Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Looking back and looking ahead...

2008 has been a good year.
There have been great joys, laughs, warm hugs, soul-stirring conversations.
There have been days of victory and triumph, music and dance, food and wine.
There has been love and peace and joy and harmony and reconciliation.

2008 has been a tough year.
There have been many tears and much grief.
I have lost friendships and relationships.
I have been abandoned, forgotten, and rejected.
I have seen friends lose loved ones and lose themselves.

2009 is just a few hours away.

When 2007 was a few hours away, I was in Madrid.
Same thing at the start of 2008.
And I remember distinctly, last year in Madrid,
a year ago today, thinking,
"Gail, enjoy this. You won't be back here for a while.
Things in your life are going to change. Big time."
The Spirit spoke clearly to me. I heard. And took it to heart.
I enjoyed those days there. With friends. In solitude.
Walking. Journaling. Taking photos. Reading.
Watching. Listening. Learning. Growing.
(Os echo de menos, Eduardo, Leti, Alvaro, y Marta.)

All of those walks, those prayers, those thoughts
prepared me for this moment in my life.
All the walks and talks and journal entries and classes and retreats
and books and times of prayer and fasting and meditation
I have ever taken or experienced,
they have all prepared me for this moment in my life.
For such a time as this.
The beginning of a new year, a new support system,
a new way of living, a new kind of faith.
Newness of life.

Looking back and looking ahead,
God has been good.
He has provided for us.
He has protected us.
It hasn't always looked like what we want it to look like,
or felt like what we want to feel.
But it is what it is.

My nephew, who flew back to New York yesterday after spending several days with us, said this to us a couple of days ago:

"We walk not by sight, sense, or circumstance.
We walk by faith, Spirit, and The Word."

I want to thank a few of you who have held on to faith and hope for me of late when I have not had the strength to hang on. Especially Jen, Lisa, Karen, Matthew, Jill, Alejandra, Amy, Shelby, Leonie, Laurie, Jena, Katie, Wendy, Debby, Val, Sara, Melodee, Otis, Joy, Robin, Raquel, and Steve. Just to name a few.

The old truth is new truth.
It is still truth.
All shall be well.
All shall be well.
All manner of things shall be well.

*Two of the photos seen in the post are of plaques outside of the children's library here in Charlotte.
The third is of the cover of the journal I began on November 2nd of this year.
I had no idea how prophetic that title would be -
Life as we then knew it is not the life we now live.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Keeping it simple...

Merry Christmas. Peace on earth.
Good will to all children, women, and men everywhere.

I pray that you will find peace in your heart,
in your home, in all areas of your life.

And do what the ornament says: look up. ask for help.
wait and pray. have faith.

At the end of the most quoted Bible story (at this time of year anyway),
I re-discovered a verse I've skimmed over dozens of times.
Luke 1:45 - Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.

I want to be one of those blessed women.
One who believes.
One who looks up, prays, waits, has faith.
Finds peace.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

If you have time, check out Lulliloo's beautiful post about one of her favorite Christmas songs. It happens to be one of my favorites as well - "O Holy Night."

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Few Christmas Favorites

Here are a few of my favorite things, in no particular order.

Notice I wrote, "a few of my favorite things." There are many others that I don't have photos of and a few that prefer not to appear in public. Just had to throw in that disclaimer so as not to offend any of my other favorite things or people.

Took this photo and the next one while playing hooky with my husband from the Spanish service a couple of weeks ago. I didn't have to translate, so we went on a brief date while the kids learned faithfully about their faith. Being the ancient married couple that we are, he read the newspaper and I read a book most of the time that we were there. I looked up long enough to capture a photo... of my coffee, pound cake, and book. And then I went outside to take photos of some of the ornaments on the tree on their patio.

But I only have eyes for my own Christmas tree. We have had this artificial tree for almost ten years, and I think I love it more each year. I sit for hours in the living room each Christmas and just stare at it. With visions of sugar plums, sugar cookies, Christmases past and Christmases yet to come dancing through my mind. I have been know to simply sit there at weep at how beautiful it is to me.

