Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Still thinking about scars

Yesterday I wrote this about my scars.
Today I've thought a lot about what I wrote yesterday.
I've been wondering about other scars.

Scars from surgery.
The little one on the bottom of my belly button from getting my tubes tied.
The four little ones on my abdomen from the hysterectomy.

Scars from shingles. Scars from pimples. Scars from shaving fiascos.

Scars from dislocating my hip when I was a baby - I tried to escape from my crib and my foot got caught on the top rail. A cousin found me dangling, head towards the floor, from the rail. I ended up in traction for a while, then in a half body cast - which is what left the scar on my ankle. I'm glad I didn't land on my head; if I had, I think I'd have a different set of scars.

Scars from physical falls I've taken and emotional falls as well.
I fell down four wet stairs at camp one summer, got my leg caught in the open space between the stairs, and gashed my shin down to the bone. Ouch! 

Scars from terrible decisions I've made and wounds I've suffered as a result.
Getting involved with men I shouldn't have been involved with.
Broken heart. Wounded ego.

Scars from terrible decisions other people have made, decisions that left me bruised and bleeding, literally and figuratively.
Lies told. Truths told. Truths untold.
Rejection because of the color of my skin.
Churches split. Families too.

Scars I've caused for other people, especially people I love.
Excessive criticism. Gossip. 
Lies. Exaggeration. Silence.
Isolation. Neglect. Abandonment.

Scars on the hands, the feet, and the side of The One who Died for us all.
By those scars, by his stripes, The Word says, we are healed. 
I am healed. I am forgiven. I am made whole.


All of which makes me think even more.
How many of my scars are the result of me trying to escape my crib, my home, my family, my life?
How many are the result of me not paying attention to where I am going, to what I am doing, to the conditions of my life, so I slip and fall and get hurt?
How many are caused by my hope that some person outside myself, some relationship, some thing I own will make me happy, fulfill me, and validate me? 
How many of these scars come from me not being honest with myself or others about who I am, who I'm not, how I feel, what I want or don't want, and what I need or don't need?
How will I put my scars to use in helping others to accept, embrace, and allow their own scars to help others be healed and whole and accept themselves fully?
When will I learn that these scars are not mine alone and not only for me?
How many scars will I inflict on myself and others going forward because I forget all the things I'm thinking about and writing about yesterday and today?
How often will my scars remind me of these questions and this wondering when I see them in the mirror?
How many scars and wounds can I and will I avoid in the future by being contented, being grateful, being attentive, being truthful, and being willing to acknowledge my deep needs and desires to The Only One who can handle the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about who I am?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

At Home in My Body

Yesterday I told a dear friend that I am more comfortable in my body these days than I was before kanswer. We were talking about getting massages and it occured to me that I could be uncomfortable or nervous about having my upper torso massaged since I am now boobless. When I thought back to pre-kanswer massages, I realized that I was more uncomfortable with receiving massages before I gave up my mammary glands.

I also realized that I would never have offered to show my bosoms to friends or family members, but I have no qualms about showing off my scars. These scars are evidence of a battle I won and from which I have emerged whole and happy. They are a daily reminder of suffering, strength, pain, hope and healing. I would never and could never wish kanswer, but these scars on my chest are a daily reminder of lessons learned and hope gained.

I have grown to love and appreciate my body more than ever. Why? Because this body has served me well. It has grown and shrunk, expanded and deflated, run and walked. This body has produced two human beings with souls of their own. It has endured surgeries, chemotherapy, outrageous heat, and tooth-chattering cold. It has carried me across oceans and rivers, into and out of, onto and off of boats, trains, airplanes, cars, and buses. This body has been hit by a car, bitten by a dog, knocked unconscious, fallen off bicycles, tumbled down several sets of stairs, and endured pulled hamstrings, broken toes, and fractured ankles (yes, the last three are plural!). But somehow, this body of mine has recovered from all that it has endured and serves me faithfully and without much complaint.

I used to spend a lot of time comparing my body to other people's bodies. I wanted her small feet. I wanted her long hair. I wanted her six-pack abs. I wanted her awesome biceps. I wanted her long neck.  I wanted her full lips and her perfect teeth. I wasted too much time not only focusing on the ways that other women's bodies were better than mine, but also criticizing many of my own physical attributes. Only recently have I come to accept that this body is the perfect body for me. This body is exactly the body I need for the life journey I'm on. I am more at home in this body of mine these days than I have been at any other time in my life. I am enormously grateful.

In a book I am reading about spiritual friendship, Anam Cara, there is a chapter about becoming friends with our senses and our bodies. In that chapter, there is a blessing for the senses and for the body.

May your body be blessed.
May you realize that your body is a faithful and beautiful friend of your soul.
And may you be peaceful and joyful and recognize that your senses are sacred thresholds.
May you realize that holiness is mindful, gazing, feeling, hearing, and touching.
May your senses gather you and bring you home.
May your senses always enable you to celebrate the universe and the mystery and possibilities in your presence here.
May the Eros of the Earth bless you. 


I hope and pray that each of us and all of us will find our way home to our bodies, that we will be more grateful for all the parts of us, and that we will stop succumbing to the temptation to compare our bodies with others. These miraculous bodies are worthy of gratitude, tender care, massages and love.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Thankful Thursday

So much to be thankful for this Thursday.
And everyday.

Tonight I am especially grateful for -
* my family, my children, my husband
* watching World Cup competition together (Poor, poor Brazil)
* sitting and laughing with them at the kitchen table
* the four of us going to TCBY last night and laughing at one silly thing after the other
* coming home and having each of us go to our "respective corners" for alone time
* my husband's ER (entertainment room) - some might call it his "man cave"

* the sweet and ripe fruit and vegetables that summer brings to our table
* especially cherries, grapes, watermelon, nectarines, mango, pineapple, and blueberries
* and romaine, baby spring mix, spinach, and basil
* the juices and smoothies I can make from those lovely treats
* sale prices at Harris Teeter and continual good prices at Trader Joe's

this morning's green apple and romaine juice - yum!

