2022—A Year to Begin Closing a Gaping Agape Hole?

My faith needs bolstering these days. In general, it feels like Rocky after a few rounds with Clubber Lang…taking quite a few hits and finding itself on the ropes, hoping for the bell to ring to end the round and catch its breath before it keels over.

It is primarily my faith in people that is so wounded, after these last years of division and vitriol. We have siloed ourselves and shouted in echo chambers and across social media platforms to tear each other apart with little thought of impact or consequences.

“Us” and “them” is deeply rooted in our psyches, and I am weary from it all.

In those initial, scary weeks when the pandemic struck, I hoped that maybe a tiny positive byproduct of it would be its common enemy status—that we would come together to fight this invisible villain in order to save lives.

We did not.

While we may rise to the occasion…we fall to the everyday.

Yes, people come together in times of crisis. When Harvey ravaged Houston and people drove around in boats rescuing anyone they could find, they noted how it didn’t matter what your politics were—just get in the boat. Moments of coming together? Sure. Continued, concerted everyday efforts? Well, that’s unfortunately a different story.

Consequently, my faith is wobbly from the heart punches it has sustained and the loss it has witnessed…and I long for a way to renew it. I think that is why, as I wondered if a word for 2022 would find me, as it has for the last several years, the word “faith” was knocking on my heart.

But then bell hooks passed. And Archbishop Desmond Tutu joined her. And as I looked for my next thing to listen to while I do my morning exercises, Bishop Michael Curry’s Love Is the Way presented itself to me on my audiobook playlist. In listening to his Morgan Freeman-esque voice, my word for the year fell right into my heart: Love…It must be. Because it is only through love that my faith can regrow in the fertile soil of agape, and not just for me alone.

Agape, one of the seven words to describe love in the Greek language, is defined by Bishop Curry as a “sacrificial love that seeks the good and well-being of others, of society, of the world.” And in our current times, it feels like there is a gaping hole where agape love should be firmly established.

what the world needs now…

People like Curry and hooks and Tutu have lived lives dedicated to teaching that love is THE gamechanger. It is a verb—an action—that, heals, redeems, and brings about true change. It is a choice we make daily. It is what Jesus made plain: My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:12-13)

So…with love determining itself to be my word of the year—what exactly does this mean for me? After all, it’s not exactly a newsflash. I know love is the way.

It feels more like it is to be a recommitment.

And since agape is manifested in action, I will need to recommit to…act more. Learn. Listen. Serve. Share. Pray. Give. And more that I have yet to know.

But please do not see this as a New Year’s resolution. I am in no way thinking that with this guidance for the year—and my life—that I just need to keep at it like any other “goal.” Oh, no, no, no, no…no. This is a reminder for me to continue to wrestle with the call to love one another and live a life of love. It’s a biggie. There are those who are easy to love, and then there are those who…are not easy to love. And the call is to love the whole smash. And live it out in action. A tall order. Something that I must practice day in and day out.

And in my wearied state of wobbly faith, I don’t approach it glibly. But I do know that love wins, so even in my weariness, I must recommit to doing my best to live that love. Because otherwise? Otherwise, not only love and faith are at risk but hope, too. And where do I go from there?

I do not want to know.

So here is to 2022 being a year that plants seeds of love that develop into generous, thriving gardens of faith, hope…and more and more love.  


To love, my brothers and sisters, does not mean we have to agree. But maybe agreeing to love is the greatest agreement. And the only one that ultimately matters, because it makes a future possible.
―Michael B. Curry, Love Is the Way: Holding on to Hope in Troubling Times

The choice to love is a choice to connect―to find ourselves in the other.
bell hooks, all about love

Your ordinary acts of love and hope point to the extraordinary promise that every human life is of inestimable value.
―Desmond Tutu

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
―John 13:34

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
―1 Corinthians 13:13

Time Marches On…(and The Juggle Struggle Is 9)

I am both happy and sad when people ask me why The Juggle Struggle rarely sees a new post these days. Happy that anyone cares…sad that I am not writing like I used to. The truth is that I have a lot that I want to write, but my focus and discipline have hitched a ride out of town. I haven’t completely given up, though, and I am compelled to write a little now to mark the ninth anniversary of this blog.

On October 18, 2012, I wrote my first post. The ol’ girl’s been around for a while and seen many changes over the years…the blog, me…the world. So much is so very different. But one thing is always constant: There are 24 hours in a day, and the days just keep getting logged into the book of life.