Last Saturday, Kristiana participated in a Christmas recital at a local mall. Yes, the children were sent to entertain the harried shoppers. They did a great job. I was quite the proud Mommy. So here I am with one of my absolute favorite people in the world at the Concord Mills mall.

In the window at Nordstrom's. Simply stated. Elegantly displayed.
In that marketing meeting, I would have suggested that they write:
"Joy, peace, love, grace, mercy, strength, courage, and cookies for all,"
but somehow I don't think it would have fit.

So I'll say it here:

Monday, December 15, 2008

What can I say?

I will keep it simple: Thank you.
For the cards and notes, emails and even a blog post - thanks, Lisa.
Thanks for remembering my special day (not that I gave you much choice...)
and sending good wishes.

Dear and dearly loved church friends gave me a small surprise party.
(I'm the giant in the middle of the group!)
Along with a dozen roses and a pile of precious gifts.
Steve and the kids showered me with their own stash of goodies.

In the end, there were several bouquets of flowers and chocolate,
cake and gift cards and pajamas,
scented oil and hand-crafted gorgeousness,
jewelry and many, many hugs.
I have extremely generous friends.
More than that, I have loving, caring, giving, supportive friends.
They, you are the greatest gift of all.

Again, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Shameless Self-Promotion

Tomorrow is my birthday, my 43rd birthday!
Yup, I have survived 43 years on this wildly spinning, tilted planet.
I have spent a lot of time this week thinking back on the life I have lived.
I have lived well. I have loved deeply.
I have read and written and dreamed a lot.

I continue to hope and pray that the best years of my life,
that the most passionate love of my life,
that the deepest friendships of my life,
that the most soul-jarring travels of my life
are yet to come.

This much I know for sure -

I have ventured out and I have stayed put.
I have learned and I have taught.
I have laughed and I have cried.
I have loved and I have loathed.

I have grown and then regressed.
I have feasted and then fasted.
I have prayed and then cursed.

I have longed for love and then rejected it.
I have asked for forgiveness and then denied it to others.
I have spoken truth and then lied unrepentantly.

I spend too much time staring at the full moon.
I spend too much money on stickers, pens, and beads.
I spend too much energy on disappointment and disdain.

I eat organic baby green salad from Earth Fare and bacon cheese burgers from Sonic.
I drink filtered water and lemon drop martinis.
I awake in the morning and enter into a time of prayerful meditation
and go to sleep with unashamedly lustful thoughts in my mind.

I want all that the world has to offer but insist that I could turn it all down if necessary.
I yearn for that which I cannot have but long to abandon that which I ought to embrace.

I am human, through and through.

And tomorrow, I will celebrate all of my contradictions and hypocrisies,
all my joys and sorrows,
all that has come my way already and all that is yet to be.

Tomorrow is my birthday.
And I plan to celebrate me!!!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A video on friendship...

Here's to friendship, folks.
To sisters and sisters-in-law,
to partners and lovers,
to the ones we see and the ones we read,
to those who live around the block and those who live across the sea.

Grab a tissue and check this out.
It is just over five minutes, but worth every second.

Then go call a friend or email a friend or hug a friend.
Everybody loves a hug and a smile!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

"That's my boy..."

Earlier today, during a cloudy, blustery North Carolina afternoon,
my son, my handsome, funny, talented, tender-hearted, athletic son
won the RCC Christmas Classic Tennis Tournament
for boys 12 years old and younger
down in Gastonia, North Carolina.
It's the first tournament he has ever won.
He is likely to be ranked in the top 65
of all 12 year old players
in the state as a result of this win. Yeah for him!

That's my boy!

While everything was going on with his sister,
he never once wavered in his love for her.
He followed the example of his Biblical namesake, Daniel:
he prayed for her regularly in spite of all the odds.
And celebrated with joy as she was healed.

That's my boy.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Joy to the World!

Health and peace and strength are ours again.

We rejoice with exceeding great joy that Kristiana feels better,
is sleeping better, eating better, and is altogether better.

