mamaw’s masons

Late last week, I made it through the last box of my grandmother’s mason jars. My grandmother was many things, including a devoted steward of the garden she grew each year. Not one for wasting or wanting, my grandmother canned with commitment, preserving precious things for her household and others. Each spring, summer, and fall, my grandmother shipped home-canned goods to wherever my family happened to be living. I remember my mother’s excitement when these boxes arrived, each packed as carefully as the jars containing pickled beets and okra, stewed tomatoes, relishes, and jellies.

I inherited a glorious assortment of my grandmother’s jars several years ago. It remains my joy – and my journey – to keep becoming the kind of person that grows the kinds of things that warrant preservation. My grandmother’s jars are perfectly and differently sized to serve up our favorites. The thick-walled pint jars are the glasses we refill several times each meal. The tall, narrow jars are just right for the okra we forget to pick before it overgrows. The gallon-sized are perfect for the peaches we pickle for the holidays. I am mindful that size and shape are material to what each jar can – and cannot – hold. In my daily quest for the just enough, sufficiency shows up in a metric measured by the headspace required for things like air and water, heat and pressure. Even so, I sometimes overfill jars beyond their capacity. What does the promise of more than and too much sound like? It is a crack I can hear as the bottom falls out. If only we could hold in our hands other things we stress and strain to the point of breaking. If only we would.

This batch of jars came my way earlier this summer after my parents made a trek to rural northeast Arkansas where they cleaned out the last storage unit holding remnants of my grandparent’s lives. The boxes sat under my carport until I had time to honor the depths of so much emptiness. Some homecomings are piecemeal and this final stash from my grandmother’s kitchen has been taking up more than space alone; it has been calling for communion. Over the course of a few weeks, I carried box after box to the kitchen counter where each jar made its way into the sink. Once there, this simple liturgy felt right: pick up. handle with care. wash. rinse. repeat. As dirt and dust swirled down the drain, elements returned to their own. The heft and hope and holiness and humanity of these jars – in these jars – was and is both work and witness. Returned to their shiny clean glory, these jars are returning for me still. Together, we are putting up (with) a birthright that is both fertile ground and glass refracting.

I love these jars that line almost every shelf in our home. They remind me of things made for filling up and sharing, washing out and repurposing. Even as these jars call to mind what it means to use and re-use, to be used and used up, they aren’t the only things speaking. Now that each box is empty, I find my gaze shifting from content to container and back again. There is always more to notice, and I am mesmerized by my grandmother’s handwriting scrawled across boxes and the occasional lid that was left behind. The notes I can make out catalog a careful process that began by planting living things to harvest. If these jars are teaching process and patience, these boxes carry stories, too, including those about the many childhood meals supplemented by the work of my grandmother’s hands. One small box that once held pint-sized mason jars keeps coming for me. It’s similar to several others I have already recycled. This one, though, has the mailing label my grandmother wrote out to the Cincinnati address where my family was living the year I was born.

I don’t know what matters more: that my grandmother grew and processed and canned and shipped the vegetables that nourished my mother through her pregnancy, or that this box keeps making its way home, full of emptied jars that are living proof of what it takes to feed one another. This label that shows the distance love keeps traveling to grow a family? It is testimony to fruits of all kinds of spirits. Some inheritances beg questions. Others show up as practices of being and knowing and believing and becoming. Who am I? Someone who prays with and over and through jars that preach a gospel of the sustainable and all-sufficient.

One day, these newest companions will make their way back to the kitchen counter where they will be sterilized, packed, and submitted to all kinds of pressure. For now, they watch and wait for their season. Until then, I join them in the work of sacred accompaniment. It remains unclear who is accompanying whom, but the jars keep showing up. As do I. As does my grandmother. May we keep listening for the gifts we are born to share with one another. I pray these jars hold just enough – for you and for me.


Dear Twite,

May I call you by your first name or is there another you might prefer? Please forgive the intrusion, but my granddaughter, Meredith, has been hovering. From what I can gather, she is cooking up something with your granddaughter. Have you heard from Jojo recently? Some days, Meredith tries so hard to get my attention – as if each set table, bed made, and garden tended is not an answer to the prayers I speak over my family each day. She doesn’t look for me in her books and writing, but I am there, too. I wonder if you also watch and worry over your loved ones? 

I’m sorry to begin with such a personal question. It’s not one I would have asked before eternity loosened my tongue. Of course, I used to speak my mind at home, but I knew my place. My grandchildren called my admonishments “preaching,” even though that’s not women’s work. Ours are different gifts, no matter what my granddaughters say. I ruled my home from the kitchen table where I dished up food and formation three times a day. Beyond my front door, I was known for my cooking, for my husband’s work ethic, and for my grandchildren’s accomplishments. It was enough. Wasn’t it?

I have much to say these days, although I sometimes wonder who is listening. I was soft-spoken my entire life, so much so that I needed a microphone to teach Sunday School. It’s almost funny that I couldn’t make myself heard in the basement room where our small class gathered, but is (self) silencing ever laughable? I didn’t really want to teach anyway, but the class chipped in to buy a sound system and I prepared faithfully each week. I wonder what we would have talked about, if we had really listened to one another? What learning did we miss beyond the approved lessons and stories with foregone conclusions? That was a different time and place, but Meredith says its conventions are alive and well. When I’m still, I can hear my mother’s voice and the voice of her mother before. They were strong women, but it’s their work – not their words – that I remember. I, too, was a hard worker and I don’t think anyone expects to hear from me now that the last dishes are washed and put away. What could I have to teach from this place of revelation and reclamation? Do you think our granddaughters know their value beyond what they produce? Are they speaking their truths? Do you think they are being heard? Do you think they know we are listening for them, too?

Meredith has never been one to watch and wait. There’s something about time that has gotten hold of her. She thinks that each day should be a measure unto itself. There’s something about majesty she had tattooed on her forearm. I still can’t believe she got a tattoo (no day is quite that majestic), but I know something about the weight of each passing moment and the unpredictable nature of the seasons and their too-swift passing. Time, then, is not our own. 

