To our knees.

Rainy Monday morning. Favorite coffee shop. Vanilla latte splurge.

A beautiful weekend personally. A difficult one otherwise.

A broken heart at the things that are tearing us apart in these United States. My home. My country.

Charlottesville. 

I don’t want to add to the social media frenzy unless I can do so in a helpful way. Because fingers having been flying across keyboards and posting things helpful (and also not so much…) for 48 hours now. Such is life these days. The blessing and curse of the internets.

But good lord my heart hurts this morning. And I don’t know what to do but write it out. I didn’t have words yesterday. Or the day before. And I may not have the right ones today (if there even is such a thing). But these are the things at the forefront of my heart this morning…and I offer them to you out of heartache and anger and grief and, I’m praying for, a dose of humility as well, because there is so much I do not know, and so much I have not experienced.

  1. I’m angry. But that anger is rooted in grief and heartache. This is not what we were made for–this vicious hate and unending rage at one another. The people of color that I love are scared. So are those who love them best. And I am desperate for something to ease their fear. Desperate for the right words and actions to help them feel safe. Held. Loved. No matter what. I feel woefully insufficient in this regard, so much that all I could do yesterday was fold into a fierce hug a dear friend who is white, but who has a black son. I cannot know her pain. But how I wish I could stop it.
  2. I stood at the communion table at the church where I work yesterday morning. And invited people to it. And I did so making clear that the communion table (in my faith tradition) is not ours to define. It is God’s. And that means all are welcome. My voice caught…and I imagine that those listening thought my voice caught because I was imagining all the people who have been excluded from events or places or lives because of the color of their skin. But what I was actually thinking about were those men who held those torches and said those awful things and cast that awful fear and caused those three people to lose their lives in Charlottesville. Because the thing is? God loves them too. I cannot. But God does. And this is both tremendous challenge and tremendous grace. My hating them for their hate does not create space for love. And I grieve, deeply, for whatever causes them to hate so. I do not excuse it. I do not condone it. I outright condemn it. And in the same breath know that whatever pain they bear that causes such deep pain for others…this is heartache, too.
  3. This is simply a variation on a theme if you’ve read much at all of what I’ve written in the last year, but when we make white supremacy purely a partisan issue, it is not helpful. Over the last couple of days, folks from both sides of the aisle have condemned white supremacy, Neo-Nazism and the KKK specifically. This does not absolve those who did not offer such a condemnation. But it is an important reminder that we cannot judge every single person in an entire party, in a terribly broken and dysfunctional political system, by the silence and/or actions of some. Even when that “some” seems to be the majority and is highly visible. Republican does not equal racist. Democrat does not equal liberal fascist. Full stop.
  4. At the same time? It’s time to speak up. Make clear that hate is not to be tolerated. In our words, in our actions, in our lives. Every day. All the damn time. In whatever ways we can. Commit to loving harder.
  5. We’ve done this already, y’all. We fought a whole war over fascism and hate. The whole world participated and/or watched it unfold. And in my book, patriotism means that we honor those who fought that fight and do our damnedest to protect what they secured. We cannot simultaneously celebrate liberty and the Stars and Stripes while also propagating hatred of our neighbors and equal citizens.

The fact that I fear hitting the “publish” button on this blog is in itself indicative of how angry and divided we are as a nation. Because I know it will not be enough for some folks I love so much. But if there were ever a time for speaking our hearts, for sharing our fears and desires, for seeking a way forward, this is it. I want to be part of a solution. And I cannot live in anger and hate. Because as was once said, “Hate is too great a burden to bear.” I don’t even know how to stop it. Except by naming it. And sticking with love when and if at all possible. And standing in the brink of what hate creates and declaring, “No. We’re not having this. Not in these United States.”

When you have been brought to your knees in grief and pain, the grief and pain of others is easier to see. Even if you cannot entirely understand it. Charlottesville’s heartache is all of ours. And so I think my prayer for my country this morning is that we would, in fact, be brought to our knees for this time we find ourselves in. And from that vantage point, seek to understand how, together, we might restore hope.

Cease hate.

Embrace humility.

Seek peace.

 

 

Fear. Love. Prayer.

I’m fearing for my daughter’s future this morning.

With every breath. And not because she is in danger. Or even in crisis. Or even the target of any perceived threat. She’s fine. More than fine, really, even as she faces challenges beyond her years and that she should not have to face. My fear for her is not imminent. But it is no less real.

Because there are things I know that she does not.

