For five? years now I’ve been participating in Abbey of the Arts’ Give Me a Word practice. For me the practice has a similar feel to biblical sortes, because the word chooses you, not you the word. This may not make any sense to you, but it really works like that. In fact, this year my word knocked on my forehead on the second Sunday of Advent, way before I had started looking for it. (I generally wait until after Christmas, when some of the holiday dust settles…Christine’s contest wraps up on Twelfth Night.)

Yep, while listening to a sermon that pointed in another direction,


hummed in my head.  I’m not claiming that Advent and “expectant” are a startling combo, far from it and of course not. Mary, fiancée of Joseph of Nazareth, is pregnant throughout most of the Advent scripture readings–that’s certainly “expecting.”

But I was thinking about my word today — part of having a word is thinking about it all year long — and yet again I was noticing that “my” expectant isn’t the pregnant kind.

Can’t tell you how I know that, either. Just is.

Mine is the focused, watchful waiting kind. It’s

the time on the swimmer’s starting block between “take your mark” and the beep.

There’s a particular quality of wholeness or totality in that moment. The workouts, the technique sessions, the checking out of that particular pool–that’s all done. Whether that work was enough or not is now beside the point. One has shed everything but the essentials and climbed up on the tiny platform that is the block. At “Judges and timers,” one steps forward, grounds oneself, takes position–and at “Swimmers, take your mark,” locks down into a pose that’s both stable and explosive. Stable, because if you fall in now you’re out of the race, and if you wobble the starter will wait to see whether you will fall. Explosive, well, this game is always about speed. Slow off the block and you’ve lost right as you’ve begun.

Stable and explosive. Listening intently while balanced on the edge of movement—that pulls the moment out of chronos. There’s no room for the planning that will happen as one hits the water, or the planning that happened on deck before approaching the block. There’s only waiting. And readiness.
I found out today (unofficially) that in three weeks I’m beginning a grad-school class in the New Testament.

In my prayer of Old Man Kangaroo, I picked age 50 as my deadline…different from all others, and wonderfully sought after. I’ll be 49 in July.

Like one of the wise bridesmaids, I want to be ready.

When the gun goes off, I want to fly off the mark. For who knows the hour?

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