Thanks for your prayers and support and encouragement.
They meant more to us than you know.

No matter what the illness, a cold or a headache, or even something more serious,
no matter what the situation, a problem at school or at work,
no matter what the present or the future,
be sure to love the ones you're with.
be sure to laugh with them,
be sure to hug them and cuddle up close.

I know it isn't always easy;
some folks are a lot easier to love than others.
Yes, indeed.
But in the end, I don't think you ever regret loving someone.
At least, I never have.

It doesn't always last forever.
And it doesn't always end well.
But I have never regretted any love
I have ever given, received, or known.

But enough of this.

She is well.
I am happy.

Joy to the world!

Addendum added on Saturday, December 6th, 7:35 pm -

Along with all of you, we continue to rejoice in Kristiana's continued restoration. Daily improvement and regaining of her strength. It's a wonderful thing to behold.

That photo was taken about two weeks before she fell ill - on her birthday at the end of October - but she's looking just that happy these days. I will post an updated photo of her this coming week.

And, yes, there has been much ice cream and cake and dancing and hugging this week! We expect it will continue.

Also - it seems like a lifetime ago that I wrote these words about her.
But it was less than six weeks. How poignant these phrases feel now...

"The road ahead through the remaining teen years may prove uneven, sometimes treacherous, perhaps dangerous. But together we will walk its every twist. Exploring. Wandering. Telling and writing and photographing the stories of our lives. We will weep and laugh, question and respond. We will live the questions and question our living. We will run into things and into each other.

And every day that I am given the chance to love this beautiful girl, I will.
Every day that I am given to teach her, to learn from her, I will.
Every day that she opens her soul to me, I will open mine to her.

On this day fifteen years ago, the trajectory of my life was altered.
Thanks be to God for this daughter of mine, this indescribable gift of Kristiana.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Wisdom from Jen Gray...

Jen wrote the words. I am adding my own photos.

As we walked through the Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens a couple of weeks ago, we came upon a butterfly sunning and drying herself.
We sat down to watch and take pictures.


We have been learning with every
wipe-out, there is always something
or someone still worth getting
up for.

with each diagnosis, we learned to be thankful for the
parts that are still healthy and strong.

with each dark day, we learned to absolutely
treasure the easy sunny ones.

with every news report and worldly update,
we have taken hope in our new President
and the good changes to come.

with the loss of friends and loved ones we
learned to value the days we have still have
left with you.

to be able to say:

"i have shelter.
i have food for my belly,
i have the love of a pal,
i have my freedom,
and i still have some pretty good laughs..."

means you are doing,

and if you have more than that,
these days,
that makes you a king.

learning to be thankful when things are easy and breezy is one thing.
being able to be thankful when you have had a more than a few wipe-outs,
makes you especially beautiful and wise and right on.

Jen Gray

Thank you, Jen, for your wisdom and beauty and grace in sharing your stories with all of us, your faithful readers, and for encouraging us to stay awake and alert on our own paths, to walk with courage, to live fully and laugh and love and learn and maintain hope. No matter what life throws our way.

When you wipe out, try not to land on one of these!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankful Thursday

On this most thankful of Thursdays, I am most thankful for:

1. The constantly improving health of my dearly beloved daughter. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks be to God!

2. The outpouring of love and support for us from friends all over the world.

3. The delicious meals that have been brought to us this past week and have been promised to us in the weeks to come. As many of you may know, I do not like to cook. At a time like this, when my attention is short-lived and certainly not on what I am eating these days, the blessing of not having to do something that I dislike so much, is beyond description. Thank you!

4. Along the same lines, I am thankful that I don't have to cook today. My mother has volunteered to do all the preparation.

5. The time I have had with my son to talk, play ping-ping and tennis and Scrabble, and to watch his new favorite show, "Malcolm in the middle."