She does not know that 1300 Kentuckians have died already this year of a opioid overdoses. She does not know that the United States and North Korea are engaged in what I can only describe as the most jacked up and most potentially devastating game of Chicken I’ve ever seen. She does not know that I sometimes stay awake at night worrying about the future of healthcare in our nation. For her and me both. She does not know that her social and emotional wellbeing are more at risk these next few years than they have ever been or ever will be in her life–because such is being a girl tween and then teen in this day and age. She does not know that tensions run fast and high and vicious in our community and in our country when it comes to race and ethnicity and every other way we can “other” a group of people…and I fear for how those tensions may explode for her and her peers in really scary ways. She does not know… She does not know… She does not know…

What she knows, even with the heartache she’s lived, is that the world is full of good people. And that it’s possible to face the unthinkable and survive. And that she is loved. And that there are safe places in the world for her to grow and learn. And that she will never, no matter what, be alone.

With all that I am I want these truths to hold for her. With all that I am I wish that every child knew these truths.

And yet, still, I fear for her. Because the world seems hot and angry and brutal right now. Not so much our small corner of it. But the world at large. The world she’s growing closer every day to being aware and a part of.

I fear for all our children, because we don’t seem to be doing a very good job of listening to them. Of putting them first. Of securing a safe and bright future for them. We’ve got our priorities all wrong as a larger community, and our children are the ones who will suffer most.

And I cannot fix it. I cannot wave my wand or push a button or flip a switch and make it all forthelovestopalready. I cannot. And this pains me every moment of every day. This morning it feels particularly heavy. Because this morning a whole lot feels at stake as I see and hear and read about what’s happening in the world and try to process what it might all mean.

I fear. For her. For all of us.

And in the face of it I know only two things to do: Love more (and harder). And pray.

DO NOT understand me to be saying that if we just love and pray everything will be okay. I’ll leave that to cheesy greeting cards and Facebook memes, thanks. Loving harder and praying more does not at all guarantee that everything will be okay. Not by a longshot.

But it’s all I know to do. And I can’t help but think that in doing it, in loving harder and praying more, I stand a better chance of being reminded of all that’s good in the world. Of being challenged to speak up for those who can’t, and speak out when it’s necessary. Of being inspired to work even harder to help…wherever help is needed. Because loving harder and praying more…they do not fix what is wrong with the world, but they do transform me. They transform how I enter into relationship and how I face conflict and how I handle difficulty.

And we’ve got no chance of a transformed world if we cannot first see the things in ourselves that need transforming.

And so as I pray fervently for peace, I pray to also be a peacemaker, especially because I know I can so often be the exact opposite. As I pray fervently for a way forward for our country, I pray to be a part of the solution. And as I pray for all the broken places–both globally and personally–I pray for the strength to be a healer.

And I pray for my daughter. And her friends and peers. That we might somehow find a way to leave them a better world than what we’ve currently given them. That we might somehow–by some beautiful miracle–understand that our profit, our gain, our power, our winning, our supposed greatness–none of it means a damn thing if we have not accounted first for our children’s wellbeing.

Because otherwise…I do not know what is to become of us.

And so somehow, some way…may it be so.

 

 

Something beautiful.

If you know me at all you’ve likely heard me mention my love affair with The Sound of Music. Captain Von Trapp is my dream man, y’all. From the get.

There’s lots I love about the film, but my favorite part, hands down, is the duet the Captain and Maria sing in the gazebo once they’ve found the strength to admit they love each other.

Perhaps I had a wicked childhood
Perhaps I had a miserable youth
But somewhere in my wicked, miserable past
There must have been a moment of truth…
…Nothing comes from nothing
Nothing ever could
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good

And so they sing. Out of the heartbreak and fear they both have known. Out of the sadness they’ve each lived…this moment. This “something good,” that is their life together.

I thought of the Captain and Maria when a friend forwarded an email to me–from Love Does (which, if you aren’t clued into…get on it!). The email held this important reminder, “Like the anger of fire shapes the metal/Like the sorrows of a writer create poetry/Everything that is beautiful does not always start beautifully.” (Noor Unnahar)

Some things do, after all, begin just as beautifully as they become. But what I think is that very little true beauty, very little beauty that’s worth it, comes without some ugliness, some heartache, some downrightgodawfulpain along the way. And it’s more than an ugly ducking becoming a gorgeous swan. It’s more than a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. We know these stories. What we don’t know–or at least sometimes have to learn again–is that on the other side of darkness, light dwells. On the other side of hate, love wins.