* this exhibit of photographs at the Mint Museum. I've seen it twice and may try to get back there one more time before it leaves in ten days
* this post on marriage and "the iceberg in the living room" - spoke to my soul
* Momastery's entire "Messy, Beautiful Summer" blog series

* my amazing circle of friends - neighbors, relatives, writers, artists, pastors, men, women, young people, older people, rich people, poor people, other moms, other homeschoolers, other seekers of life and love and laughter, other church members.
* sacred love. sweet tenderness. deep connection. tears of joy and of sorrow. shared stories.
* a dear friend's pregnancy that is going well - she has a very cute baby bump

* planning her baby shower with two women I love and adore

* good test results - she doesn't have kanswer. she has breast kanswer but it didn't reach her lymph nodes. hers is benign. he has lymphoma that is treatable. 

* Anne's recovery from back surgery and the complications that followed
* a long walk and an even longer talk with my beloved adopted daughter, Beka
* a movie date with Heather, good movie, even better company


* the time we spent with Jill and Bill and Gemma and their three Great Danes at their house in Norwalk




* the "salad pizza" Jill made. Herb crusted pizza dough baked with mozzarella and parmesan cheese and olive oil - after it was baked, she topped it with a well-dressed salad. That pizza was even more delicious than it looks!




* time spent with my writing group, three women I've known since 1998


* wandering with them around the property of Weir Farm
* breakfast at Valencia Luncheria with Susie, Pamela, and Judy


* delicious Dulce de Leche coffee to start the meal


 * this woman's sense of style


* steel cut oatmeal with flax seeds, banana, walnuts and maple syrup at Le Pain Quotidien in Greenwich Village... which reminded me of my time spent at LPQ in Madrid last fall



* the Doughnut Plant on 23rd Street in Manhattan - our visit to that shop confirmed that I DON'T LIKE DONUTS! I didn't think I liked them but I was willing to try gourmet donuts. I was not impressed.


* our visit to Mood, the fabric store made famous by one of our favorite reality shows, Project Runway
* the fabrics we found there
* the wonderfully friendly and helpful staff who helped us
* the sewing projects I've been able to create lately - tunic tops, dresses, scarves, skirts (not that I need anymore clothes, but I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the process of sewing my own clothing)


* these awesome leggings I found in Madrid last October


 * the gift card that allows me to indulge in matcha green tea lattes at Starbucks


* Katherine's collection of crosses


* This saying above the door at Weir Farm and the beautiful sentiment of being contented at home

Sunday, July 06, 2014

This is not my story, but I'm gonna tell it anyway

She woke up on Thursday morning to an empty refrigerator and freezer. Children to feed. Herself to feed. Nothing to offer the ones she loves most. No food.

She got dressed and headed off to community college where she had to take a test in her algebra class. As she took the test, she hoped that no one around her could hear her stomach grumbling.

After the test, someone in her class told her about a hospitality room where she might find something to eat. She went there and was given a few crackers as well as the suggestion that she go to an office nearby where she could get information about where and how to get help. She filled in a form. She answered questions. She was given a referral that would allow her to come to Loaves and Fishes to get food for her family. The woman who gave her the referral said she was getting the last opening for that day.

She wasn't my client, so I am not the one who walked with her through the pantry. When she was done choosing her food, she slowly packed it all into plastic bags, but she didn't leave. She stood with her cart of food for a long time. She said she was waiting for her ride.

Then suddenly she burst into tears. I rushed over to her and asked what was wrong. She said that she had just received a text informing her that her daughter was in the hospital having a miscarriage. She kept trying to stop herself from crying while saying that she needed to pull herself together so she could be strong for her daughter. She said that she didn't want her daughter to see her cry. She needed to be strong for her.

I handed her tissues and listened. I hugged her and prayed with her. I also told her that she didn't have to be strong for her daughter. I told her that it is okay to be weak and to cry and to let her daughter see how sad that made her. I told her that tears are perfectly appropriate at a time like that and so was grief and sadness. After all, her daughter is only 18 years of age and had recently returned from running away from home. She had been gone for three weeks, and when she got back, she revealed that she was pregnant.

We talked for a long time. She cried. I cried. We hugged several times. Then I went outside with her and waited with her in the blazing heat. We talked some more.

She told me about wanting to get an associate's degree in human resources so she could support her family. She talked about her classes and some of her classmates. She also hoped that by going back to school at the age of 48, she would inspire her son, who had dropped out of high school and was now living with his girlfriend and their child. She was a giddy and happy and proud of herself as any new college co-ed.

Occasionally her chin would start to quiver as she remembered her daughter's situation again. So I would lean in again and rub her shoulder. She soon began to repeat a thought that has been a mantra of mine for years - "It's gonna be okay." "Everything is gonna be alright." All shall be well. All shall be well. I agreed heartily.

She said, "I'm so glad I came here today and met you. Thank you for praying with me. Thank you for waiting with me. I'm sorry I took you away from your work." I told her, "Working at the pantry is not only about the food. It's about the people. It's about the people."

Later on, I had a bizarre thought. The Bible says that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to God's purpose. I thought, is it possible that she woke up hungry on Thursday morning, went to school for her test, crossed the campus for crackers and ended up coming to the food pantry so that we could meet, so that I could hear her story, cry with her, pray with her, and then we could both be blessed by our time together?

Then I wondered: Why did she have to go through all that? Why does anybody have to wake up to empty cupboards and empty stomachs? How is it that there are so many hungry people in this world and in our nation, especially where there are also so many people who eat so much more than they need and others who waste more food than they eat? I do not know the answer to those questions.

But I do know this - I know that serving at the Loaves and Fishes pantry is one of the most satisfying, joy-producing, heart-opening things I do every month. I know that the people I meet there are some of the funniest, kindest, most grateful, most interesting people I meet every month. I also know that my life is richer and my prayer life will be deeper because I met that beautiful, strong, hopeful, tearful, anguished, messy, funny, determined woman this past Thursday afternoon. I hope I never forget her.


Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Love was in the air!

The reason that Kristiana and I made the two-week trek up north was to attend the wedding of my dear niece, Raquel. Sure, we wrapped June 20th with a week of visits before and another week after, but we wouldn't have made the trip at all if she weren't being joined in holy matrimony to her best friend and the love of her life. 

I've known her since before she was born. Unfortunately, on the day she was born, I was in England. But as soon as my feet hit American soil again, I rushed over to my brother and sister-in-law's house to meet her, to see her sweet little face, and to hold her in my auntie arms. She has been a beauty and a bundle of energy and a perveyor of sweet smiles since the earliest days. Thanks, Otis and Joy, for giving me such a fantastic niece (and two awesome nephews as well).

