The Wonder Report: March 31, 2023
The Shimmer of Faith
Hello again (or for the first time to new subscribers)! Happy Friday!
It’s been a few months since I last popped into your inbox or showed up on your Substack feed. While the extended break was unintended, it wasn’t entirely unexpected. For my second semester of graduate school, I doubled my course load but found that the amount of time needed to meet its demands more than tripled. I’ve been chasing my tale since January trying to account for the missing hours.
But as we finish up the month of March and prepare to enter Holy Week, I wanted to say “hi” and share a few thoughts from my Lenten experience this year. Let’s jump in!
A Practiced Faith
My life just doesn’t shimmer anymore, I explained to my spiritual director a few weeks ago. Nothing specific was wrong; I just felt depleted, uninspired, exhausted.
Since my dramatic shift last summer from caregiver and work-at-home freelance writer to graduate student with a full-time library marketing job, the rhythm of my life and structure of my days still feels foreign to me. My slow and leisurely morning routine of coffee, reading, and exercising has been compacted by the need to pack my lunch and race to the office. I now drink my coffee in a to-go cup, if that tells you anything. My practice of exploring creeks and trails in the evenings and weekends has been replaced by listening to lectures and working on class projects. We didn’t even buy a state park pass this year. And the sense of integration between each area of my life—almost to a fault for someone who spent all her personal, social and professional life at home—now feels disjointed and disconnected.
While I don’t regret my life’s changes—and in fact, I feel even more committed to this new calling from God—what’s missing is the sense of delight and wonder that often popped up in my everyday life. I miss the introspection required by my writing life to make sense of the things I read and saw and listened, too. And I long for the shimmer of a connected, considered life again, where epiphanies fell like the steady rains of late spring, nourishing my creative life and watering the work of God that grows in my soul.
Maybe you should try something different, my spiritual director advised, since the life-giving tasks of reading, writing, and reflecting are now delegated to my life as a student rather than creative and spiritual pursuits. Think about other ways you could connect with God during this season of life.
With Lent just around the corner, I considered how I could practice my faith differently during this season of preparation. As usual, I began Lent with better intentions than I’m ending with. My fasting plan was overly ambitious, my desire for reflection was often overtaken by the exhaustion of full-time work and graduate school, and my habit of slowly decorating the house for spring and then Easter fell by the wayside. If anything, I’m limping into Palm Sunday rather than riding in victoriously.
But there were a couple of bright spots, shimmering moments that felt surprising and healing.
At the beginning of Lent, I ordered Malcolm Guite’s Word in the Wilderness: A Poem a Day for Lent and Easter and have read it diligently throughout the Lenten season. Not only does Guite offer a poem a day—either his own or another poet’s—he also provides some reflections about each, specifically about how the poem relates to Lent and its traditional themes and practices. While I love poetry and have read it often throughout my life, normally I spend my reading time with novels or essays. The economy and intensity of words in poetry was exactly what I needed right now, though. I read each day’s poem first thing in the morning, and then read the poem again in the evening along with the reflection. It’s offered such a a significant boost to my spiritual life that I hope to continue the practice beyond Easter.
I also have walked (or at least prayed through, when the weather prevented me otherwise) the Stations of the Cross each Friday of Lent. While the Stations are not new to me—I’ve occasionally prayed through them with church groups on Good Friday in the past—I learned from Esau McCaulley’s Lent that some Christians use the Stations as a weekly Lenten practice. After doing a little online research, I discovered an outdoor Stations of the Cross path near the library where I work and have made it my habit to stop on my evening commute each Friday. It’s hard to overstate the depth of God’s work in my life through this practice; reflecting weekly on Jesus’s sacrifice and love on the Cross feels like a necessary new practice for me beyond Good Friday.
I’ve learned over the past few weeks that the shimmer I long for is not something I can manufacture or conjure, but it is something I can show up for. It’s something I can remain open to by being attentive and intentional. I call it a shimmer, but what I’m actually talking about is the moving of God’s Spirit through faith that’s practiced and lived out. It’s the work of God in our lives as we regularly drawing near to him in faith.
As Paul says, “Our lives are gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him” (2 Cor. 3:18, The Message).
May the grace of God shimmer through your lives during Holy Week and Eastertide.
I wonder … what do you call the feeling or experience of God’s palpable work in your life? How you foster it? How do you feel when it’s missing?
More to Think About
Stations of the Cross Resources
A couple of years ago, I put together a series of prayers and scripture readings, along with paintings by French artist James Tissot, as a Stations of the Cross reflective practice for Good Friday. Friends also shared these: Malcolm Guite’s audio readings of his own Stations of the Cross sonnets (scroll down for Stations 1-12) and these artistic meditations from Spiritual Director Deb Gregory. If you’re looking for a prayerful way to spend time reflecting on Good Friday, I commend all of these to you.
“Libraries Aren’t Safe, but They Are Good”
As I work toward my Master of Library and Information Science degree, friends and acquaintances often bring up the ways libraries and librarians often end up in the news lately. I found this article from Christianity Today to be helpful to me as a Christian library professional and as a way to explain the importance of my calling to this field. Maybe this would be helpful to you, too?
“To Reignite the Joy of Childhood, Learn to Live on 'Toddler Time'”
This article from NPR offered some helpful tips for living a slower, more intentional life. It also made some wonderful connections to James K.A. Smith’s How to Inhabit Time: Understanding the Past, Facing the Future, Living Faithfully Now, which I still hope to write about sometime in the future. Here’s one nugget that especially caught my eye:
"We don't have a single perception of time," says Peter Tse, a neuroscientist at Dartmouth College. "We have a perception of time in the moment — perceptual time, you might call that. And then you have how you regard time by looking through your memories."
"If you're paying attention, you're actually processing more units of information per unit of objective time," says Tse. And that makes time feel subjectively longer.
The Poetry Reading by Ivan Gregorovitch Olinsky
It’s possible I’ve shared a picture of this painting before, but on a recent trip to the Indianapolis Art Museum at Newfields, I came across The Poetry Reading again and felt the same stirrings in my soul that happen with each viewing. There’s something about the closeness of these women (who appear as mother and daughter to me) and the significance of their reading together that makes me miss my own mom and want to keep reading with others.
Well, you’ve come to the end of another Wonder Report. Thanks again for joining me. It’s a privilege to share this space with you and to enter into these conversations together.
As always, if you’d like to send me a note or ask a question, you can hit reply and end up in my inbox. Or you can also leave a comment on this newsletter, which will live in the archive over on Substack. I can’t always respond quickly, but I try to always respond.
Until next time,
P.S. I fully expect there will be a next time, though I still can’t promise when or how often. Thank you for sticking with me!