I'm spending the night in a church building, for the first time in a long time. Having a hard time remembering exactly when the last time was, to be honest. Likely, it was a youth lock-in in Santa Cruz -- and even then, I suspect I didn't stay all night, but 'let' the wonderful youth leaders do so and joined them again for breakfast after sleeping in my own bed for a few hours.
This time, it's different. This time, I'm awake - intentionally - for my share of the night. We're hosting a mobile women's shelter this week at our church, a shelter called Room in the Inn that operates in Asheville every night of the year. It happens to also be a program of the agency I work for (www.hbofa.org). So I have some insider knowledge in some ways. The women who are sleeping the rooms off the hallway where I am keeping watch are women I know, at least a little. I see them most days when I go to work, I know a little of their stories, of the circumstances that have led them to need an emergency shelter bed. I'm not here, though, because I supervise the program they're in. I'm here because this is my church. I'm here because it's necessary to put my feet where my words so often go. I talk with faith communities all over town about how we all must engage with our entire community, including those experiencing homelessness. And, so, tonight I am here in my church building, keeping watch.
It's not a particularly exciting position, sitting here in the hallway with bad lighting, finding ways to keep myself awake that don't involve a crying child or other reasons I'm accustomed to having for being alert from 1:00 a.m. onward. I'm reminded that I still want God to appear to me in spectacular ways, to make it all loud and clear - everyday - just which steps I should be taking to find Jesus in the shape of my days. And, truth to be told, I do get some pretty spectacular opportunities in the forms of my loving spouse, in our precocious and beautiful daughter, in the surrounding mountains and trees being touched with fall colors, in the faces of friends, in the support of gifted co-workers...the list is long, when I take time to think about it. I simply don't often take time to keep watch for all the ways the Holy pervades even the most mundane parts of my day.
This week has turned out to be a more-than-full one, as most do. Balance among work and family life and personal time struggles to find its place. Leaving my girls to come to this hallway post was hard, and I didn't want to do it. But these very early morning hours have reminded me that this overnight task is actually all about that balance. Keeping watch here reminds me why I'm called, in this moment in time, to the work I'm given to do each day through Homeward Bound. Keeping watch here is about my family life, and the community we want Abby to know, to value, to work for - a community where we take care of one another, in all circumstances. Keeping watch is about the quiet and personal time I crave to discover God's presence over and over.
It's just before 5 a.m. Soon the night sounds will turn to early morning waking noises. I'm turning off the computer, putting down my coffee cup, and giving thanks. Thanksgiving for the night, for the quiet, for the strength of spirit permeating the walls where these remarkable women sleep, for the holy that is in it all.