6. Laughter.

7. Well-taken photographs.

8. Well-crafted stories.

9. Taking the time to stop myself and ask this question: "What do I need right now?"

10. Listening to my body and soul answer that question.

11. Not feeling guilty for asking for what I need and accepting it with grace and gratitude.

12. Loose leaf tea.

13. Homemade cookies.

14. Sandalwood incense in my bedroom.

15. Silver crosses.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thank you...

thank you, thank you all for your kind thoughts and prayers.
Keep the candles burning.
Keep the prayers going.
We are being buoyed by your love for us.
We are seeing light.
We are maintaining hope.

Just so you know, this beautiful girl is the one you are praying for.
Kristiana, my precious daughter, is sick.
Please pray that she will soon be made whole again.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

If you pray...


If you meditate, meditate.
Burn incense and candles.
Lift up my family, I beg you.

We are deeply hurting right now. Deeply.
This is the toughest thing we have ever faced.
But we know that God is with us in it and through it.

I won't be online for a while.
I need to be focused. And present.
And praying.

So, if you pray, please pray.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Too many days...

An old favorite photo and memory: Gelato in January in Rome.

I have spent a lot of time this week feeling sorry for myself.
I have thought back to trips I have taken earlier in my life
and lamented the fact that there are no future trips on my calendar at the moment.
I thought: "Too many days have passed since my last seven to ten day solo journey."

See the two candles burning on the lower right side? I lit them - I always light two. These were lit at the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome.

I have thought back to meals and coffee shops
where I have sat alone with The Alone,
lost in my thoughts
and lamented the fact that I don't do that nearly enough anymore.
"Too many days have passed since my last three to six hour solo journey."

Then yesterday, I slapped myself in the soul and thought,
"How dare you complain? How dare you feel sorry for yourself?
Yours is a blessed life. You have more than you need of everything you have ever thought you wanted.
Be grateful."

The problem is not that there have been too many days since something significant has happened in me or to me.
The problem is that I have not accepted this day, this hour, this moment
I have not loved this day, this hour, this moment,
and lived it fully. Here and now.

I have allowed myself to believe that there is some future moment,
some future journey, some future relationship that will fill the emptiness in me.
That some other person, some other house, some other body,
some other something or other
will satisfy me.

The truth is that the freedom I feel on the streets of Spain and Italy,
the joy of those peace-filled hours of wandering without accountability,
the soul-filling that comes from soul-stirring conversations and exchanges -
all of that is available to me right here in Charlotte.
Because that joy and that freedom exist within me
right here, right now.

Earlier this week, I wrote the following in my journal:

"Too much time,
too many days
without me writing
without me praying
without me reading
* without me. *

I miss myself.
Alone. Quiet. Wandering.
Walking. Listening.

So, G, what are you gonna do to meet up with you again?
To reconnect with yourself? Where will you go? For how long?
What will you do there?

I need to begin right here, on the floor of my study."

So that's where I began that morning.
That's where I began this morning.
On the floor of my study. On the floor of my soul.
Forgetting the days "I have wasted." No such days have ever existed.
Forgetting the days "I will make the most of." No such days will ever exist.

No, live this day. Right here and right now.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Gotta take a chance...

Nearly 43 years ago, my parents took a chance on raising a daughter after trying their hand at raising three sons. Over 20 years ago, Steve and I took a chance on a long-term relationship after trying our hand at several less successful attempts with other people. Fifteen years and two weeks ago, we took a chance on brining a child into the world; we welcomed a second soul to join our clan two years and eleven months later. Over six years ago, we took a chance on life in Charlotte after more than a dozen years in suburban Connecticut. Over a year ago, Lisa took a chance to come here to Charlotte to meet us. Last week, this nation took a chance and elected a President who is unlike any other president we have ever had, and not just because of the color of his skin.

The thing is, relationships, raising children, moving to a new city,
making a new friend, and new government officials -
life itself can get wet and messy.

And tangled.

And thorny.

And even rotten inside.

But sometimes, somehow, it works out.
It is beautiful, fragrant, warm, and deeply soul-full-filling.

And even when things don't work out as I hope,
when the messiness is more than I can withstand,
and I have to retreat from the battle line with the white flag waving behind me,
I know that I tried.
I tried really hard.
I did.