It has been five years since I traded disappearing-into-dementia for a world without end. How do you bear the endless possibility of it all? When I look back on my days, I wonder about the relationship between that which I inherited and that which lives on in my children and grandchildren. Do you find yourself wondering about stories and secrets, and about beauty and hardship in equal measure? I sometimes long for a dough board and the quick work I made of biscuits and cornbread. In the kitchen, I rolled out confusion and shaped each of my beloveds into their own allotted place in this world. I didn’t always get that right, even though my baking was fooI-proof. I know they miss more than my cooking, but I wonder whether they know enough to miss all of me? I wonder whether I knew enough to be all of me. When I see Meredith trying to live into her birthright, I wonder whether I shared enough of my pain along with favorite recipes and sewing patterns. I am still learning to trust the words that could have given voice to things I didn’t know to say until I was at a safe enough distance not to feel the impact of their naming. Death, then, is not quite what my Bible told me it would be.

I think that Meredith reads the Bible differently. In fact, it troubles me that she doesn’t read it much at all. But I think she understands something about how Jesus lives in the unknown and unknowable. I don’t know why she finds that liberating. I find comfort in certainty and an orthodoxy that forecloses questions beyond my raising. I can remember my granddaughters asking endless questions as young women. I still cannot fathom their vocabularies and their prideful insistence on a place at the table. Where do these women – still young! – come by eyes that see and hearts wide open? Does your granddaughter continue to surprise you, too?

Meredith says that you come from a place near the water. I wonder if you miss your homeland like I do mine. Sometimes I ache for the places where my roots run deep. The gospel songs tell of a “glad reunion day” and “meetings in the air,” but I’m still waiting. Do you ever find yourself growing impatient for your loved ones? Meredith says that your people are called the Mai-Mai. My people don’t have a name that I know of, but they traveled to a place with rolling hills fed by deep rivers where others were already living and farming. My people took the land for their own, although we don’t really talk about that. My grandchildren think we should, but I don’t know why we would stir up the past. Isn’t it over and done with? Meredith says it doesn’t work like that, but I am still shoring up my courage to tell stories of the lives and families sacrificed to make way for my own. I think this telling might be part of the inheritance I’ve left behind. It’s the work my hill-folks will take up so that I can rest. I never knew it would take this much work to wait on my family from afar.

Some days, I am so very weary. Where is this new body promised me? I believe that hard work and prayer can overcome anything. After all, didn’t Jesus pay it all? Meredith says it doesn’t quite work like that, either. She thinks that Jesus gave me a sound mind and a clear voice. I think he gave me generations. I wonder then, about this learning that crosses from grandmothers to granddaughters. Do you ever find yourself listening for the wisdom growing up in those we left behind?

Meredith says that you have precious namesakes carrying your love and life forward. I, too, have been honored in this way, although I think Meredith is still sore that she wasn’t gifted my name. She and her sister will have to keep carving out a place for themselves at the table I set for them. Each plate and cup they serve up carries the lifeblood of our ancestors. I hope and pray – daily – for their feasting in this world of famine, and for their voices in the silencing wilderness. I will add Jojo to my daily prayers, too.

There’s more to say. There always is, but I have already gone on too long. That’s what happens when it takes lifetimes to circle back to our truths. Meredith says that she will see Jojo again this week. Isn’t that something? The way we find one another at just the right time? I’ll be praying for this tender work. I don’t really understand it, but Meredith tells me that she cannot learn and unlearn on her own. I wish she were reaching for Jesus, but she tells me that Spirit moves when our granddaughters reach across distance and difference to listen and bear witness together. Perhaps we, too, will find the face of God in some sharing of our own? My voice still trembles, but I grow more resolute each day. May our words be woven into the worlds our granddaughters are fashioning – for themselves and for us all.

From the hills to the waters, with love and blessings, 

Lou Ellen


Growing up in a musical family, I practiced the flute daily. I worked hard to stay true to what I saw on the page, translating lines and spaces into something I could hear in my mind’s eye.

These days, a different kind of practice holds me to account. Writing in the early 20th century, philosopher Simone Weil described attention as a rare and pure form of generosity. Attention, Weil contended, is something like prayer. More recently, author-activist adrienne maree brown characterized attention as one of our most valuable resources. Attending deeply is the foundation of learning and liberation. It is also the foundation of my practice. To be present – to our surroundings and stories, to the systems that shape our worlds, to our full selves, and to one another – is what Wendell Berry calls our “real work.”

Mine unfolds here, in a melody of my own making, born of harmonies gifted generations ago. Practicing presence, I return to the page and listen. These transcriptions capture moments when breath and music and word become life.

music man

He was many things to many people. To me, he was sometimes synonymous with the dance community that changed how I move through the world. He was also his own. It’s hard to imagine he is no longer with us. I wonder who we will be now that he is gone. I remembering meeting him at the bi-monthly dances he hosted at the Greenfield grange. Perched on his chair at the front of the small stage, he played fiddle and called dances that people loved and lamented and loved to lament. It takes a certain kind of person to believe so deeply in a certain kind of tradition to risk a certain kind of standing. I am grateful for the witness he was, even as my love language calls for a balanced stance that swings. And still, in his insistence that some of us know the history of these movements we step into together, he nurtured something bigger than any one person or preference.

This beloved was a gifted artist in so many ways. He hand lettered and illustrated the beautiful flyers that promoted his dances, and chronicled each gathering in books he kept at his feet. Sitting out at the top, you could thumb through pages telling stories of those who came before. Waiting to find your way back into a dance takes time. Sometimes the measure of 8 bars takes years to master. And he was a master teacher. It means something that what he leaves behind is a community of people who know how to call themselves together. No matter the occasion – New Year, May Day, a random Friday night, each and every birthday – we know what to sing. May you, too, have a long, long life!

In the worn-down places where bone and rosin meet, his body stood tallest. And it’s neither easy nor uncomplicated, this truth where right-ness becomes righteousness before to dust we return. And still, his commitments kept him with us for longer than he might have otherwise managed. When I think about (t)his light, three moments come to mind:

There was that Dance Flurry in the early aughts that wasn’t. A heavy snowstorm hit Saratoga Springs while thousands were traveling in for a weekend of dance and connection. When the electricity went out, event organizers began triaging what could be triaged. Never mind the pending cancellation, he grabbed his fiddle and made his way to the center of a ballroom. There, he planted himself among those of us not yet ready to call it quits, playing acoustically while shouting calls to a room that had to get so very quiet in order to move together. I am still in awe of the way he held court that night, reminding us that we are the power we need. On the up bow, he held us suspended while snow fell all around.

