the grand promise

 

I’VE A THOUSAND RESOLUTIONS at the start of this new year, something I find thrilling. There’s nothing I love more than the chance to start again, to do it better, to make new commitments that add depth and beauty and enjoyment to life. 

One of these is morning devotional time. It is a practice that has been made more beautiful via two things: (1) New Morning Mercies, (a most thoughtful Christmas gift), and (2) Daily emails from Franciscan friar Richard Rohr. To heighten the intention, I’ve decided to record a sentence I find particularly meaningful from one of these teachings every day in my journal. It is a practice that has borne beautiful fruit; I find that I read with greater focus, and I consider more deeply the lessons shared there.

 

WHICH BRINGS TO MIND A QUESTION with which I have long struggled and one I find difficult to admit because it’s such a foundational Christian belief. (To tell you the truth, I’ve worked on this post for two weeks and am still not sure I’ve effectively articulated the point I’m trying to make. ) Still, here goes.

I believe in a God of love, an omnipotent God, the great I Am. And because of that Almighty Pure Love–so beyond our earthly comprehension–I don’t quite get why Jesus had to die on the cross. To be clear, I don’t mean I have trouble believing. What I can’t wrap my head around is the literal need for it. I struggle to reconcile God’s boundless love with a requirement that, for our sins to be forgiven, Jesus had to endure unconscionable pain and suffering.

It is a simplistic view, I am quite sure. And those who are more learned scholars–who have a much greater understanding of scripture, of the God of the Old Testament vs New, etc.–these people could no doubt offer perspective I am missing. Still Rohr’s January 4th meditation landed in my inbox and he offered an insight that made my heart flip. The crucifixion is not really a matter of substitutionary atonement, he writes, where “Jesus takes the punishment that this angry God intended for us.” Jesus died to show us, he says, that the other side of suffering is transformation.

Jesus did not come to change the mind of God about humanity. Jesus came to change the mind of humanity about God.

 Whoa, as they say.

Jesus shows us that the pattern of everything is death and resurrection. Jesus is the archetypal pattern for every life, including yours and mine. There will be suffering and death along with love, joy, and resurrection. Most of us are so resistant to accepting suffering that Jesus walked through it himself and said, “Follow me.” He showed us that on the other side of suffering is transformation. 

We had to see the pain, we had feel the ache in our bones to truly know and believe the pattern, which is evident in all things around us, which is life:

Suffering. Transformation. Resurrection.

 

 

In the cosmos, in nature, in our own lives.

 

 

 

It is faith, that’s what I believe, the grand promise.

Something beautiful will come of this.

 

 

Tomorrow will be better.

 

XXOO

I’ve written of Richard Rohr’s meditation series before on The Daily Grace, and perhaps you’ve already received the passage referenced here. If not, here is a link to the January 4th devotional, titled Original Blessing

 

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Most Popular Posts of the Year

I don’t pay much attention to analytics for The Daily Grace, a silly thing, really, since I am marketer by trade. But as I’ve scrolled through my own Bloglovin feed this week and noticed all the “Best of 2016” posts, I thought it might be fun to look back over the year to see what most struck your fancy.

Here goes!

 

A Letter to my Daughter Graduating from College

This one I first posted in 2015! It was popular then, and not surprisingly finds a new audience with each new crop of graduates and moms-of-graduates. 

 

 

An Interesting and Surprising Life

An interesting and surprising “most popular” because it is actually something I wrote in 2012! Tim I and were binging Friday Night Lights at the time and I was struck by a letter written by Tyra Collette about her college dreams. Also interesting? I wrote my own list of dreams for the post, and in the four years since have realized many of them. 

 

 

This is Us

I declared my love for this new television drama in October after the episode in which Kevin talks with his beautiful young nieces about our undeniable connection to each other, about the colorful tapestry that is life. It’s a message that bears repeating time and time again.

 

 

The Question to Ask When You Don’t Know What to Do

It seems I’ve waited all my life to learn this, and it’s been a solid guide to me since. True. So very true.

 

 

Rumination on Home

Poured from my heart to the page, this one is my favorite of the year.

 

 

The Right Words to Say

Writer Hannah Brencher gets to me in a powerful way, with her honest perspective and raw sensibility. How grateful I am for the lessons I learned from her in April.

 

 

Perfect Moments

My favorite photo of the year, and the story behind it is even more lovely. How I treasure my friends.

 

 

You’re Gonna Wanna See This

What a joy it was to revisit this story! On one of our first weekends in the mountains we discovered a ground nest of baby birds that (miraculously) survived the Great Weed Whacking that cleared an overgrown hill beside our house. There was an additional post later that tells Part 2 of the tale–one of  courage, adventure, and more than a little precious. Find it here: And Then This Happened.

 

It has been an honor to spend time with you, dear friends, via the pages of The Daily Grace. I am so happy you are here, and I wish you a joyful 2017 filled with more beautiful moments of grace than your heart can hold.

XXOO,

Cathy

 

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come thou long expected

This life is filled with beautiful moments of love and grace and joy. And there are miracles, large and small. Like the Christmas many years ago when I discovered our cat, Tiger, had nestled himself among the animals at the manger–not a shepherd or camel or angel disturbed.

