A Consoling Embrace

I’m so happy to announce that my collection of prayers for this time of pandemic has been published by Twenty-Third Publications. The title comes from Pope Francis’ ‘Urbi et Orbi’ blessing, and it’s also my greatest prayer for you: that these words may wrap themselves around your shoulders and give you comfort.

There are thirty prayers in the collection, covering everything from loss of work to distance learning to grieving in isolation to hope. As I wrote these prayers, my desire was to enter fully into the deep suffering that so many of us are experiencing and also to enter fully into the unfathomable depths of the love of God in the midst of it.

These prayers may be used for private devotion or corporate worship. Here is the link to buy an individual copy. The price is $2.95, and I hope that will make it accessible to as many people as possible. If you are a clergy member or teacher and would like to buy a copy that can be distributed to your church or school, you can find that here.

As always, thank you, thank you, thank you for praying with me. I deeply appreciate every message I receive and am so grateful for all the light that you shine into my life.

A Guide to Praying through the News

The news is terrible, every day. I can’t even look at the headlines without dissolving into despair and rage. In this time of isolation, it’s easy to feel like we can’t do anything to help. But I have been working over the past few months to recognize the news as an invitation to embrace my connection to every other human being in the world, every single one of whom bears the image of God. Sitting down with the newspaper has become a beautiful way for me to remember that we are all called, through prayer and action, to participate in the great work of redemption of all creation.

I wrote this prayer guide in the fall of 2019, thinking of the refugee crisis, the Rohingya genocide, the Amazon wildfires. But I have been returning to it again and again during these days of pandemic, especially as a bridge to carry me over the river of impersonal numbers, to reanimate my connection to all who suffer, to remind me to offer my small sufferings for the relief of their unimaginable ones.

The prayer guide is a short PDF (just over two pages), and you can feel free to download, print, and use it however helps you the most. It’s based on Ignatian principles and makes mention of several Catholic devotions, but it’s for everyone. Thank you for praying with me! Here is the link.

Angels in Blue Gowns

As the coronavirus crisis continues, I am thinking more and more of our healthcare workers, who sacrifice so much for us. Last week the image of angels in blue gowns came to me, and the rest of this prayer quickly followed. Please join me in praying for those who work so hard for us.

Angels in Blue Gowns

by Cameron Bellm

Angels in blue gowns,
They wear face masks instead of haloes.
Their gloved holy hands administer to us
Care we are too weak to provide for ourselves.
Without sleep,
Without hope of a day off,
In the face of ever-dwindling supplies,
They risk their lives at every moment
In order to save ours.
Blessed are the hands,
Rubbed raw from washing,
That connect us to ventilators.
Blessed are the feet,
Sore and swollen,
That tread the ER floors.
Blessed are the eyes
That have stared down death
Hundreds,
Thousands of times,
And yet look upon each desperately ill patient
And refuse to give up hope.
God Most Merciful,
Preserve the health and safety
Of those who work so hard to preserve ours.
Amen.

As always, please feel free to share this prayer, read it aloud, or use it in any other way that brings you comfort. Thank you so much for praying with me.

Prayer for a Pandemic

When I wrote this prayer a few days ago, I had no idea it would resonate with so many people. I am humbled and awed by the number of you who have shared it and written to express your shared hope and prayers during this truly difficult time.

I know that some of you have been searching for the source of this prayer, and I am sorry I didn’t write my name on the paper! My name is Cameron Bellm, and I live in Seattle, WA. Please feel free to share the prayer, to use it in your worship services or meetings, read it aloud, or use it in any other way that brings you comfort. Thank you so much for your prayers and messages. Your compassion and love for your neighbors has certainly brightened the world in a very dark time.

Cameron Bellm: Prayer for a Pandemic

Coronavirus COVID-19

Prayer for a Pandemic
By Cameron Bellm

May we who are merely inconvenienced
Remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors
Remember those most vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home
Remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close
Remember those who have no options.
May we who have to cancel our trips
Remember those that have no safe place to go.
May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market
Remember those who have no margin at all.
May we who settle in for a quarantine at home
Remember those who have no home.
As fear grips our country,
let us choose love.
During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other,
Let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors.
Amen.

