The day is dark from thick layers of clouds and fog, and as my eight year old runs around outside joyfully he proclaims, “see how beautiful it is today, mom, with all this fog.” The day is dark because the senate acquitted the president on what should have been two no-brainer charges, some of the easiest things that congress could have chosen to impeach him on. I’m glad they took the step to impeach, and yet I can’t help but feel some ambivalence about the fact that it wasn’t the human rights abuses at the border, the children in cages, the asylum seekers deported to face murder, rape, and torture instead of being allowed in for safety. And then, empowered by his impending acquittal at the hands of a party who’ve decided that closing ranks almost unanimously behind someone lacking in any morals, he gives the medal of freedom to one of the most racist and bigoted voices in our country.
And it’s hard for me to see the beauty in that sort of dark day, the fog surrounding my house in a layer of wintery mystery feels very different than the fog surrounding the outcome of his behavior in light of this inevitable acquittal.
I know many of you feel the same.
The thing about fog when you need to get somewhere is there’s nothing to do but take it slow and move forward. You can’t rush in with your high beams on because you’ll decrease the visibility and increase the danger to yourself and those with you. All you can do is make sure you’ve got everyone with you and proceed slowly with determination through the fog. Each step we take the fog clears around us and we can see a little more in front of us.
History is always easier to read sections of when the sections are complete. The war ended, the sickness ceased, people moved on and lived their lives and accomplished things.
It’s harder to live through a difficult section of history not knowing how long it lasts and how it’s going to turnout.
And since we can’t know that, I would argue that the outcome doesn’t matter to our individual actions right now. All we can do is the next right thing (yes, I’m totally quoting Frozen 2, I have little kids and it was a killer song).
I do know that being sucked into the constant news cycle whether online or on television is draining. So turn that off. Anything major, you’ll hear about soon enough anyway. Get up, move your body, and find the next right thing.
I heard the news the vote was in and immediately got up, made a pot of coffee, and danced to La Bamba. Partly because I badly needed to move my body, and partly because the song choice would be an unwelcome one if the powers that be could see me doing it. Then I came in here to write this because I wanted to help give voice to the heaviness, to the uncertainty, to the disappointment, inevitable though it may have been, and to offer my hands, to pull us all together, to walk through the fog.
Now figure out what the next right thing looks like, get together for a rally, go register some voters, reach out to some friends so they know they are not alone, gather your people, check on them. And just take the next step.
Let me tell you, folks, getting here feels like a major accomplishment. I don’t know what it all was, but this week has been a major struggle. I had anxiety and panic-type flares for lack of a better term. And I’m super tired from getting everything ready to leave, and then plane, uber, hotel, straight into a meeting with no buffer because I was the last to arrive tonight, so I’m sort of wide open with the help of an IPA from the hotel bar. But now I’m tucked in and in yoga pants and I’m decompressing.
The trip leaders/facilitators lead us through a community-building exercise that started with a community safety agreement, which was fabulous. We were asked to imagine a person that we felt comfortable confessing to when we had messed up/sinned. And then in a word or phrase we shared aspects of what we thought of when we thought of that person. This sparked conversation about what we wanted to see in community throughout the trip and got us to go deeper faster I guess for lack of a better term in the sense that we have a lot of intense ground to cover in a short time and we needed a framework to help us get there.
We talked about intention vs. impact and which do we hold or can we hold them both or do we center impact. This is important in a multi-racial space because white folks often like to center intention when they do something that causes harm as though saying, “well, I didn’t mean too…” is some kind of get out of jail free card. This dovetails with a discussion I was having earlier this week regarding people treating repentance as a get out of jail free card, much like some do with the concept of free speech as though that means there should be no consequences for anything people say, when in reality free speech means you don’t get jailed for what you say, but it doesn’t mean you can’t get fired from your job or experience other personal consequences.
In Christian tradition, true repentance should be about facing and even welcoming the consequences of one’s actions as a path to make things right again. Repentance was never meant to be a “get-out-of-jail-free” card.
In the same way, some people–especially white folks in the context of talking about race–seem to think that as long as their intentions aren’t specifically harmful we should be granted a free pass on the harm that they caused. I’ve also personally experienced this with men thinking that if they didn’t intend harm, they should get a pass on the impact that they caused to women, and it doesn’t work like that either.
Intentions do matter. It’s ever so much worse if the intent is to actually cause harm and there’s not room for repentance or reconciliation in that case.
My main takeaway tonight was that if our intent is truly good, then we should welcome our neighbors telling us about the impact of our actions and be able to learn from that experience and change our actions, instead of centering our intentions in the conversation. By nature of someone telling you how they impacted them, they assumed good intentions, or they wouldn’t have bothered.