It’s so hard to see when we’re in the thick of it. So hard to comprehend in the midst of the pain that somehow life might feel good again one day, that maybe all is not lost and there is still a chance at joy. At love. At belonging. Most days I have to talk myself into it. And that’s okay, talking ourselves into it. That’s part of putting one foot in front of the other. It’s pure grit sometimes and that’s all there is to it. Right?

Right.

But here’s the thing–we do not transform without having known pain. We do not become without having been through something significant. We do not grow without having to learn more about who we are–and that sometimes hurts like hell.

(Sidenote: For the love of all that is holy, do not hear me saying that God or whoever causes our pain in order to teach a lesson. That’s utter nonsense at the least and incredibly harmful at worst. No, in our sorrow God sits with us. Constant. Always. In the crap and desperation with us, pointing us towards the light until we’re ready to see it again.)

Because out of the ashes, new things are given life. And out of the despair, hope is born. And in the midst of the darkness, we search for light. This is what it is to be human. To have been so beautifully made. To triumph, as the human spirit so often does, in the midst of the most horrible things.

My heart breaks for so many people and so many things right now. Every day. And there is no way around it. But I also believe with all I am that we only know what it means to be wholehearted once we’ve been fully broken apart. And once we know, once we see what is possible, that’s where beauty is. That’s where epic songs are written and gorgeous stories are shared and twisted, angry metal becomes something lovely to behold.

I can’t quantify it for you. I can’t tell you when or how. And the truth is, so much of what matters most in life can’t be fully measured or known or described. But I know it’s true. And today, knowing that there’s so much pain in the world, and in so many of your lives, my hope is you, too, will know it’s true. Deep in your bones. Something good is possible. Something beautiful can still be made. In spite of–and perhaps, even, because of, in ways we might not ever understand–what has been.

 

 

 

 

 

 

pain, untransformed.

“Pain that is not transformed is transmitted/transferred.” (Richard Rohr)

I came across these words of Richard Rohr’s on a friend’s Facebook page this morning. They struck me. In that “full-stop-catch-your-breath” kind of way.

See, yesterday, I saw my dentist. He’s great, my dentist, but going to see him is not my favorite thing (thanks to a childhood dentist who was, well…not so great), so it had been longer than it should have since my last visit. Thankfully, he does not judge. And simply said, “Let’s go ahead and get some X-rays just to be sure all is well.” So we did, and mostly, all is well. No decay. No disease. And that root canal from a couple years back looks fine. I was feeling pretty great about it all until he said, “But Julie…did you know you are grinding your teeth?”

Now, the truth is…yes, I suspected I was grinding my teeth in my sleep. A sore jaw and neck being the biggest indicators of that. But I mean, I didn’t know. You know, for sure (she says, sheepishly). But it’s hard to argue with X-rays showing the wear on my teeth. So we talked about keeping eye on it, and he said it wasn’t so bad quite yet and blah, blah, blah and maybe next time around we’d see if I needed a mouthpiece, etc.

But what I’m thinking about now is what Mr. Rohr said about pain. About how if it doesn’t get transformed it transfers. About how our physical bodies feel, and how our minds/hearts feel, are so often connected. And so it isn’t  hard for me to imagine that maybe…just maybe…that teeth grinding is really me working things out in my sleep. Things like stress. Things like grief. Things like adjusting to significant change.

You know. Things. All the things.

It reminds me of something Glennon Doyle says, “When I feel someone has been unkind, I know that all that just happened is they felt the hot loneliness, but they didn’t know how to be still with it. So they just treat it like a hot potato and pass it to the next person. But pain is not a hot potato. Pain is a traveling professor. And it just goes and knocks on everyone’s door and the smartest people I know are the people who say, ‘Come in and just don’t leave until you’ve taught me what I need to know.'”

Read that again (trust me…read it again).

The smartest people are the ones who let the pain do its work, instead of passing it off to another person in anger or cruelty or harsh words or betrayal or selfish behavior.

God, I’ve been guilty of just passing it on before. Of simply reacting out of my own heartache and misery instead of bravely letting it all do its work so that I might become a better version of myself. And every time…every time…I have eventually regretted that choice.

The truth is that we all bear such deep sorrow. Such hidden hurts. Because this is what it is to be human. Even the most fortunate among us know (or eventually will know) what it is to have the life knocked out of us temporarily and so have to make the difficult choice of whether to emerge victorious from that which has broken us or just…survive.

But passing that sorrow on to others, flexing our pain by transferring it to someone else–gah. This is not the way towards healing.