Advent with St. Oscar Romero

Last year during Advent I happened to be reading a book about St. Oscar Romero, the great Salvadoran bishop and martyr. The book included a few excerpts from his Advent homilies in the years just before he was killed, and I was deeply moved by them. As Advent approached this year, I began to think about making an intentional practice of reading those homilies during this holy season. When I discovered that the readings we will hear at Sunday mass this year are the very same ones he preached on in 1977, I knew it was something I wanted to commit to, and something I wanted to make available to all of you as well. The Archbishop Romero Trust very generously granted me permission to excerpt the homilies from their website, and I encourage you to visit it! The full texts of the homilies are available there, in Spanish and in English, and you can also listen to audio recordings of Romero delivering his homilies as radio addresses to his people. What a gift!

The Advent devotional covers the four Sundays of Advent and the Feast of Christmas. Each homily is covered in two sections, with excerpts and a few reflections and suggestions for meditative prayer. In this busy season, this devotional isn’t intended to be another obligation for your to-do list, but rather a place of deep rest and peace. You can turn to each homily on whatever two days you like, or read through both sections at once. On some pages there is a bit of blank space for journaling, but it certainly isn’t required. I believe there are as many different ways of praying as there are human beings; please feel free to be yourself.

There is a box just below this paragraph where you can enter your email address, and you will receive an email with a link to download the PDF of the Advent devotional. Feel free to print it if you like, or just use it on your screen. The devotional is free. My greatest hope is simply to share the wisdom and beauty of this great saint with you.

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If you have any questions please email me at cameron dot bellm at gmail dot com. I’m praying that you will have a rich and beautiful Advent. St. Oscar Romero, pray for us!

The Garden and the Weeds

On Saturday the women of our parish gathered for a retreat considering our interior gardens, a play on St. Teresa of Avila’s famous interior castles. I was asked to give a short reflection, and I chose Ecclesiastes 3: 1-14 as my Scripture. It’s one we all know–the one that reminds us that there is a time and a season for everything. I was very nervous, but it went so beautifully, and I loved hearing the other reflections and spending a day in the company of such wonderfully wise women. Here’s my reflection.

When I was invited to reflect on the state of my garden, the first word that came to mind was “loud.” No, I don’t mean in color. I mean in volume. I am the mother of two small children, aged five and 20 months, and loud is the name of the game. As I was typing this in the kitchen, they were racing in circles around the house with a Costco box they were pretending was a boat, apparently one in some distress, given the captain’s shouting. Also, they are both boys, so sometimes the plants get watered in rather…unconventional ways.

In all honesty, I have spent quite a lot of time and emotional and spiritual energy rebelling against the state of my garden as a mother. I want neat rows and lines! Order! Perfectly calibrated rainbows of blooms! Anyone in this room who has spent time with small children can go ahead and have a hearty laugh at my ambitions. In my spiritual fantasies, I greet the day with a steaming cup of coffee, the morning mass readings, and ample time to pour my heart out to God in my journal. In this fantasy life, I pray all of the hours of the Divine Office, conduct a thorough Examen daily, and squeeze in a rosary or two for good measure. I spend hours with Scripture in Lectio Divina, and pepper the day with spiritual reading and corporal works of mercy.

In reality, my prayer life is…rather more haphazard. I spend my mornings wiping little faces and mediating cereal disputes. Sometimes I don’t get to the mass readings until my third cup of microwaved coffee at 4pm. And, frankly, I am far too exhausted after getting them to bed to examine much of anything in depth. Honestly, it feels very often like my garden is full of weeds: interruptions, chaos, plants I didn’t sow ruining the order of my ideal little spiritual oasis.

But this passage from Ecclesiastes gives me comfort: there is a time for everything. A day will come when I will have a more orderly garden and more time for meditative prayer. But because there is a time for *everything,* I can rest assured that this isn’t a season to be rushed through. It is right and it is good, and there is much for me to learn here in this weedy season.

Still more comforting is the reminder of the mysterious nature of the divine: no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. And everything God does will endure forever—nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it—and that includes my weeds. In my best moments, the ones in which I feel closest to God, He grants me the understanding that right now it isn’t really about the garden that I’m trying to plant for Him, but rather the garden that He has planted for me. My duty as a gardener right now is to water everything—that is, to respond with love to everything—whether I planted it or not. After all, we find God in ALL things, not just the orderly ones. It does my soul good to remember that our God is wild and full of mystery. He cannot be tamed. He is not afraid of my weeds.

I wish that I could tell you that I’ve perfectly internalized this lesson, that I’ve come to look upon my unruly garden with complete acceptance and affection. Instead, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been trying to read a spiritual book during some domestic cacophony and internally shouted, “Everybody be quiet! I’m trying to learn how to be more holy!” In my better days, I can chuckle at my rigidity and see that the pathway to holiness is right there in front of me all the time: it’s the choice to love, to give selflessly, to embrace the noise and the wiggly bodies of these two little people I adore.