My daughter and I arrived at her house an hour earlier than I told her to expect us. I felt a little guilty about getting there so early, but I wanted to see some of the bridal preparations. Look at that happy and beautiful face. 


Her mother, Joy, is on the left, and her sister-in-law, Monisha, is on the right. 
Looking gorgeous in their purple dresses. 

I think she was happy. What do you think?
Some people have said we look alike.
I wish I were as beautiful and happy and joyfull as Raquel is.

She and her beloved, Jay, were married at Studio Square in Queens, New York.
While we partied upstairs, there were hundreds of people downstairs
watching World Cup Soccer on a huge screen.
 Apparently, just as Raquel and Jay finished saying their vows,
a goal was scored and a great cheer rose up.
I didn't hear it, but someone else on my row did.
Perfect timing.
There was a lot to celebrate.
Big goals scored, big dreams come to life, big promises made.


Jay is a first generation immigrant from Poland. He is, in fact, the only member of his birth family who lives here in the States. Some members of his family watched the ceremony via Skype and as soon as the ceremony ended, Raquel and Jay greeted them via computer. Ain't technology grand sometimes?

The proud auntie and cousin got our turn in front of the camera. 

Love was in the air - and the wine and the food and out on the dance floor as well. Early in the reception, the emcee asked all the couples to join Raquel and Jay in a dance to celebrate not only the newlyweds, but also their own love. Gay and straight. Young and Old. Male and Female. Black and White. Asian and Latino. They were out there, dancing, smiling, hugging, kissing, whispering in each other's ears, and basking in the joy of that beautiful evening.

Just before cutting the cake - or was it after? -
the two lovebirds were asked to stand back to back.
(Isn't it cute how she's holding his jacket?
That girl is IN LOVE!)
The emcee said, "I hope this is the first and last time that you two 
turn your backs on each other."
Well said.

Then he went on to say something dumb about how the size of the piece of cake Jay cut
would reflect on the amount of authority he would have in his house.
Whatever!!!

There was a table at the reception with photos and mementos of family and friends who have passed away. There was my daddy's handsome, sweet, much missed face. I'm sure that if he was looking down from heaven, he was smiling, right alongside Raquel's maternal grandmother, Ida.

Thanks, Raquel and Jay, for a great party.
Thanks for your joy and laughter and hope and obvious lust for each other.
Thanks for reminding us that love and marriage, commitment and romance still matter.
Thank you for inviting so many people with so many stories and so many connections to you and so much excitement to celebrate your nuptials.
There was indeed love in the air.

We wish you both nothing but the best.
When the tough times come, and surely they will come, trust each other and rely on each other.
Trust in your family and friends, and rely on us too.
Most important of all, trust in God and rely on God.
None of those things, none of those choices, none of those people will take away the challenges.
But all of those things, all of those choices, all of those people, and all your faith will give you the support and strength and hope and the companionship you will need in order to endure the difficult days ahead.
May your love grow and your lives be full of everything you've ever dreamed.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Keeping it Real: Happy Anniversary to me and my sweet man

Twenty-four years ago, he did this.

Can you read it?
When I read it, I cried. 
Of course, I cried.

He hit it out of the park with that proposal.

That's what we looked like then.

Twenty-three years ago today, we did this.

First came love.
Then came marriage.
Then she came along and needed a baby carriage.

Our first church photo album picture.
(Did you know that some churches make photo albums for their members?)
She has been photogenic right from the start.

On the occasion of our tenth wedding anniversary, 
I got back into my wedding dress and had new photos taken.
The kids were able to keep it a secret.
Steve was very surprised.


Twenty-three years of marriage. Mostly good times. Much laughter and travel and love and joy and fun with each other and our children. No one makes me laugh like my husband.
Some difficult times as well. Tears shed. Misunderstandings. Miscommunication. Lack of communication. The deaths of both of our fathers. Illness. Fear. Loss. No one makes me mad like my husband.

After four and a half years of dating and twenty-three years of marriage, more than half my life, I confess that I still love this man of mine. He still loves me. I still love the life we share - most of the time. (Just keeping it real, people. Keeping it REAL!)
Who knows? We just might last another twenty-three years.


Happy anniversary, my dear Steve. Thank you for everything you have done for me and been with me and given to me. I look forward to everything that is yet to come. I do love you. 
"And I will love you so for always." (This is the song he played when he proposed and was also the song we danced to for our first dance at the wedding reception.)

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Home Sweet Home!

My daughter and I returned from a two week road trip last night around 7 pm.
Eleven hours of driving from Princeton, New Jersey yesterday.
Great conversation with my dear Kristiana. She asks great questions.
Music. NPR. Books on CD.
Fruit and water and crackers and corn chips.
Confederate flags on motorcycle helmets. Other motorcyclists pulling mini trailers.
Car accident ahead of us. Near standstill traffic for about 15 minutes.
Trucks wandering onto and off the shoulder of the highway.
Traveling mercies up and back and everywhere in between.

The first stop on our journey was after 12 hours of driving from Charlotte towards Massachusetts.
We stopped at one hotel and were told that they had several smoking rooms 
and one non-smoking room, but it had no air-conditioning. No thanks!
We got back into the car and Kristiana called two hotels to see if there was availability.
First one - nope. Second one - incompetent woman on the phone. No luck there.
Next stop - the Hyatt House in Whippany, NJ.
The man at the front desk said they had two room suites available for $199 a night.
Gulp! But I was tired of driving, so we reluctantly said, "Okay."
After a few seconds of staring at his computer monitor, he said they had no more two bedroom suites, but they had one bedroom suites available for $139. Not ideal, but definitely better.
After a few more seconds, he said they had no one bedroom suites, but they did have a two bedroom available after all - and he would only charge us $139. Awesome!

Separate bedrooms and bathrooms - felt like a gracious and spacious apartment.
I love a good deal and a well appointed hotel suite kitchen.

The next day we stopped in Norwalk, CT on our way north.
This is the house we lived in from 1997 until 2002. It's for sale again... 
So many good memories flooded back for me and Kristiana as we walked around and took photos.

One good Norwalk memory was of the year that Steve planted the three trees behind me. 
He strung Christmas lights on them that Christmas and every year thereafter.
When he planted them, they were shorter than us. 
I love seeing these signs and symbols of the passage of time and growth.
Apparently time flies whether or not you're having fun.

