25 of 26

Day 25

Here we are, the fateful day of my birthday! As I woke up this morning and began the first waking hours of my 27th year on Earth, I was tired! From staying up too late last night and waking early this morning. But, by lunchtime, I was in a sea of birthday bliss, that I hope can last longer than this fleeting day.

There are so many things to be grateful for this past year, and I know the one to come will bring changes of it’s own! How strange to think this is my final birthday with my current last name, the only one while on internship, and the first one celebrated in two states on the same day! Life always seems to have new paths being drawn.

Can’t wait to see what this next one has in store!

Ashley

24 of 26

Day 24

I was able to participate in my first Posada tonight! Though I have learned much about them over time and helped plan a few, I have never actually attended one! Tonight, it was a joy to celebrate my first Posada with Sagrado Corazón.

Las Posadas (or “the inns” in English) is a tradition that originated in Mexico, but not is celebrated all throughout Latin American countries and in Hispanic communities in the United States. It consists of 9 nights, which are the nine before Christmas day and is meant to commemorate the pilgrimage of Mary and Joseph trying to find shelter on that fateful night in Bethlehem. In doing so, there is also an acknowledgement of the way that we are all people who are accompanied by God on our journeys and that we should stand in solidarity for all who are on their pilgrimage, both literal and figurative.

Our night consisted of some songs, scripture, prayers, and sharing food together. Overall, it is a great reminder that I am always learning and trying new things in my life. And I always will be. No matter how old I may be tomorrow!

Ashley

22 of 26

Day 22

Today, I realized I miss things. I miss the energy that I used to have to do things like play an instrument, or read for fun. And I am currently trying to re-teach myself how to make time and space for myself to do these things by taking care of myself in other ways. Then again, maybe I am not re-teaching myself, but teaching myself for the first time. I am not sure I have ever had a perfect handle on taking care of myself.

That being said, I am not sure I have much to say about the subject, just that my mind is ruminating on it. Not in a way that says, “Age 26 will be the year” or “2020 will be the year” because I do not want to assign taking care of myself in these ways to one age or one year. But, maybe in a way that says, here I am, on the eves of these two important transitions, and I acknowledge that I want to treat my body the way she deserves to be treated. Not perfectly, or even in a necessarily in a linear way, but in a way that cares deeply, compassionately, and honestly for the body that does so much to give me life.

In a way that makes it clear that my body and my health are gifts to be cherished and valued. In every type of packaging they may come in over the course of my life.

Ashley

18 of 26

Day 18

Tonight my internship congregation had a Service of Healing and Hope. This goes by many names, such as a Longest Night Service or a Blue Christmas Service, but the premise is the same. These services are meant to provide a space, amidst the hustle and bustle of Christmas joy and holiday cheer, for those who find themselves in a time of grief, struggle, pain, or loneliness. Our society can get so focused at times on making sure that the magic of the season is cheerful and joyous, that we can forget that some people are not finding the life-giving hope or love that this season suggests.

Some may be mourning a loved one who has died, others may be struggling with mental illness, still others are worried about job security, broken relationships, or chronic illnesses in themselves or someone close to them. Many may even be overwhelmed by a conglomeration of many of these things. So, tonight we had a service with readings, hymns, candles, and anointing oil to create space for those who need validation in the fact that this season can be full of heartache, and hope for reassurance that they are not alone.

The whole service itself was beautiful, but one moment stuck out to me as a true moment of hope. As we anointed those at the service, they could then go and light candles among the communion rail. My line came to its final oil recipient, a young girl around 8-10 years old. She came and received the oil and blessing on her forehead and then started to turn and walk back to her seat. But then, she saw the candles. She asked me, “Can I light those?” And I said, “Of course, let me help you.” So, together we lit the wooden stick and she slowly walked to the first unlit candle. Many people had lit one or two and so there was still around half of the rail that was not lit. She noticed quickly that no one else was lighting candles and so as soon as she lit the first one, she continued to the second, and the third, and so on.

After about 10 candles, her wooden stick began to disintegrate and so I helped her get it to the bucket of sand to extinguish the flame. She looked at me and asked, “Can I light more later?” Because she saw that there were still unlit candles. I replied, “Maybe!” After that she smiled, turned to head back to her seat and said, “I hope so.”

This is my wish for how we treat one another this season. May we see those whose inner light has grown dim, and fan the flame inside them with love, compassion, and the support of community. And then when we see the next person, may we help re-ignite their fire too. And so on. And so on. Until we too must take time to rest and rejuvenate our own flames. All the while, hoping that we can go out again, and light more later.

Ashley

17 of 26

Day 17

What is your wilderness?

As I begin to prepare for my sermon this upcoming Sunday, my initial thoughts about the passage brought me the wilderness. I think throughout our lives there are different instances that can feel like a wilderness. Some people may think of anywhere that is full of nature and has wild things like animals or plants they do not see every day, but at some point throughout my studies in religion, I have come to associate wilderness with the Greek word from the Bible. The word itself can be translated as wilderness, but also desert. Not only that, but the word for wilderness or desert is related to adjectives like desolate, solitary, and deprived.

So, when I think of a place of wilderness, I think of a solitary place, a desolate place, an empty place. I think of being overworked in a busy season, or being in the midst of a major depressive dip, or living somewhere that community is scarce. I don’t think we have to go somewhere with the wild things to experience the wilderness. Instead, sometimes, the wilderness comes from within us, or around us. Eventually, we have to make that trek through it and end up in the middle of it or on the other side. Or, maybe the other side and the middle are not so different after all.