My church is currently studying No Cure for Being Human, by Kate Bowler, and today we discussed the idea of “spending” time–as the currency that it truly is–and what it means about the choices we make. This perspective of time as a finite entity makes me think of something I came across a few years ago via Tim Urban’s Wait But Why site. He does some wonderful things with numbers, and one spin of his really drives home the point about our time on this planet. Below is what a 90-year lifespan looks like in weeks…and the blue line is where I am…

Image courtesy of Tim Urban’s Wait But Why)

…well past the half-way mark…IF I make it to 90. That’s a lot to take in.

And in taking a peek back on this anniversary at some of my previous posts, I remembered the one that I am sharing below. I wrote it when my son was 10–and it speaks to how much time we had left before he turned 18. Well, guess what? That milestone was reached earlier this year. Reading what I wrote then is obviously poignant to me now.

It happened in a mere blink.

What will the next blink bring? How many blinks do I have left?

Time marches on…

So…happy anniversary, The Juggle Struggle! I am grateful to have the words to string together that can sometimes matter to people. And I am grateful for every reader who gives me a few minutes of their precious time to read those words–I appreciate you more than you know!

And now, if you care to read on, I offer you the post that I wrote eight years ago…thinking about the time that I am actually facing now. A blink indeed.


936 and Counting

Originally posted September 30, 2013

Time flies. We all know this. The only case where time does NOT fly is instances like when you’re stuck in a boring workshop where they have the thermostat set so cold it just may crack off a body part and all you can think about is lunch. Then it’s slow. But typically, another week comes and goes and it feels like a blip on the radar.

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Recently, I had a 1-2 punch that was the kind of coincidence that makes me stop and think. I saw a framed graphic at a family member’s house that said something along the lines of “940. The number of Saturdays until your child reaches 18.” Me being me, I checked the math (52×18=936) and wondered why they added the extra month. Googling it, 940 is the number used again and again, but I like the number 936 better than 940 anyway, so I’m sticking with that. (Why the extra four? Can you guess?)

The very next day I was speaking to a friend, and she said her pastor’s message that Sunday was on pretty much the exact same thing. He had a jar of marbles that visually represented how many weeks were left before his daughter turned 18. The emphasis being, of course, that we use our time together wisely. It is fleeting.

So there I was, with two totally different avenues leading me to the same wakeup call: we only have so much time with our children before they are off and running in the world.

Of course, I know this. But when you put a finite number around it, it drives it home even further. Tick…tock…and another week is gone. Another marble leaves the jar.

I have issues with time management. I just do. I aspire to knock the hell out of each day, and before I know it, I’m brushing my teeth before bed.

But the clock of life is wound but once…

My son had his feet resting on my lap the other day, and…they were huge. What happened to the teeny ones that I nibbled on and made him giggle?

He was just sharing with me his fascination with the circulatory system that he’s learning about in science class. Only yesterday he was learning the alphabet.

I tell him—like my dad always told me—there will always be room on my lap for him. But the last time he tried it, we laughed together at how comical we must have looked.

936.

If my math is right, we’ve had 541 Saturdays together…and only 395 left before he turns 18.

395. 3-9-5. Holy crimony.

Thankfully, I am wise enough to know that these days do not need to be chock full and supercharged to be meaningful. I think back to my own childhood, and I realize that while there are some “big” memories of trips and special events—the real things that stick are the small things. The moments. It didn’t have to be anything special—just a time where I felt that I mattered. I don’t even think those thoughts typically cross our minds when they are happening—it’s like they just go into a special reservoir of love, where for some reason, we feel it and cherish it.

So, before I “lose my marbles” with my son, I need to remind myself that the moments count. That just because we may not be able to carve out the better part of a day to do something significant, I can still get out and play touch football with him and his dad.

I can genuinely listen to him catch me up on the first part of the “Full House” episode that I am sitting down to watch the rest of with him.

I can make time for a bike ride on a beautiful fall day, even if deadlines are looming.

I can share in his joy at the occasional 49¢ McDonald’s ice cream cone.

While we still do need to hit the “big” things and make those memories, it’s important to remind myself in the swirl of the day that not all is lost as long as we remember the moments, too.

Because that is what he will remember. The moments.

936 down to 395.

It’s not about us putting more stress on ourselves because who needs more of that? What it is about is keeping the perspective that we do have a finite time with our children, and it does matter—to them and to us—and it is all a blessing of unknown impact and meaning.