In Northampton, Massachusetts, we ate at Hinge, a lovely little restaurant, 
and were taken care of by a delightful waiter named Cobbie.
He was so polite and funny and informative that Kristiana said, "I bet he's from the South."
She was right - he was from Texas and has lived in Georgia and North Carolina for a while.
Hinge makes a fantastic black bean burger.

Kristiana and I travel well together. She's a great conversationalist but doesn't mind silence.
I wonder where she got that from.

Then we went to Amherst, where we met and had a lovely visit with Jena and Mani. 
Here we are sitting at their kitchen table enjoying breakfast and conversation.
I wish we'd had more time with them... someday I think we will.

There will be more stories and photos from this trip to come.
In the meantime, gratitude flows through my heart and mind today.

I drove more than 2,000 miles on this journey - no flat tires, no accidents, no tickets, no dings, no scratches, and no break-ins. 

We took the train from Connecticut into NYC this past Tuesday and had an absolute blast walking and shopping and eating and people watching and eating and walking some more. No losses, no pickpockets, no mishaps at all. 

We spent time in the homes of seven dear friends and family members - all of whom took impeccable care of us, walking with us, talking with us, telling stories and listening to ours. They fed us and ate food we brought. They gave up their bedrooms and couches and towels and sheets and so much food and drink for us and to us. They let us do laundry and raid their refrigerators. They drove us places and allowed us to drive them crazy.

The inspiration for the trip was Raquel and Jay's wedding. She is my niece and the youngest child of my oldest brother. We had a fantastic time celebrating their love and their union last Friday evening. We got to ride in a limo from my brother's house to the venue, thoroughly enjoyed the ceremony (even though the minister forgot to tell the congregation to sit down, so we stood up for the entire thing), ate and drank and danced and then were driven back to my brother's house sometime after midnight. The following morning, my sister-in-law, Joy, made us a fantastic breakfast and sent us merrily and contentedly on to the next stop on our adventure. 

The weather was fantastic the entire fortnight of our journey. We drove through a few light sprinkles on the trip home yesterday and hit torrential downpours when we were a mere ten minutes from home, already on the streets of our beloved home city. 

Thanks, many thanks to all the family and friends who hosted us and fed us and laughed with us, who told us your stories and listened to our stories, who showed us their love and generosity and hospitality. You made it an awesome trip. Thank you, thank you, thank you. 


Thanks, Jena and Mani
Dinah and Seth,
Kathy and Katie,
Christy and Emma,
Kevin, Karen, Alexa, Brandon, Danielle, and Zoe,
Otis and Joy,
All the family and friends we saw at Raquel and Jay's wedding,
Damele and Carlton,
Bill, Jill, Gemma, and Simon, Gideon, & Lucy (the last three are their THREE great danes!)
Will and Judy,
Susie and Pamela,
Cliffe, Sharon and Stuart,
Val and Sheldon,
and Cathy. 

Thanks be to our trusty Hyundai Sonata - that made the trip flawlessly.
Thanks, Steve, for taking care of the house and the boy and the beast while we were away.

It was great to hit the road and great to get back home.
Home sweet home!

Thanks be to God!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Determined to stay grateful in a thankless world

Things are getting bad in Iraq... again.
Cops were shot and killed while eating lunch.
Kanswer has attacked the friend of a friend.
The Nigerian girls are still not at home.
Malaysia Air flight 370 has still not been found.
She's still looking for work.
His wife died in a paddle boarding accident.
Marriage is hard, so is parenting.
I recently saw a confederate flag in a place I didn't expect to see one.
Our gutters need to be replaced. (Let's hope they don't find wood rot.)
Wild fires. Mud slides. Tornadoes. Severe storms. Drought. (How do all these things coexist?)

This sad list reminds me of one of my favorite passages in the book of Habbakuk.
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my savior.

In a thankless, dangerous, confusing, outrageous, anger-producing, fearful, threatening world, where our children hide from bullies and shooters at school, abusers at home, and predators online, where relationships and people are treated as disposable, where telling the truth about my fears and doubts and questions incites criticism and sarcasm, where one tragedy follows another, one terrible diagnosis follows another, I confess that sometimes I wonder if I am being Pollyanna-ish by maintaining this attitude of gratitude. Then I go back to Habbakuk - in the face of all that is negative, in the midst of all that threatens to break my spirit, in spite of all that moves me to weep, I will rejoice. I will give thanks. I will be joyfull. In this gun-toting, road-raging, heart-breaking world, I am convinced that gratitude is more necessary than ever.

Today I am thankful for -

* dinner with Heather last night, just the two of us
* another week of safety and provision of all of our needs
* discovering again and again that I have everything I need
* my husband and father of my children - we celebrated Father's Day today as we won't be together on Sunday
* the post office
* books on cd from the library
* Rodney Yee and Shiva Rea yoga videos
* Coinstar machines at Harris Teeter
* sewer drains that aren't clogged with leaf debris
* road trips
* friends that let us stay at their houses overnight
* handmade travel journals
* packing cubes to help with packing efficiently and lightly
* cars that drive well and don't break down
* sunglasses and windshield shades
* coolers and those frozen blue things that keep everything cold
* hotels with microwaves and mini fridges in the room
* time with a new friend
* meeting an old friend at Harris Teeter to pick up a few things, to talk, and to give each other a warm hug or two
* the wise writing, creativity, and poignant videos here and here and here and here
* receiving words of thanksgiving
* freshly cut pineapple and watermelon
* the time I spent earlier today looking at photos of past trips overseas
* organic blue chips and mango salsa
* dinner with the entire family at the table
* hope and a future
* life itself - I am grateful to be alive and well.

What are you grateful for?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Keeping it Real - Living thru a "Category 4 Should Storm"

Wanna read some of my thoughts, the roller coaster ride that my mind can get on, the topsy-turvy "should storm" that I spend too much of my day battling through? 

It starts when my phone alarm begins in the morning. The song it plays is sung by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir - Grace that is greater than all my sin. I love hymns. 

7:00 am - song begins.
I should be getting up earlier than 7 am.
I should stop using my phone as my alarm.
I should walk the dog.
I should go for a walk. 
No, I should do yoga.
Actually, I should do some Bible reading and prayer before anything else.
And I should write as well. 
But I should have something to eat or drink first.
I should have a juice for breakfast.
No, I should have a green smoothie so I can have the fiber as well.
I should eat an egg on whole grain toast so I can get more protein to start the day.
I should have some green tea.
I should make sure Daniel is awake so that he can start his homeschooling.
I should be more proactive in my homeschool planning.
I should back off and let him take more control of his own education.
I should pray with him to start the day.
I should wait for him to ask me to pray with him. 
I should do a load of laundry.
I should drink some water.

