The move. (Part 1)

A little background:

The plan was for us to never move into the old Little Village house (a former convent that they’ve rented from the Archdiocese for 12ish years). They had bought an old apartment building in the same neighborhood and had begun renovations that were hopefully to be finished by the time we arrived at the end of July. Alas, it was not to be and they had to battle many setbacks and challenges as they tried to get the house ready–additions finished, renovations completed, and the whole house furnished–for us to move.

The completion date was perpetually uncertain, not because of anyone’s fault, but because of every detail in a major renovation presents its own set of challenges to surmount. That uncertainty led to some understandable stress for some of our house.

It’s hard to not know when we have to be packed and ready, what weekend will probably have more unpacking than unwinding, and to generally know that what is beginning to feel like home, will only be for….. who knows how long?

And of course, regardless of the fact that we were for sure moving, everyone had feelings on whether they actually wanted to move or not.  I gauged three major sentiments:

  1. “I can’t wait to move. This house has too much err…. character. The mold, the cracks in the walls, the plaster that perpetually falls on the counters. The new house will just be nicer. Let’s move asap.”
  2. “Let’s not move. We’re settled here…It’s home.  The character is part of the Amate experience, particularly the LV one.”
  3. (in true Melissa-fashion, I fall into the third category, half/half). “We get the best of both worlds. Living in the old house lets us connect with prior Amate volunteers and their experience. They can still think of us as legit LV-ers. 😉 But, we also get to experience the joy of the new house since volunteers will live in it anyway from now on!”

The move.

Fast-forward to mid-november. We learn our move date: December 9th. Yay! Ok, we get into moving gear and start getting in the packing mindset post-Thanksgiving.

Then December begins: Oh wait… you’re moving December 8th! Ok, so we get in EXTREME packing mode and prepare for the move. I wasn’t too stressed about the move at first. Moving has never made me too stressed before. I mean, I moved to Chicago via airplane without ever stepping into the Midwest before (that’s just a personality thing not a tooting my own horn sort of thing just to clarify lol). Some good insight prior to the move came from a friend who told me she would be really stressed in that situation because change is hard for her. That was so helpful to keep in mind as I saw the stress settle into my roommates early on in the process.

And then…it turns out that even though I don’t get overly stressed moving on my own, moving with 8 others is a whole other ball game 😉 It was great to see everyone pitch in and prepare the house for moving but it was also sooooo interesting to see where everyone’s priorities and preferences lay.

Picture this during the packing process:

Melissa: Don’t throw that out!!!! It could be used for hospitality or future Amate volunteers.

Everyone else: “We’re throwing it out. We’ve only used it once/not at all…

In my defense, sometimes holding on to extra sets of mugs or a crockpot is helpful for hospitality.  In their defense, purging is good for the soul and for living simply! All that to say, the stress began to wear on us 😉

Anyway, the timing worked out really well as far as our December 8th move date. I had off work because of the Immaculate Conception (perk of working for the Archdiocese!), so I was able to be a liaison between the movers, Amate staff, and the LV volunteers! And then at the end of the day, I had a meeting with my spiritual companion, where she challenged me to ask the question,

“How is God moving in our moving?”

What a GREAT question! And an even more important question beginning the next day, when our gas got turned off. And stayed off for a week. For the next week, we had no heat, hot water, stove, or oven.

But we’ll save that for part 2! Stay tuned 😉

The Amate family in front of our new house!

What do you choose?

Every year, the Little Village community of Amate House is in charge of hosting Advent reflections for all of the Amate community–current volunteers, alumni, staff, and any friends of Amate that want to come!

Last night, in the midst of settling into our new house, and battling the challenge of living with no gas and thus no heat, hot water, stove ,or oven, LV rose to the challenge and hosted our Advent Reflection night. We each shared a reflection on a particular Advent theme. My theme was “Waiting in Joyful Hope.” I’m share it below. I’ve tweaked it only a little bit because some stuff is just better shared in person instead of the internet but this is the most of it. I apologize for its length. I also think it comes off better in person 😉 Enjoy!

Advent Reflection: Waiting in Joyful Hope

Sometimes it makes no sense. Amidst the consumeristic busyness and stressful preparations of what most call the Christmas season, Advent beckons us to wait, and not only wait, but wait in joyful hope. Like most things Christian, this is countercultural.

Waiting? No thanks, there’s too much to be done.

Joy?! That’s not cool either; joy is naïveté, maybe for those who’ve been spared the pain of suffering til now.

Hope?! Heck no. Cynicism is the accepted, adult perspective. Quiet despair and snarky negativity are also standard methods of relating to the world. They’re reasonable. Based in reality right?!