Then there was that night at the grange when he turned to my recently relocated partner and said, “You should call here.” This newcomer had called some dances before and was still learning the patter that has matured to ensure equal parts groaning and grinning. I’m not sure why this elder extended generosity to an unknown dancer from down South. But he did. And that invitation was both opening and initiation. I remember the combination of butterflies and pride that kept me on my toes that night. Our household keeps this memory alive in the framed print of the hand-drawn flyer that celebrates what it means and takes to open not only a door, but to gift a place and a practice. I hope to honor all that he saw from stages all across this country. He did not always see or hear everyone. But sometimes, he looked into a crowd and grew community – one beat at a time.

The last time I saw him in person he was navigating the final chapter of a slow and steady and almost-unspeakable decline. He could no longer talk, but his fiddle sounded just like him. I spotted him standing alone on a corner in Montague Center. Fiddle on his shoulder, he was a one-man cheering section for a local road race. His fingers did not falter as they played reel after reel, jig after jig. I can’t remember the last time we spoke, but what remains is the sound of his music – unmistakable and irrepressible. And also his calling – and the way he played so many of us home.

In memory of David Kaynor

June 10, 2021

Labor(s) of Love

Among other things, I journey with a group of folks moving through a two-year fellowship program that I shape and steward. For the second of six COVID-calibrated weekend-long gatherings, participants were invited to come back for bits and pieces, sticks and stones, learning and unlearning—and for one another. From people to place to purpose to power: some things are working, others remain to be worked out. Along the way, this question begs for more than my attention: What is fellowship?

Almost halfway through their shared experience, this group is exploring relations between beliefs and birthrights and bodies and burdens and blessings. Contemplating the distance between here and there, they are listening for stories and systems everywhere. A fellowship journey is many things. It is always a practice of return. Will you join me for a teaching and telling, a wisdom and way-making, a leaning in, a listening for, a loving on, and letting go? I’ll lead off—heart in my hands.

In the beginning was a question: Who are you? And where are you from? In the beginning was here. It was also there. We were, too. And it was good. At the start of it all, fellows made pinch pots to mold something that carries. Two seminars later, some are holding tightly to ends both loose and loosening. The work of beginning and being and becoming demands for grasping and gasping and grappling before growth comes calling. What does it mean to make a way for the fullness of yourself and for others, too? Can you see in the work of your hands all the way into someone else’s heart?

I like to think that pinch pots remind us that this thing called fellowship comes together in things that matter, and in matter, too. It is something we birth and become together. Howard Thurman once contended that hatred flourishes when there is contact without fellowship. But what is fellowship? What turns a meeting into a moment, a conversation into a convening, a stranger into a friend into a fellow? How will we know when we’ve arrived? And who will we keep going back for?

Striving for fellowship, I look high and low for wisdom speaking truth to people, to power, to pain, to possibility. I hear in the words of Ella Baker a call beyond any circle or commitment that understands itself as closed or complete. Hers is not a reach for accumulation, but an invitation to accountability—each and every day. Speaking at a 1974 Puerto Rico Solidarity Rally, she shared:

A nice gathering like today is not enough. You have to go back, and reach out to your neighbors who don’t speak to you, and you have to reach out to your friends, who think they are making it good, and get them to understand that they as well as you and I cannot be free in America — or anywhere else where there is capitalism and imperialism — until we can get people to recognize that they themselves have to make the struggle and have to make the fight for freedom every day in the year, every year, until they win it.

Not yours or mine or even ours, but theirs. This I do / you do / we do— for the rest and reflection and reckoning and relationship found in one another, and also for these very same things we take back home to our neighbors. Not the ones we already know and love, but those we can’t even imagine claiming. I believe that this gathering-in of one another is part of what it means to lead a life both humble and human.

At the core of my fellowship practice is an expansive and evolving definition of the human—of life down to the cellular level and also beyond this lived plane of existence. Reading S. Brent Plate’s musings on the things through and with which so many make all different kinds of meaning, I feel how vast and varied the human experience has always been. Reflecting on the brilliance of differences big and small, I wonder what we miss by training our gaze on the proximate. What is the relationship between the local and the global? What about past and present? Between yesterday, today, and tomorrow? Between ritual and remembering? Between the living and the liberated? I read Plate reading religion to remember that senses are systems, too. I read Plate reading the order of things to honor the plenty of disorder. I also read Plate to remember to put my books down and to trust the teaching found in the doing and the making and the breaking.

If humanity matters — and it might not matter more than other (living) things — then how you and I understand ourselves in relation to those not just here, but over there might matter more. A deep commitment to the many relations that construct and constrain how we encounter and engage one another is core to a practice that is also always a process balancing being with becoming. To be in right relationship—with something, someone, some place—is a lifelong journey that pivots and prods and processes and pleads and probes. I read Edward Said and so many others reading Michel Foucault reading so many selves to remember how systems of this thing called knowledge work. I also read against the grain of my grandmother’s kitchen table to remember meaning—and ‘maters, too—dished up by hand. Not just who and what or where, but how we read gifts a growing understanding of yours and mine and ours. Reading and returning are entwined postures that circle back for them and theirs. What will it take to move through fury and fears and fragilities and fictions and faiths and failings to something called understanding or empathy or even fellowship?

These things—beginning, relating, returning, deepening—take time. And time isn’t an even playing field either. What kind of time do you have? What kind of time will you make? And what does it take to honor that which you can share while withholding judgement for those who cannot? In the final volume of her poetic trilogy, Alexis Pauline Gumbs shares this ancestral riddle:

we promise to make time flexible, if you give us all your time.

Dub: Finding Ceremony (Duke University Press, 2020)

Living in worlds that count so many things by inhumane measure, I keep returning to this challenge. Gumbs—and the many she evokes and invokes in an intentional listening practice—seems to imply that the more time you give to things that matter, the more time will yield to those things, too. Even if the clock is always ticking, I’m not here for the glorification of the busy or for the lifting up of productivity as purpose. But I am here for time well spent. Sometimes that means recognizing that my time and yours are not the same.

If time is fluid and fickle, and perhaps unforgiving, what makes it formative? Is there a kind of place more conducive to the kind of time that teaches and tells things like the truth? I believe that the practice of fellowship requires all four directions. In this season of pandemic adaptation, I note that “we” works in all kinds of ways: on screen, via Google doc, as pixels of personhood shining across the internet. These are not just placeholders or proxies, but place itself. Across time and place, then, what does the practice of fellowship yield? What happens when rest and reflection and reckoning and relationship are both process and product? Can they hold where centers and circles do not? I believe that the order of things matters until it doesn’t. I also believe that the tools with which we build and bury and burn and borrow are words that mean different things to different people. If all of this proves true—and it might not—I wonder what this work is starting to resemble or redeem or reclaim or reject or return to or repair.