And that all happens in my head between 7:00 and 7:05 am.

As it turns out, whatever I'm doing, I think I should be doing something else. 
Here are a few examples - 

When I get dressed and go out for a walk, I think I should be doing yoga.
When I'm doing yoga, I think I should be lifting weights.
When I'm lifting weights, I think I should be jumping on the rebounder.

When I'm inside, I should be outside.
When I'm relaxing, I should be active.
When I'm active, I should be resting.

When I'm angry, I should be happy.
When I'm joyful, I should be serious.
When I'm grieving, I should be grateful.
When I'm afraid, I should be courageous.
When I'm frustrated, I should be satisfied.
When I'm tired, I should conjure up energy to do whatever needs to be done.
When I'm bored, I should be creative and come up with exciting activities.

When I start to journal my morning thoughts, I should be reading the Bible.
When I'm reading the Bible, I should be studying the Bible.
When I'm writing, I should be praying.
When I'm journaling, I should be blogging.
When I'm blogging, I should be working on writing a book.
When I'm writing my story, I should be spending time and energy on other people, not myself.
(In a whining and nagging voice, I hear myself ask, "How self-indulgent is it to be blogging about my life and considering the ridiculous possibility of writing a book about my life? Just how self-centered am I?")

When I'm at home, I should be out in the world helping people.
When I'm out of the house, I should be at home, being a good wife and a doting mother.
When I travel, I should be at home.

When I'm at my church, I should be at a different church, serving needy people.
When I'm serving people in need, I should be doing so with a better attitude.
When I have a good attitude, I should be sensitive to the sadness of people around me.

When I'm doing laundry, I should be vacuuming.
When I'm vacuuming, I should be mopping or sweeping.
When I'm cleaning, I should be cooking.

When I'm making coffee, I should be making green tea.
When I'm drinking green tea, I should be drinking water.
When I'm drinking water, I should be drinking alkaline water.
When I'm eating fruit, I should be eating vegetables.
When I'm eating vegetables, I should be eating organic vegetables.
When I'm eating meat, drinking alcohol, or having dessert, I should be ashamed of myself.

When I watch television, I should be ashamed of myself.
When I am discontented with my life, I should be ashamed of myself.
When I want to run away from home, I should be ashamed of myself.
When I don't want to do what is asked of me, I should be ashamed of myself.
When I make mistakes, I should be ashamed of myself.
When I intentionally decide to not "be good," I should be ashamed of myself.
(The notion of being ashamed of myself and my desires and my needs is a repeated refrain when the should storms are raging.)

When I think about these category 4 should storms, I should remember that I am blessed beyond anything I ever imagined my life could be or would be. I should be grateful. I should remember that no one in my life measures me by what I should be doing. And if they do, I should not let them be part of my life anymore.

I am getting better at asking myself, "What would you do, Gail, how would you live if you dropped all the 'shoulds'?" If I allow myself to relax and breathe deeply, if I pull out my journal and allow myself to compose a list of those things I would do and be and eat and drink and enjoy if "should" were removed from my vocabulary, a lot of the things I've mentioned here float onto the list. But with grace and joy and desire and love as my motivation - and not shame. Not fear of punishment. Not obligation to others. 
And, blessedly, the should storms pass and I am able to find my way back to peaceful thoughts. Thanks be to God.

I should get up and go check on my kids... NOT!
Hahaha!!!

(Am I the only one who thinks this way?)

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Thankful Thursday - Five Moments

Last year, a friend sent me a magazine article that contained a variation on keeping a gratitude journal. It suggested the practice of writing down "five moments" for which one is grateful. Situations, encounters, moments when grace showed up, when love showed up, when humor and beauty showed up. So that's what I'm going to do right now - share five moments for which I am grateful.

1. Spending time at the Loaves and Fishes pantry today. Talking and laughing with the clients. Helping them pick out food for their families. One young woman hesitated to take two packs of cheese for her family of three because she didn't want to take away from other people who might be coming after her. Later during our time together, she chose a can of sliced potatoes and said, "I know the rest of my family won't eat this, but I like them, so I'm picking this can for myself." I laughed and said, "It's great that you are thinking about your family, but sometimes you have to think about yourself." Another woman carried a tiny baby in her arms as she walked through with her family. I wanted to hold that little one and catch a whiff of that new baby smell. Such a sweet little guy.

2. Listening to my daughter talk about her first day of babysitting an 11 year old girl. It was a full day of childcare, and the two of them had a great time together. Arts and crafts, reading, games, followed by the 11 year old making lunch for them, and then more games and an hour and a half swimming at the Y. My little girl is growing up to be a responsible young woman. Not long after that, my son told me about his adventures with a tennis playing friend of his. My rap-music-loving son is learning about country music and went fishing for the first time today. Now he wants to buy a fishing pole! I'm so grateful that my children still like to tell me what is going on in their lives.

3. Having a margarita at a local restaurant and then walking five or six doors down and going shopping at Trader Joe's with my husband. That is the perfect date for us. I don't like eating out too often - I hate to spend the same amount of money on two drinks, two appetizers, two entrees, and two desserts as we would spend for four or five days of groceries for our family of four. So one drink and a cart full of food is the perfect compromise!

4. A free writing workshop at one of the local libraries on Tuesday evening. My favorite writing teacher, Maureen Ryan Griffin, introduced 15 of us to "the healing power of words." Writing exercises, some of which we read aloud. Poetry. Word lists. Laughter. Tears (mostly mine). Applause. Handouts with prompts, questions, and a bibliography. I left motivated to keep on writing. Not that I was thinking about stopping...

5. A moment yet to come... one of my nieces is on her way here to Charlotte right now with her boyfriend. They will spend the night here and then head off tomorrow to a wedding a couple of hours away. We have never met her beloved Ben, so we are looking forward to that. This I know for sure - he must be pretty awesome because she would not settle for anything less than that.

Speaking of nieces and fine young men, another one of my nieces is getting married two weeks from tomorrow. I'm sure it's gonna be one heckuva party. I can't wait to join the celebration.

Ain't love grand???
Ain't life grand???