Ashley

16 of 26

Day 16

Do you ever find yourself stuck in a rut? And then find it hard to break the cycle? Well, that has been me for the past week and a half. Through the hustle and bustle of Thanksgiving, I missed a day of these posts, and then kept myself from returning to the posts out of disappointment. How could I miss a day? How could I possibly go back after missing? And then it was two days…and three….and eventually it was 12. And now we are at today.

I got a reminder yesterday that even when you mess up once, you can always return to the task at hand. So yeah, I missed a lot of days in this series, but here I am today, owning the days that have been left unwritten and re-dedicating myself to finishing the rest. The alternative could be that I never return to this, then wait a while to post again so as not to draw attention to the empty days, but I am choosing to lay out my self-conscious tendencies, and soothe my inner critic instead. Today is about recognizing mistakes, or missed opportunities, or promises (even only to yourself) that went unfulfilled. I don’t want to end year 26 in a state of woe over unfulfilled promises, and so the first steps of eradicating those feelings are being taken today:

Laying them out and starting the process of smoothing them over.

Ashley

4 of 26

Day 4

It is quite windy today. When I first moved to Chicago, if I told people I had moved there, they would always say something along the lines of, “Oh, the windy city, eh?” and then follow it with a giggle or a chuckle. To which I would respond, “Actually, it is really windy in the different streets, almost like tunnels, or at times I feel like I am swimming upstream!” and then follow with my own chuckle or giggle. To which they respond, “Oh, it can’t be that bad!”

Well, today, it is that bad in Waukegan. And in many other places if I was paying enough attention to the news. This storm that is about is manifesting here in the wind. But, even with this forceful wind, I have found a sense of beauty in watching the leaves flutter across the ground.

Like they are dancing. Swirling, twirling, up, down, around, crossing the street and circling back. A lovely fox trot of the fallen leaves of autumn. I would not blame them for lying on the ground and refusing to move, the winter did come much too soon for them to live out their full lives in vibrant color. But instead, they ride the winds of the day and frolic just above the pavement, pirouetting, sashaying, and grand jete-ing down the block.

I wonder what tune the wind whistles so that the wilted weather transforms to a tango or waltz. So the leaves leap and lunge and loop. Dancing, divinely, despite the dreary draft. Blowing, blustering, brewing a ballet of blades and petals performing a perfect polka.

Leaves dancing in the wind.

Ashley

3 of 26

Day 3

Today was a fairly productive day. I find that in some seasons of life, those days feel few and far between, though it may seem that I make every day productive from the outside. But today, as I sit in my apartment at the end of it, I feel productive. I called the pharmacy, met with other seminarians over a video session, drafted reflection questions for a Thanksgiving service, wrote my initial outline for my sermon this coming Sunday, cleared out three email inboxes, bought food for our first Young Adult Monthly Meal tomorrow, went to the gym, cleaned out my fridge and put away food while Dalton did dishes and then we made dinner, and ate together. After eating, I spent an evening without feeling the pressure that I was not doing something that needed to be done. Most nights have this looming feeling of what I should be doing, but today, I was enough. Today, I accepted myself for who I am and for what I could do today, no more and no less.

Ashley

2 of 26

Day 2

They say that you learn something new every day, and if that is true, which I find it to be, then the universe has an infinite number of things to teach us. From learning a new word to suddenly understanding a deep truth about the world or oneself, there is a never-ending array of things that the world can teach us. So, what did I learn today? And that is where I am not sure how to answer. I had meetings about technology, and corrected some of my misunderstandings about the audio and video at St. Paul’s. I met with congregation members and learned more about the depth of their lives. And, I suppose I learned how season 3 of Riverdale ends. All of these are important glimpses of knowledge that add up to a worldview and a lens so much bigger than one learning on one day. Perhaps we always learn more than one new thing everyday. Perhaps we are constantly learning new things, as our lives unfold before us day to day.

So, what did you learn today?

Ashley

1 of 26

My birthday will be coming up soon, my 26th birthday. And so I will begin a practice of reflection, and a short, but intentional time of writing. Today is day one, and this will run through December 19th, day 26, which will be my first FULL day of being 26 (my birthday is the 18th.) Feel free to join me for all of these days, a day here and there, or none of these days. But, I feel as if a practice of intentional writing may be exactly what I need right now.

Day 1

This past year has been busy. I think back over my 26th trip around the sun and think, “Wow! Did I do all that?” and at the same time there is always that part of my brain that says, “Wait! You didn’t do enough.” The part that never is satisfied, the part that never deems anything, “enough.” But I look back on this past year, and I am amazed. One benefit of having a birthday so close to the end of the year is that as the new years looms in the near distant future, and you begin to reflect on the past 12 months, you are basically looking back on the year since your last birthday too. I am not sure what this practice is meant for, but it felt right today. At first I thought there might be a theme, a word of the day, or a Bible passage of the day, but as I write this first reflection, I think it is really about writing. Nothing more, nothing less, just writing. For myself, for anyone who wants to read my ramblings, for future me, for the sake of writing itself. And maybe that will change on day 17 or day 15, but today I am intent on entering this journey without knowing exactly where it is going to lead.

Ashley