Tuesday's Attention #9
Sowing in the In-between
Sowing in the In-between
Every week or so Kate Bowler writes and shares a blessing. This past week she wrote one on the in-between places in life. She starts it out by saying,
“Blessed are we, somewhere unnamable, fully present to our reality. Tracking it, with all its subtle gradations and colors and contrasts, the sweetness and the struggle, the stuck and not quite fitting.”
Her words resonated with me (they often do) and they named what I’ve been trying to name: the unnamable. I am (and, I bet many of us are) living in an in-between place. Maybe like me, as Suleika Jaouad writes so beautifully in her book, you’re living between the kingdom of the sick and the kingdom of the well. Or maybe you’re in-between your present reality and your dreams. Maybe you’re in a place of feeling in-between gratitude and also discontentment. Maybe you’re in-between your joy and your grief, your confidence and your insecurities, your courage and your fear. Wherever you are and whatever you’re in-between, I hope you feel the strength to hold that paradoxical place in your hands. There is space for the both and. You do not have to reconcile it all or make sense of it all either.
When it comes to the in-between, we are each in a place of waiting. I’ve come to learn, we are all always waiting on something. Waiting is inherently a part of living and it’s also hard. Really hard.
We are impatient with our impermanence.
We are impatient with our pain.
We are impatient with our dreams, wanting it all to come together quickly and smoothly and just as we imagined it all to be.
But, fortunately and unfortunately the waiting is the living.
It’s in the waiting where our strength grows. Especially in the waiting that not many others see. Right now, people are beginning to plant their seeds and seedlings in Georgia. Many seedlings are still kept inside due to this unpredictable weather wavering between 22 to 82 degrees. At first, not much growth is seen. The seeds haven't even touched the garden beds. Their growth is confined, to an extent, in their containers. Yet, the Gardner is at work: tiling the soil from the previous season, nurturing the seedlings, and strengthening the sturdiness of the garden bed. It’s in this preparation, this period of waiting, that the plant is set up for success to really take root and to grow. A harvest is coming, but one must wait. One must be attentive to the process, persistent in the nurturing of the seeds, and also patiently trusting of all that they cannot control. So too do we. As we stand in our place of in-betweenness, half of the battle is learning to accept what we cannot control and the other half is leaning into what we can. It takes work. Hard work. Tiresome work. But, it’s healing work. It’s hopeful work. It’s harvest work.
In your in-between don’t be afraid to grieve what you need. For those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy my friends. In the waiting, you are sowing much more than you can see. Your grief is not wasted. A harvest is coming. Wait and see. Heal in the in-between. (Psalm 126)
Words that have been sticking with me:
A few months ago someone told me that if I love Wendell Berry and Mary Oliver then I would probably appreciate John O'Donohue's work. That someone was right. I recently purchased To Bless the Space Between Us and it is a refreshingly lovely book. O’Donohue differentiates between a poem and a blessing in the introduction of his book. He writes, “A blessing is a difficult form to render. I have endeavored to write them as poetically as possible, but they are not poems. A poem is an utterly independent linguistic object. It begins with its first syllable and ends with the last; in between it is its own force field. In contrast, the blessing form has an eye to the outside in order to embrace and elevate whatever is happening to someone.” I was fascinated by this differentiation as I am drawn to both forms of writing. They both can invoke great depth, but through different avenues. It felt fitting to read this introduction and to begin a book of blessings as Kate Bowler’s blessings have so heavily encouraged me in this season, alongside more of Mary Oliver’s poetry. However, the words I want to share with you are not from a blessing, but from his introduction of the book. O’Donohue writes,
“We enter the world as strangers who all at once become heirs to a harvest of memories, spirit, and dream that has long preceded us and will now enfold, nourish, and sustain us. The gift of the world is our first blessing.”
As I read those words, I find myself at a crossroads with them. The world is both our first blessing and our first understanding of all that is broken. We see that now as war unfolds and so too does a beautiful spring. It makes no sense. It is the threshold of brokenness and beauty that we all exist in-between.
List of Attention:
I am really realizing how much the weather impacts me
I am reminded how life-giving it is for me to share a meal with people I love
A sleeping baby is precious and healing
Life is better with celebrations
A garden is a poet’s dream for all the metaphors it brings
A Monday morning at Home Depot with all the sweet old people and the birds is now one of my favorite spots to be
The JOY of a farmer’s market and the beauty of strangers gathering together on a Saturday morning to support others
How much happier Rue (my dog) is when she has a lot of blankets in her crate
At the end of every newsletter, I want to leave you all with some questions/prompts to think on. My hope is that these can encourage you in some form or fashion. Whether it is through just taking some time to think through them, to write about that, or to talk through them with a loved one. If you ever want a friend to hear your thoughts, feel free to share them back with me! I always love to read and to listen.
If you get the chance, discuss your thoughts on this question with a friend!
What are you currently in-between? How has that in-between space been impacting you? What is it moving you towards and what is it bringing you to grieve?
Creative Prompts/Celebration Tasks:
Creatively capture your in-between space. Maybe for you that means to paint it out. Or, to write a poem on it. Or, to grow a garden or to create something physical that feels connected to how you have been feeling. Create a piece of pottery that represents what you are in-between. Or even make a meal!
One Word Prompts:
Write a letter in such a way where one side of what you are in-between is writing to the other side. For example, my courage could write to my insecurities.
The past two days I have dug up an old flower bed that you can tell has not been used in years. When I started the project, I was really excited. However, as soon as I actually began trying to dig up the roots, I felt discouraged. I realized the work was about to be harder than I had anticipated and I didn’t know if my body would be strong enough to do it. I was between feeling well enough to start a flower garden and unwell enough to quit after the first five-minutes. I felt confronted with my present reality. That’s been happening a lot lately. In that place, I’ve learned I have to be patient— with myself and with my process. What I had hoped to do with the flower garden in one day, took two. What I had hoped would have taken one month of adjusting to life with my disease, has taken over 12 months and I am still deep in that adjusting. I am still in-between grieving what was and dreaming of what will be. As spring has arrived though, I am reminded that there is always a harvest that arrives after the winter. There will always be flowers that bloom each spring. The waiting is worth the glory and the goodness on the other side.
I encourage you to, this week, pay attention to whatever it is you’re in-between and whatever it is that you are waiting on. Lean into your waiting. Actively wait instead of passively pushing beyond your waiting, your grieving, and your growing. See what beauty arises in the in-between. See if you can see a harvest, before the harvest has even come above ground.
As you carry on into this week, may your days ahead be filled with words that encourage you, laughter that heals you, and moments of beauty that pull your attention in and bring you to slow down.
May you know that you, yourself, are worth paying attention to.
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