These past few months, I’ve been working towards a goal I felt incapable of achieving. The end product I wanted to get to felt far away, overwhelming; my progress and my own ability, discouraging. So, I mapped out deadlines and timeframes for myself; if I could mercilessly work toward the goal by adhering to a schedule, I could salvage some form of control and have an idea of when the tediousness and uncertainty of the work would be over. Then, I could check off a box because of my achievement, and by that, become a more acceptable, ready, worthy, whatever version of myself.
But, thank goodness, not everything works on deadlines or — gasp — adheres to our own ideas of what “should” be. My own time frames were frustrated, and in my frustration, I felt the gentle sureness of the presence and love of God drop all of a sudden into my mind and heart.
The wisdom: It is our job to be faithful to the task at hand, each day, to trust our efforts will bear fruit if we are obedient to the call of each moment. The end result — some future outcome that is not yet real because it does not yet exist — is not ours to worry about or bring to fruition; that is the Divine’s job, this love who cares for us tenderly and wants only what is best for us, who is working on our behalf for our good. All we need to do is to be obedient to the call of today; Love will take care of the rest.
This call is about living in the present moment, being generous in our love for ourselves, for others, for the world, right here, right now, as we are, yet unfinished. This is how God loves. Can we accept it all, in its incompleteness, and be filled with awe at the mystery, the gift?
In this issue, we look at present — the gift of living in the moment. We learn from three artists about how to make with materials our environments present to us, as they create paint from rocks, an art journaling page from magazines and an ornament from an old quilt. We meet a female sound designer who made an award-winning documentary about the gender disparities prevalent in the sound design industry and how she and other women like her are working to change this inequality through their presence. And we see photos from the lives of seven photographers who took a picture on the same day, an homage to the large and small moments of life and all of the ways there are to live. We hope each of these stories help you reflect on being present and how your presence in the world is really all you have to give. May you hold it out as an offering to others and to yourself in generosity this holiday season.
I recently read the novel “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith, a coming-of-age story about a girl as she grows into a woman while living in working-class Brooklyn at the turn of the 20th Century. “In its nearly 500 pages, nothing much happens,” writer Anna Quindlen writes in the introduction. “Of course, that’s not really accurate: Everything that can happen in life happens. … But those things happen in the slow, sure, meandering way that they happen in the slow, sure, meandering river of real existence, not as the clanking ‘and then’ that lends itself easily to event synopsis.”
As I read, I realized she is right: “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” is a book about the present. The purpose of telling the story — and the purpose of it all, for all of us, despite the obstacles set in our way — is to live life, to grow, to continue getting to exist. That in and of itself, with all of the ways the world tries to thwart it, is an accomplishment.
As we’re here in this moment, on our way to something new that doesn’t yet exist but will someday, I pray in the loud and quiet moments of winter we experience the freedom of realizing we can only do so much, and then, accept the grace and love that loves us not in spite of but because of our imperfectness, our incompleteness, our bumbling efforts and inabilities. It’s not something we can earn.
It’s a gift.