It was November, 2002. I was studying abroad. My boyfriend came to visit over his Thanksgiving break, and I was prepared to get engaged. I worked hard to get my assignments completed before he came so that we would be free to travel and enjoy one another’s company. We meticulously planned an evening in London with dinner at a charming low-lit restaurant and tickets to a show. We walked all over the city and talked all over the semester. I returned to my dorm unengaged.
The next morning, a Sunday, in sweats and sweaty between a run and a shower before church, I stopped by his guesthouse to make a plan for the morning. I in the narrow entry hall and he at the foot of the stairs holding an electric water kettle, all of the air got sucked out the door behind me. It was time, and I said yes. We went to church, Pizza Hut (it’s better outside of the U.S.), and for a walk through a green park. It was deliciously ordinary.
The longest season of Ordinary Time in the church calendar begins after Pentecost and stretches until the new church year begins at Advent. We’re in that space now, and it’s my favorite space of the whole year. I love the feast days, the traditions, and the significance of all the seasons, but it always feels like an opening into a spacious place when we circle back to ordinary time. It’s green space.
Green is transformative, and transformation happens long and slow over ordinary time. The color that marks this season in the church is, you guessed it, green. Green is ubiquitous. Shades of it everywhere in nature. Fruits and ferns, fields and frogs. It speaks of growth, fecundity, and peace.
It was November of 2016. I participated in what would become the most recent Velvet Ashes retreat with the leadership team. Among other things, I received my One Word for the next church year, which begins at Advent, a few short weeks away from our cabin in the woods.
My word is love, which I thought was too generic and unwieldy to really work with. So, God gave me a color too – green. I didn’t know what the two had to do with each other, but I was intrigued.
During one exercise at the retreat, I chose a magazine picture of a plate laden with fresh foods, most prominent bright green beans and herbs, and pasted it to a piece of green construction paper. Then in green marker I scripted the word Love in large letters and surrounded it with smaller descriptive words – colorful, nourishment, silence, vibrancy, laughter, routine, ordinary, redefine, table, prayer, presence.
These were the words that spoke of love to me during that retreat, and I wanted to learn to live into them. I learned recently what I was intuiting then, that green is a heart color. I had always thought it was red because, you know, blood and Valentine’s Day.
Green sits right in the middle of the rainbow, just like the heart is the center of the being.
It’s a revelation to know that green isn’t only about our growth and development, which is a lovely enough truth to work with for a while. But under that, at the core, it’s belovedness. It’s been about six months with this green love, and I notice an openness in my posture, my shoulders less hunched forward as if protecting my heart-space.
Belovedness is ever-present. If we drop down under the current of the pressing, disassemble the structure we have mounted to keep us secure, allow the thing we are most frantic to arrange and control to flow freely instead, we’ll find that under it all, at the place where there is nothing else to do or say, is belovedness. It’s the original pinpoint, and the final expansion of all the light.
My favorite line in a thick book of tiny little print says that grace is God’s very life, shared by us.[i] And God is relationship. Three in One, One in Three.
We share this communal life of God in the ordinary of our everydays – the meals, routine chores, beloved people, and places – and they are transformed into the doorways through which we see and are seen, the beloved.
Who, what, when, where are your doorways to the ever-present belovedness?
This is The Grove and we want to hear from you! You can link up your blog post, or share your practices, ponderings, wisdom, questions, ideas, and creative expressions with us in the comments below.
Here’s our Instagram collection from this week using #VelvetAshesBeloved. You can add yours!