I remember in the early days of the pandemic feeling almost a wonder or reverence for the situation we had all just been thrust into. Getting on the train home for what I thought would be a two-week break from my office in March 2020, I called my sister. We reflected on the spiritual and natural cycles we were witnessing. An act of nature — a virus — forcing us to radically shift our lives. It was scary, but also moving, to think that maybe we were getting to experience something that was part of a much bigger plan — Mother Earth’s plan to help us reset and re-prioritize. During those first few months, my soul was hungry for meaning and connection. I’d sometimes attend three different virtual Sunday Schools. I watched videos on social media of crowds on balconies cheering health care workers and quarantining Italians singing to each other; saw beautiful window art on my feed and in my neighborhood; read stories that reminded me of the resilience of the human spirit and the goodness of people.
Now, nearly two years in, those feelings of newness — both the fear and the hope — feel like a lifetime ago. Now, I seem to only feel fatigued.
As I write this, we’re waiting to reach the peak of yet another wave of COVID. I’ve started to reach decision fatigue about how to best keep my unvaccinated two-year-old and growing fetus safe while still staying sane myself. Not only is my “new normal” during these “unprecedented times” getting old — the advice I hear from health officials, friends, and family is also starting to lose meaning. That’s why I love the pieces in this Winter 2022 content issue that ask us to re-examine phrases we’ve heard so many times that we may have forgotten what they actually can mean.
We encounter figures of speech — laced with history, culture, and meaning — so frequently, but rarely do we look closely at them. This contest issue invites us to flip language on its head as our writers and many of our artists examine idioms and proverbs in their individual lives.
Starting with Emily Wall’s evocative cover art and spanning to Jessica Rose Cooper’s “Beyond the Shadows of My Doubts,” artists have challenged or built upon familiar themes. This practice carries through in the poetry, as well as the features and personal essays. Some pieces, such as Shamae Budd’s “A Rose by Any Other Name,” Tia Wray’s “Life is Too Short to Have Boring Hair,” and Darlene L. Young’s “A Stitch in Time,” reflect on popular sayings in our larger cultures.
Other pieces interrogate church-related proverbs, such as Nicole Sbitani’s “Elect Lady;” finalist Amy Sorensen’s “Swimming in the Wind of This World;” and the theology essay by Channing Parker, co-host of The Faithful Feminists podcast. Many chose a lyrical approach, including contest-winner Dayna Patterson in her piece “Lightwork,” a poetic meditation of the oft-quoted “many hands make light work.” Others took a literal, head-on approach, such as finalist Jessica Sagers’s haunting “No Success Can Compensate for Failure in the Home.”
Individually, the artwork and writing pieces command reflection. Collectively — with new and returning voices spanning from Australia, South Korea, Barbados, Sweden, and all over the U.S. — they offer a compelling reminder of the power and limitations of language, no matter our contexts.
I’m grateful to the artists and writers who have shared their perspectives and helped us see well-worn phrases anew. I’m also honored to have recently joined this team as the Managing Art Editor and to see a glimpse of the “many hands” who help bring each issue to life. “There is no ‘I’ in team.” “Two heads are better than one.” “Teamwork makes the dream work.” The wisdom of these tired proverbs proves true for this issue, and always.
(Photo by Raphaël LR on Unsplash)