As for the garden, sometimes I do get a chance to visit it alone in the early morning light. As dewdrops shimmer on every leaf and petal, I can see its beauty clearly. I can see that those weeds that keep popping up, are not actually weeds after all. They are wildflowers.

 

Bath-tism and Hospitality

I’ve never felt so unqualified to be a godparent as I did…in the last 30 minutes before I became a godparent. We’d flown down to LA for the weekend for the baptism of our godson, John. His parents, our dear friends Jack and Juliette, are Micah’s godparents and have known us since way back in our Berkeley days. We were so thrilled to be there.

But, as every parent reading this will know, traveling with small kids is sometimes…challenging. One of our kids was having a very hard time the day of the baptism, and, ahem, so were we. We pulled up to the the church about 30 minutes before the baptism and carried our screaming child into the sanctuary, where his cries echoed through marble columns and mortified us as innocent parishioners knelt to pray. I was so worried that our child was going to ruin the baptism (or bath-tism, as Micah called it: both adorable and theologically sound!). Usually when one of our children is having a hard time, Eric and I split up, and one of us takes the upset child somewhere calm and quiet. But we were the godparents! We both had to be there. And we didn’t know what to do.

As our child’s cries and screams ricocheted off of every hard surface, we went in search of the baptismal font and desperately tried to calm him. We were, um, not feeling like model parents. Not because our child was crying. But because we were so frustrated by it (we had blown right past the “ignore it,” “try to reason with child,” “employ all means of comfort,” “bribe with the promise of cake,” and “laugh to keep from crying” stages of tantrum management in the car as we darted through the LA freeways.)

Our friends weren’t there yet, so after we made a lap around the church, a priest approached us and introduced himself. I told him we were there for the baptism and that we were the godparents…for better or for worse. I was feeling so awful. And that’s why what happened next took me completely by surprise.

Father JT welcomed us, gently assured us not to worry about our child’s cries at all, and told us that we could hold our boys during the baptism. As he was explaining how he could tweak the ceremony to fit our child’s needs, I felt my eyes filling with tears. This was the voice of God straight to my heart, and it was full of mercy. It’s not just that the church was welcoming to our child (as all places of worship should be—where else does a child belong but in the arms of God?)—it’s that it was welcoming to me, personally, just as I was feeling at my lowest as a mother. I can’t remember everything Father JT said, but I can remember exactly what God said to me: “Cameron, you ran out of patience with your child. It’s okay. I will never run out of patience with you.” As Father was speaking, our child stopped crying. What a mercy. His spirit was calmed and soothed just as mine was. What a profound gift.

The ceremony was the most beautiful baptism I have ever been to, and I’ve been to a decent few. We started in the very back of the church, and as Jack and Juliette carried John up to the altar, Father prayed that throughout his life John would likewise be brought deeper and deeper into the mystery of God. I was totally crying by then. And I was carrying Micah, who had fallen asleep, in his Lightning McQueen sweatshirt and tennis shoes (I had decided earlier that church attire was not a hill worth dying on.)

At the front of the Church, Father read the gospel passage in which Jesus welcomes the children to him. “Even my child? My child who screamed and cried his way to the baptism?” I thought. But I already knew the answer, and felt it, so deeply. When we reached the altar, Father had us all lay our hands on it and say aloud all the prayers we held dear for his life, just as we will continue to bring our prayers for him to the altar of God. When it was time for the baptism, Eric held John over the font, and Juliette held Francis, while I still held Micah. “This,” I thought, “is the family of God.”

The liturgy was gorgeous, but I missed a lot of it because Micah woke up every five minutes and yelled, “I want to go home! I want to go home! I want to go home!” Yes, you read that right. Every five minutes. For the whole baptism! I did my best to calm him, and he fell back asleep every time. In a situation like this, I’d ordinarily be the first to totally check out from the spiritual experience and be consumed with worry, but, thank goodness, God was there, gently prying open the locked doors of my heart. As I was holding Micah, I felt held myself, by the community, and by God.

After the ceremony, we had cake and coffee outside near the parish school playground, and Micah was thrilled to get both a sugar rush and chance to run and slide. In spite of the chaos, I was able to catch up with dear friends and talk to Father JT about some of the things I hold dearest in my heart: Oscar Romero, Colombia, Walter Ciszek, and the Jesuit charism. During this time of my life, I never really count on being able to have an adult conversation. It felt like a supreme gift.