The practice of fellowship extends a right hand before remembering things it keeps leaving behind; things like seeing and hearing and knowing. It also begs for a question-set calibrated to depth, to difference, to discernment. What does it take to lean into the hard and often wholly ambiguous? Which habits shift and surprise and surrender when we (re) consider the premise of questioning itself? Historian of religions Jonathan Z. Smith once teased out distinctions between questions and answers:

Questions always survive answers. First of all: There’s nothing more dated, actually, than an answer… You come up with a damn good question, those stick around… But there are questions, there are answers, and the how you get from one to the other. And the ones that last are the questions and the how you got there. The answers themselves, as in a way that math teacher is saying, are more fungible. They’re interchangeable and very different in intellectual styles and different contexts in which this set of answers will look better for a while than that set of answers. But the questions don’t go away and the processes by which you get there by and large don’t go away. So those are the stable elements in the business. The answers are far less interesting in the long run.

I am not a mathematician and have long preferred words to numbers. And still, I appreciate Smith’s appreciation of spaces and systems that show the work. Some questions are easier to ask than others. Some answers are not our own. What kind of welcome will we extend for questions that need encouragement to find their way into the room? How much courage can we muster to release and relinquish that which no longer serves for all that remains to be imagined and innovated and iterated? Along the way may we never forget the cost—of the naming and of the not.

Listening. Learning. Loving. Leading. Each plays an active part in the work and witness of fellowship. What will it take to get not just from here to there, but to the place from which we can feel and know the relationship between the two? Mark Nepo asserts that “beneath every there is a here.” Is that true? But perhaps more pressingly: is the truth claim the question? Or, does the practice of fellowship require a rethinking of the very premises and parameters and possibilities and powers through which we authorize ourselves, our truths, and one another? 

It is my truth that love is required for the living of these days. I believe that leadership, too, is an act of love. Cornel West posits that we cannot lead those we do not love. Martin Luther King Jr. called for leaders “not in love with money but in love with justice; not in love with publicity but in love with humanity.” This kind of love calls for seeds and solidarities and for the kind of rooted and righteous and rigorous accompaniment that digs beneath inherited surfaces and systems. How do I love thee? Let me move beyond counting to crucify and create in so many ways.

From creation to the crucible, leading in love requires the crossing of familiar thresholds in a give-and-take that goes the distance. In her letter to a beloved barrier island, North Carolina poet laureate Jaki Shelton Green describes a kind of love that travels.

My Dear Ocracoke, I am writing to you because you must never think that I would run away from you now in these troubled times. I am here, your distant lover, committed to holding you now and forever through the thick and thin of it all. Your sunsets, your stray whispers, and our midnight full moon baths are all I need from you right now. I’m coming soon and I won’t be surprised by all the lovers stroking your back… after all, it takes a village.

Forever, your distant lover,

Jaki Shelton Green

P.S. It is imperative that this letter be read while listening to Distant Lover by Marvin Gaye

Across time and space, I think about and pray on so many things even without Marvin Gaye playing in the background. I am always reminded of the commitments—some competing, some complementary—it takes to grow ourselves and one another. Practice makes not perfect or even progress, but possible. Will we learn in community and lead in fellowship? And if we did, what kind of people, places, and things might we nurture into being?

I believe formation grows us in the spaces and places where attention perks up and gets quiet. I believe this quiet speaks volumes. I believe living and learning and leading and liberating to be acts of sacred accompaniment—to see is to sense is to surrender is to sustain is to sacrifice is to stand in solidarity is to say something, to do something, to be something. For someone else. I believe that love requires first noticing the gap you might need to stand in before taking leap after leap of faith. I believe that humanity requires the kind of presence that honors the fullness of any experience—yours, mine, ours, theirs. I believe that leadership, fellowship, and scholarship have things to learn from one another. I believe we do, too.

If it is true, as Mary Oliver writes, that to pay attention is our endless and proper work, what am I attending to? What about you? What about one another and the other, too? Are we finding or faltering along or even flinging stones along the way? If rocks are living things, too, what are they teaching? The following object lessons from my world in Madison County, North Carolina are stepping stones for all kinds of learning. Sometimes, they are cornerstones and stumbling blocks for all kinds of unlearning, too.

In the small town of Mars Hill, people paint rocks and hide them for others to find. I don’t know whether the purpose lies in the painting or in the hiding or the seeking or the finding. I do know the joy I experience in spying these gifts in unexpected places. I believe these rocks are waiting to be found. I believe these rocks connect me to those who painted them and to others who found them before me. I believe that keeping my eyes open is the first step along the way.

In a neighboring community, potter Josh Copus staged an oral history project in the rehabilitation of what locals call the old Marshall jail. Josh invited residents to tell their stories of living in and around this building to keep the inhabitants of this place—jailed and jailers alike—alive in more than just memory. These oral histories have been transcribed on bricks that line pathways and cover walls. If these walls could talk? They would speak truths about what it means to imprison ourselves and one another. They would remind us that some things, not all of them true, are sown into the very foundations of that which is towering and toppling still. They would say the names of those whose time was spent and suspended here. These bricks remind me of people everywhere who are still languishing behind bars. 

In nearby Hot Springs, there is a pictograph called Paint Rock attributed to Native peoples who painted on cliffs near the water thousands of years ago. I have tried and tried again to locate these paintings. There are signs. There are descriptions. And still I cannot find my way there. I believe that not everything is for me to find. As a scholar of religion, I sit often with questions of access and power and of things too sacred for the uninitiated to behold. I believe there is a teaching in honoring that which is not mine to know. 

All of these rocks come from and sit in places, including a home I am trying to make in a rural county with dueling reputations that have a lot to teach about this country’s inborn dichotomies. Nicknamed “Bloody Madison” and the “Jewel of the Blue Ridge,” some of this county’s origin stories tell on one another. Madison County first earned its reputation in a legendary Civil War showdown that pitted neighbor against neighbor before leaving thirteen Union sympathizers dead. Almost 100 years later, a young Vista worker was brutally assaulted and murdered in a case that remains unsolved. Descendants of the slain and culpable are alive and well in this county where the perimeter of belonging is measured by the number of generations that count some in and others out. But the “Jewel of the Blue Ridge” is here, too. A rebranding rooted in mountaintop vistas, this metric forgoes a deep dive in favor of the casual drive-by. If we stick to the highways—of this, or any place—we might notice only the brave and the beautiful. But if home is where the heart is, what about the rest of the body? The underbelly is teaching, too. Will I have ears to hear? Will you? We will? Will they?

