Friday, January 27, 2012

Good Things

Good things are growing.
Today has been a good day. Substantial revisions to my introductory chapter, affirmation from my director, more pieces in place for the teleconferencing technology I need for my dissertation defense, exciting possibilities on the job front, supper with Grant and Jenn, several phone calls from my dear people, sunshine, and cream in my tea.

I don't really have time to blog over the next month, but I do have time to be grateful. Grateful for daily bread in the form of good news, for the duty of prayer, which takes me outside of my own work and concerns, for confidence that good things are growing in 2012.

Grateful that when I hear this song, I see the faces of my friends:

What's growing in your life right now? How can I be praying for you?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Love Makes Language Exact

"Desire for the future produces words that cannot be stood by. But love makes language exact, because one loves only what one knows" (Wendell Berry).

As I have drawn near the end of my doctoral work, so many people have been ministers of grace to me. This week, I received two gifts from two beautiful friends, Lindsay and Kt. They are not the only friends who have encouraged me during these days of relentless work, but their kindness, coming in the same week, made me realize how blessed I am to be known so well. Lindsay and Kt have proven, as all good friends prove, Wendell Berry's claims that "love makes language exact, because one loves only what one knows." Here are the words they sent me:
This may seem a bit strange, but I would like to give you a small gift today... I just have to trust you to take the gift and use it well since I can't actually enforce it. I want to give you the gift of a cup of sweetened tea: as sweet as you would like with any sweetener you want. I know you usually only have sweet tea on Sundays, but I think you should have one to celebrate your new deadline and because I want you to.

So go make yourself (another) cup of tea and sweeten it to your heart's desire. I know this is pretty random, but this idea got stuck in my head and it won't leave. So hopefully that means you'll enjoy it.
Much love and prayers to you, dear friend,
Kt Ruth

Did you know that sometimes I just watch what you listen to on Spotify and then go listen to the same things? :) It's not so much that I like the music (even though I do), it's more that it makes me feel like maybe, just maybe, one day we'll be sitting in the same room together with our cups of tea and writing or praying or whatever, just communing together. For now, I'm truly with you in Spirit, and I'm praying for you over these final weeks in your pursuit of this part of your dream. I love you, sister.
 I am so grateful to be known and loved such friends. They remind me that home is a place where language is exact, capable of comforting and challenging with the same strong words.

Have words ever consoled you during a time of stress of grief? Have you ever received a gift that proves the giver knows you deeply and well?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A (Belated) Christmas Letter

I worked almost non-stop over my Christmas "break," and this pace is part of the reason I did not send Christmas letters until the Ninth Day of Christmas.  This year's mailing was smaller than usual--only 52 cards--and for those of you who did not receive a copy by mail, please accept this rather late, rather short, but entirely sincere epistle:

(To see Christmas letters from years past, you can check out last year's post.)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Looking Back on a New Year

Perhaps because my enthusiasm for Christmas  overshadows all lesser days, or perhaps because of its dearth of carols (this and this being keen exceptions),  New Year's has never interested me very much. Most years I resolve to do or be some noble things (I don't need much prompting to make a list), but I have never really reflected on how and why I welcome a new year.

As 2011 gave way to 2012, I was sitting at my parents' dining room table, nearing the end of my final dissertation chapter. A cup of cheap black tea fueled my writing vigil, and as the neighbors began shooting fireworks, I thought--perhaps for the first time--about all the ways I have crossed from one year to another.
  • Nearly every year of my childhood, I spent New Year's in a strange city. My parents used the long Christmas break to arrange mission trips for their college students, and so I would spend the new year watching the people I most loved and admired rebuild flood-ruined homes, serve meals, or encourage dwindling churches.
  • During my junior year of college, my friend Julianna came to visit me, and we spent New Year's Eve dancing and singing with Lennon. The next day, my dear Lindsay became the first of my friends to be marry, and I sang in the wedding. 
December 31, 2004.

I was tempted to wear the tiara when I sang in Lindsay's wedding.
  •  After my first semester of graduate school, I remember sitting at a New Year's Eve dinner with Emily, Dave, and Mandy. Bewildered by all the changes that had come in 2006, the first songs I heard in 2007 comforted me:

Service and singing, wedding and working: these are good ways to begin a year. I worked hard in 2011, and it was fitting that I ended the year hard at work.  2012 has begun in a rush--a job interview during the first week of the year, a defense date set for the dissertation, a new semester of teaching, and more--and I covet your prayers as I spend the beginning of this year bringing my PhD to a good end.

 Thankful as I am for the progress I made on my dissertation, I am have resolved that my next new year's celebration will be marvelous rather than dutiful.  Perhaps a star-gazing sing-a-long in the mountains, or a midnight feast? Maybe a square dance or a train ride or a blaze of fireworks? A slumber party or a boat-ride? Or maybe, most wonderful of all, a long, bright night at home: old friends gathered, new kin at the door, you here with me.

How did you celebrate the beginning of 2012? Do you have any ideas for how I should celebrate my next New Year's?