Nor is letting it fester inside. A wound that just won’t heal and so spreads its heat and toxicity everywhere, throughout us, making the whole of us feel as if nothing will ever be okay again. Or, you know, at least just grinding our teeth down to stubs.

We have to let it do its work. We have to let it drag us down to the dark places so that we can find our way towards light again. We have to let it transform us…from what we were, into what we can be on the other side of it all. And it’s damn hard work, this transformation. Mostly because our plans, our dreams, our images of what who we wanted to be and what we wanted for our lives get dashed along the way.

And y’all, there is very little more painful than the loss of a dream. Than the loss of what we wanted played against what has actually happened. It is so, so hard to let go of what we’d hoped for in our lives. What we’d planned on.

And the pain of that loss…it either destroys or transforms. It either eats us alive or makes us whole again. And some days, the line between destruction and transformation is a very thin one indeed. And sometimes, staying on the transformation side of that line is due to equal parts grit and grace, neither of which requires much strategy or planning ahead.

In the long run, I suspect that our pain’s transformation requires the very uncomfortable work of being vulnerable to it long enough for the pain to lose its power. When we’re vulnerable, when we offer ourselves towards one another and to the Universe with all that’s ugly and torn in us, and ask to be loved anyway…that’s when mercy shows up. And does the slow work of helping us out of the pain and into life again.

Not having transferred that which has hurt us…but having been transformed by it, after all.

 

 

 

 

 

from allthingsclipart.com

WARNING: If you have not seen Wonder Woman, but plan to soon, maybe don’t read this. Or do read it and just consider yourself spoiler alerted. If you have not seen Wonder Woman, and don’t plan to, DO read this. It might change your mind.

I’ve seen it twice now. And started to write about it at least 10 times now. Every time, my thoughts have flooded my fingers faster than I could type, and I have had to back away–not ready. Not focused enough in my thoughts to communicate them effectively. Because there so much to say. So. Much.

Look, the critics, the experts (and some not), the thinkers–they’ve all written about it. And I don’t know that I have anything new or somehow provocatively insightful to say, I just know if I don’t say something, I’ll regret it…because 2017’s Wonder Woman is hands down my new favorite movie. And Diana Prince my new favorite hero. And here’s why:

  1. Because there are times when this life we live feels like a No Man’s Land. After loss or heartbreak or death, our lives can feel like desolate plains of existence. No map. No rules. No sure way through. And it’s tempting to give up. Or to at least focus on the path of least resistance in an effort to simply keep breathing. And the moment when Diana makes the decision to march across that No Man’s Land, bullets or no, bombs or not, destruction be damned, is the most powerful visual I’ve ever seen of what it means to just keep going. To just keep going. No matter what. Through literal hell and into raging battlefield. To just keep going. Because you have to. It’s the only way forward. The only way into something good.
  2. Because sometimes it takes a has-been marksman who can spin a Scottish tune, a Middle Eastern goofball who wants to be an actor, a brave and strong Native American who has lost his homeland, and a slightly nutty but surprisingly smart and willing secretary to round out an earnestly brave soldier and his superhero love in getting the job done. Which is to say–we’ve all got our gifts. Our place in the story. The Story. And we all matter. Help often comes from the most unlikely of places and far be it from us to judge whether a person is capable of being a hero in any given moment. One of the most achingly beautiful parts of the movie for me was hearing Charlie sing again, playing the piano as he did, after they’d saved that sweet French village. All the heartache and horror in his life had been suspended, just for that moment, so he could really live again. Only he could have filled that particular role in Steve Trevor’s gang with such bittersweet heart and tender courage.
  3. (Paraphrasing Steve and Diana) Because very little in this life is about what any of us deserve. Most often it’s about what we believe should be possible for all of us. Because  the best things we know in this life–grace, mercy, love–these things are not about deserve at all. Thanks be–because I’ll tell you right now I wouldn’t always deserve any of it. None of us would. These things are simply and beautifully gifts that the goodness to be found in this life can offer us. And extending them wherever we can, without stopping to think about who or doesn’t deserve them is maybe the best way we can live into really being human.
  4. Because yep…we’re dark. Capable of such selfishness and hurt and wrongdoing. But that’s not all we are. We are so much more. So. Much. More. Diana Prince sees this about humanity in the selfless and full-hearted sacrifice Steve makes, and her ability to see how his actions are what define humanity–not a raging war–is maybe the bravest thing she does. It takes a heroic heart to find beauty when all around you pain and death are evident. But Steve…he is all love…all grace…and in him she’s able to see such healing and powerful hope for the world. And then she’s able to fully take her place in the story. Fully embrace who she is. Completely step into her destiny as Hippolyta’s daughter and do the work she’d come to do.
  5. Because rising above the things that tear us apart takes enormous courage. But we’re built for that kind of courage. We’re wired to be more than our suffering. And as Charlie and Sameer and Etta and The Chief join Diana on Armistice Day, to find their Steve among the wall of heros, they do so standing tall. Bound together irrevocably. More, together, than each of them, even a superhero, could ever be on their own. Having triumphed over tragedy and pain to come full circle into the grace that binds together those who have known heartache and survived.