From eyes to ears from rocks to stones from beginning to return, some are moving on to their next question: What are my gifts? And where do they come from? What am I putting under wraps? And what will I unpack next? I believe that the work of fellowship is a labor of love that takes and makes all kinds of things. It is formation and foundation and habits and hearts pinched into pots and possibilities we hold in our hands. It is universal and unique. It is work, and sometimes it is wrong. And even when it’s not? It is whatever you make of the relationship between yours, and mine, and ours, and theirs. And so, questions remain. They always will. Is all of this just enough to grow on? Can people, and places, and things sustain human life and longing and liberty and liberation?

I believe so.

There’s No Place Like Home

I live in a small town in rural Madison County, North Carolina. My husband was born and raised two counties to our north before his homesteading parents traded their back-to-the-land hillside for nearby Asheville’s job market and indoor plumbing. North Carolina born and raised, my husband feels at home here in Mars Hill. While I love where we have landed, home is harder for me to come by. I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, but in some of the stories I tell about myself, the world revolves around a country church in Jamestown, Arkansas, near the cattle farm my grandparents bought after World War II. Even though I spent my early childhood in suburban New Jersey, I often lead with the years my family spent chasing my father’s operatic dreams in a newly reunified Germany. Atlanta, Georgia, is another place I could claim. Most of my father’s family has lived across the metro region for generations. From towns and suburbs that used to be mapped along predictable perimeters—white and black, red and blue, in and out—older folks in my family talk a lot about the way things used to be. Precious memories? They do more than linger.

My great-grandfather on my mother’s side could throw his voice, a party trick he loved to play on friends and strangers alike. Out of sight, he projected his voice to sound close to those who could hear but not see him, often to hilarious result. I throw my voice, too, but it’s different. Raised up in all kinds of places among all kinds of people, I can pitch myself to be heard in all kinds of registers. But throwing your voice for fun is different than calibrating or code-switching or contorting yourself in the name of legibility or even love. Something happens when we cast ourselves out. This body, then, is eager for its own homecoming. And what kind of home will I make from porches and farms and city streets and altars and alto benches alike? What kind of home will claim me back?

Raised among people raised to stand and sow and surrender and sing, the drawl I keep in my back pocket has standing competition from another way of being and believing that runs bone deep. What to make of my formative years in a former country? Ostalgie is my ground truth, even if the country I long for was already disappearing by the time I arrived. Feet planted in soils both native and foreign, I look for myself—and others, too—in and among the dissolved and disappeared and discontinued and disrupted everywhere. Hell-bent on home, I journey, one heartbeat at a time. What can I make (out) from here? What about from there? Who needs to be seen? And what remains to be said? 

My particular birthrights demand allegiance to more than one creed or constitution can hold. My people are farmers and homemakers and salespeople and teachers and country doctors and politicians and church musicians and organists and mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers, too. My people have roots that wander before circling back. My inheritance is a garden and its tilling, a table and its setting, a play on opening and closing night, and a whole body attuned to the vagaries and victories of hearts and minds broken and still breaking. Mine, then, is holy wonder that has not forgotten where it comes from. How do we revel in possibility while honoring the deep pain that courses beneath the surface of so many nations and states and nation states and states of mind? If I could, I would grow a country that looks beyond its borders to neighbors everywhere. If I would, mine could be a people that refuses distinctions between winners and losers, firsts and lasts, between wellness, wholeness, and too many wells of difference pathologized at the cost of our very humanity. Mine is a country yet to be. I wonder about yours. Will I ever know theirs?

When I honor the differences that divide so many things—and people and places, too—I remember that history is a powerful current that carries too many of us away from one another. But Her stories might carry us all the way home. Yours might, too. Traveling across roads my forefathers and mothers understood as wholly theirs, I remember others who came before. They, too, are still speaking. Mine then is a pilgrimage less interested in salvation than in sweet surrender. This is no salvage mission to reclaim those deemed fittest, but a deep reckoning with keys and kingdoms alike. It is something to notice when your own feet falter, but choosing to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes takes a different kind of discipline. When will I ever learn? And you? What about them? 

A few months ago, some took to the nation’s capital. For many, this storming was a manifest destiny moment generations in the making, a rousing patriotic love song to a nation perceived as both lost and losing. The images of the insurrection are sobering, but they are not surprising. The fragility of the assumptions so many of us make—about ourselves and others—is always on display somewhere. The great democratic experiment for which this nation is known around the world has long proven to be aspirational for many closer to home; especially those not yet included in the “we” presumptuously named in our founding documents. Whose America? Yours? Mine? Some kind of ours? What about theirs?

The premise that something needs to be great in order for it to be of value is one of this country’s most pernicious falsehoods. Greatness distracts from the greater good. It also keeps us counting the score, as opposed to measuring the cost. If this country wants to be for, of, and by “the people,” then there is work to do to remember one another along the way. A dear friend and sister colleague, Dr. Georgette “Jojo” Ledgister shares a beautiful teaching about the ground we stand on. Congolese born, Jojo speaks truth to power in several languages. She recently reminded me that humility and humiliation share common ground in their francophone etymology. Humus, then, can grow all kinds of things. What am I seeding? What about you? What about them? It is my truth that so many are so frightened of being humiliated that entire worlds are lodged in our throats. But if we exchange hate and heritage alike for the kind of humility that listens and loves its way toward liberation—yours, mine, ours, theirs— what kind of humanity might flourish?

Images of a capitol stormed can be leveraged to confirm or deny the tales tall and sometimes even true that this country has been telling on itself for centuries. I am a scholar of American religions who thinks deeply about the stories we inherit. I love to tell the story? Not so fast. My work unfolds in the in-between spaces where texts and readers go the distance between intention and impact. Not just one reading, then, but the many misreadings, too. If we consider the stories we are also always being and becoming, there are questions to raise about how we read one another. What kind of heuristic can hold this moment’s truths and untruths? And those of the many moments before and after? Or put differently: What happens when my gospel truth is a story you would rather deny and dismiss? What happens if your story is gospel truth, too? And what about those for whom the gospel only applies to a particular book or tradition or religion or people? As a nation, this country has long subsisted on a diet of fiery brimstone that preaches promises of conditional grace to a limited elect. But what if we turned our gaze from eternity to the everyday? It’s not greatness that the soul of this—or any—nation needs. It’s goodness. When we are consumed by our own righteousness, salvation-as-strategy doesn’t seem to see or mind the dark shadows it casts. But what if no one is coming to save me, or you, or even us? What if we are all there is? What kind of gospel makes room for them, too?