*****

I cannot deny that sometimes life isn't so grand for everybody. In the wake of yet another school shooting today, I encourage all of us to be deliberate in loving the ones we love, forgiving those who have done us harm, and to seek and advocate for peace as often as possible. I am determined to be known as a peace-keeping, peace-loving, peacenik.

We live in a dangerous, gun-crazed country, and these tragedies are happening in quick succession these days. Did you know there have been more than 40 school shootings in this country since Sandy Hook in December 2012? And that doesn't include shootings in other public places. When will this madness stop??? Yet another of my nieces wrote this poignant piece about gun violence in this country.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Blog Tour: The Journey to Writing about My Life's Journey

A dear friend, Jena, who I will finally get to meet in person in less than two weeks, invited me to participate in a blog tour. She was invited by someone she knows who was invited by someone else who was invited by someone else... You get the picture.

Writing on the road

The idea is simple: I answer four questions about my writing process and then ask other writers to do the same. I will do the first part, but not the second part. Whenever I get one of those chain letter things - send a recipe or a Bible verse or a favorite quote - I usually send what I am asked to send to the first person on the list, but I never ask my friends to follow suit. Just a personal choice I made years ago. If, however, you are reading this blog and would like to participate in this blog tour, then please feel free to do so. Just answer the same four questions I will answer here, and if you so choose, invite your friends and sister/fellow writers to do the same. Here goes...

Writing with coffee in Rome

* What am I working on?

I am working on writing the story of my life. I am writing my story here on the blog, in my daily journaling practice, in my morning practice of writing letters to my Sweet Momma Jesus, in Sunday School lessons I prepare, and also in a series of essays in response to prompts I glean from several memoir writing books I own. I am writing about myself and my immediate family, my parents and my siblings, my cousins and other relatives. I am writing about how they treated me, how they treat me now, and how I feel about how they treat me. I am writing memories of my time at camp during my childhood and young adulthood, a place called Sunshine Acres. I am writing about boyfriends, lovers, people I had crushes on, and people I wish I had never met. My hope, my dream, my plan is to pull together a pile of these pieces and meld it all into a belt.

Writing at The Sunset Inn, NC

* How does my work differ from others of its genre?

In only one way, my work is different because I am different. I cannot tell anyone's story for them; I can only tell my own. No one else can tell my story from my perspective. Even though I write often about other people, I write about my perspective of my interactions with them. I like what Jena wrote about in her blog tour post - comparing myself with other writers is a waste of time and energy. It serves no one.

Writing in silence in Pennsylvania

* Why do I write what I do?

I write what I write because I don't know what else to write. I dole out my stories, I make gratitude lists, I recount my travels, I shed my tears and share my prayers because writing helps me see my life more clearly. Writing helps me live my life more fully. Writing keeps me from losing hope. Writing restores my strength, my courage, my dignity, and deepens my faith. Writing provides me with a lens through which to examine my life and a channel through which I can gauge the beauty and glory of it. Writing has brought wisdom and insight, understanding and clarity during times of pain, confusion, loneliness, despair, and kept me from committing more than one grave error. Writing has also provided me with the means by which I can evaluate the grave errors I have made and decide whether or not I would commit them again under any circumstances. Writing allows me to fantasize, to romanticize, to analyze, to vandalize and scandalize - all without hurting, insulting, criticizing or damaging anyone or anything apart from the paper and pen or the computer keyboard I am writing on at the time. I write what I do because in my writing, I am most fully myself. I am most joyfully, happily, thankfully alive when I allow my words to flow onto paper and onto the screen. I write what I do because I cannot imagine a single day without writing.

Writing at Susie's house in Connecticut

* How does my writing process work?

Truthfully, I wish I had a stable writing process because I believe, with or without good reason, that "an established writing process" will be better than what I have done for years. I have no such process.

Some days I wake up with an idea of what to write. Some days I need prompts from books. Sometimes I copy an idea from someone else's blog and adapt it for my own. Sometimes I print out people's blog posts, glue them into my journal, and cover them with exclamation points and comments and questions and "yup" and "YES" and "amen." With brightly colored markers. Sometimes I just write what I'm thinking and feeling; sometimes I answer a question that is heavy on my mind. Sometimes I go for a long walk in the morning and stop along the way to type writing ideas and questions into my ever-present cell phone. Often I pray and ask for guidance. Sometimes I watch television or a movie and pause it to jot down lines and words in my journal - and later I expand on those quotes in my writing. I remember song lyrics and am motivated by both new and ancient words. Every now and then, I will pull out my Synonym Finder and get help finding better words than the ones that come to me unbidden.

Once I sit down to write a blog post, I try to simply let the words flow from my mind down through my fingers. You know how sometimes when you have to go to the bathroom really badly, the urge increases ten-fold when you enter the bathroom? Crude example, I know, but that's how I feel when I sit down to write. I procrastinate for as long as possible many days, but once I sit down, the urge to write, to pour out my thoughts, my hopes, my prayers, my questions, my dreams is nearly overwhelming. Sometimes I choose not to write because the feeling is more intense than I am ready to deal with at the moment.

Writing at Christmas time

Most of the time, I feel like I'm taking dictation from someone else, like the words come to me from a Higher Source, Someone who is thinking more clearly than myself, someone who has a story to tell, a message to share with others through me. There have been many times when I have looked back at earlier journals, blog posts, and essays written in earlier years, and I shake my head with gratitude that The Source has seen fit to share so many stories and experiences and insights with me.

I love to write. I love to tell the story, my story. I plan to keep telling this story of mine for as long as I live.

Thanks, Jena, for the invitation to share my writing process - such as it is.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Thankful Thursday - A Love Story

Every now and then, I fall back in love with Jesus. Crazy, I know. But it's true. I will hear a song or see flowers in bloom or or be hugged by a young child or fli through an old travel journal or read an amazing book and be reminded of just how much I love Jesus.

Today's motivator of the rekindling of my love for my Lord is a book by Martha Kilpatrick called Adoration.

(Full disclosure here - I received this book from an organization called Speakeasy - a group that invites bloggers and other writers to review books on our blogs. The books are sent for free and in exchange for the free reads, we agree to write reviews within 30 days of receiving the books. I love to read. I love to write. I hate to spend money. What a deal!)

