Musings: November 2018

In just a few days, we’ll begin the season of Advent. Even if you don’t observe much else on the liturgical calendar, it’s hard to avoid the on-ramp to Christmas. Instead of counting shopping days and check marks on my do-list, my practice has been to think of Advent as a time of preparation for the celebration of Jesus’s birth. There’s no magic formula for this. When my sons were all young and enthusiastic (and boisterous!), we did a daily project:  baking together, crafting an ornament, visiting a nursing home, or even bailing out of the homeschool schedule early and reading big stacks of Christmas books. We’ve looked at Old Testament prophecies and thought about the message of the angel, the response of the shepherds, and the visitation of the mysterious magi. Advent puts time on our side for more in depth teaching than can ever happen in a quick read through of Luke 2 on Christmas eve.

One component of Advent that seems to get lost in the tinsel is the recognition that Jesus had a very somber and serious reason for showing up all pink and newborn in that Bethlehem manger. He would grow up to bear our griefs and to carry our sorrows, to be wounded and bruised so that we could know healing and peace.  From time to time all of us feel the dissonance of Christmas joy alongside regular old December stress, and to varying degrees our own experiences have confirmed that Simeon’s prophecy of a heart-piercing sword is not the only evidence that the Incarnation started out tinged with blood.

David Bannon is a grieving father who knows the bitter taste of disappointment–with life, and with himself. He was convicted of felony charges in 2006, and, then, in January of 2015 his twenty-six year old daughter died of a fentanyl-laced heroin overdose.  He found his way back into a true and heartfelt celebration of Christmas by embracing the grief as well as the solace expressed in Christian art. The result is Wounded in Spirit: Advent Art and Meditations, a collection of twenty-five meditations based on paintings that become devotional in nature as they “convey truth rather than arguing for it.” (xi)

Leaning into the joy as well as the sorrow during Advent prepares the heart for a celebration of Christ’s birth that is rooted in hope. Since “grief can ruin or mature us,” (11) there is wisdom in bringing it out into the open to do its work, and Bannon employs a palette of Scripture references, quotations from great literature, and images of masterpieces from a collection of flawed, troubled, and wildly talented artists in his creation of twenty-five meditations to carry the pause of communion through the season of Advent.

Wounded in Spirit: Advent Art and Meditations, is a guide for those who, perhaps, would not appreciate a more traditional approach to Advent, but who would find companionship in the healing knowledge that they do not suffer alone.

November News

My feet are still firmly planted in the season of Thanksgiving. Ten Morins gathered around the table this year, and I was so caught up in the joy of it that I took nary a picture.

 

 

The kitchen renovation has been front and center here on the hill this month. We tore the old kitchen away down to the shiny insulation and even removed the wall adjoining the bathroom (Don’t ask!). We have installed new windows, new cabinets, and new flooring, and I’m still in shock, but am making a valiant attempt at returning to some semblance of normalcy before we add a Christmas tree to the chaos soup that has become our living space.

 

 

This is high school musical season here in mid-coast Maine, and my youngest son was bringing down the house as Donkey in Shrek the Musical. It’s a hectic season with seven performances, but coordinating concessions for sale during intermission has given this homeschooling mum a way to serve the community while getting to know other parents and also the students my own kids hang out with when they are involved in public school activities. We’ve got a faithful band of area businesses and parents who donate goodies and bottled water, and we do a booming business to raise money for the program.

November Reading and Writing

The women in my Sunday school class have finished reading Cynthia Heald’s Becoming a Woman of Grace (Bible Studies: Becoming a Woman)and we’re moving on to a study of, perhaps, the most misunderstood book of the Old Testament, the book of Judges. I can’t begin to say how much I’m looking forward to this!

 

 

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Here at Living Our Days, I’ve shared three books in the month of November, and you’re invited to check out my reviews, especially if you’re looking for gift ideas for the readers in your life:

All the Colors We Will See by Patrice Gopo
It’s All Under Control by Jennifer Dukes Lee
I’d Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel

 

 

It was very satisfying to team up with Desiring God again this month with a post I wrote from the ongoing experience of being a mother-in-law in training. Then, when Jeanne Takenaka invited me to write about gratitude for her blog, I felt right at home with the topic–not because I’ve mastered it by any means, but because it’s something I am committed to writing about until I begin to get a handle on it. Gratitude is a matter of obedience, and it is a choice we have to make, by faith.

I was especially thankful in November for the opportunity to take a blogging break so that I could be more fully present for family and for all the Thanksgiving activity. It was a good week, and well-timed.

I’m giving thanks for you, trusting that your season of Thanksgiving has filled you up with joy and an abiding gratitude for all that God has given — and for the Giver Himself as He presides over the many gatherings still to come in this season of celebrations.

 

Many thanks to Paraclete Press for providing a copy of Wounded in Spirit to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

For those who have been missing the What I’m Into community, you’ll be thrilled to learn that Shannan (of shannanenjoyslife.com) is carrying the torch forward! Click here for a link to the November gathering!

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase Wounded in Spirit: Advent Art and Meditations or any of the resources mentioned in this post, simply click on the title (or the image) within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you make a purchase a tiny percentage helps support the work I do here at no extra cost to you.

