November Joys

Oh, friends, if you couldn't tell from my blogging nonexistence over here, November took it out of me. And yet, there were so many good moments in those 30 days!

- Heard author and food pantry founder Sara Miles speak in person. I first read her memoir Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion seven years ago during my ministry internship, and led a book discussion on it that same summer. She shared many good words on this night, including: "The healing of our communities requires faith to sit down and eat with others, especially strangers, especially the 'wrong' people."

- Ran my first 5K! Sean and I joined his colleagues in the annual Strong Legs Run benefiting Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, and we literally ran the whole thing, which I wasn't sure I'd be able to do, either physically or mentally. But thanks to my pace setter husband, the strength training I've been doing, and the refreshing early-morning air, we jogged through a quiet downtown ATL in less than 30 minutes. Needless to say, I was very proud, and we then enjoyed a delicious brunch with friends at Six Feet Under. Fun to explore more of our home city this way!

- Well, November 9 dawned, and let's be honest, I wasn't in the greatest of emotional states. I haven't written about it much at all, because I felt like a lot of people were writing about it, and I don't know that I would have added much to the noise on either side. But I was grateful to be able to go into a workplace where I could talk, exchange stunned looks, shed a few tears, eat doughnuts, and process what had happened and what to do next. Two things that struck me right away were that I

1) need to pay attention to others when I'm in public places, not look at my phone, but instead see where I can break down walls and connect with strangers

2) need to be more proactive in getting to know our actual neighbors, those who live on our street

Not to mention needing to listen more in general.  

- I'm grateful that I belong to communities that open doors for these thoughts to be put into actions. That very evening, less than 24 hours after the election, I attended a Round Table dinner, a setting meant to foster intentional conversations between people of all sorts. It was so very refreshing to sit and get to know the women at my table, beautiful inside and out, and to share pieces of my own story--but mostly, the gift was to listen. The questions we discussed were:

1) Think of a time in your life when a neighbor has become a stranger.

2) Think of a time when a stranger has become a neighbor.

3) How can we find common ground during this time in our nation and world?

If you are in the Atlanta area, I encourage you to check back on the website above to learn more, and if you're in a different place, I encourage you to find something similar to this in your own community.

- My writing group has been going strong this semester, and I've felt extra grateful for these folks, for their words, and for our ability to share, because I do believe that one of the only ways to untangle from the web of divisiveness is to share our stories with one another. This also was the case just last week, when I was able to facilitate a series of personal writing prompts with a group of coworkers; sharing our life experiences is truly one of the most sacred practices I can think of.

- We celebrated my sweet sister-in-law kicking off a new decade, and simultaneously learned that we're going to be an aunt and uncle this summer! So very excited.

- I've gotten to spend time with a lot of good friends in November--from lunches and ice cream dates with coworkers to breakfast with college friends, plus a long crisp walk and dinner with girls I've known since birth, it's been important for my well-being to catch up with these lovely souls.

- And, on the other end of the spectrum (but equally important), we have actually gotten a chance to meet several of our neighbors over the past few weeks, which has been a gift, and has made me mindful of creating opportunities to meet more soon (holiday baked goods, anyone?). 

- The Thanksgiving holiday was relaxing and delicious, and once again made me grateful for the collection of family I've been given, by blood and spirit.

- RAIN! Praise Jesus, enough said.

- Finally, Sean and I enjoyed our annual Harry Potter movie marathon over the span of the month. This year, it meant something deeper to me, and I've started rereading the books to pin it down even further; because this year, I've been especially mindful of the bravery and courage that my favorite fictional teenagers showed at every turn, as their world turned more and more dangerous. At the start, they were often courageous because they were young and naive and didn't know any better (or accidentally ran into the third-floor corridor and came face to face with a three-headed dog). But as they grew, with each new encounter with evil and fear--and perhaps more importantly, with each new encounter with good, with friendship, with loyalty--their bravery and determination to defend the oppressed, whether they knew them well or not, transformed into something purposeful and driven. They realized they were fighting for something bigger than themselves, and yet it was because of the small moments with one another, because of relationships they had forged, that they were spurred to fight in the first place (along with a prophecy or two). And even in the midst of the dark moments, they were always able to find gratitude, humor, and encouragement.

What about you? What gave you joy this November, and what are you looking forward to in December?