Sometimes, I remember all the way back to the founding image of that famed and faulty and ultimately fictitious city on a hill from which this nation has charted a course that many understand as divinely inspired. For centuries, first colonists and later citizens of this country have been arming themselves in a rhetoric that preaches mine not yours, that prizes independence above all else.  Were we to learn from this season of compounding assault, what kinds of questions would we ask about other stories that warrant reflection and reckoning before their long overdue retirement? What am I willing to forgo for a different kind of freedom? What about you? What about them? I love a good metaphor, and alliteration is one of my favorite devices. What, then, to write in order to right or return or refuse or recast this ship that has long been sinking from sea to shining sea? There might not be enough metaphors to fix what is ailing us, but the poets have long known that centers do not hold. With the bedrock of this country claimed for someone else and something more, I wonder about the relationship between you and me. And what about them? What will it take to unleash unlearning itself on so many different scales at once? 

These reflections come from places, including a home I am trying to make in a rural county with dueling reputations that have a lot to teach about this country’s inborn dichotomies. Nicknamed “Bloody Madison” and the “Jewel of the Blue Ridge,” some of this county’s origin stories tell on one another. Madison County first earned its reputation in a legendary Civil War showdown that pitted neighbor against neighbor before leaving thirteen Union sympathizers dead. Almost 100 years later, a young Vista worker was brutally assaulted and murdered in a case that remains unsolved. Descendants of the slain and culpable are alive and well in this county where the perimeter of belonging is measured by the number of generations that count some in and others out. But the “Jewel of the Blue Ridge” is here, too. A rebranding rooted in mountaintop vistas, this metric forgoes a deep dive in favor of the casual drive-by. If we stick to the highways—of this, or any place—we might notice only the brave and the beautiful. But if home is where the heart is, what about the rest of the body? The underbelly is teaching, too. Will I have ears to hear? Will you? We will? Will they?

I spent a long chapter of my life studying Appalachian culture and music. The place of Appalachia is often ascribed a kind of storied poverty that competes with this country’s image of itself as a bastion of progress. A thinly veiled excuse to spend a few years in the mountains singing the hymns my mother was raised on, my masters degree in Appalachian Studies trained me up in the ways of anthropological inquiry and the impossibilities of participant observation. I spent two years researching the singing traditions of two small missionary Baptist churches. What I learned above all else is that phenomenological bracketing and methodological maneuvering are no match for Spirit moving. From my position on the alto bench, it didn’t matter what my research questions were once the choir started singing—and there are always more questions to ask about all that remains to be named and claimed in a country unaccustomed to holding itself accountable. I might have started out on the hunt for a kind of music that would remind me of home, but the takeaway was all about being and belonging. In the presence of others, I remembered my own. And then I went back for them.

Growing up, my mother liked to remind me and my siblings of our roots. Before leaving the house she would often say, “Remember whose you are.” I’m sure my mother would prefer that I remember this invitation first and foremost in relation to the Jesus she loves. And while I remain open to all kinds of spiritual shenanigans, I prefer to hear in this phrase an exhortation to remember my brothers and sisters, and neighbors and strangers, too. Whose am I? Whose are you? And whose might they be? When we abdicate responsibility for one another to powers higher and unseen, we run the risk of deferring not only flourishing in the here and now, but life itself. This world is not my home? There is no eschaton worth dying for, no matter what the old hymns say. As for deferral? It comes at the cost of my humanity. Yours, too. And also always, theirs.

My mother is not alone in building her hope on things eternal. Many make sense of this world by claiming it as a prelude to what must surely follow. When I start digging into the systems and stories that live deep within, I am always mindful of those who understand this particular place as a stepping stone to some kind of greater glory. Even so, I wonder what it will take to reclaim a different kind of ownership over the here and now. The full armor of God, then, can be too much to bear when we leverage the sacred to authorize ourselves above all others.

I once wrote a dissertation about the particular ways we talk about religion in this country. Titled, “I Love to Tell the Story: The Competing Exceptionalism of Appalachian Religion,” it was a treatise on all we must reckon with in the attempt to parse and make peace with the many pasts we inherit. Birthright, then, is not just privilege, but due process. How much can and will we do with what we are afforded? And what stories will we divest from as we trade righteousness for relationship? When I look closely at the foundations of this country, I see the pillars of exceptionalism and extremism joined by the rallying cry of evangelicalism. Will there be any stars in my crown? It is one thing to look at insurrectionists with horror. But to look deep within for evidence of ideology that lives in me, too? For to know yourself or any other as exceptional is the fulfillment of all kinds of prophecies. What is it about all-consuming patriotism that keeps our gaze averted from the leveling field of personhood? What does it mean when we hope to save no one but ourselves? 

This season of endless assault is not the only act in town. Generations of organizers are standing on the shoulders of giants. The ancestors, too, are showing up. They’ve been here all along, their bodies and spirits challenging and changing the very premise of how power works and on whose behalf. Amid unrest and reckoning, then, is the work of many hands. What am I holding onto? What about you? What about them? Calls for unity presuppose a kind of shared purpose around which you and I might rally. They might, too. But I don’t see a prefabricated home for such an enterprise. What kind of foundation can you build with folks running for the hills? What about the people who live there, too?

Yet another chapter of my life took place in a former East German state where statues and systems toppled daily. If I relied on memory alone, I would lift up a story of reckoning completed. But history loves to repeat itself and it doesn’t matter how many Russian soldiers decamped to the motherland. Today, Germany, too, struggles to maintain purchase on things like truth and justice. I recently reconnected with a friend I met in the small town of Neustrelitz in the early 1990s. Navigating all kinds of growing pains, we frequently spent time in her family’s home on the outskirts of town. Together, we stood on a huge wooden swing and sang songs about freedom. Where have all the flowers gone? Not just this week, or this capitol, then, but in each and every time and place. It is true that a new administration is now taking its turn. Some changes are in the works with others surely to follow. But what of the many across this nation state, and so many others, who are still looking for a different kind of win? 