Thank the Lord—literally—for Advent! Advent is my favorite season of the Liturgical year! It doesn’t let me remain in my mess. It calls me out of myself and into the life and hope of Jesus. Jesus, who like waiting in joyful hope, is the epitome of the unexpected, the countercultural and the radical. Who could fathom the Christmas story? We’re talking about the God of the Universe here. We don’t expect a God who is born in a stable in the backwaters of Galilee.  We don’t expect a God who takes on all humility and vulnerability as an infant, lying in a manger.

 This unexpectedness teaches me something about God and about hope. Maybe what I define as “reality,” the picture of life that would lend me to despair, is not the end of the story, and even moreso, it’s not the entirety of the present story. Sometimes we miss the “God’s with us in this moment side of the story. The hope that comes from knowing that Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. God is the God of the unexpected.  And so, I dare to listen to the Advent call and wait in joyful hope.

And that dare is a choice, a fight, to wait in joyful hope. We all have the things in our lives that try to steal our hope. Despite my love for Amate and Chicago, these last few months are no exception for me.

My hope is on the line at work one day at the Archdiocese, I had a man walking past me turn and say, “sorry for my cynicism. We just paid $3.2 million for Fr. So-and-so,” referencing a priest sexual-abuse scandal. He used to work with this priest personally. The pain in his voice was tangible.

My hope is on the line when I’m in meetings where we’re talking about different Catholic schools and what’s limiting their potential right now. I’m constantly surprised at how often I hear, “the pastor and principal can’t work together.” I’ve even heard, “they only communicate through email.” Really?! Adult Christian leaders?! If they can’t communicate civilly and constructively, how can they teach the next generation to do so?! Those dear kids hearts are at stake And so is mine.

My hope is on the line when several days a week I see a homeless woman outside the archdiocese silently standing with her hand out, too afraid to tell me her name, while right across the street, cars are sold for $300,000. It makes me sick.

My hope is on the line in day to day community life, when I hear others assume ill-intention of others, speak harsh words with no search for understanding the other, when I myself don’t show the love and patience I desire others to show me. The seeming hopelessness of it all threatens to let me remain in my mess, instead of trusting in the hope of Jesus, God become man, who takes our brokenness and makes it beautiful.

But that’s part of our collective problem I think. We forget God’s goodness and prior faithfulness. We don’t notice the gifts God gives us in every moment. We don’t tell our stories, let alone our stories of hope, of God working in our mess. I could tell many more like the ones I just alluded too, as we all can, but I can also tell you infinite stories of hope.

If I only told you stories like the ones above,  or more importantly, told myself stories like those, joyful hope would not be possible.

I.choose.hope. because my boss sees her work as a consultant for the Archdiocese as a vocation not just a job and because she has the courage to serve the church as a business woman, butting heads with the male-only hierarchy (slight smile) when-needed  on occasion.

I.choose.hope. because of the lay people at the churches participating in the process of Parish Transformation, a renewal of mission, vision, and finances. They are so excited about strengthening the Body of Christ at their church community, not just filling the pews with people, but with the love of Christ.

I.choose.hope. because of my homeless friend Mike who passes on muffins and gift cards like he has an endless supply and asks me, “Why keep more than I can use?” to which I say, “Amen, brother. Amen.”

I.choose.hope. because of my Little Village community. Despite 9 very distinct perspectives and personalities, we’ve weathered months of the unknown about when we were moving to the new house, the actual move less than about week ago, and an accidental 5 days with no heat, hot water, or stove or oven. And no one has killed each other yet. Now that’s reason to hope, yeah? 🙂

And I.choose.hope. because of the little things in my everyday life. As we were reminded at one community night, “Behold, the color purple.” Everyday has thousands of mini miracles that beckon me to “be watchful and alert,” as Jesus said to his disciples. Keeping a journal of gratitude shows me how joy is a function of gratitude and that gratitude is about remembering and noticing the imminence of God’s love. My list has everything from the small things like the color purple and hot coffee and sunset views from the L, to the confusing things like, “I’m not yet able to thank you for this situation, but thank you for being with me in it.” It’s the antidote to my own forgetfulness and cynicism. It reminds me of God’s faithfulness.

It’s a paradigm shift that Advent calls me to. To a perspective that doesn’t ignore that life is unfair, unjust, painful, challenging and sometimes plain ugly. But to a perspective that says yes, life is a mess, but God’s in the middle of it. It’s okay to wait in the question. To live in the pain. But to not let it lead to despair and cynicism. Let’s take the time and be watchful and alert for God at work in our lives. To speak words of hope to one another.  To celebrate the crazy, unexpected, radical divine love of Emmanuel.

Will you dare to wait in joyful hope with me?