Presence and Anticipation

For the Monday meditation on April 20, 2020


Stumbling into presence and anticipation

I stumbled upon the concepts of presence and anticipation, really. If I am being honest, I am in a season of trying to fend off guilt on a daily basis. Guilt that I can’t do more. Guilt that I can only fit in so many calls/emails/texts/posts/videos in a day or week. Guilt that my time is fragmented and less focused than it once was.


And yet… if I am honest, I am also more present than I used to be. In moments when I just sit on my porch and look at the sunrise (like Easter morning!), I can feel God’s presence. When I get lost in sidewalk chalk and frisbees and bikes and scooters, I am more aware of the joy that these simple treasures bring. When I allow myself to pay attention to the food that we are preparing, I see the beauty of a cut carrot and the mystery of a raspberry, and I am sometimes stopped in my tracks.


In this COVID-19 reality, remaining present is both a privilege and a challenge. I can stay present because I can sideline my fears for a moment. I can stay present because I have a community (YOU!) who nurture me when I start to doubt my abilities to lead well in this odd time. I can stay present because I have all of my basic needs met, and I have much to give others as well.


The challenge of staying present is that my personality is such that I want to plan everything. I want to make sure I know what is coming and how I can prepare myself and others for whatever it is. That’s not a possibility right now. I have to stay present because there is no telling when the stay at home orders will be lifted or how we will roll out our ministries of being together again.

I am ok with this. I’m actually more than ok with this. I believe that staying present is one of Jesus’ greatest gifts to us. Some of you have heard me say this before. The stories that we have of Jesus always reveal that he paid attention to the people who were right in front of him. He didn’t set up a master plan or schedule his visits to the most vulnerable. No. He paid attention to who was right along side him, or who was with him, and he responded to their needs. We would do well to do the same… even if that means that the people we need to tend to are ourselves.


I mean that. As the days of social distancing wear on, I encourage you to pay attention and stay present to yourself. Let the emotions come, and do not feel as if your emotions and experiences need to match another person’s. In a time of trauma and crisis (and that is what this is, in many ways), our feelings and responses are different than we might expect. You might need to sleep more. You might need to eat differently. You might need some more quiet time… or loud time. You might need a few seconds just to breathe. All of these things are a part of staying present, but you only need to do what YOU need to do. There are no checklists, no requirements. Simply listen to that voice within (I happen to believe that is God within you) and respond accordingly.


What does this look like?


Today, for me, it looked like sidewalk chalk on my driveway – a message to anyone who might pass by. It looked like lighting a candle at my child’s request when God was mentioned in a book we were reading – God and light are connected… a total win! It will look like buying more hand soap because we are out – not just running low, but out. Early this morning, it looked like letting my dog lean into me while I just sat.



I get that this is not always possible and that there are requirements in our lives. This is absolutely true. It is also true, however, that I often ignore what I need to do and do what I think I should do. There would often be time for both if I just listened a little more closely. For instance, if I crave prayer, I can likely fit in a 30-second silence before I return to my family following a bathroom break. If I need sunshine, I can probably spare a minute or ten to just be outside prior to coming back to my computer to write. If I need a hug, I can likely get one from one of the two people or one dog in my house… or I can call up a friend and ask for what I need virtually. It’s not the same, but it helps.


My point is that we can do this. We can stay in the moment and still look ahead to the unknown future.

St. Peter's at the PRIDE Parade in 2019.

And this is what brings me to the spiritual practice of anticipation… I realized recently, that almost everything that we have been anticipating as a faith community has been cancelled, postponed, or done in a very different way. We anticipated Fearless Dialogues, and it couldn’t happen. We anticipated Easter… and it was different. Some of us anticipated graduations, and Mother’s Day, and birthdays, and Father’s Day, and Memorial Day weekend, and PRIDE, and all of the other markers of our shared lives. All of these have been changed by COVID-19. Our ability to anticipate has been changed drastically.


And yet… this doesn’t mean we cannot have hope. I think we anticipate things that we have experienced previously or for which we can have reasonable expectations. (I anticipate a Fourth of July parade because I’ve witnessed one so many times before. I anticipate a hug from my spouse every evening prior to falling asleep because that has been our ritual for many years. I anticipate that I will get canker sores on a more regular basis in the coming months because mine are triggered by stress and I just can’t get rid of all of the stress in our world right now.) But hope? Hope is different. We can hope for things for which we cannot have reasonable expectations. We can hope for things well beyond our capacity for understanding. We can hope for something that doesn’t have shape or form or boundaries or even words. I can hope for this virus to change the way I experience my privilege. I can hope for people living on the margins to be seen in a different way due to this pandemic. I can hope for artists and teachers and essential workers to be honored in new and creative ways as a result of COVID-19. And I can hope that faith communities will become better versions of themselves in the midst of this pain.


I can hope for these things… and I DO hope for these things.


That is the space that I am in this Monday. I am hoping for something glorious to emerge from this pandemic, but I am not yet ready to list all the silver linings because the pain is too real and too unknown right now. I cannot ignore the hurt and loss and the absolute mystery of how things will play out. I am simply honoring where I am at today (staying present) and attempting to anticipate something new which will rise from our diligent social distancing, handwashing, and grounding in God’s love. What will it be? I don’t know. Will I like it? Maybe; maybe not. Must I go down this path? Absolutely. Our commandment is to love one another, and by sharing these honest thoughts, I hope I am doing just that… sharing the love.

Finally, if I wasn’t staying present, I wouldn’t have just paused to watch a bee hang out around our new pollinator box, the one put up on Palm Sunday. I can hardly believe it! There is hope, friends. Stay present.



IWith love,