Martha Kilpatrick begins this marvelous book this way -
When Jesus visits
some stare but are blind,
some know and are ignorant.
But occasionally one sees
in holy wonder...
(page 5)

Amen, Martha. Amen. That's exactly how I see Jesus. That's how I see this walk of faith. That's how I see much of my life - which is exactly why I began and continue this habit of Thankful Thursday blogging. There is so much beauty in the world, in the people of the world, in the magnificence of creation. I happen to believe that all of this was created by God and given to us to enjoy - to gaze at in holy wonder. So when I saw those opening lines on one of the earliest pages of this book, I knew I had a gem in my hands.

This book is about Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha and Lazarus of New Testament fame. She's the woman whose story is told in John chapter 12, the one who broke the alabaster flash of precious oil, anointed Jesus' feet with it, and wiped his feet with her hair. The story is also told in Mark chapter 14 and in that account, when she is ridiculed for wasting the oil on Jesus, he responds by saying, "I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her." This book, Adoration, is a detailed consideration of Mary and her deep, passionate, unequaled love for Jesus. She sat at his feet and listened to him speak. She sat at his feet and wept tears of gratitude and joy and love. She took a bottle of perfume worth a year's wages and poured it onto the feet of the one she loved most of all. Indeed, she was one who "sees in holy wonder."

Later in her book, Martha Kilpatrick writes -
God is willing to be and wants to be
(Do you understand? He wants to be!!!)
the Intimate Companion of the most secret place,
the Consummate Lover to the desperate soul. 
To Mary, Jesus was a person - fabulous and amazing.
She knew Him by His name... JESUS.
He was not just Teacher, Rabbi, Father.
He was a person, knowable, intrinsic.
He was not his labels... to her.
He was not his roles, 
He was not even his miracles to her.

He was her heart's companion,
the long-lost mate to her soul, the finishing
of her own being, the mirror of her creation,
the secret of her mystery.

She let him into her ordinary humanity
with no inhibitions.
She exposed her bare soul to him,
to be known, to be captured.
(page 33-34)

Isn't it beautiful? Isn't it truly a love story? Jesus was not only a teacher, a healer, or a miracle worker. He was the lover of her soul and she wasn't afraid or ashamed to show her passionate love for him regardless of who was in the vicinity. Mary's love for Jesus captivated her, filled her, defined her, became her most easily identifiable trait. He was all she needed and wanted.

Martha Kilpatrick's eye for the details of these stories, her ability to find new nuggets of insight I had never seen before - and I have read the story of Mary of Bethany dozens of times - caused me to read the Biblical account several more times and gain a deeper appreciation for the kindred spirit I share with Mary of Bethany. I too fall to my knees and weep sometimes when I pray, when I journal, when I am reminded of the love of Christ, the faithfulness, kindness, generosity, mercy, healing, comfort that overflow into my life because of who Jesus is. I have been known to use fragrant oils in prayer and in rituals of gratitude towards God. I have been known to weep in front of dozens of people when I pray or read the Bible or share some of what I am learning through prayer and Scripture. What can I say? I love Love.

This book, Adoration, examines Mary's love for Jesus more meticulously than I have ever seen or read before. This book speaks of her need - my need - for the inestimable treasure of relationship, personal relationship with Jesus. Not the kind that begins and ends with "an altar call," but that kind of relationship that deepens over time, that broadens with the passage of time, the kind of love that excludes no one and welcomes everyone. This book grants people like me permission to love Jesus elaborately, passionately, whole-heartedly, unashamedly, openly, and excessively - if such a thing were possible. I can pour out my heart's desires, my needs, my dreams, my longings, my hopes at the feet of the one who loves me most and rest in the cradle of his loving embrace. I can fully indulge this love affair with Christ without apology or explanation.

Like Mary, I have been ridiculed and insulted for my sentimentality and my faith. I have been called naive and hyper-emotional. I have been smiled at condescendingly and dismissed for my beliefs. But this is true love. This is my greatest love. This is the love that sustained me through kanswer, through my daughter's illness, through job loss, through moving from one state to another, through the death of my father and my father-in-law, through so much sorrow and loss and pain and fear. I know that because of this Love story I am in the middle of, I can always find a quiet corner, close my eyes, open my heart, and feel the love of Jesus wash over me, into me, around me, and through me in inexplicable ways. Inexplicable and indescribable until I read this book, that is.

One of the things Martha Kilpatrick does very well in this book is draw a stark contrast between Mary's adoration of Jesus and her sister Martha's spirit of borderline contempt for Jesus. (Confused? The author's name is Martha and that is also the name of Mary's sister...) One example comes from the account in the John chapter 11 of the death of Mary and Martha's brother, Lazarus. I have always been intrigued by the fact that both Mary and Martha said the same thing to Jesus when he showed up four days after Lazarus died.

In separate encounters with Jesus, the two sisters said, "Jesus, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."

The author of Adoration posits that Martha said it as a reprimand of Jesus for his absence, but Mary said it as a recognition of the fact that he was the loving and all-powerful solution to all their challenges. When Martha addressed him, he responded to her with important spiritual truths. When Mary spoke to him, he became overwhelmed with emotion, wept, and then performed a miracle. (Adoration, pages 71-72) That's what I hope my prayers do for Jesus - touch his heart and cause him to perform a miracle - even if that miracle is simply helping me to remember that no matter what life brings my way, he, Jesus, is walking with me all along this journey.

Here is another example of how Martha tells this love story far better than I ever could -
What Mary chose to seek... to grasp... to own -
possessed her and also became the Treasured Property
to which she gained permanent title.
Christ was her personal Wealth, her Prize of Life, her Home.
Neither man nor nature could move or remove this possession.
No evil could dislodge it. No enemy steal it.
He, the only Imperishable, was
the hiding place of her spirit.
And no one could get in, much less steal. 
(page 51)

No one else possesses me the way my Lord does.
No one else has access to the hiding place of my spirit as Jesus does.
No one else can get into the secret place of my love for my Lord.
No one else knows the depths of my heart in the same way.
No one else can handle my fears and doubts, my laughter and joys,
my pride and deceit, my hopes and expecations like my dear sweet Savior.
I can love him, talk to him, listen for him, and adore him for eternity and never have enough.
And that is exactly my plan. For all of eternity.

This is a love story - Mary of Bethany and Jesus.
This is a love story - Gail of Charlotte and Jesus.
And this is also a book-love story - Gail and this book, Adoration.
I have reviewed two other books for Speakeasy. I don't think I will reread those other two books again. I don't even know where they are at the moment. This book, on the other hand, will remain within arm's reach of me for a long, long time.