If Insurgency Wednesday happened—and it did—then what kind of resurrection can we hope and work toward? This “we” of which I write is more fragile than all kinds of democratic ideals. Desecration takes on many forms, and while it is good and right to note treason as one line in the sand, I wonder how many more we cross—unawares, unwittingly, and with eyes wide open—in our attempts to hold onto our own slice of the pie? The move from me to we travels on roads made by going the long way ’round. I wonder then, about what might truly be exceptional about this moment? It’s not the violence or insurrection or even the sedition. It is also not the habit of leaning first—and sometimes only—on the wisdom of our own understanding.

I know what the allusion of arrival feels like. I know it from the unfashionable midcentury ranch my husband and I purchased almost two years ago. This structure—hard won and hoped for—falls within the category of “starter home” in a nation that just keeps outsizing itself. But for us, it’s perfect. I also know something of achievement from a degree and title that give way to ladder upon ladder. Mine, then, is a threshold gospel that preaches always already worthy and enough is enough is enough. In the gardening of this hilly half-acre plot, we are digging deep and tending things that grow right here at home. So many things will die here, too. 

Even as signs of spring give way to summer, I wonder about that which we glean from last gasps of bodies and beliefs, of citizens and countries alike. What I know about death, I learned from my grandmother’s decline. A humble housewife and beloved matriarch who went back for her high school degree to graduate alongside her children, I never heard her utter a mean-spirited word about her extended family and community. Hers was an inheritance we readily remember as being too poor to be complicit in all this greatness. In, then, but not of. But here’s the thing: in her mental decline, the past resurrected itself and spoke into a dying future. No longer aware of herself, my grandmother reverted to language learned in her childhood where the unequally yoked burdens of so many systems and stories took root lifetimes ago. My mother was shocked when racial slurs came out of a mouth that loved to sing about sweet hours of prayer. But to be shocked at evidence of this country’s social contracts as they played out in my beloved grandmother’s diminishing mind is to shy away from the very same contradictions and confirmations that persist today. Remember whose you are? What about me? What about us? What about them? Can we love one another enough to search for the whole truth? Even when it’s ugly?

I still don’t know where home is even though I am getting to know my neighbors, which is often a first step along the way. We wave at one another as I walk miles each day across our rural county. There are all kinds of people right here, in this place both beautiful and broken. I wonder what it will mean—and take—to fit in. I wonder whose names I will bless on my deathbed. Should my mind go, what curses will betray me? What will I keep learning from here? If map is not territory, then nations are not homelands. What, then, will a life lived in this place ask of me? I wonder what your home place asks of you? What about ours? What about theirs? 

skipping stones

i believe in you and me
– and a we that leads from here to there and back again.
i believe in the long way round that gets somewhere by dark.

i believe in day and the night
– and in shadows that fall in all four directions.
i believe we can learn to hear across distance that echoes.

i believe in shores foreign and familiar
– and that we can meet (t)here without dashing ourselves or others on the rocks.
i believe some things are dashing and crashing and burning for a reason.

i believe difference is stone skipping across water

i believe in all kinds of things
– that are watching and working and wondering and wanting.
i believe they will not wait forever.

i believe in learning that lingers
– and in lifespans longer than you can imagine.
i believe teachings trip us up until they become love.

i believe eyes see what they remember
– even when they do not see at all.
i believe seeing and believing are not the same.

i believe truth is stone skipping across water

i believe that gathering in among the breathless
– calls to mind brothers and sisters who are not breathing still.
i believe calling is commitment is care is community.

i believe that nature and nurture are more than
– culture and belonging, too.
i believe rocks carry hard things that matter.

i believe that worlds fit in pockets and palms
– and that time is eternity lived in the blink of an eye.
i believe measurement is an errand that makes fools out of you and me.

i believe spirit is stone skipping across water

i believe in formation over frameworks, and people over profits
– in lives and lifetimes, in dyads and triads and quadrants, and so many lists.
i believe all 26-letters are speaking someone’s language.

i believe what you believe matters
– even when it chafes and churns. 
i believe some things are not worth believing.

i believe that some beliefs cause grave harm
– and that claims can crucify or resurrect.
i believe all beliefs are not made equal, even when we call one another by name.

i believe life is stone skipping across water

i believe that rest is holy
– relationship, too.
i believe that reckoning is a reflection of us all.

i believe the sum is creation of her many parts
– even those missing, especially those excluded. 
i believe humanity to be an audacious hope and a wild dream. 

i believe the future is already happening
– it might be here.
i believe histories are always repeating. 

i believe time is stone skipping across water

i believe yours and mine are training wheels
– ours is aspirational at best.
i believe the work is to keep reaching for them.

i believe in a here that hears
– where there and theirs matter, too.
i believe in hard places where yours and mine yield to that which cannot be had.

i believe in brilliant complexities
– and ambiguities that humble.
i believe in that which is not mine to know.

were these stones all there is, i believe they would be enough

May 3, 2021

working girl

I come from women who carry the load and pretend that the weight doesn’t bear. They came from women who stayed the course while denying the cost. Theirs came from women, too. Mine then is an inheritance borne of labors picked up and passed on. Mine will always be the work of putting the too much back down. My spirit lives for moments like these, when the calm after a storm carries memories of a different kind of being. Sometimes, the work is remembering the lessons we keep living until we learn them all the way to the bone.

Systems and supremacies – stories, too – are wrapped up in assumptions we make about people, productivity, and profit. It is my truth that there are things more valuable than labor. It is also my truth that some things are not worth the work. How then do we measure the cost of price and profit, of meaning and metric, of labors of love? It is sobering when the seeming ease of a solo turn erases not just our own labor, but the work through which which we grow one another into the kind of people who notice the weight of any lift. On the other side of a long push, I wake up and wonder: When will I outgrow this place, where the giving and the taking are so far apart? It was once my truth that to hold so much and so many so fully would be a gift that multiplies and returns. These days, I look for myself elsewhere. A working girl, perhaps, but so much more. May the gift of less than always be more than just enough.

March 19, 2021

Yours, Mine, Ours

I once spent the greater part of a long weekend on a mountainside with a group of strangers. Our gathering served as introduction to a two-year experiment in human relations with a storied history, complicated present, and uncertain future. We couldn’t have known at the time what our journey together would hold. The deep contradictions that tested the limits of who we were trying to be had yet to surface. Selected to represent difference itself, we sat in a large circle where we heard invitations to create beauty and to heal the brokenness of community. Hours turned into days as we listened to one another share our stories. Where are you from? And who are your people?