In the end, I am learning to sing in the rain!
Life may be messy, but at least I'm alive to make the mess!
Like Billy Blanks says at the end of many of his Tae Bo workouts,
"Everyday above ground is a blessed day."

Monday, November 10, 2008

I had no idea

Sorry, this image is so small. But I couldn't figure out how to enlarge it.

I had no idea how happy I would be that Obama won the election.
I had no idea how sad I would be to hear that people in my state
are buying more handguns and assault rifles as a result of his win.
They say they are buying them because they fear he will increase gun control,
so they'd better stock up now.

I had no idea how much I would think about Barack Obama's family life in the White House. The girls going to school. Raising their new puppy. Deciding on dinner menus and birthday guest lists.
I had no idea how sad I would be to have to wonder and worry about whether or not the President-Elect would survive until his inauguration.

But I am happy, hopeful, prayerful, and excited.
I had no idea just how happy I would be.


Here is an email I received recently that moved me deeply.
I don't know who all the people are that are referred to in this piece,
but that's okay. They all had a part in what we celebrated last Tuesday night.
And they have much to celebrate with us.

Inauguration Ball 2009

Guests began arriving early. There are no place cards and
no name tags. Everyone knows everyone else here. Now, there's a grand
foursome - Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz sharing laughs with Martin and Coretta
Scott King. Looks like Hosea Williams refused the limo again, keeping it
real. And my goodness; is that Rosa Parks out there on the dance floor
with A. Phillip Randolph? Seated at a nearby table, Frederick Douglass has a captive
audience in W.E.B. DuBois and Fannie Lou Hamer, and Medgar Evers has just joined them.

Marian Anderson was asked to sing tonight, but she only agreed to do it if
accompanied by Marvin Gaye, John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix.
Look, there's Harriet Tubman. No one knows how she arrived, but there she
is. And my guess is that, when the time comes, no one will see her leave.
There's Jackie Robinson swiftly making his way through
the hall as the crowd parts like the Red Sea to the unmistakable sound of
applause. "Run, Jackie, run!"Along the way he is embraced by Jessie Owens.
Three beautiful young women arrive with their escorts - Schwerner, Goodman and
Chaney. Ms. Viola Liuzzo flew in from Michigan, exclaiming, "I could not
miss this." Richard Pryor promised to be on his best behavior.
"But I can't make any guarantees for Redd Foxx and Moms Mabley," he
chuckled. Joe Louis just faked a quick jab to the chin of Jack Johnson, who smiled broadly
while slippingit. We saw Billy Eckstine and Nat King Cole greet Luther
Van Dross. James Brown and Josh Gibson stopped at Walter Payton's table
to say hello.

I spotted Congressman Adam Clayton Powell of Harlem having
a lively political discussion with Eldredge Cleaver. Pearl Harbor WWII
hero Dorey Miller shared a few thoughts with Crispus Attucks,
a hero of the Revolutionary War.. And there is Madam C.J. Walker talking
with Marcus Garvey about exporting goods to Africa.
General Benjamin O. Davis flew into Washington safely with
an escort from the 99th Fighter Squadron - better known as The Tuskegee
Airman. At the table on the left are three formidable women - Shirley
Chisholm, Sojourner Truth, and Barbara Jordan - gathered for a little
girl-talk... about world politics. As usual, all the science nerds seem to have gathered off
in a corner, talking shop.

There's Granville T.. Woods and Lewis Latimer needling each other about whose inventions are better. Someone jokingly asked Benjamin Banneker if he had needed directions to Washington. And George Washington Carver was overheard asking, "What, no peanuts?"