After the reception we all headed to Antonio’s, a classic Mexican restaurant on Sunset where we’d taken Micah as a toddler with Jack and Juliette. We were late, and our other child screamed all the way there, but there were margaritas and guitar players and dancing babies and so much joy. One does not cancel out the other. “This is the life of the Church,” I thought, “This is the body of Christ.” All of us loud and unruly and joyful and imperfect people, all welcome at the table. St. Ignatius of Loyola teaches us that we find God in all things: in beautiful baptisms and in screaming children, in playgrounds and in dinner parties, in our highest highs and in our lowest lows. Wherever we are, there He is, with arms open wide to His children.

But what does hospitality have to do with any of this? I came away from this experience with such a profound sense of this sacred practice. Jack and Juliette welcomed us and did not mind in the slightest that our child periodically yelled during their child’s holy sacrament. The extended family assured me that they were glad we were there and were charmed by Micah’s outbursts. The church opened its arms to us. And God opened His arms to us, worried and exasperated as we were.

It struck me that this is where the heart of hospitality is. It’s not about just opening our (often messy) homes. It’s about opening our messy lives too. My natural inclination is to hide it when I’m struggling, to avoid asking for help, to keep people from seeing the side of myself I’d prefer to keep hidden. But on this blessed day, there I was, in all my weakness. And I was welcomed. Glory be to God for that.

Relics and Everyday Miracles

Oh, hello, blog! It’s been a while. To recap the last year and a half-ish: we moved to Seattle! We had a baby! He’s the best! He’s four months now, so I’m just starting to edge my way out of survival mode and listen to the inner nudge to write. I do really miss it. So, here goes!

A few weeks ago I went with my wonderful friend Tess to venerate the relics of St. Padre Pio. He was a very cool dude. One of my favorite quotes of his is this perfectly practical one: “Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.” I could only stand to benefit from that, oh, seventeen times a day.

There was a mass at the cathedral before the veneration, celebrated by our archbishop and auxiliary bishop. It was going to be fancy and holy, no doubt. I had never seen relics before, never been to the cathedral before. I didn’t really know what to expect. But I’m pretty sure I expected transcendence.

The morning of the mass I was scrambling to get our rosaries together to touch to the relics (this makes them third class relics). I couldn’t find my little rosary case, so I…put them all in a little hair tie bucket and scrambled out the door with Francis. Eric was staying home with Micah because he is, er, perhaps not at a great age for appreciating transcendence or long masses. But I wanted to have sweet Francis with me.

I drove downtown, got a spot in the garage, and trekked over to the cathedral, where Tess had saved us a seat. The mass was lovely, but Francis did not sleep through it, like he usually does, so I missed some of the hymns because his little foot was kicking the order of service.

After mass some instructions were given for how to form a line to approach the relics. But it quickly became clear that these instructions were being disregarded. Tess and I asked around and joined the line, which was very confusing (God bless those poor ushers). Several times we were told to move to a different line, and people clutching rosaries frequently asked other people clutching rosaries if they were in the right line. It was holy chaos. I bet God was chuckling.

After 30 minutes or so in line, during which time we had moved perhaps 5 feet, an usher approached us and asked if we would like a shortcut since we had a baby. I was prepared to stand in line for an hour more, but this was too nice of an offer to refuse.

Another family with a small child was led with us up to the front of the line. I was wearing Francis and the diaper bag, so I had to ask Tess to pull out my rosary hair tie bucket for me. I quickly fumbled the beads into my hands as we approached the reliquaries. Padre Pio’s mantle. His handkerchief. His glove. I touched the rosaries and my medals to the glass in what felt like a holy conveyor belt. And then it was over. Tess and I hugged and parted ways, and Francis and I headed back to the car.

Just as I was wrangling Francis into his carseat and pondering the unexpectedly ordinary nature of the whole experience…I dropped the little bucket on the floor of the garage. Third class relic rosary beads clinked their way under a neighboring car. Oh my goodness. They continued their peregrinations when I got home and a curious Micah dumped them out on the floor. Transcendence? I didn’t think so.

The rest of the day was a bit tough. I was sick with this cold that made my chest feel tight and constricted, I was having a flare-up of a recurring eye condition, and I was just tired from the week before. It was all of those things and the fact that parenting just asks a lot of you. By dinnertime I told Eric that I was going to try to hide in the kitchen and read a book, as soon as I delivered Micah his milk.

