// Every year for many years, I took part in an Instagram ritual called #AdventWord, first on an old account, then here—every year except the last, when I just couldn’t; the very idea of ritual exhausted me.
// A few weeks ago, I checked in with myself to see if anything had changed. Things had. I wanted to mark the season again, but only if I could do it with others. So that’s what I’ll be doing this year; not every day – just when it feels right. I hope it feels right for you too.
The path I took was the same I walked since I was a child, during those rainy days of feeling especially alone in a large, noisy family. It was a sunny day, as it had been for the past few weeks now, as the oppressive noon sun beamed down at me, exposing my body with a warm light. I picked a white daisy from a garden that spilled over the concrete sidewalk and felt its thin, delicate, white petal in between my fingers.
My walk, as it often did, took me to a park nearby. An old horse pasture donated to the county for the public to play, relax and enjoy the scenery of the industrial part of town down below. I looked at my daisy to see I had absently plucked all of its pedals and it was now just a little, yellow sun, naked, shining brightly at me, despite my abuse. I felt a keen sense of guilt and gently dropped it within a bed of wildflowers in a tiny plot of unclaimed earth.
I found myself on the top of a rounded hill, on the highest green bench away from the few people who played fetch with their dogs, jogged on the cement pathway and played on the play set. I looked past them to the houses where old childhood friends lived, past that, the business where their parents worked, and past that still to the Olympic mountain range. I had gazed at those mountain peaks, so far away, many times with wonder and awe, with such admiration for the creator who could imagine such beauty, but today, I just felt weary.
I sighed and glanced down at the green metal bars that made up this bench.
Hi, this is Jad writing. Today’s word is TOGETHER, a right and joyful word that’s kinda recursive, in that the very roots for “good” in English find their soil in togetherness: gōd, of persons or souls, “righteous, pious, virtuous;” a word of uncertain etymology, perhaps originally “fit, adequate, belonging together,” from *ghedh- “to unite, be associated, suitable”.
To be together is to be good.
To be good is to be together.
That’s how I tend to write about such things; I look for the marginalia and the parentheticals—like St. Matthew’s “let the reader understand”—then work my way in. And that’s fine and fun and some people will tell me that it’s even interesting, but I’m bored of the sound of my own voice.
The way I usually work is great, but it’s not good—not in that ancient sense, at least.
Because I know how it feels when it’s really good – like really really good. It feels like fittingness and association—like belonging, like communion. It feels good when we work together.
Christine and I do a lot of things together; sometimes I even forget how much. The idea for this series of saint paintings she’s been working on for years was apparently sparked a long time ago with a suggestion I’d made for her to paint on mirrors; Christine had to remind me of that because I’d completely forgotten.
We also have very different temperaments, which can sometimes mirror back harsh truths about each other when we’re not careful; but when the light’s just right, we reach a crystal clarity that wouldn’t have been possible when working alone.
That’s what this whole Advent series is about in microcosm. We all catch and refract each other’s light in different ways but no two mirrors are alike; what we do together—every you and every me—is so very uniquely and irreplaceably good.
Hi, this is Christine writing. Today’s word is TEACH.
My dad often quoted a verse from the Book of James warning teachers of the harsh judgment they would receive in the afterlife should they mislead their students. I never wanted to be a teacher.
I’m sure all of us can remember that one teacher who taught us with the grace, patience, and compassion every child deserves, and the other teacher who fell drastically short. Personally, I despised school. I had learning difficulties caused by the early part of my life being disrupted by hearing loss. It made school unbearable at times. Teachers were often publicly frustrated with me. Friends and even family were fond of dropping “dumb blonde” jokes around me.
These formative years gifted me with a strange cocktail of personality quirks—a deep complex about my lack of intelligence, paired with a tenacity to barrel through challenges and get things done.
So I know that an education, both good and bad, can follow you for the rest of your life. I never wanted to risk that kind of effect on people—I never wanted to risk the inevitable judgment.
But here I am today, surrounded by children, and finding myself blessed by their insatiable hunger for knowledge. Even outside my day job, I’m drawn to making art with the intent to educate.
Whenever I learn something new, I find myself holding that information like a light source too bright to keep dimmed in my enclosed hands. How utterly selfish of me to keep it to myself!
Yes, a bad teacher who spreads misinformation, who makes a student feel less than for whatever reason, should and will be judged harshly. But how much worse would it be for those of us who keep good news to ourselves?