divine dissatisfaction & hopeful introspection



J20 protest at City Hall

“The world says, try to avoid anything that brings pain or, God forbid, might even make us weep, but Jesus says if we never weep, how will we learn what it is to be comforted? If we never mourn, how will we recognize the blessing of joy? . . .Life is not difficult now so that we will more greatly appreciate being rewarded someday in heaven. Life is difficult now simply because it is difficult now.  And the reward is to see it, to feel it, to let it in.  When we refuse to accept that life is not to be continually altered, continually tweaked for our pleasure, we miss a simple truth: Life is what it is, and what it is is Life.  A mixed muddle of sorrow and peace and joy and poverty and longing. . .we are not in control of life, the difficulties, or the blessings. But we can learn to expect them and to receive them as guests, as guides, as friends who come to show us the blessing path.” – Kayla McClurg


Living in New Orleans, it’s easy to experience and witness moments of joy and sadness every day. It’s the dichotomy that makes this city what it is – the pushing and pulling of the tide, constantly drifting between celebration and mourning. It’s the soul, the underbelly, the ever-present electric current shocking us with its changing attitude. It’s a jazz song, changing rhythms and harmonies every second. The city does whatever it pleases, and it takes us along for the messy and beautiful ride.

img_1714I feel it now more than ever – not just in my personal and spiritual life, but in the grand scheme of things: in this city, in this country, in this world; I feel anger and frustration. I want to be angry at God for what’s happening in the world, – to yell at Him and question Him and punch Him in the stomach and make Him explain it: “why have you forsaken [me/us/them]?”  It’s hard not to lose faith when it seems as though everything you believe in has gotten lost in the depths of unanticipated, mysterious pot holes riddling side streets in Gentilly and Mid-City (watch out for those, y’all). The world is crying out with divine dissatisfaction, echoing Martin Luther King’s words in 1967.

I see a dark place of hopelessness img_1823being illuminated by God’s presence in the actions, words and deeds of those who speak on behalf of humanity, justice,
love and peace. If we never weep for the injustices experienced by race, gender and religious minorities, immigrants, the poor, the trafficked, the abused, the refused and the neglected, how will we learn what it means to love others as we love ourselves? The suffering is our greatest teacher – either personally experienced, or as seen through the eyes of others with less privilege and freedom, stripped away from them by systematic exile.

NOLA YAVs at the YAV board Christmas party! & the 12th night Joan of Arc parade to kick off carnival season!

Life is a circle (you know, King Cake is so relevant to this post. . .) Like the liturgical calendar in the Presbyterian Church, we experience the ebb and flow of life and death throughout the seasons. We are always searching, preparing and waiting for something, someone.  During the season of advent we prepare for the birth of Jesus. And this year it was a beautiful time to be still, and rest in the midst of the current chaos surrounding us, knowing that the teacher of peace and love would soon be with us.  From Louisiana up to Pennsylvania, signs of light in the darkness were found in the form of Christmas decorations, a stranger’s homemade pie, a kiss on the cheek, the singing of a candlelit ‘Silent Night,’ the passing by of a “Refugees Welcome Here” sign outside of a church, and reunions with loved ones. 

Craig and I on NYE; the house’s first King Cake!!!

Headed back to New Orleans for New Year’s I was greeted with angry rain, bitter cold and post-Christmas season sadness, but the singing of Auld Lang Syne with the embrace of dear friends reminded me that life is good in spite of, in the midst of and in the moment of all the darkness.  Epiphany appeared out of the darkness with the arrival of King Cakes on every supermarket shelf (and our coffee table), celebrating the joy of the newborn Jesus, the brightest light illuminating our blessing path. As Mardi Gras quickly approaches during this season of carnival in New Orleans, we will dance and sing and laugh in the light and goodness. We are invited into the house of joy when we pay attention to all of the outpourings of love that are often overshadowed by negativity in the news and media. Allow the suffering you feel or witness guide you to hope, comfort and joy.