So amidst the flurry and chaos of everyday life, I’m going to strive to remember to jump in the leaves. Even if it means we have to rake them all over again.

Blank Canvases

I must admit that, though my mom died well over a year ago, I haven’t fully dealt with all of her belongings yet. I mean…my sister and I have gone through all that we are aware of, but there were times where certain things got the “to be dealt with more fully later” stamp. One group that got that stamp was all of her art supplies.

Many years ago, my mom shared how she wanted to paint…she felt that she might be decent at it. Given that one of my roles with her was lifelong cheerleader, I took that confession as an opportunity to facilitate that desire. Paints…brushes…an apropos French easel…she had her own personal kickstarter campaign.

Relatively early on in the whole process, she painted a lovely winter scene…and got a lot of positive reinforcement for her work. Everyone who saw it was impressed and complimented her. It should have been a great catalyst to continue exploring her creativity.

But while she did paint some…it was more accurate to describe her as someone who wanted to paint rather than a painter. “Are oils too much work? How about acrylics? Watercolor? Maybe pastels or charcoal?” I would bring home all different mediums for her to try, but many remained untouched. I tried hard to understand what was standing in her way.

She was.

Excuse after excuse would always pop up. “If I had that wall shelf installed, then I would be able to set things up like I want…” Shelf installed…no painting. “I just need better lighting…” Special easel light bought…no painting. Even an art class didn’t do more than help her complete the class project. No matter what obstacle was overcome, for the most part, the canvases remained blank.

“Mom…why aren’t you painting?” She never really answered the question. One day I asked her if the blank canvas made it too hard for her to begin? Was it too intimidating and asking for more than she thought she could do? Did she feel like each attempt had to be something “good”? Yes, she admitted. She was putting pressure on herself to do something good…and that pressure was resulting in doing nothing rather than just doing something.

I encouraged her to just…paint. Just put something on the canvas as practice with no pressure to have the outcome be anything at all. Just…paint.

I could empathize with her because I know the blank page of a writer can feel just as daunting. Just…write.

Ultimately and sadly, she let the blank canvases win. There was no amount of cheerleading or facilitating that could make her face whatever it was that kept her from moving from wanting to doing.

Later in her life I brought her coloring books so that she wouldn’t even have to think of the blank page and only choose the colors, but by that time she could no longer concentrate or keep her hand steady enough to stick with it for more than a few minutes. Her window of creativity was closed.

My mom’s choices in her efforts at painting are a metaphor for too many of her life choices, as well. She often chose the road of inertia rather than risk…and that meant she left a whole lot of life unlived that could have been so much more. Empty, missed opportunities instead of beautiful experiences of color and texture and joy. You may think I’m being hard in my assessment here, but trust me…I knew the woman. The metaphor fits.

This past weekend, I went through her art stuff. There were a small number of pieces that she had worked on over the years, but they were far outnumbered by blank canvases.

Stories that were never told.

And so I decided I’m not going to leave them blank.

Though writing is where I feel most at home, I am going to fill those damn canvases.

I don’t know with what or how, and I guarantee the results won’t be pretty…but at least they will indeed be.

The above photo includes all of my mom’s paintings—except for the winter scene that I mention as her initial try.

Why Are Good Habits So Easy to Break?

I wrote my blog every Monday for over five years…and then I said I could change it up…and I wrote less…until I wrote nothing at all. Granted, this is partly due to time constraints, but if the cliché of it taking 21 days to create a habit holds true…how is it is so easy to break a habit of 5 years and 259 posts? Continue reading “Why Are Good Habits So Easy to Break?”

10 Things I’m Thankful for Every Day 3.0

Last year, I didn’t write a “10 Things I’m Thankful for” post. I think I was too overwhelmed from other occurrences in that dark month. But gratitude should remain even in the darkest of times.  Continue reading “10 Things I’m Thankful for Every Day 3.0”

Graduation Day Nears…Not Just for My Son, but for Me, too

The bittersweet reality of graduation

My son has attended school with roughly the same kids for 11 years, and now he’s nearing his eighth grade graduation. An epoch ago, the same held true for me. I graduated from the same school he is, and then I headed off into the great wide world.

It’s an emotional time. Not for him—at least not that he’s letting on yet—but for me. Continue reading “Graduation Day Nears…Not Just for My Son, but for Me, too”