Traversing new grounds unawares, it was not always clear whether we were making molds or breaking them. Several years have passed and I am still sitting with all we plowed under in our efforts to sow something worth harvesting. What, then, remains to be gleaned? Looking back, I remember the holiness of sacred promises made. Some we kept. Others proved aspirational. I wonder what we might say to one another were we to begin again. What do we know now that we couldn’t know before?

Hindsight can be telling, especially when we remember to go back for one another. With stories reverberating and histories repeating—and her stories, too—I am mining the many journeys launched that first weekend for something honoring of the complexities and contradictions through which we come to know ourselves as part of something both beautiful and broken. If one circle begets another, and even if it doesn’t, I wonder about the people and places that carry us from one chapter to the next. What if it takes all of us—even those we leave behind, even those who leave us—to live into something we can only become together?

Being human takes both nature and nurture. It is also an embodied practice that sometimes yields more humane versions of ourselves. Claiming humanity can require the willing suspension of all kinds of things: belief. perfection. greatness. But what happens when we entrust others with our basic assumptions about who we are? Whose humanity emerges when we share our greatest fears and deepest truths? What kind of generous hearing can we afford? And can we learn to distinguish commitment from confession, abdication from absolution?

As I turn to tables set for a new group of folks hoping to find in one another the courage to court ambiguity, I return to my own journey. What I remember is not always mine, but when I get quiet enough to hear my own still-small voice, I find more than myself. What if liberation requires the kind of deep listening through which reckoning and reflection make way for all the rest? When I remember all the way back to that first weekend on the mountain, I can count the people and promises we left behind. Centers, then, do not hold. But circles are no panacea either. I wonder who we might be if we sacrificed winning and losing in favor of one another? What if we reclaimed a value system that celebrates service over status? What if we remembered mutuality and meaning over and against more, and more, and more?

Going back for one another, for brothers and sisters and friends and strangers, too, changes things—including ourselves. Why invite a group of strangers to close in without closing ranks? What does it take to hold space for others to hold their own? As I look back on a journey others began this fall, I am reminded of the distance between intention and impact, between remembering and forgetting. What am I missing? And who is already falling through the cracks? What will this new group circling up decipher and discern on its own?

Translation is no small task. Nor transcription. It bears repeating that language is not always legible beyond our own ear shot. And so, as the legacy of one circle shapes the contours of the next, I wonder: What are we passing down and up and over and on from generation to generation? In whose image are we creating one another? And how much time and space can we give and take in worlds both unraveling and revealing?

If today is made up of moments and movements, what comes next? Time is ticking, and some have been counting down longer than others as the long arc of a steep learning curve just keeps coming. With teachings before us and behind us, one thing is certain: mine is not necessarily yours, and ours is always precious. Birthright, then, is bigger than me and you. It shapes circles and communities and countries alike. What of these gospels that preach prosperity over dreams and destinies? Not all growth is made equal. There is always more to remember. To hear. To feel. There is so much more. And then there’s enough.

As seasons and years come to their close, I’m looking for purchase measured in practices of sacred sufficiency that leave enough for you and for me. Will I get off the ladder—again and again—to bless the always-already worthy? This work of valuing differently honors difference itself. It also requires more than heads and hearts. It wants for our hands. Learning and unlearning, then, takes all of us. What our minds cannot yet know, the nose might sniff out. What the heart is not yet ready to hear is already aching in our bones. With lives on the line, I hold to this truth: that time, too, has a teaching. What does your here and now require? Mine wants for a new trinity—yours, mine, ours.

January 6, 2021

enough is enough

My morning routine starts with coffee. So much so that the ritual begins the night before, when my husband gets the coffee maker ready for my early morning switch-flipping. We’re not fancy with our caffeine at home. Strong coffee is more than sufficient, especially when I can rely on my favorite baristas and coffee connoisseurs for regular doses of the truly spectacular.

It has been a long season at home and we are weathering well enough. Some things remain the same while others keep changing. With my husband laid off from our region’s hospitality industry, homemade cold brew has been fueling work both indoors and out. With my husband’s health insurance also canceled, I have been running our weekly errands. Venturing forth for groceries and wine, dog food and wine, and seeds and starts, and more wine, we are counting the cost of too many things we used to take for granted. It is sobering to be out and about among once-thriving businesses still shuttered. It is heartbreaking to read about those who will never re-open.

The economy rarely sustains my undivided attention, even as its fluctuations and failures play out all around me. Left to my own devices, I choose life and the life-giving over capital systems that demand allegiance in exchange for livelihood both ensured and foreclosed. But if this pandemic teaches nothing else, perhaps it offers this reminder: we need one another. Driving by living-proof of all that will not survive COVID-19’s incursions, I find myself questioning assumptions—both mine and others’— about the nature of things. Not all systems are sui generis. In whose image, then, will we recreate the world? Yours? Mine? Ours?

I have written before about beloved people and places in my circles of consumption. This love letter rings true several months later as I watch my household trying to honor weekly purchases that might shore up a favorite local restaurant or small business. I can name too many ways in which our economic systems reward egregious behaviors, amplifying inequities purchase by purchase. And still, we are doing our damndest to do our part. Is this what being complicit looks like? Can anyone buy their way out of 2020’s mounting impossibilities? What might flourishing look like if we didn’t measure all things in dollars and cents?

Steeped in truth and poured in love, a cup of coffee can return us to one another, nurturing habits of interdependence strong enough to undercut supremacies—all of them. Sometimes, the littlest things point to the deepest truths. I’m still curious about my joy almost-unspeakable at seeing one of our local cafes offering curbside iced coffee on a recent round of errands. I am still surprised at how thirsty I remain for human contact shared face-to-face and heart-to-heart. Holding in my hand a remnant of something freely given, I keep wondering about the relationship between purchase and power, between self and system, between reckoning and revolution.

I am not hoping naively for the return of that which never was. Some things are bigger and deeper and harder than a simple cup of coffee can hold or convey. And still, teachers show up in many forms. Some lessons are daily medicine. I have been thinking a lot lately about questions of sufficiency, especially in the context of a world designed to extract the most from the least. What does enough look like? What does it feel like? And what does it mean to forgo the more than in favor of the enough? In a season when ground truths are shifting daily, I am searching for higher grounds. What to make of the way we see and serve one another? And will we keep counting the cost? Life and livelihood hang in the balance.

October 26, 2020