I’ve blogged extremely sporadically for years. Back in the early days of blogging when everything had to be hand-coded if you wanted to customize one of the few themes available, I had a blog called Emerging Ecclesiology. Which auto correct thinks should be “Emerging Anesthesiology” but I digress. I engaged in questions of theology and culture, the emerging church, and what ecclesiology (a theology of church, not as sleep-inducing generally as anesthesiology, if you’re interested in that sort of thing, otherwise, auto correct may have a point) looks like for a post-modern church.
That was about 17 years ago if I recall correctly, I was 23 and fresh out of seminary and bursting with ideas. I was teaching world religions at a community college west of Los Angeles, teaching assisting with some classes at Fuller where I had just graduated, and developing a college ministry program at a local church. Writing that reminds me that I used to have energy, now just looking at that sentence makes me tired.
Eventually I wanted to turn to more of an emphasis on general theology and spirituality so I renamed the blog Deep Soil and indulged in beautiful headers of trees and forests. Somewhere around this time (age 25 by now), I met my now husband on my blog. That’s right, I met my husband on the internet without internet dating and before blogs where a thing. I had to explain our origin story starting with “what’s a blog” to about 50% of the people I tried to tell it to.
I moved to Tennessee and took a full-time youth ministry position. That and planning a wedding, getting married, remodeling a house, husband getting ordained, then moving again a year later and both of us starting new jobs, a local church for him, a diocesan position in youth ministry for me, and blogging kind of fell by the way-side. Oh somehow in the middle of this, I wrote and published a book of youth ministry lessons on the book of Ezekiel. Why Ezekiel for my first book? Because I like to jump in the deep end and see how long I can tread water. This can be a good thing and very very bad thing, but it’s what it is. Now as I approach my 40th year, I sometimes remember to look before I leap. Sometimes.
We built a house north of Nashville, my diocesan position got cut after two years because of money problems, and I launched into free-lance photography, simultaneously starting two new blogs, one called Wayfaring Artist, which still exists in some ways on this site as I moved the posts over here when I closed that down, and one called Daily Ikon which was a photo blog turned photography business. Those blogs lasted me through the birth of my first child (he’s now 8), after which I had to dial back the photography thing because it wasn’t paying enough to justify child care. Then in November of 2011 I finished my first National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo), and decided I wanted to do something with the novel I had written. So I launched edits, and blog tour and started this site, A.E. Howard Writes to go with the “branding” of my author name. Initially I only used this blog feature for announcements, as I optimistically and unrealistically thought I could write a book a year and there would be things to update. I’ve done some short stories and novellas but haven’t published another novel as of yet.
Somewhere in there I tried briefly to revive Deep Soil, and at one point had (or maybe have, I need to check, lol) a blog called Anna’s Grace Notes, and now I’ve started a blog for my aquarium and vivarium business over on Engaging Ecosystems
So by relaunching now, that brings me to blog number nine I believe. Part of my problem is I kept thinking that I had to have separate branding for everything I did, and I’m getting to where I’m rejecting that notion. Now, what I want to write about here (more in a second), is very different then technical posts on how to build a dart frog ecosystem, so I am going to keep those separate, but that’s it. I’m not removing the artsy maker posts just below this that I briefly dabbled in trying to make a go of. I still make and build and design all sorts of things but I do that for me, not for content to share.
One constant theme in all these is a search for beauty in everyday life, hence the name “daily ikon” for instance, or some of my taglines “beauty in the daily” and so on. It has been a constant theme to learn to live everyday life with appreciation and gusto even because if we only wait for the big things, the milestones, the events, we miss the majority of our own life–the one built from seconds and minutes, from children’s smiles, hot coffee, and spring flowers. If we miss the ordinary, we can’t truly appreciate the extraordinary anyway, so it’s important to make the most of the daily.
So that brings me to this blog, now in the middle of 2019. I’m working on a non-fiction project that I don’t know exactly what it will be yet. As I get parts of it done and polished I’ll post them here. I’m exploring ideas related to empathy, right relationships, theology, and what’s wrong with American Christianity. Yeah, tiny little topics, I’m sure I’ll have it sorted and polished in no time flat.
I’ve been reading a lot, so I thought I could also share some feedback and reviews from my current reading list as I go along as well.
And I’ve got about 4 different fiction projects in the works, I can’t make any promises as to when they will be finished. Books 2 and 3 of my middle grade Keeper of the Keys trilogy, a full novel from the novella I contributed to Wonderstorms, and a new project that will most likely include frogs. Which gives me my latest tagline for this site: Faith. Frogs. Fiction.
I’ve suffered for some years now from a chronic illness, namely untreated and then under-treated hypothyroidism that really wrecked my ability to much more than survive. I’ve learned a lot from being so restricted, more that I can share in other posts, but the biggest take-away is that I am not what I produce. I am happy when I can write thought, and now that I’m closer to getting the proper dosage of meds and all worked out, I can tackle some of these projects and even start bringing them out into the light, even if I don’t have any time frame that I can promise on them.
So that’s where we’re at as of today. Thanks for coming along on the journey, and welcome! Or welcome back, as the case may be