In Sorrow and In Joy

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I am glad daylong for the gift of song,
    For time and change and sorrow;
For the sunset wings and the world-end things
    Which hang on the edge of to-morrow.
I am glad for my heart whose gates apart
    Are the entrance-place of wonders,
Where dreams come in from the rush and din
    Like sheep from the rains and thunders.

Rhapsody by William Braithwaite, 1922

2018 is almost over and I am back home in Colorado, the place where I begin and end each year. It’s kind of a cool thing to have a place to start and finish, even though it changes and I change.

Last week I flew back from New York. There are not enough words to accurately depict my time there. This post is a sort of conglomeration of moments and thoughts I’ve had while in the city.

New York gave me a certain anonymity that allowed me to grow beyond my old self and old habits in order to fully embrace who I am right here, right now, today. A freeing thing—to be oneself exactly where one is at. It is easy to compare ourselves to ourselves—when we were in a better place in life, when we were skinnier, when we were better at journaling/praying, etc. But I’ve learned that my best “state” in life is when I accept and live life abundantly wherever I’m at. Time and change and sorrow are all part of the journey. And I can’t waste it by wallowing in the past.

I am filled with all the very human emotions—sadness and longing and heartbrokenness and feeling very lost and confused while at the same time so excited and content in the amazingness of my blessed life. A contradiction. I don’t really know how to begin to comprehend that other than just let myself be in it. In sorrow and in joy.

 

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washington square park

The last time I flew back to Denver from NYC (three years ago as a senior in high school), I was desperately trying to be poetic (you can that read here), because I was totally enraptured by the city and its possibilities. And I still am, but I’m slightly less crazy-romantic. I guess this city means something different to me now than it did then. I used to be itching to get out of Highlands Ranch and see the world, and NYC was the shining, glorious example of that. And now I can go back and tell that girl that we did it. We made it here. NYC is a place, now, of growth and self-acceptance, of learning neighborly love and meeting God where I least expected to.

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central park in falllllllll

Sometimes—actually, most of the time, it’s easier to love people from a distance. Easier to love the homeless man, give him a few dollars, and then walk away and never see him again. Harder to love the roommate, family member, etc that I don’t get along with. Or sometimes, it’s way easier to love my best friend or sister than it is to love the homeless mother asking for money on the subway, demanding my attention and making me uncomfortable. Like Merton said, if we want to work for peace, we must address the fear and violence in our own hearts first. It’s hard work to invest in others and in ourselves. To recognize and document moments that change me or challenge me.

I am uncertain, but I am here. What a joy! A mandatum mantra of daily life. A glorious destiny. To love one another, as God has loved us!

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The sky is purple tonight. Against the kaleidoscope windows on the tall skyscrapers. Secrets of long philosophical yearnings. When will I too drift into the New York purple sky against a backdrop of steel and fluorescent stars?

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In sorrow. Why is it that people are living shorter lives now because of suicide and addiction? Why is it that there is so much suffering and depression? Mental illness is very real and very serious. The current culture that is absorbed with self seeps into each of us. On a molecular level we are in disarray. We crave meaning, all the while forgetting that our very existence is meaning itself. There is a truth, and our lives, each made by God’s hand, are part of that deep truth and mystery. We are love.

2019 will be the year of listening for me. Deep and true listening, to others and to God. To not necessarily be a “voice for the voiceless,” but to just let them speak for themselves. And listen. And respond when needed.

“…in the midst of human conflict we have many prophets who speak and few who listen. Prophetic listening emerges when people feel held with such a quality of care and patience that as they speak it becomes possible for them to hear themselves, to tap a deeper understanding, to sense how God may be trying to break into their life.” —John Paul Lederach

 

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A Monday morning on the Long Island Rail Road. Listening to Philip Glass and holding a book and watching the sun come up against the Long Island City glass buildings, a wind-chime of light. Railroad tracks and industrialism—the immense calm and poetic vibrations of the train captured in my body and soul as I stare out the window. A perfect moment of pure art. In reality that is all of life—a gift of grace from heaven, floating down in love. God is ever-creative.

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In joy. Being here and just…falling in love with people I’ve never met and don’t even know, but do beautiful and heroic things like play a grand piano in the middle of Washington Square Park. People coming to listen—there is something innately human in us, I think, that craves beauty. And he tapped into that need. The Holy Spirit working its way in him on the keys, into our hearts, remembering the vast beauty in life, something we need so badly. We need hope, beauty to remind us that life is to be lived.

So in sorrow and in joy we sing.

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when Cam came to visit 🙂
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boston trip with mama!
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so thankful for Jenna and her adventurous spirit

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The joy of the Lord is my strength, my strength

Sorrow may linger and last for the night but I am never alone
Wounds may be opened and weakness revealed, but I will be healed in the fire

I have a river of life flowing out of me

—Audrey Assad


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