2017 has not been my favorite year. If I’m being completely honest, for me, 2017 began in November. Things have felt pretty dark since then. And exhausting. So when I agreed over the summer to contribute to the blog in September, I thought, “Surely I’ll have something to say about all that is swirling around us by then. But how will I choose?”
On this blog, I’ve wrestled with what it means to be a good neighbor. I’ve explored what it means to feed sheep and food insecurity. I’ve answered the question “how can she vote like that and call herself a Christian?” I’ve talked about running the NYC marathon in the days after Paris went dark from a terrorist attack. It all seems so long ago. So much more darkness has enveloped us this year—how can I possibly organize my thoughts around all of it? I even posted a question on Facebook to chew on: What keeps you awake at night? I asked my friends to spend time asking others the same question. I asked them to have these conversations with people who don’t look like them, talk like them, or live in the same neighborhoods as them. I asked them, this time, not to focus on the similarities in their answers but in their differences. How we all might be playing a role in those differences. Thus far, no one has reported back, so, perhaps I will explore that later.
Many of you know my writing is tied to running. So, it’s no coincidence that the last time I wrote was about the time I stopped running regularly. I ended last year’s marathon with a minor injury. I took some time off and just never got back to a regular running schedule. I recently decided that if I’m ever going to write again, I’d better start running again.
It takes me about 15 miles to outline a blog post in my head and maybe another 10-12 to fine tune it—so, basically, a marathon. I’ve had to re-learn how to run. I realized I’d been holding my breath—no oxygen was getting to my legs and they felt like lead. I also realized that I’ve really been holding my breath since last November against all of the hatred, bigotry and injustice swirling around us. I became immobilized. I’d forgotten about belly breathing. The athletes and musicians among us know what I am talking about. You need to expand your belly to fill your lungs with air. I’d been chest breathing. No wonder running has been so hard. When I began breathing again, I realized that fall 2017 marks the 20 year anniversary of our first visit to GPPC.
I can no longer be immobilized by the latest headline or tweet, but, as in running, I CAN take a deeper breath or a walk break. So, I hope you will take a deep breath and walk with me for a few minutes as I reflect on what 20 years at GPPC has looked like to me. The turmoil will still be there waiting for us to work on when we are finished. Let me tell you about a few, but not all, of the people I’ve seen at GPPC. You never surprise me, but you ALWAYS take my breath away:
You, who tirelessly fight for justice in times where there seem to be more and more obstacles, I see you, and I love you.
You, who love boldly, despite feeling weary, I see you and I love you.
You, who drop everything to help a member in need, I see you and I love you.
You, who provide leadership and make long term decisions for our congregation, I see you and I love you.
You, who don’t come very often, and you, who are here every week, I see you, and I love you.
You who are new here, I see you and I love you.
You who are lifelong members here, I see you and I love you.
You, who haven’t been here in a long time, I miss you, and I love you.
You, who pray, I see you, and I love you
You, who make breathtaking music, I see you (and hear you), and I love you.
You, who grieve, I see you and I love you.
You, who provide laughter, I see you and I love you.
You, who sit in the mosh pit, I see you and I love you.
You who sit in the pews or stand in the narthex, I see you, and I love you.
You, who rocked a colicky baby for hours so his parents could have a break, I see you and I love you.
You, who met a kindergartner at the bus stop so a mom could stay home and care for her newborn, I see you and I love you.
You, who feed sheep time and time again, I see you and I love you.
You, who have been away and have returned, I see you and I love you.
You, who twice in six weeks, came to a funeral home or sat in a sanctuary in Ashland to support us at the funerals of parents, I saw all of you, and through tears, I love you.
If I, one member of this GPPC family, can see all of this light, can you imagine what we all see collectively? Can you imagine how much more God sees? Can you imagine how much more Christ loves all of us? It’s not surprising. It IS breathtaking. It’s grace. Love-filled grace. It’s for ALL of us. And how lucky are we that we can take that out into the world when we leave this place?
My walk break is coming to an end. Thank you for accompanying me. When you are weary, take a walk break and look for the light and love here in this place. OK, one last deep breath. Really push your abdominal muscles out as you inhale. Fill your lungs. Exhale, slowly. Now, tell me, what keeps you awake at night?
Kimberly Carswell finds a story to tell on our blog at least once a year. Updating her bio, she writes “I’m a wife, mom, and epidemiologist–that means I spend most of my time making observations. I’ve recently added the Montreal marathon to my bucket list of races. Maybe I’ll blog about that race in French.”