But something funny happened. I sat down at the table. Some force drew me there. I looked at my beautiful child and was overwhelmed by how much I love him. Instead of retreating, I read books to him and enjoyed his lively discussion of them for a good 45 minutes. And then we played cars. (That’s the natural progression of things around here.) It was amazing to be able to have such love to give when I felt so exhausted.

When I went to the cathedral, I carried a handful of prayer requests with me. At least one of them, if granted, would be a genuine miracle. But here was the miracle, right here in my own home.

I haven’t been the same since that evening. I’m not naive enough to think that this isn’t a lesson I’m going to need to learn 30 more times. But it’s a miracle nonetheless.

I have been reading several books by Father Greg Boyle, who runs Homeboy Industries, a gang intervention and rehabilitation program in Los Angeles. These books have also utterly reshaped my life and my view of God. There was one quote from his second book that I loved so much, I immediately wrote it on the chalkboard that hangs above our table: “Nothing is outside the realm of sanctity, for the world in infused with God’s presence.”

It touched me especially deeply because this is such a busy time in our lives, with two little ones to tend. It reminded me of my first meeting with my spiritual director, in which I was bouncing Francis on my hip and laughing about all the books I wanted to read and all the studies I wanted to do, but that I didn’t have an awful lot of time for that right now. “Or,” she said, with her characteristic wisdom, “Maybe it’s about listening to what God wants to say to you right here in this crazy busy time.”

I’ve been trying to see through that lens. And then, several days ago, it finally clicked into focus. I almost always sit with my back to the chalkboard, but that night Micah had asked me to sit on the other side. I looked across the table and saw Eric and Micah playing underneath those beautiful words from Father Greg. And suddenly, for just a moment, I got it. My family, the presence of God. A mess of cars and books and dishes, the presence of God. Endless supply of dried play-doh shards under the table, the presence of God. Tantrums, the presence of God. Baby smiles and baby cries, the presence of God. Joy and exhaustion, the presence of God. I went to the cathedral seeking transcendence. And here it was, right at my kitchen table.

Farewell, Green Car!

IMG_2351As we were finalizing the steps of our move (five days away, eek!), Eric and I realized that we wouldn’t really have any more need or space for our second car. It was costing us a pretty penny to insure it, and we’d have to pay another chunk of change to have it moved (or impose so terribly on one of our parents to drive it up to Seattle for us. Four days of driving with no cruise control, whee!) As we thought it through, we reached a bittersweet decision: it was time to bid our green chariot farewell.

IMG_3073Why was it such a big deal? I bought this little green Honda when I was 16, brand new, from the dealership, mostly because I couldn’t find a decent and reliable used car and was likely traumatized by the woes my brother suffered in dealing with the used Jeep he had bought the year before. I went in with my dad and haggled the good haggle. I paid my $268.40 every month for four years, first out of my Wild Oats paycheck, then from my Oberlin library/tutoring/assistant teaching paychecks. I paid her off just at the start of my senior year. And after that, I worried much less about spilling my coffee.

IMG_3074She’s a 1999 Honda Civic. It’s now 2017. And I am 34. This car has carried me through over half my life. Every single one of her 85,000 miles was put on her by me, or some member of my traveling circus. When we were expecting Micah in 2014, we knew a two-door wasn’t going to be the best option for heavy carseats, so we bought our 2011 Accord. We just didn’t drive the green car very much at all after that–to airports, maybe, or on the rare occasion when we both needed to be somewhere at the same time. Seattle has much better public transit, and we now live in the age of Uber and Lyft for those situations. So it was time to say goodbye.

I might not have thought about writing a post like this, except that my dad just wrote one on the 20th anniversary of his white Miata. I loved reading about all the places that sweet little car had taken him. And I wanted to do the same for my little green car. I am not a person who cares too much about things (I suspect that is true for most of us), except in that they are perfect little repositories of memory. This car holds so very many.

DSCN0006She doesn’t have many miles for her seventeen years because I didn’t drive her much on a daily basis, except during her first year, when I drove her to White Station High School every morning, music blaring, protein smoothie in my cupholder (main ingredient: ice cream. Lolololol.) She stayed home during my first year at Oberlin, but I drove her up my sophomore year, the first of many sojourns across the 678 miles from my driveway in Memphis to campus. By the time I graduated, I had this trip whittled down to 10.5 hours, with only one stop. I know, I’m a savage. I came home every summer, most spring and fall breaks, and several Thanksgivings, including one in which I came home two days early, hid my car on a side street, and then hid in the closet to surprise my mom (my dad and I were good co-conspirators).