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I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

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Beloved Differences Bring Us Together in Hope

Conversations about the laws that govern chemistry might be one of the most spiritual things going on this week at my dining room table. Homeschooling chemistry involves revisiting the Periodic Table of Elements with its jagged line separating the metals and the non-metals and the tiny numbers that define and describe unseen properties of pure substances, and for me this is pure joy. Chemistry’s Law of Definite Proportions that I’ve been unknowingly applying to my pancake recipe all these years points to a God who is not only a Creator but also a Designer. The fact that a highly reactive metal and a poisonous gas, when combined in the correct proportions, can be sprinkled on my hamburger to heighten its flavor is a joyful lesson in the unexpected, but then, the laws of science serve to heighten our awareness of the exceptions to the rules and the unpredictability that leaves room for the unknown.

In All the Colors We Will See: Reflections on Barriers, Brokenness, and Finding Our Way, Patrice Gopo declares herself to be a combination of elements, unique and unpredictable–more evidence that “elements that hold certain properties in isolation. . . together yield something perhaps less obvious.” (26) Her story points to the beauty that is inherent in unexpected combinations of geography, ethnicity, and culture. As a woman with a unique mingling of genes from the Asian and the African continents, as a black Jamaican American who grew up in Alaska, she struggled to land in a known space, and her writing is a travelogue in which Gopo finds peace in living with and learning to love her “unpredictable unknown.”

Through a collection of essays, the reader realizes that it is possible to find home in far off places, and that our differences actually lend us a point of commonality, a gift to celebrate, and a reason to come together. It is through loving our own people, through speaking the language of our heart, through cherishing the unique beauty that our genes produce, through embracing that heritage, and accepting our own way of being in the world that we begin to see our “differences” as an offering to the world–not a barrier from the world.

Speaking a Different Language

What is the “ideal” way to raise a child in a multi-lingual home? Patrice and her husband Nyasha both speak English, and his Zimbabwean Shona is more a cultural memory than a heart language. Even so, they have honored its presence in their family by dipping their brush into its palette to name their daughters. They are learning as a family to count to ten in Shona, and have resisted the Americanized pronunciation [plan-tayn’] of Patrice’s delicious Jamaican plantains [plan’-tins].  There is room in their home for the conflation of all the various cultures and practices that are part of their family’s heritage.

Cherishing a Different Beauty

Giving up her routine of hair relaxing chemicals and returning to her natural hair texture, Patrice discovered strength that came as a complete surprise. She weaves foundational wisdom behind her choice throughout a number of her essays, calling readers to attention regarding the prevailing views of beauty that idealize very specific white traits.

Learning to style and manage her daughters’ hair has heightened the importance of Patrice’s understanding of her own feelings about beauty, and you can read her essay on acquiring both skill and confidence over at SheLoves Magazine.

Embracing a Different Heritage

When Patrice arrived at Carnegie Mellon University to study engineering, she also received free and immersive tutoring in Black American culture with details that just were not part of her upbringing by two Jamaican immigrant parents with Indian ancestry. Her identity process has been one of claiming all the parts, living under the weight of all the varied stories, accepting the unknown chapters of the those stories, and living the sum total with congruence before her children.

As a black family worshiping in a mostly white congregation, Patrice offers thoughtful commentary on the tension between Paul’s declaration that in Christ “there is neither Jew nor Gentile” and the Sunday morning tightrope walk of parsing her sentences, avoiding offense, and dodging sensitive topics. While reaching out to her white sisters one at a time, she shares that “sometimes only a person who looks like me can understand certain things about me. Like what it feels like to walk into a room and consistently be the only person of my race.” (191)

Beloved Differences Bring Us Together in HopeAccepting a Different Way of Being in the World

Selfless serving has become a counter-cultural pursuit, so when Patrice announced that she was “giving the year after college to God,” there were some raised eyebrows and concern among family and friends. She ended up in a far off land . . . washing silverware to the glory of God.

Returning to the United States to begin her career in engineering, she eventually moved on to community development, and she shares her conflicted journey of leaving a career that sorely lacks black female role models. Almost surprised to find herself a writer, her voice is raised in the pursuit of problem solving and justice.

Patrice Gopo joins Deidra Riggs in the choir of women who are singing “God Bless the Whole World” in a minor key. With writing that carries depth of emotion and clarity of expression, they remind white mothers like myself that our sons need not fear the fate of Philando Castile or Alton Sterling, and they offer words to bridge the empathy gap.  Looking squarely at tragedy, Patrice acknowledges that we live in the space between what is and what will someday be while praying for God-initiated transformation leading to oneness in heart and in mind.

Even as a seasoned under-liner-of-sentences-in-preparation-for-a-thorough-book-review-to-be-written-very-soon, I found myself gulping down this collection of essays with my pen idle in my hand, forgetting to read like a reviewer, and just reading for the experience, because each of us is a collection of stories. We forget this at our peril, for the unfolding of a story implies hope and possibility at every stage of life:

“You press forth into the unknown,
and the other side, the reality of
the other side, pierces your heart in a way
that reminds you of your humanness,
of your possibilities, of your very life.”

Patrice Gopo, All the Colors We Will See

Many thanks to Thomas Nelson for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

Thankful for the differences that just might bring us together after all,

Michele Morin

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase All the Colors We Will See: Reflections on Barriers, Brokenness, and Finding Our Way simply click on the title (or the image) within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Patrice’s website is a rich resource with links to many places where her writing has appeared as well as her speaking schedule. Click here to visit for further information about her book and her career.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.