Thank you, Martha Kilpatrick, for this confirmation that my love for Jesus is not excessive and never can be.
Thank you, Speakeasy and Mike Morrell, for the gift of books and the freedom to write what I really think and feel about the books I receive.
Thank you, Jesus, for so many reasons to love you.
Thanks be to God.
*****

Disclosure of material connection - I received this free book from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed here are mine alone. I will not receive any commission if you choose to buy and enjoy this book. I am disclosing this according to the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR Part 255. 
#AdorationMarthaKilpatrick
#SpeakeasyMikeMorrell

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

I almost cried at Staples today...

Truly it was a "first world problem" kind of moment. I had the whole thing planned. I was going to get paper for our two home printers and I wanted to pick up another pack of my new favorite pens. I had a printer ink refund card and a Staples reward for $10. I figured that if I got two packs of paper and one pack of pens, I would end up only having to pay $5 or $7 out of pocket. I got to the cash register and after the kind woman rang it all up, I handed her the refund card and she scanned it. Then I showed her my refund email coupon - and she said that she couldn't scan it because those coupons have to scanned first. They cannot accept coupons after gift cards. She called the manager over and I heard the same lame story. The manager said she could void the entire transaction and start again - but with the line growing behind me and the tears building up in my eyes, I said, "Never mind. I will use the coupon some other time." Crap!

As I walked to my car, with tears brimming, I asked myself, "Why are you so emotional about something so simple? What's really bothering you? It's certainly not two packs of paper and a pack of pens. So what is it?"

I've been feeling a deep feeling of loneliness lately. Of sadness. Of sorrow. As much as I like to focus on gratitude and joy and happiness and peace, there are times when my tears just need to flow. The reasons that I cry vary. The times when I cry vary. The triggers for my crying vary. Some days I need a good cry. Today is one of those days.

I saw a little boy riding a scooter yesterday and on the back of his tee shirt was an oval with a fish in it. The message had something to do with swimming for a cure for kanswer. It said, "Keep swimming, Mia." Crap - another kid fighting for her life against this dreadful disease. When will this kanswer madness end?

Listening to NPR stories about the ebola outbreak in Africa, unrest and violence in Ukraine, elections in Egypt, and in Europe, the account of the man who shot and killed people because he couldn't understand why women didn't want to sleep with him, the man who did exactly the same thing a few hours later, the fact that thousands of people will say that guns aren't the problem and there shouldn't be any laws restricting the purchase or carrying of guns, the men who showed up at a Chipotle restaurant carry AK 47 rifles, another mudslide with loss of life, wildfires out west, those schoolgirls who are still missing, still under the control of their kidnappers, hundreds of thousands of lives lost in wars over the years - and not only American lives, one of my neighbors lost her job, a dear friend isn't sure if her child will be able to graduate from high school... the list of sorrows and heartbreaks is long and getting longer every day.

Two old hymns come to mind.

I must tell Jesus all of my trials. I cannot bear these burdens alone.
In my distress, he kindly will help me. He ever loves and cares for his own.
I must tell Jesus all of my troubles. He is a kind and compassionate friend.
If I but ask him, he will deliver and make of my troubles quickly an end.

What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear.
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.
Oh what peace we often forfeit. Oh what needless pain we bear
all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.


I used to think that if I prayed then everything would be okay. All my problems would be solved. I would be healed. Everything that bothered me would disappear. And all I had to do was pray. Of course, I had to find the right words, pick the right Bible verses to quote back to God - because God always responds to the quoting of His Word. If I asked in the right way with the right tone of voice the right number of times, then I would get what I wanted. The bad news is that I never figured out the right pattern in order to get God to answer "yes" to all my prayers. The good news is that I never figured out the right pattern in order to get God to answer "yes" to all my prayers. The best news is that I have learned that prayer is about opening myself to God, to God's will, to God's direction and wisdom. Prayer is about talking to God and listening to God. It's not about getting God to give me whatever I want whenever I ask. I can testify that there are things I have prayed for and received that I wish I hadn't gotten... but that's a-whole-nother discussion for a different time.

Two days ago, I listened to both of the hymns I quoted here, songs I have sung since I was a young child, songs I memorized before I was ten years old. But this time, I heard them differently. It's not that all my troubles will go away when I tell Jesus. What will happen is that Jesus will help me. Jesus will love me and care for me. I will no longer bear these burdens alone. So much needless grief and sadness, so much heavy lifting that I try to do on my own, so much forfeited peace and rest and joy. Truly Jesus is the kindest and most compassionate friend, the most loyal and ever-present friend I've ever had. But I must admit that I wish Jesus would bring more of my troubles, first world though they often are, quickly to an end.


After leaving Staples, I got into my car and drove towards the supermarket, which was my next stop. I spent those seven or eight minutes telling God how pissed off I was about the coupon fiasco, natural disasters, kidnapping, gun violence, mental illness, overpriced medical procedures, loneliness, and unfulfilling relationships. I told God that I wanted a break from the usual disappointments and a glimpse of something brighter and happier and more fulfilling. (I also realized that I should have told that cashier to take the pack of pens off my total and then had her ring it up on a separate order and paid with the coupon. Truthfully, I shouldn't have bought the pens at all.)

God's amazing grace showed up in how much better I felt after that heart-opening eight minute car ride. God's grace showed up in the bounty of fresh corn and watermelon and salad greens and bananas and other colorful, healthful goodies I picked up at Harris Teeter. God's grace showed up in the simple joy of seeing that someone else had emptied the dishwasher this morning while I was out running errands. God's grace showed up in the chapters I read from Furious Pursuit - Why God Will Never Let You Go. Boy, oh boy, have I needed this book in my life over the past week or so. No one can be reminded too often that they are loved and being furiously, relentlessly pursued - certainly I don't hear it enough.

God's grace shows up in the midst of my tears too, in my anger, in my loneliness, and in my sorrow too. God's grace shows up in the reminders that I am loved, that I am chosen, that I am being faithfully and fiercely pursued, that even when I feel most neglected and lonely, I am never alone. The same is true for you and for everyone everywhere.

I almost cried at Staples today. I have been crying as I've typed this post. And I'm sure I will cry several more times today and this week. There is so much sorrow in the world, in my family, and in me. Crying often makes sense in this wounded and broken world.

But there is beauty as well, and justice and peace and joy and love and grace and mercy and compassion. I'm sure I will weep over that is well.