As I’m writing this morning, I am sitting on my screened-in porch at my condo, staring at several dozen plant pots.
When I moved in here, almost a year ago, I had a vision: that I could make this little space up on my third-floor deck into something lush and green. I would hang planters from the ceiling, and mount boxes on the railing, and fill them with flowers and herbs and maybe even try for something ambitious like some tomatoes and spinach.
And it’s finally coming together.
I about wept when I hung up the first planter, and started to see the thing I had dreamed up come true; to see it become reality.
But it wasn’t without its hardships.
There was a long and difficult house hunt, trying to find what I wanted where I wanted it, learning what to compromise on and what to insist on, figuring out what I could afford. There were hard conversations with loved ones, who had their own vision of where I might live. And worries about being too far from church, or too far from friends, in too quiet of a neighborhood for a single woman, or too loud of a street for someone who doesn’t love city living.
I questioned myself a lot, and I cried more than I would care to admit. And maybe that’s what makes this moment, when I feel so clear in my choice and so grateful for my space, extra precious.
But while I am at this lovely moment of clarity and assurance in one small part of my life, admittedly I am still experiencing doubt and turmoil in other areas.
I imagine the same might be said for you.
I hope that in some parts of your life, you are enjoying great peace and contentment. But I am sure there are areas where you are not. Maybe it’s a relationship that you struggle with, including a relationship with yourself (don’t all of us have some thoughts about our bodies, here on the cusp of “swimsuit season”?); maybe it’s a professional concern, or a financial one. Maybe you are in a new and unexpected chapter of transition, or in the midst of a long grieving.
I know this is true for our church. I know that at the same time when we are getting back in person, eating meals together, celebrating confirmation, cheering on graduates, having Easter pancakes again, and cleaning out long-neglected closets, that we are also saying some goodbyes. We have lots of exciting momentum and some grief and loss, as we mark the transitions of Dimitri, Jason and Josh from our staff.
We have new seasons of possibility coming up, as we hope to welcome a new youth pastor later this year, and we will be blessed with the music ministry of Mary Gingrich as our new choir director. But we might also yearn for the “before COVID” times, when we didn’t have to hold all our plans loosely, and church life continued to go on much as it always had.
All of these feelings are hard to hold together – but we must try.
Try, to create space for the joy and the sorrow. The hope and the disappointment. The energy and the fatigue.
Try, to give ourselves and each other more grace, more patience, more tenderness and love.
Try, not to deny the complexity of this time, but to live honestly into it.
Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is a time for mourning and a time for dancing, a time for weeping and a time for laughing. Sometimes those times come all jumbled up together.
There is no secret, no quick fix or easy button for living well when they all do; when grieving and celebrating aren’t linear but tangled up as one.
But I do think part of the answer is to lean in, towards each other. To divide our sorrows by carrying them with friends, and to multiply our joys in the same way. Galatians 6 reminds us to bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. But the Bible also talks repeatedly about celebrating, with big tables and generous invitations to join in – to share our joys as well as our sorrows.
So I am making this my goal, in this beautiful, difficult, complicated season. And I hope you will too.