Friday, March 7, 2014

threads: vulnerability and gratitude

** I wrote this post on Christmas day 2013, then pulled it off because it was SO MANY feelings. But, in my desire to recommit to writing from time to time, I thought this would be a good place to start.

Christmas always seeps into Thanksgiving -- the tinsel, lights, commercials, and music slowly transudes store aisles and TV aireways long before we're ready.  While I love all-things Christmas, I am one of the many who constantly bemoan how Thanksgiving is slighted, even though it happens every year.

However, I've had a lot of unstructured time over the past few weeks -- giving me tons of time to reflect.  While most "reflection" feels contrived and maudlin, the open space/natural way my mind has wandered to has led me to invert the holidays - to allow Thanksgiving to blend into Christmas. This year, in the open and wandering spaces of my mind, I can't stop quietly giving thanks.

I just listed to a fantastic NPR podcast from the "On Being" series a few months ago.  What I love most about Jean Vanier's words is that he speaks on the vulnerability of God.  Growing up in an evangelical megachurch, when taught the traits and characteristics of God, the concept of His vulnerability was never emphasized.  The omnipotence and omniscience of God felt packaged by the church in such a way that I never lent myself to imagine God as vulnerable.  As a result, I think over the past years I've been blind to the sight of Christ in mine and others experiences of vulnerability.

The past year has been all about vulnerability.  My unending exposure to the loss of memory has allowed me to see the preciousness and fragility in the process of our daily construction of meaning and living out our existence.  And I've realized -- in the moments where I've felt emotionally battered but have had to press on, get up, continue to strike the balance of caring for others and maintaining self -- that all that I am is vulnerable.  I'm also continuing to be reminded that our vulnerability positions me in a real and constant need of the presence of the "brotherhood and sisterhood" of saints.

Which loops me back to gratitude.  Gratitude and vulnerability have been the bounds of a very difficult year. And so I am constantly, quietly, writing a living ode of gratitude. To friends like Luke and Katie, Kevin and Seren, Nate and Rachel, Tina and Dave who housed me (this past fall) and Charlie (last fall) for a period that long exceeded the "three-day/still smells okay" period that typical friends can bear. They provided me not only somewhere to lay my head, but also a home - and a space to speak openly, find respite, and take shelter as I pursued my career when it seemed completely implausible, and when unexpected hardship continued to ebb in and out of mine and Charlie' lives.

I want to lift words of praise to my mother's friends - who cooked meals, found volunteer opportunities for her, emailed, called, and cared.  I want to shout loud and whisper softly of those who donated and drove to support me and a friend, and my mom, when we ran and walked to raise funds for Alzheimer's.  And I am constantly, constantly, gathering together words that have been shared, letters sent, emails and conversations of encouragement - from mentors in Memphis, a faraway friend, family in Europe, kind strangers on the metro.

My favorite books from this past year was undoubtedly We Learn Nothing (a whole song of praise can be drafted uniquely for the best friend who just, out of the blue, mails you a book that connects so deeply that you ruminate and work through the words all year). Charlie and I were just re-reading Kreider on a holiday drive when I came across these words (Kreider, speaking about a friend): He loved that we knew him. This is one reason people need to believe in God -- because we want someone to know us, truly, all the way through, even the worst of us.

Vulnerability and hard things have made me get to know myself better in 2013, and have forced me to pry open my life in certain ways -- to depend on, and resultantly, be know by others in a way I would have never foreseen or asked of my community otherwise. And gratitude has followed.

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