More than anything, I found in Wonder Woman a challenge to be real. To be vulnerable. To be brave. To rise above the horrible things and give our lives to beauty. To care for one another. To stand up for those who need it and not back down in the face of hate and anger, no matter how loud or fiery or insistent those things are. Because in the end, as is always true and has been since the beginning of time: Love wins. And so the battle is always worth fighting.

Or, as Diana Prince says:

I used to want to save the world. To end war and bring peace to mankind. But then, I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light. And I learned that inside every one of them, there will always be both. A choice each must make for themselves. Something no hero will ever defeat. And now I know, that only love can truly save the world. So I stay, I fight, and I give, for the world I know can be.

 

The lowest common denominator.

It’s the only math concept I’ve ever taken to heart, the only one that’s ever made me think, “Ok…maybe…maybe…this math thing is about more than just numbers.” It’s the lowest common denominator, aka, “LCD.”

I detest fractions, just looking at an equation using them makes me twitch, and the only time I ever pay any attention to them is when I’m baking (because, dang, then they matter!).

But I get the idea of a lowest common denominator. 

And what I know is this: When we assume the LCD–whether in math, or relationships, or our civic life, we are settling. For the very least that is possible.

And maybe sometimes this is necessary. Because truthfully, there are folks in this world that cause me to repeat, “She is a human being, too. He is a child of God, too,” over and over so that I won’t be taken over by anger or sadness and then strike out in ways I’ll regret. (And I’m confident I exact the same response in at least a few others.) Sometimes that’s all we can muster. So be it.

But when the LCD becomes our go-to MO, our first response to any given difficulty or challenge in our life together, we’ve got a problem. We’re all capable of cruelty. Of assumption. Of bias that judges and excludes. We’re all capable of hurting others, and we don’t get through life without doing so. But when that becomes our preferred way of operating in the world…well, we might as well give up.

The idea of lowest common denominator ought to be a positive thing, in that it ought to make us think, “Ok, if we can agree on NOTHING else, we can agree on this one thing….” Instead, I fear the LCD we all share has become the capacity for making disagreement personal. The tendency to make a theological or political or philosophical difference in thought cause for personal attack (and most often such an attack has nothing to do with issue at hand). Making fun of and/or mocking someone’s appearance or ethnicity or education level or background…it’s all communal sport these days and I swear to all that is holy I believe it is making us less of the people we were meant to be.

And it isn’t really what we’re after. At our core, we all want to belong. We all want to be safe. We all want to have enough. But we live in a world where far too often exclusion reigns supreme and money talks. And so there those who begin and end every day believing “I do not matter,” and they do so with hungry bellies and feeling decidedly not safe.

If we want to be great again as a people, it’s going to require a level of compassion that is difficult to rise to…but that is also what we’re wired for.

Yep. I said it. And I believe it. That human beings are first and foremost wired for compassion, for relationship–and it’s only when we insist on fighting against this wiring out of fear or misery or heartache or loneliness or all the other things in this life that assail us that things go wrong.

God, I wish I knew how to fix it. The right words to say. The right actions to take–in our own messed-up lives and in the world.

I don’t know this for sure, but I suspect the answers lie in the example we set for our children. We’re failing miserably at the whole “good example” thing as a nation right now, even as there are amazing parents and caregivers and teachers everywhere doing it well, modeling compassion, practicing forgiveness, nurturing respect and kindness. But collectively? Ouch. Not so much.

And y’all? If we want a life–locally, nationally, globally–that lives into the best of what it means to be human–where no one is left out and everyone has a chance at wholeness–then we’d better set about the task of being for our children what we want the world to be for them. I don’t care how we teach it–use math if that’s your thing–but how we exist in relationship to each other makes all the difference. And we have got to figure it out.

