I woke up this morning to lots of dread. The days of me being able to control my exposure to Covid-19 are waning, and that reality is starting to hit me. After a summer of trying really hard to err on the side of positivity, of hoping leaders will do what’s best, I broke. I sat in my bed and sobbed.

Lately on Sundays, I have a bit of a different worship routine—I listen to one of Kate Bowler’s podcasts, followed by an episode of the Evolving Faith podcast, before tuning into church on Facebook Live. I’m behind on Bowler’s podcasts, and realized this morning I had missed one from last May, not long after Rachel Held Evans died. The topic was grief and her guest, Reverend Dr. Susan Dunlap, reminded listeners of disenfranchised grief.

I wrote about such grief a couple of years ago, as it relates to grieving the children I would never raise, but this morning it took on a different meaning. There is no societal recognition of the grief I feel facing down an unknown school year. There is no societal recognition of the grief I feel knowing my class sizes will be smaller, knowing that there is a possibility my colleagues and students might get sick—and not fully understanding the long-term consequences of such an illness. And no societal recognition of the grief I feel for how much my job is changing this school year.

Two hours after I listened to Bowler’s podcast, I tuned in to church, and the sermon was about grief.

(God is something else, amirite?)

Today’s sermon was delivered by Rev. Debra McKnight, and her words about grief reminded me that grief is a necessary human reaction that shouldn’t be reserved for losing a loved one. Paraphrasing here: she reminded me that we can grieve loss, tension, and life just being difficult. And grief is something we must honor and give its place if we want to move forward into healing.

I start back to school this week, first with schedule pickup, then my first full day of work time on Friday. Next Monday is the first day with all staff. We are moving forward with a plan that has unknown outcomes. The unknown is hard, this moment is hard, and if grieving helps me—or my students, friends, parents, colleagues—move forward, then please don’t deny that grief. Don’t default to toxic positivity and inundate us with platitudes. Don’t tell us to “get over it.” Sit with those educators and students in your life that right now might be feeling grief. Acknowledge their fear of the unknown. Support them how they need to be supported—which looks different for everyone. (For me, it’s usually memes and potatoes in any form.)

But I agree with the reverend: to move toward healing, we must first give place for the grief.

Sacred Sunday: The Messiah

In another lifetime, a boy asked me to go with him to a community choir that was singing Handel’s Messiah. I had done Messiah sing-a-longs in Utah before, but we pretty much just hit the high parts of his work, and I never paid close attention to what I was singing.

This choir gave me the chance to really connect with the text and actually learn how to sing the alto parts on all the songs, instead of just kind of looking around for whatever note I happened to land on, be it alto, tenor, bass, or soprano.

Most everyone is familiar with the Hallelujah chorus, but less familiar with the rest. So here’s my two favorite pieces. The first one I love because it’s an alto solo, which hardly ever happens (skip to 5:00 for the choir to join in). And the second one I love because of the scripture it’s taken from–Isaiah 53:4.

Sacred Sunday: Mormon Pop Music

No, today’s music choice is not about The Killers or Neon Trees. Those are rock bands whose members happen to be Mormon. Today is about a singer whose music is poppy with very Mormon lyrics–Cherie Call.

She writes lyrics in a way that goes beyond a simple ABAB rhyme scheme. Telling the story is much more important to her than rhyming, and the result is just flat-out gorgeous lyrics. Makes me jealous.

I love this song and the stories she tells of the women far back in her family tree.

Sacred Sundays: The Lower Lights

I love the soft, slow sacred music as much as the next music fan, but every now and then, I need something with a little more oopmh on my Sundays.

Enter the Provo music consortium known as The Lower Lights. This is a group of LDS musicians–some famous, some not–who gather occasionally and revamp hymns not only of our faith, but also hymns of other Christian faiths.

Their two CDs are often my soundtrack traveling to my church building on Sunday mornings, but sometimes even during the week when I need a spiritual booster shot, I’ll listen to their music.

There’s so many I love that it’s so hard to pick just one favorite. So I picked two. Enjoy.

Sacred Sunday: MoTab

This weekend was the LDS church’s General Conference, in which I sat on the couch and watched/listened/slept to 8 hours of church. In three of the two-hour sessions, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir provided the music. Today they sang this song, one of my favorites. If you like Jesus, you’ll like this one.