by Mandy Mizelle
For the first 17 years of my life, I lived in the same one-level brick house. (Impressively, we managed to change addresses, anyway: when I was about 10, our “Route” finally got a real street name. A few years later, we got a real Wal-Mart.)
Over the next 13 years, I moved 13 times.
Including, since moving to Durham almost a year and a half ago, four different “homes.” I’ve lived near Old West Durham, in Trinity Park almost downtown, in Walltown, and off North Roxboro. I’ve lived in the upstairs suite of a grand old house, an apartment in a building with a lot of “character,” a cute corner lot cottage, and a 1940s bungalow complete with all the unexpected expenses.
I’ve been neighbors with Duke students and high school students, shared parking spaces with the working poor and absurdly rich, walked to hipster coffee shops and hole in the wall Mexican restaurants, and made emergency runs to Whole Foods and Compare Foods. (No matter where I live, not having coffee creamer absolutely constitutes a crisis.) If I’m lucky, one day I will finally upgrade to the pearly white farm gates of Croasdaile!
Each of these dwellings has intimately altered my days, sculpting my most traveled routes, who and what I see, how long it takes to get where I’m going. The belongings that surround me, what I’ve given away, how I’ve arranged what I’ve kept. How much sunlight wakes me, how much space I have, how much rest I find.
This gypsy journey has not only been about where I’ve lived, but how, and with whom. It echoes the reflections in some of our recent Howard Thurman discussions — that our doing flows out of our being, and our being evolves from our doing.
In our full days of working together to sense the kindom of God, to widen the circle, to welcome more people and justice and grace — or perhaps in our long nights just to make it to the morning we hope will rise with mercy — what sustains us?
In the moments we realize that we can’t do everything all the time, that we have limits and growing edges, that despite best intentions and sincere efforts, things sometimes fall apart, what supports and renews us? Where do we find moments of peace, flickers of light, flashes of joy amid all the difficult mess?
We share visions of sustainable communities and relationships, but sometimes miss God’s dream that we become sustainable creations, too. Sustainable in the day-to-day. Sustainable in the dust-to-dust.
As we approach the doorway to Lent, a season of more fully realizing the dusty and divine grounds of our existence, our connections to each other and the Holy One, may we remember our dwellings — on what, in and through what, we dwell. Dwellings as noun and as verb, as the both/and spaces they are: the solid, physical places and the transcendental ways of being we inhabit.
Together, we’ll explore our dwellings through Native spirituality, through retreat experiences, through youth-led Green Justice efforts, through Sunday morning discussions, through worship, through walking, through communion in the sanctuary and in the community kitchen of Urban Ministries.
Gracious Spirit, dwell with us…
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