DSCN0980After I graduated Oberlin and came back from a summer in Russia, I loaded up the car and drove out to Berkeley for grad school, stopping along the way to pick up my brother in Oklahoma City (where he had arrived from Austin after a harrowing Greyhound bus ride. Thanks, brother!) We had almost zero dollars, but lots and lots of fun. In Berkeley I took the little green car across the bridge to San Francisco and up to Point Reyes, and on the weekends we explored all the little neighborhoods of the East Bay.

DSCN0241During my first summer in Berkeley, my brother came to stay with me while he worked at an architecture firm in the city. My brother is a very good person to have around if you like adventures. We went to visit a friend in Monterey. Then he suggested that we drive up the coast to see the pygmy cypresses near Fort Bragg, stopping along the way in Mendocino, where, to my great chagrin, my brother made me listen to the Sir Douglas Quartet’s “Mendocino,” which is, objectively, the worst song in the world (sorry, brother.) He soon redeemed himself. One day I came home from my French class, and he said, “Hey! Let’s drive up to Vancouver!” And we did! Straight up the 5 through California, Oregon, and Washington, stopping on the way home in Bend and Crater Lake, which is one the most beautiful places I have ever seen, and where we had a summer snowball fight. Good times!

Summer 2007 011The little green car ferried me all around the Bay area for seven years, during which time I finally got her California plates. Did you know that it is illegal to have a car in the state of California for more than 30 days without getting California plates? Did you know that it’s kind of complicated to change a car title (in my dad’s name, since I was only 16 when I bought it) across states? Whew, I was glad to get that resolved. After two years. Ha!

Thanksgiving 2009 016-001The green car drove me down to LA to visit my friend Steve, but most of her trips were local. My brother moved first to Oakland, then to San Francisco, and I’d pop over to see him. And then, happiest of happies, I met Eric. I drove over to see him as often as I could, and we took all manner of local trips: Napa, Sonoma, Half Moon Bay. We also made the HARROWING drive up to Sea Ranch to spend Thanksgiving with my family several times.

Summer 2011 259-001After we got married, we drove our little green car down to Pasadena, and then to Idyllwild, Santa Barbara, Ventura, and the beach. And then…our family of two grew to three, and green car’s driving days were mostly over. I hope she has many more with her new owner.

IMG_2353I didn’t cry when we sold her to Carmax (even though maybe I should have, given the low offer!), except at this one little moment. My whole family had been so sweet about it, including Eric, who was asking me, as we waited to sign some papers, how I was feeling. I turned to him and said, “You know, I was just thinking about who I was when I bought that car–what I imagined my life would be like, where I imagined my life would take me. And I realized that I have everything I could ever have hoped for.” It’s so true. And I’m so grateful. Farewell, green car!

My One Little Word for 2017: New

IMG_8150 (1)My word for 2017 came to me several months ago, and, truthfully, I am not sure there could be any other word for this year. Because…

We are moving! To Seattle! (In a week: aaahhh!) Most of 2016 was spent waiting to hear about a job for Eric, so we knew that this was a possibility. We are excited for many new adventures and for this great job, but also, of course, heartbroken to be leaving our dear friends here. (We’re planning those quarterly visits already!)

New means so many things for us this year: new city, new job, new house, new friends (we hope!), new school, new parish, new rhythms and routines, new places to explore. We are buying a house (!! I don’t think I can say we bought it until we close!), so we will be new homeowners. We are thrilled to have our own space, but maybe most thrilled to have a yard for Micah to run and play in.

I think “new” stretches its branches in lots of different directions–while we are excited to get settled in our new home, I am sure there are many things that will be difficult, and we’ll need to remind ourselves, “Hey, it’s ok. This is all new.” And, of course, it’s similar to my word for last year, “grow,” in that I am (always) hoping to learn and experience new things. I’m hoping to create some new (good!) habits. Including blogging more! (But, realistically, probably not until February or so, when some of the moving dust has settled). It’s a spiritual word for me too, reminding me of two comforting statements that I love very much, that His mercies are new every morning, and that He makes all things new. I hope this word will be a reminder of that comfort to me, and a reminder that I can make a new start every morning, or even every minute.

I always like to look up the definitions of my word, to hold in my mind as the year goes by. I especially like “never existing before, appearing for the first time,” “known or discovered for the first time,” “recently grown or made; fresh,” “beginning again, making a fresh start,” and “refreshed in spirits.” What better word for the new year and for new beginnings?

So, we’ll see where this word takes me! Do you have a word or phrase for 2017? Do tell!



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