at once, so empty and so full

By anna blaedel

dear ones. sweet ones. darling ones.

the longest night has come and gone. the sun’s light, waxing again.
the final full moon of 2021, now waning.
a new viral wave, ferociously building.
new opportunities for slow, deep care, building too.
the final days of advent. advenir–to come. so much, yet to come.

the profoundly intimate labors of birth and death–welcoming and releasing, shedding and conceiving and gestating, celebrating and grieving–cycling through our collective life.

how can we be so full and so empty?

i offer these words, with the humble hope that in them, through them, there might be a crumb, a glimpse, a spark, a nugget, a seed, a pause, a breath. that what i have to offer might be for you an offering. because we need each other like that, and i’m only getting by through the offerings of others.

isn’t that what we do: offer what we have, from who we are, when and how we can, because our offerings are holy gifts, sacred contributions for our collective aliveness, and shared flourishing.

on a day not long ago, when i was barely getting by, i made a loaf of bread because that particular rhythm of tending brings me back to what is tactile, and elemental, and alive. while i was kneading the dough, a package arrived with a jar of persimmon preserves, sent from a dear friend i trained in chaplaincy with, who is now training new chaplains in the sacred arts of grieving, and feeling, and dying, and living, well. bitter disappointment and fear had colonized my tongue, but her offering cracked open space for sweetness, again. by the next week, i was full enough again to be able to offer my weekly loaf to neighbors.

offerings cultivate felt connection between here and there, me and you and us and we, what is and what could yet become. offerings redistribute resources–receiving and giving, waxing and waning, so empty and so full–according to what we have, and what we need.

this song, from Beautiful Chorus, has been offering me breath and space. i’ve shared it with students, and beloveds flung near and far. lately i have been listening to it on repeat during walks. sometimes i sing along. darling, darling… the song offers me breath, and i offer my prayersong to the cold, dark night, and the nightsky offers constellations of wise counsel, and the moon offers the truth that we are whole and holy when we are empty and also when we are full and also in each and every sacred space between.

lately i’ve noticed how often i accidentally write scared when i mean to write sacred, and sacred keeps coming out scared, and this morning my computer tried to turn each into scarred and i sense there is an offering in that confusion, too. may the traces we leave on and in and for each other be offerings of care, of sweetness and nourishment and as much fierce tenderness and tender fierceness as we can muster. scared, yes. scarred, indeed. sacred offerings, yet.

we do not know, we can never fully know in advance, what the coming days and weeks and months will require of us, but whatever comes, we each have something to offer, and you, darling, whatever your offering, we need it, and you. at once so empty, and so full.

Rev. Anna Blaedel is theologian-in-residence at enfleshed. They bring an attentiveness to the intersections of academic, activist, and ecclesial engagement. Anna nourishes students through campus ministry for the University of Iowa Wesley Center and is enrolled in a PhD program in Theological and Philosophical Studies at Drew University’s Graduate Division.

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