Dualing bands? Anytime Duke Ellington and Count Basie get
together, you knowthe place will be jumping. Tonight is special, of course,
so we have Miles, Dizzy, and Satchmo sitting in on trumpet, with Coltrane,
Cannonball, and Bird on sax. Everyone's attention is directed to the
dance floor where Bill "Bojangles" Robinson is tap dancing. Right beside
him is Sammy Davis Jr., doing his Bojangles routine. And behind his back, Gregory
Hines is imitating them both. Applause and laughter abound! The Hollywood
contingent has just arrived from the Coast. Led by filmmaker Oscar Micheau,
Paul Robeson, Cana Lee, and Hattie McDaniel, they find their way to their
tables. Dorothy Dandridge, looking exquisite in gold lamé, is seen
signaling to her husband, Harold Nicholas, who is standing on the floor with brother
Fayard watching Gregory Hines dance. "Hold me back," quips
Harold, "before I show that youngster how it's done." Much laughter!

Then a sudden hush comes over the room.
The guests of honor have arrived.
The President and Mrs. Obama looked out across the enormous
ballroom at all the historic faces. Very many smiles, precious few dry eyes.
Someone shouted out, "You did it! You did it!"
And President Obama replied,
"No sir, you did it; you all - each and every one of you - did it.
Your guidance and encouragement; your hard work and perseverance. .."
Obama paused, perhaps holding back a tear.
"I look at your faces - your beautiful faces -
and I am reminded that The White House was built by faces that looked just like yours.
On October 3, 1792, the cornerstone of the White House was laid, and the
foundations and main residence of The White House were built mostly by both
enslaved and free African Americans and paid Europeans. In fact, most of
the other construction work was performed by immigrants, many of whom
had not yet become citizens. Much of the brick and plaster work was
performed by Irish and Italian immigrants. The sandstone walls were built by
Scottish immigrants. So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that The White House is,
ultimately, The People's House, with each President serving as its steward. Since 1792
The People have trimmed its hedges, mowed its
lawn, stood guard at the gate, cooked meals in the kitchen, and scrubbed its
toilet bowls. But 216 years later, The People are taking it back!

"Today, Michelle and I usher in a new era. But while
we and our family look toward the future with so much hope, we know that we must
also acknowledge fully this milestone in our journey. We want to thank each
and every one of you for all you have done to make this day possible. I
stand here before you, humbled and in awe of your accomplishments and
sacrifice, and I will dedicate my Presidency, in your honor, to the principles of
peace, liberty and freedom.

If it ever appears that I'm forgetting that, I know I can count on you to remind me."

Then he pointed to me (the author of this piece) near the stage...
"Kenyada, isn't it time for you to wake up for work?
Isn't it time for all of us to wake up and get to work?"
Suddenly I awake and sit up in bed with a knowing smile.
My wife stirs and sleepily asks if I'm OK.
"I've never been better," I replied, "Never better. It's gonna be a good day."

A good day, indeed.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A prayer for peace

Lord, Make us instruments of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let your love increase
Lord, make us instruments of your peace,
Walls of pride and prejudice shall cease
When we are your instruments of peace.

Where there is hatred, we will show his love
Where there is injury, we will never judge
Where there is striving, we will speak his peace
To the millions crying for release,
We will be his instruments of peace

Lord, Make us instruments of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let your love increase
Lord, make us instruments of your peace,
Walls of pride and prejudice shall cease
When we are your instruments of peace.

Where there is blindness, we will pray for sight
where there is darkness, we will shine the light
Where there is sadness, we will bear their grief
To the millions crying for relief,
We will be your instruments of peace.

(from Rejoice Africa!)

Alice Walker wrote a long poem called, "These Days," a long time ago. In that poem, she describes people she loves and tells why she loves them. At the end of each stanza, she write, "Surely, the earth can be saved for ________." That's how I feel today.

As I think of the people I have met and come to know and love,
as I think of places I have visited and have come to cherish,
as I think of this pivotal election day in this nation I love,
I return to those words Walker imprinted on my heart years ago.

Surely the earth can be saved for them.
For you.
For me.
For all of us.

Let there be peace.

Thanks, Lisa, for posting this prayer. It is one we all need to pray far more often.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Whatever "it" is...

Between appointments today.
A quick stop at Starbucks for a drink.
Pull out my journal, of course.
Pause. Breathe. Give thanks.
Look down at my cup.

