Allyson and I had planned to wake 4am Monday morning, but neither of us slept well, so we got up even earlier. I took Digby for a walk to the ocean one more time before leaving. It was rainy with decent wind gusts, and I tried to breathe it in, knowing I’d be away for a little while. We packed the final bits of luggage into the car and made our way towards PDX. The Coastal Range had enough snow and slush that it slowed down a few truckers in front of us, adding about 30 minutes to our trip, which made us hit morning rush hour and go even slower. We had still given ourselves plenty of time to make it to Oregon City where we’d meet up with Geneva to get a ride to the airport.
I’m in a place right now where travel days are strangely comforting. With the understanding that for the most part the travel is in someone else’s hands, I settle in, encouraging my brain to slow down. To listen to podcasts, read some poems, talk to my wife, or just look out the airport windows. Each time I board a flight, something new is beginning. One Monday morning we were being rained on at the Oregon Coast. By night, we were in Nashville, picked up by Allyson’s brother Andrew, taking I-24 to Murray, Kentucky. We had stepped through a time warp with a break in Salt Lake City. I walked Digby during our airport layover, looking at the mountains, the light of the sun moving over them in the late afternoon. I’ve been focusing lately on being in the present moment, not letting myself stress over the next hour or day or week. I’m weary of throwing time away doing that. I want to find joy even in a layover. I want to relish the time I’ve got with my dog, with the mountain views, with my pregnant wife leaning on my shoulder dozing off.
Being near so many friends and family, we have several baby showers scheduled during our time back in the South. Amanda, Christy Jo, and Katie put on our first shower in Katie’s apartment with a tea party theme. We have spent lots of quality time in that apartment, gathered as friends, telling stories, playing games, letting off steam after long days and weeks of work. Friends and family from many areas of Allyson’s life came to share congratulations, joy, and gifts with us and our child to be.
The next morning, we had brunch with Amanda, Christy Jo, Katie, and Andrew. Allyson’s Mom and Dad prepared a great spread of food in their picturesque dining room. I leaned onto one elbow on the arm of my chair, listening to the conversation being passed around by these dear friends. I felt such comfort, such relief with the realization that this was all that was happening to me right now. They asked me to do the blessing. I started saying, “God, it’s been a shitbag of a year…” But, as I went along, it became more clear to me I should be humbly thankful for all the beauty and safe delivery in front of me. I know none of that is promised to me. I know there are many who have not been so fortunate. Amanda asked Christy Jo to read a devotion she had written, and she bashfully accepted. She started a little timidly, but became more confident and refamilarized with her words as she went.
I looked around the table to see us all moved, some of us teary with her words that spoke so much to the Advent season of hope in darkness, words that spoke so directly about what we’d personally shared as friends. I looked around the table. We have known each other for some time now, seen a great deal of change happen for each of us. We walked through big, world altering experiences together. We’ve spread out to different places since, but on that day, we were together in the same room breaking bread. There had been a request for music during our meal, and I was playing Anderson .Paak, a musician I’ve been pretty obsessed with lately. As CJ read her devotion, I heard his song, “The Dreamer,” playing. This is an upbeat grove that sounds like a party anthem. As she read I could hear the lines:
This one’s for all the little dreamers
And the ones who never gave a #@%!
My first instinct was how unfortunate it might be felt that this song with irreverent language was forming the soundtrack to CJ’s reading and our devotional moment. But, my second thought was how perfect it felt. I thought about how much all of us sitting at the table are passionate about underdogs, and how this music seems to be speaking to people who regularly struggle with holding onto hope in darkness. The uplifting music behind it, made me feel like something new was forming, that each of us are in the early stages of new work in its early stages of growing and blossoming. Here we were back at the table, all these gifted people about to unleash some great change in a way the world will not be expecting. Here we were. Together. Brunch. Advent. Hip Hop.
On Christmas Eve night, I went to First Christian Church in Murray with Allyson’s Mom and Brother. Whenever one goes through life changes, it reorients the way a person encounters all the things before too. Christmas is still Christmas, and I have always loved it. I have little doubt that I always will. I am in love with the mystery, its connections to so many spiritual practices beyond Christianity, its simple but complex message of hope in the darkness. I love how this humble story of an incredibly difficult birth is the seeds of a revolution that would change everyone who touched it. There I was in a time warp back to this season that has been so meaningful to my life. I’ve returned to it a different person again.
We sang carols, heard the scripture. I took communion, pausing to taste the juice soaked in the bread, to clear my head and open myself up to the presence of God. The lights went down and we lit our candles from each other. Andrew, Emily, and I passed the candle flame between us and on to the rest of the congregation. Just about a week ago I was singing carols in Bay City UMC on the West Coast. Now it was Christmas in Kentucky. We can find ourselves in so many different moments with so many different people from one day to the next. From one week to the next. From one year to the next.
My spirit is tired these days and it is changed. In these days I am sitting with my gratitude, I am humbled by it. I am humbled by time warp, by how it’s shifted places, shifted people, shifted perspective, shifted world events. Even for what this year has done, I’m hopeful because I’ve seen the sower out in the fields throwing seeds. I’ve been sitting more with my thoughts, taking time to watch. The seeds are in the ground. It is still dark. It is still winter. But, I am glad in these days to wait patiently to see how they will grow, to see what rises up in me and my friends. To see what I will step in to on the other end of the next time warp.