As you will have noticed, this post did NOT coincide with the last week of advent as planned. I decided that rather than write about joy, I would let myself live in it. Specifically, I decided to have a marvelous time in Minnesota with my family and my friends-who-are-family, and not worry about getting a newsletter to you two days before Christmas.
The next week was just total chaos, so there was no newsletter then either. Not because I was being present with my rambunctious kids, or attentive to my adoring husband, but because I was showing myself some grace and having extremely low expectations for my productivity. Try it. It’s amazing.
But now the kids are back at school, I’m ensconced in my little attic office, and 2023 is five days old. Ready to write.
Oddly enough, I still want to write about joy, both as a delayed advent practice and a year-in-review. Specifically, the joy of friendship. I’ve written a little bit about rediscovering friendship over the last year. For years I had mistaken respect, mutual usefulness, and aligned mission as friendship. I’d lost my deep relationships in 2012 when I left ministry and the church where I’d worshipped for almost a decade—but it wasn’t like a healthy person walked away from that explosion, ready to trust and build life with people. Like most wounded people, I was in social survival mode, and a little feral.
Having kids didn’t help me get back to the sweet spot of friend-making. Now my schedule was as chaotic as my soul. Plus, people keep moving away. And then the pandemic. So many of my friendships in life up til 2012 had been built on proximity, on “doing life together.” Every time I tried to build friendship that way, it didn’t work, because life kept changing. Reality kept interfering. There’s a lot of value in the place-based, physical presence, and I’ll get to it in a future post, but there’s also a hearty dose of nostalgia and “please keep coming to church” built into the discourse as well. There’s a lot of bemoaning what we’ve lost in the globalized, career-centric, mobile and mobilized world, but not a lot of good advice for what we can have when we don’t have the luxury of settling down on a cul-de-sac with five other families who will be our community, raise our children, hold our hands, and share our table until we die.
Some of us have to find friendship on the highway. It’s probably not ideal, it’s probably not “what we were created for,” but I refuse to believe the Spirit is completely stymied by modernity. There’s a way.
Friendship wasn’t growing in physical proximity, but something else was. I was continually pulled into various agendas, ideas, and activities, living in Busy Town, but without the cute worms driving cars. I thought that by being useful, I was earning love. I was not. I was earning more busyness. And that kept me confused about human relationships for a while. I wrote about that back in my spring crisis.
Those relationships change too, as agendas and projects shift, and when they all started falling away in 2021 because of the pandemic, something miraculous happened. I was able to talk more frequently with my oldest, dearest friends, who have not lived near enough to touch since we were all in college. Then a group of friends formed, almost by accident, on a text thread at the end of 2021. In 2022 it became a life line, that became getaways, road trips, teary phone calls, camp fires, and lots of cocktails. Also in 2021, a favorite friend moved back home and brought a new favorite friend with him. In 2022, that friendship that had persisted through a lot of distance became a holiday-sharing, family vacationing, tradition-making friendship.
With one exception, none of these friends are closer than 30 minutes from my house. None of us have a natural place to see each other every week, or every month. We have to be deliberate, we have to set aside time. We have to think about each other, interrupt each other, and prioritize each other. We get nothing from each other except belonging, support, compassion, cheering on, and shared joy. I’m not saying that real friendship can’t or shouldn’t share economics, work, biology, or mission. In fact, it’s a beautiful thing when you can build something with friends. But there’s an element to friendship that transcends mutual benefit, which is why building things together can be risky for friendships. Because friendship is what you have when you *cost* someone something, and they hang in there with you anyway. When your suffering spills over into their day and they don’t run away. When they make the trek, read the book, pry their eyes open, and watch the movie they would not have chosen, because being together—in spirit if not physically—is where the joy comes from.
What you will find in these newsletter-style blog posts:
Brain kindling to start your mind fire
Spirit kindling to start your heart fire
Conversation kindling to gather people to your fire
Giggle kindling to warm you up.
Had a great time talking about 1) how the church needs to own the damage it does, and 2) parachuting with babies on your back on these two pods!
Just before Thanksgiving, a very brave woman called me from Uvalde. She wanted to share her story, and had been told I could be trusted. I’m bragging. That’s the highest praise I can receive as a journalist. Awards be damned.
This is her story. It is wild. It is gut wrenching. It also ran in the Texas Tribune alongside an investigation into the overall bungled emergency response that may have kept some lives from being saved at Robb Elementary.
Here’s the Trib story: https://www.texastribune.org/2022/12/20/uvalde-medical-response/
I’ve shared this before, but it’s very relevant this week.
Shared joy is double joy; Shared sorrow is half a sorrow. – Swedish Proverb
Top Five Books I Read in 2022
- Crossroads – Jonathan Franzen
- all about love – bell hooks
- The ENTIRE Gamache series – Louise Penny
- Breakfast With Seneca – David Fideler
- Beyond Welcome- Karen González