Despite the clean slate of the new year, it feels as if life is bursting at the seams with to-do lists and extra commitments. And in the midst of it all I long for convenience. I need and long for tools to help me make it through each hour, and help me juggle at least a minimum of three tasks, and make me get everything crossed off on the list for that day.
I will be the first to acknowledge the reality that life has a tendency to overflow one’s cup, especially during these kind of seasons, and convenience is almost necessary for survival. And that’s what I love about ordering online – for birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries. I had heard someone on NPR bemoaning the lack of thought and sentimentality in online shopping but obviously this guy didn’t have twins crawling all over the place 24/7. Try to shop for something at the local store? Not happening. Try to organize the pantry? Nope. Try to sew a little handkerchief? Not a chance. So it just warms my heart to be able to get something last-minute – like from the beautiful monolith that is Amazon and have it shipped to the recipient, or to even just get a gift card and send that out.
I was talking with a good friend from college last night. She came for a brief visit between interviews for her medical residency next summer, and happened to be interviewing up in Indy. We figured out she could have stayed an extra day, and rather than flying back home today and then flying out tomorrow somewhere else, she could have just flown directly there from here. But she said she didn’t want to be an inconvenience, to which I replied without really thinking about it – something to the effect of: “Our life is one big inconvenience these days. It wouldn’t have been a big deal at all.”
Our life is one big inconvenience.
The funny thing is that I didn’t mean this in a negative way at all, even though inconvenience is seen as incredibly annoying/frustrating and generally something to be avoided like the plague. I said it with a laugh, tongue planted firmly in my cheek.
Because I remember that the so-called inconveniences I’ve experienced in my life – all the interruptions, disruptions, obstructions – they end up being incredibly…good. When I let myself be open to them, they are opportunities to experience something unexpected and usually, strangely gracious.
. . .
I’m trying to carry some thoughts over from Advent because it feels pertinent in this season of Lent, on the way to Calvary:
You know that saying, you can really tell who somebody is in a crisis?
You can really tell at Christmas, too. That’s because Christmas,
more than any other day in the American year,
is a day when we’re all handed the same stage props.
The same tree, the presents, the meal, the relatives,
and all the same expectations.
And then we all try to create, more or less, the same kind of day.
It’s like hundreds of millions of people all set to work
doing exactly the same art project.
And not just any art project, but a very high stakes art project,
an art project everybody cares about getting right.
And in that setting, the choices people make never seem clearer.
– from Ira Glass, This American Life
All these seasons are a bit funny. For instance, Christmas is supposed to be meaningful somehow while spilling over with tradition and nostalgia but a time of heartache and grief for so many. There’s a lot of truth to what Ira Glass says about how who we are comes out even more during these holidays.
But rather than following the same script every year and succumbing to cultural pressure to buybuybuy, I think that it can be a good time to foster a spirit of flexibility and openness, and a different kind of mindfulness and posture towards the culture around us. All these seasons, especially in this new year, can be a chance to shift our hearts and spirits towards what is unexpectedly nurturing.
Especially in the midst of what seems outside of our plans and visions and lists for the day.
. . .
I wrote this at 5 am in the morning. D had been sleeping horribly and was up crying for about an hour. When I heard him finally hit the pillow and fall back asleep, I found myself completely awake. I got up. I showered. I unloaded the dishwasher and got ready for the day. And I blogged. Sometimes these kind of revelations and moments come at what seems like an inconvenient time…like in the middle of the night.
But even that’s ok. I’ll take it. I’ll take the forced stillness, and the imposed quiet, like the angel Gabriel touching my lips and silencing them in the manner of the encounter with Zechariah. Sometimes those inconveniences are God sending an angel to shut me up so I can listen and see the grace before me.
Lord, it is night.
The night is for stillness. Let us be still in the presence of God.
It is night after a long day.
What has been done has been done;
what has not been done has not been done; let it be.
The night is dark.
Let our fears of the darkness of the world
and of our own lives rest in you.
The night is quiet.
Let the quietness of your peace enfold us, all dear to us,
and all who have no peace.
The night heralds the dawn.
Let us look expectantly to a new day, new joys, new possibilities.
In your name we pray.
– from the Anglican Book of Prayer
Few things nurture my mothering spirit – cultivating patience, flexibility, and compassion – more than those inconveniences. Because, our life, after all, is one big inconvenience anyway.
. . .
Mihee is an ordained clergywoman in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and mom to twin babies with #3 on the way in Hoosier country, trying to keep up with college students in part-time ministry. Zealous about God and church, parenting, books, writing, snow, running, goldfish crackers (i.e. remnants from the babies’ meals), social justice, and fresh air.
She blogs regularly at First Day Walking and recently released her first book Making Paper Cranes: Toward an Asian American Feminist Theology published by Chalice Press. This reflection was originally modified from here.