Happy New Year! I hope your 2019 has started with rest and people you love who love you back! Here’s a bit of what 2018 looked like in my world:
I continue to be inspired by the work I get to do as a spiritual director. The world feels noisier than ever and I’m grateful for a chance to help people tune into their own souls and spirits. Last January, I officially completed by spiritual direction certification and began expanding my practice. In February, with the help of the lovely Michelle Davis, I launched my website. I’ve been encouraged to see more people finding me there as well as through referrals. (BTW, if you’re still learning exactly what spiritual direction is, you’re in good company. Start here and here to learn more!)
I do still have room to meet with more people either in person or over video call. If you or someone you know is interested in setting up a time to explore whether I might be a good fit as a spiritual director, don’t hesitate to let me know.
Over the past year, I’ve done a lot of thinking about the fact that people don’t have to be grown ups to be soulful, spiritual beings. There’s a reason Jesus told adults that to know God, they needed to become like children. I had the chance to participate in two courses through the Companioning Center around doing spiritual direction with children led by Lacy Borgo. Lacy has done some wonderful pioneering work on facilitating spiritual conversations and play with children and is in the process of publishing a book on the subject. In the last half of the year, I had the privilege of hosting seven children for spiritual direction and will continue meetings with several.
In community ministry, New Table had a wonderful year of experimenting with new forms of fostering growth and community. We began as a parish plant in 2014 and became a house church in 2016. Over 2017, our sweet community began to dwindle. This wasn’t because anything was wrong. Life was simply happening—there were family, work, and other transitions. Our smaller numbers meant a regular liturgy became increasingly unsustainable. But there was (and is!) so much left to do. 2018 has been about facilitating dialogues and discussions; creating intimate spaces to engage spiritual practices; and offerings chances to learn together in ways that simultaneously trustworthy and stretching. In all its forms, New Table has always been a sort of third space—a warm place between the world and the church to worship and wrestle and be and become.
In 2018, New Table teamed up with the Church Lab to co-host a beautiful interfaith Maundy Thursday liturgy that ended with a foot washing service. Special thanks to Carrie Graham of TCL for that wonderful night in the Lenten season! We had Thursday night practices where we did things like tune into what we’re FOR—our passions and our loves (rather than focusing on what outrages or scares us). We explored different ways of engaging prayer including a labyrinth walk on the second Sunday of Advent.
We had Sunday supper clubs where we talked about everything from losing and finding faith, the theological significance of beauty, and, following the rash of bombings, racism in Austin. We are especially grateful to Roxanne Evans for joining us and graciously sharing some of her experiences of living and working as an African American woman in journalistic and city government spaces in Austin. And this fall, we hosted our first ever short course on women and vocation! An incredible group of women gathered to talk about our work and the ways our gender plays into all of it. I was consistently humbled to learn together with women of various life, marital, and family stages. We will most definitely be doing more things like this in the future!
Along with the multi-talented Penny Riordan (who continues to be part of visioning and planning at New Table), I’ve also had the chance to participate in a Be the Bridge group. We gather as a diverse group of women in a home once a month to dialogue around breaking down racism, particularly in the church, and pursuing reconciliation. After our last meeting next month, we’ll be part of hosting an introductory meeting to form the next group of bridge builders, hopefully in East Austin!
I have also been working with my friend Becky Grisell to cultivate an online community called Midrash. It’s a book club. And it’s more than just a book club. We want it to be a place to foster a love of thinking deeply about God and life and peace and kindness with other curious souls. A place to engage in good conversations around good books and to be stretched by each others’ perspectives and experiences.
We’re convinced that process spaces for ideas that elevate justice and compassion are particularly vital in this historical moment. Too many of us feel isolated or weary at both the trajectory and the tone of the conversations happening in our communities (not to mention the larger culture). We want Midrash to be a place for community, for genuine engagement with people and ideas, for being stretched by perspectives beyond our everyday circles.
Rest and celebration
In the midst of all this good and meaningful work, I had a chance to be more faithful to rest and Sabbath. Even knowing rest is a command and that God built it into creating this world, I struggle to practice it. I have experienced how much it matters this year.
Sometimes rest took the form of unplugging and getting on the trail or to the gym or yoga studio. Sometimes it was time with family and friends. Kyle and I got to take a great trip to Portland for our anniversary this year. I got to show him some of my old seminary stomping grounds and we got to make some good new memories. (My anniversary gift to him was a playlist of our nearly 30 years together. You can listen with us here.) Kyle and I also got to do a staycation at the Hotel Van Zandt between Christmas and New Year. We learned Edie loves hotel living with all the new smells and people to meet. And I got to take a short trip to San Antonio to see a Dawes show with my best friend Jenny.
Craig had a surprise party for his 30th and Kyle had a whiskey/ping pong/snow cone party for his 50th. We had a blast with lots of old and new friends at both.
And Torey and I are still reading together. This year What You Read, I Will Follow finished Moby Dick, The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, and Gone with the Wind. And we have lots of new reviews to catch up on this year!
From fear to love
It’s hard to see it from looking at the news but I’m convinced the Spirit has been and is up to something good and beautiful in the world. I believe God is working inside the church and also outside it to rekindle good loves and to draw us more fully into what Jesus began of God’s good ways. I’m grateful for the ways I get to be part of that.
But change is hard and scary. I think much of the worst of the current political and cultural climate are really reactions and backlashes to that fear. And our call is live into love which casts out fear and all its toxic companions. I love the way John puts it—“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love” (I John 4:18).
Coming up in 2019
This year, I have several unfinished writing projects bubbling and brewing—I can’t wait to share them!
Spiritual direction and New Table’s community work will both continue to grow.
Becky and I have a Midrash beta testing group that meets on January 22nd. We look forward to taking that group’s insights into our plans for 2019.
I am excited to be part of the inaugural New Story Festival. I’ll be offering spiritual direction mini sessions and will also be leading two workshops. One will be on the need for and power of lament and the other will be on confessing and healing racism. I’m particularly excited that the event will take place at Huston Tillotson, Austin’s historically African American university. I’d love for you to join me there! Get tickets here.
I’d love to hear from you!
I’m always down for a cup of coffee, a glass of wine on the porch, or a walk on the trail. Don’t hesitate to reach out and let me know how you are!
With love and care,