torn,
But always ready to remind me of where I am.
I don’t remember the very first time
I loved driving at night,
But I recall an early July evening,
When a phone call at 1am snapped me
Out of self-pity and
Took me and my car keys out the door
In search of a gas station for supplies
To help a friend stranded on I-495.
And as I drove there, on the bend
Just before the state line,
I saw what they meant by open road,
And I felt relieved of a worry
I’d refused to consider.
Lately I’m more inclined
To driving highways at night
Without even a plan or destination,
Chasing green signs and red tail lights,
Music playing loud.
Except I don’t sing. I sit and
And I move faster than usual.
I sit quiet and straight
While the vivacity of the world
Pours through the windows,
Tugging my hair and taking my breath,
And the only choice
Is whether I’ll return home,
Or keep driving–
In the dark but
Between the lines going on forever.
This is not the grace I was looking for,
This nibbly bit of blessing,
Dragging me through one more day,
But just barely —
Like the painful frustration
Of brushing out every tangled curl
And split-ended knot,
Only to face the same task the next morning.
I’d prefer a measure of Dying Grace,
The kind packaged with enough Courage and Faith
To carry me through many moons
And unto some glorious ending.
Instead here I am
With my plain, everyday ration
Whose meager portion obliges me always
To return for more each morning.