Because so much more is possible. There’s so much beyond the lowest common denominator. And if we could get that–and then find a way towards it as a people…. Holy wow…. The possibilities become endless…infinite…beautiful.

From our nation’s capital…hope.

This week was the third time in the last decade that I’ve stepped into the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC. And just like the first two times, I felt as if I was stepping onto holy ground. Something a tad “not of this world.” Even with all the tourists milling about and children squealing and the city sounds in the distance, it somehow seems quieter, more still, once you go down the steps and are in the midst of it.

As I’d done twice before, I started in a slow walk around, trying to take in the depth of it all. I tried to notice each state, especially Kentucky and Georgia, the two I claim most. I stopped and read the inscriptions and read again the various places battles of that war took place.

And then, lost in thought, I stumbled on something that has not left me these last few days. (See photo to the left.)

Since I’ve last been there I’ve read Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation and learned more about the service of one of my grandfathers, who was a POW in Germany in the last several months of the war. These two things, as well as simply growing older and knowing more about human tragedy have shifted my thinking such that I truly believe we owe the women and men of that war our lives.

And maybe that’s why I stopped. Stood in front of these words for a while, let them sink into my being.

But I think, even more, these words struck me because I fear, these days, we have let down the “heroic men and valiant women.” Let them down horribly. Perhaps–though I’m desperately hoping not–irreparably. 

Because I cannot imagine they gave their lives, their futures, their entire beings, so that we could become a nation that mocks, name calls, finger points and judges one another, as if being the United States of America has become some weird poker game in which the ones with the most of the right kind of chips wins.

(Sidenote: Please do not assume a certain political viewpoint is being espoused here…that defeats the point entirely…we’re all in this mess…together….)

I cannot imagine they gave their lives so that we could become politically deadlocked. Exclusive of anyone not like us. Unable to rise above our own fears and baggage long enough to walk one measly mile in the shoes of a fellow American whose life experience is vastly different than hours.

I cannot imagine they gave their lives for intolerance. For hate. For mistrust. I cannot believe they gave their lives so that we could constantly be at each other’s throats.

And I swear to you all, as I did stood there, hopelessness flooded my soul, and I could not, for the life of me, imagine something good coming out of where we currently find ourselves as a nation. And so I just walked away. Quietly, shaking my head, and feeling really heavy of spirit. It was all I could do to muster the faux cheerfulness needed to convince my very tired and hot Curly Girl that it was worth the extra steps down the length of the reflecting pool to see someone important to her: Abraham Lincoln (her school’s namesake and hero).

She and I both rallied, even if slowly, and off we went.

She walked purposefully, with the measured steps of someone who is really exhausted but also determined to see it through. And as she and I both approached the steps that lead up to Mr. Lincoln, we took a deep breath, and I let her walk ahead of me a bit, since this was her first time to experience it. 

Because I walked behind her, I got to see this (Again, see photo to the left.) I got to see my daughter as she took in the sight of Abraham Lincoln as we’ve enshrined him in this country. And as she stood there, head cocked to one side, not saying a word, but I’m sure taking it all in the way she always does, I remembered reading these words, ones I’ve written about before, of the one she’d come to see:

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

“We are not enemies…We must not be enemies…by the better angels of our nature.”

Holy hell, y’all. Across the centuries his words rang.

If anyone would know the heartache of a nation ripped apart by difference, it’d be Abe. And dear merciful Lord how we need those better angels to prevail right now. It was as if the words had been written for these very days. And I wondered at the beauty of that and also the awfulness of it. 

And I thought, as I watched my daughter, looking so tiny at the feet of such a majestic figure, what a mighty thing it is to realize how very human we are, such that we once again find ourselves divided as a nation. And also what a lovely thing it is to realize how very human we are, such that we are capable of rising to the occasion, of finding a way forward, of healing, of moving into new ways of being as a nation–just as we’ve done before.

It’s bad, y’all. I know. But we are not without hope. We have guides. Giants who have gone before and who, if we’ll let them, can continue to show us the way. And we have the ones coming behind us, guides in their own right, who know more about what it means to love with complete abandon and lack of condition than we ever did. In their tiny hearts, their just-beginning journeys, are perhaps our best hope of all.

It’s hard, y’all. I know. For a million reasons and in a million ways. But dear God it’s also worth it. We’re better than what we’ve been. And capable of so much more.

And so, dear better angels…rise within us. Insist upon your presence. Demand our attention. Be in our words, our actions, our choices. Stay with us. Even when we push you away because we want our own way. Prevail upon us. 

Prevail.