Over the month of February, I aim to focus in on these little moments of humanity that give me hope in the midst of a suffering world:


NOLA Women’s March with Camille and Riley

  1. The pictures of women and men from all over the world (and every continent) standing in solidarity for the Women’s March – and the feeling of empowerment felt by being part of a movement I’m passionate about.
  2. Visiting the Whitney Plantation with the YAVs – the only plantation in Louisiana that commemorates the slave experience, and is educating people from around the world about the honest history of the south in the USA
  3. The biggest smile on a patron’s face when he successfully submitted a job application after weeks of trial and error on the computer.
  4. The Pope’s words of wisdom in times of despair and frustration.
  5. The sound of a marching band outside of the library practicing their routine for Mardi Gras.
  6. The positive motivation of a student aiming to test for her HiSET at the end of this year.
  7. Patrick’s mom sending the house some of our favorite comforting snack foods.
  8. An unexpected and uplifting conversation with a new co-worker at the library about race relations.
  9. A random act of kindness like the offer of buying a friend lunch, or a ‘good morning’ note.
  10. A dad at the park teaching his sons how to play soccer.
  11. A book that makes me examine my privilege and perspective in the USA.
  12. The sweet, seductive sound of afternoon jazz music celebrating the arrival of 2017.
  13. Celebrating life and happiness on Courtney’s 23rd!!

If you missed my detailed December update about Christmas break in Pennsylvania and NOLA, check out the link here: December Newsletter

Keep an eye out for an upcoming post talking more about Jim Crow (who dat?), criminal justice and job applications in NOLA YAV life.

With love and many blessings,

Hillary xoxoxo

As referenced earlier, the MLKJ ‘Divine Dissatisfaction’ quote.

Divine Dissatisfaction
Let us go out with a divine dissatisfaction.
Let us be dissatisfied
until America will no longer have
a high blood pressure of creeds
and an anemia of deeds.
Let us be dissatisfied until the tragic walls
that separate the outer city of wealth and comfort
and the inner city of poverty and despair
shall be crushed by the battering rams
of the forces of justice. Let us be dissatisfied
until those that live on the outskirts of hope
are brought into the metropolis of daily security.
Let us be dissatisfied until slums are cast
into the junk heaps of history,
and every family is living
in a decent sanitary home.
Let us be dissatisfied
until the dark yesterdays of segregated schools
will be transformed into bright tomorrows
of quality, integrated education.
Let us be dissatisfied until integration
is not seen as a problem
but as an opportunity to participate
in the beauty of diversity.
Let us be dissatisfied until men and women,
however black they may be, will be judged
on the basis of the content of their character
and not on the basis of the color of their skin.
Let us be dissatisfied.

Let us be dissatisfied until every state capitol
houses a governor who will do justly, who will love
mercy and who will walk humbly with his God.
Let us be dissatisfied until from every city hall,
justice will roll down like waters and righteousness
like a mighty stream. Let us be dissatisfied
until that day when the lion and the lamb
shall lie down together, and every man
will sit under his own vine and fig tree
and none shall be afraid. Let us be dissatisfied.

Let us be dissatisfied until that day
when nobody will shout White Power!
—when nobody will shout Black Power!—
but everybody will talk about
God’s power and human power.

The road ahead will not always be smooth.
There will be still rocky places of frustration
and meandering points of bewilderment.
There will be inevitable setbacks here and there.
There will be those moments
when the buoyancy of hope will be transformed
into the fatigue of despair. Our dreams
will sometimes be shattered and our ethereal hopes blasted.
The road ahead will not always be smooth.
There will be still rocky places of frustration
and meandering points of bewilderment.
There will be inevitable setbacks here and there.
There will be those moments when the buoyancy of hope
will be transformed into the fatigue of despair.
Our dreams will sometimes be shattered
and our ethereal hopes blasted.

Difficult and painful as it is, we must walk on
in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future.

-Martin Luther King Jr.
Source: Southern Christian Leadership Conference address 16 Aug 1967



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