What is "it" that are you looking for?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

As we enter the final days...

Here's what Kristiana and I heard at the hairdresser on Thursday:

"Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther King Jr could march.

MLK II marched so Barack Obama could run.

Barack Obama is running so our children can fly."

Win or lose, he has fought a nation-stirring and historic battle.
He has earned the attention not only of our nation but also of the whole world.
He is the embodiment much of what MLK dreamed of 40+ years ago.
He has changed the landscape of Presidential politics forever.

I truly did not think this would happen in my lifetime.
I am so glad it has.

Let there be hope!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Tiny pieces of a huge mosaic

We are living through days of big issues.
Big problems. Big failures. Big consequences.
Big spending. Big decisions. A big election.

At a time when there are big promises are made and big lies are told,
when big debts are accumulated and big fears are expanded,
I need to be reminded that it is in the small things,
the small acts of kindness from strangers,
the flowers and butterflies at the Botanical Garden,
the revelations of God's creativity and love,
the quiet walks with the children,
the cups of tea sipped and the chunks of birthday cake eaten the day after the great celebration,
the quiet and tearful prayers we say for our Nicaraguan friends who are suffering through the worst rain storms in years,
the hugs and snuggles as we read together,
the cards we make and give to Regina, the woman at my mother-in-law's assisted living facility, for the scarves and afghans she made for us,
the laughter we share over the crazy words Daniel puts on the Scrabble board every day...

these are the tiny pieces of joy that make up the mosaic of our lives.
And we give thanks to God daily for those tiny signs of love.

At a time in the world, when the stories we hear are so big and internationally important, we aren't hearing much about the little things.
The ways in which the sacred shows up in the tiny moments of life.
The meals given to the hungry and desperate.
The hot coffee served on cold mornings to the homeless.
The clothing drives for those whose needs are great.
Toy collections for Samaritan's Purse boxes.
Visiting the sick and house-bound.
Praying with the fearful and lonely.
Emails, phone calls, and snail mail cards to friends.
Lighting a candle and saying a prayer for a distant loved one.
The men and women who walked miles and miles in the memory of cancer victims, in honor of cancer survivors, and for a cure to cancer this past weekend.
Smiling at a woman sitting across the coffee shop;
sometimes it is so good to be alone.
These are the little things that matter.
The little things that make life matter.
In some cases, these tiny acts determine whether one hungry, scared, sick, lonely person lives or dies.

In his book, Messy Spirituality, Mike Yaconelli wrote:
"Spiritual people are about tiny things, which is the fruit of their spirituality. The spiritual life is not a life of success; it is a life of faithfulness, and it's not easy. God does "big" things once in a while, but there is no question that the primary work of God in the world is salt-and-light tiny. God knew we would naturally be dazzled by big; that's why Jesus told the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost son, the mustard seed. Jesus was trying to tell us something: the spiritual life is a tiny life, filled with little decisions, tiny steps toward God, tiny glimpses of his presence, little changes and small movings, tiny successes and imperceptible stirrings...Every tiny contribution we make to His kingdom is noticed and remembered, and one day we will understand just how beautiful our thin sacrifices are.

"Our tiny choices and tiny moves toward God may not seem like much. But someday you and I will stand together in the great cathedral of heaven, and up front, by Jesus, will hang the most magnificent mosaic we could ever imagine, made up of thousands and thousands of our tiny responses to God's love in our lives."

A long time ago, Jesus told a crowd of people a story about how our lives will be reviewed and judged once all the big and little stories of our lives come to an end. He said that some people will hear this response: 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me.'"

For the least of these.
For the tiniest pieces of the human mosaic.

I'm off to do something tiny for somebody small.
What about you? What small thing have you done lately?
Has anyone done something small for you?
All the photos in this post were taken today at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens. A glorious day to capture images of the glory of creation.
Breathtaking beauty at every turn.
Yes, that was a living butterfly aflutter in the orchid house.

PS. Thanks, Laura, Andrew, and Caroline, for inspiring us to take this trip.