The Unfinished Work of Freedom


I was today years old when I realized something. As we stood in the meeting house this morning and sang “America the Beautiful”, I found myself looking at the lyrics, the music dying away on my lips as I read and thought. The latter section of each verse is, in its essence, a prayer.

v1 – O beautiful for spacious skies, 
for amber waves of grain; 
for purple mountain majesties 
above the fruited plain! 
America! America! God shed his grace on thee, 
and crown thy good with brotherhood 
from sea to shining sea. 

v2 – O beautiful for heroes proved 
in liberating strife, 
who more than self their country loved, 
and mercy more than life! 
America! America! May God thy gold refine, 
till all success be nobleness, 
and every gain divine. 

v3 – O beautiful for patriot dream 
that sees beyond the years 
thine alabaster cities gleam,
undimmed by human tears! 
America! America! God mend thine every flaw, 
confirm thy soul in self-control, 
thy liberty in law.

For all their extolling America’s virtues, these verses and the prayers embedded into them acknowledge that there is still so far to go, so much to do in the work towards that American Dream of freedom. And I find myself appreciating this honesty, whether the authoress, Katharine Lee Bates, intended it or not.

The absolute truth of our country is that freedom is still an unrealized dream. No, slavery doesn’t exist anymore in our country (not as we historically think of it) but the cultural and societal beliefs and mindsets that engendered it still survive and pervade. Freedom and independence still do not exist for all in America. The fight for equality and equity is still on-going. It is not over because not everyone is truly free and, ever more the worse, many refuse to acknowledge this truth.

“God mend thine every flaw.”

We are such a flawed nation, dear readers. We pull away the rights and access that we were taught were the very basis and foundation for our country’s creation in the first place. We deny others the security, equality, and freedoms that we have enjoyed. We shove people out instead of welcoming them in. We revel in and even proudly display our biases, our prejudices, our hatreds, and out the other corner of our mouths, we declare this “the greatest country on earth”. It is not. We have not fed the hungry, sheltered the homeless, clothed the naked. We have not welcomed the desperate stranger nor loved our neighbors as ourselves (no exceptions). We are not free. Not yet.

So, as we cook our hot dogs and terrify our pets with colorful explosions, let’s not forget, dear friends, that one of our most “patriotic” songs acknowledges the long way we have yet to go and prays for us in it.

Till all success be nobleness.”

We are not free because not everyone is free or has the equity or ability to live with dignity and rights. Freedom has never been and still is not yet “for all”. We are not done yet. So don’t you dare think that this is the time to sit back and rest on your laurels and admire how great America is. We aren’t there. Not yet. We are closer. But not there yet.

So. Finish up your hot dog and potato salad, make sure that your sparklers are all the way out, and get up. Let’s go. There’s still work to do, friends–for our loved ones, for our neighbors (all of them), for our country. Let’s go make it beautiful.

Nudging the Door Open (NYE 2018)


As today dawned, I realized that I had nothing prepared to post. No reflection, no little story indicative of where my heart and mind are right now. Nothing was prepared. Even now, sitting in my daughter’s darkened room while she falls asleep, writing by the light from the hallway, I am tempted to feel like I failed by being too busy or full-minded to give this year much thought. But, then again, it has been a busy, full-minded year. I spent a good portion of this year feeling and being not altogether myself. Stress took a heavy toll in the first half of 2018, as did change the resulting different routines and schedules. I finally made a significant health change earlier this fall that seems to have helped immensely with some of my balance and peace of mind, along with some emotional and mental work and growth. It’s been heavy lifting and it’s not over yet, but I feel that I am better for it.

2018 was a year full of change, both for myself and for dear ones close to me, and also a year of some beautiful, joyful moments.  I was gifted with the most amazing birthday in years by my loving husband and dear friends (I’m still chuffed from that, too). I also had the opportunity to throw off adulthood and run away to Disney and Harry Potter World for a Dapper Day weekend with a girlfriend. It was utterly splendid!

As this New Year’s Eve wanes, I hear the wind howling outside the windows of my house, and I find myself hoping that it will sweep away the figurative dark and dank and cold, the literal scary and disappointing and painful of this year, sweeping the doorstep clear for the new one.

So I will unlock the door and nudge it open to let the cool, end-of-year air sweep through to see 2018 out and usher 2019 in. It may stand there on the doorstep, blinking in the light, confused and maybe a little scared, just as we are. For a long moment, we may stand there staring at it and it at us. I hope we will take a deep breath and step forward to meet the new year with kindness, courage, determination, and truth.

So happy New Year, dear ones. May your year and selves be blessed.

Stepping into the New Year


Today was our teacher work day ahead of the start of the spring semester. Honestly, last night, day one hadn’t even begun yet and I was already ready to quit. Just thinking about it made me tired, exhausted. So, today, I gave myself some very pointed instructions: take care of what absolutely must be done for Monday and Tuesday to flow as smoothly as you can manage. The rest can wait until later in the week. And I stuck to those self-imposed limitations for the most part. I stuck to it rather well, actually.

I’m not good that: sticking to limitations. I end up having arguments with myself that go rather like this.

Only go this far.

But—there’s so much to be done! Just a little more.

No, you’re going to get overwhelmed and freak out.

I’ll be…

You’re freaking out, aren’t you?

Yeah.

I am not good at sticking to limitations. I am not good at just taking one step. I feel the need to take several more, just to make sure. Just to make absolutely sure that everything that needs to be done is done, every possible preparation is made, every security I can manage put into place to assure that things go as closely to how they need to go (read: how I want them to go) as possible.

This year, the odds are good that there may come quite a few situations that I will feel overwhelmed by and thus be tempted to take extra steps to try control said situations. My challenge and journey this year will be in taking just the next step. Not running ahead, not taking a few extra steps “just in case”, but in taking just the next step that I feel God has led me to take. And then wait.

When I was a child, I attended a private church-school and, every morning, we said the pledge to the Bible. I pledge allegiance to the Bible: God’s Holy Word. I will make it a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.

“A lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” If you know anything about lamps, then you know that their circle of light doesn’t go very far. It will light your feet for the next step but only the next step. One step at a time.

This year, I want to lean into taking just that next step. Just the next step that I feel led to take. Faith, patience, courage, trust…all of these things lead into this action. I want to be better at it, at them. That is my goal for this year, that is my lesson, my learning: to take just the next step. The very next step. That’s all.

 

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