My prayer for you, dear friend, is that the wonder of this holy night wraps around you with so much comfort and joy it lasts the whole year through. Merry, merry Christmas to you and yours!

in love

Love is not what you do; it is how you do it.

This sweet sentiment has clung to my heart since I first came across it in Richard Rohr’s daily message three days ago. One tiny thought in the midst of a meditation so beautiful, so moving…I’m telling you, every word.

Every. Word.

And still it was the sentence that stopped me in my tracks in one of those how can I have lived this long without knowing this ways.

 

I’D ALREADY HAD THE INSIGHT, may I just say that? At least I thought I had. The moment I moved from the teenage notion of love as an emotion, sweeping and powerful, to the grownup realization that love is, instead, a choice. An action. A decision you make. An intentional opening of your heart to that which may well be beautiful but is also imperfect; to the understanding sometimes that which seems least deserving of love is actually most…

Well, you know.

And then Richard Rohr writes this and sends it to me in an email.

Love is not what you do; it is how you do it.

 

It’s the grand answer, don’t you see? In this confusing time in which God has brought love to the forefront, in which there are a thousand examples in our contemporary culture of the need to come together, to reach across, to look through their eyes, to acknowledge, once and for all time, we are all connected. Each and every one of us.

To let love win.

 

MAYBE IT’S NOT POSSIBLE always to love, and maybe that’s okay.

(Maybe that’s not even called for.)

Maybe it’s enough simply to come at things in love.

Amen, Father Rohr.

Amen.

 

XXOO

 

To read the short meditation Disciples: Those Who Love Others, click here. If you’d like to receive Father Rohr’s daily meditations, you’ll find the signup link here. I hope they will bring you the joy, peace and insight they bring me.

All Together Now

 

Busy. Busybusybusy.

It’s the refrain of the holiday season, this time in which our To Do lists are monstrously long and the winter hours fly much too quickly. It’s the voice in my own head as I sit down to write this post. I try to quiet it, to breathe deep, and slow. 

Shake shake shake  goes my leg.

I consider the thousand other tasks I could accomplish if I focused on them, instead. Notes to be written. Gifts to be finished. Packages to be wrapped. Treats to be delivered. (This notion of the importance of Advent’s quiet reflection is well and good. But it doesn’t change the reality all the things have to get done. Am I right?)

Buzz buzz buzz goes my phone.

Wine. Wine could help. Wine would be lovely as I sit here in the quiet, the frasier fir festive and refreshingly un-demanding as it sparkles in the corner, perfectly content for me to look, or not. But we did go to a party last night. And the night before. And the night before that. I mean, clearly a little downtime is in order.

I’m getting the wine.

 

 

I should be better at this, is the thing, with the experience of years, with a stated intention of minimizing and simplifying and prioritizing, and a great big and very genuine desire to bring the right things into focus during this holy, holy season.

And then I remember Sunday’s sermon and Mike preaching how joy comes of chaos, that it was that way in Bethlehem, that it’s been that way since the beginning of time. That when things feel tumultuous and confusing and disorderly and lost–beauty will emerge. Something new is born.

Maybe it’s all just as it should be. 

Is that possible? 

Maybe all this activity–anxious, frenetic, excited–is just exactly what this expectant season calls for.

Maybe I could do Christmas cards. I could buy them tomorrow, get them signed and addressed and stamped and…

 

XXOO

 

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the raging dark

WE STRETCHED OUR THANKSGIVING weekend in the mountains one more day, giving us time to prep for some work we’re having done in December. It’s a decision that resulted in us being there for one of the most unsettling nights I’ve ever experienced, a violent windstorm raging outside our walls and windows as we lay in the dark trying to sleep.

It’s a strange thing, this being at 5,000 feet on the top of a mountain. Every sense feels heightened. The glory is grand and majestic, of course. But the weather is unpredictable, and an emergency service–fire, EMT, etc.–is 40 minutes away, at best. It’s a place where you learn the reward of isolation might just be offered in equal measure to the risk.

They were the thoughts in my head as the storm raged around us all night. My greatest fear was of an ancient tree falling on the house (a reasonable concern when you are located in a forest). The wind shook the windows and rain pelted the glass with such force it sounded like ice, or gunshot, or both. I clung to Tim’s words as he slept fitfully beside me:  This house has stood here for 38 years. It will be fine.

(Right.)

All of this is to say I had several hours to think in the dark and not-so-quiet of that night. And in my attempt to push the worry away, I turned my mind toward Advent.

 

the-storm

 

A FEW YEARS AGO our Sunday School studied the book of Daniel with Beth Moore. I particularly remember a surprising revelation she offered about great dramas playing out above us in the heavenlies. Angels fight for us, she said, as we go about our mortal days unknowing. It’s an idea that’s stuck with me these many months since, this consideration of angels that are not gentle and ethereal but active and passionate and at work. As I listened to the wind and rain in the darkness, it’s the image that came to mind. Perhaps what I’m hearing is a great and fierce angel battle, I thought, one our tired world could surely use amid the darkness of late. 

 

THESE HAVE BEEN difficult days, particularly so for many people I love: a terrifying cancer diagnosis; heartbreaking loss for a treasured friend; the unfathomable news a precious child is in an induced coma, the doctors searching for answers that won’t seem to come. 

It goes on and on and on, the awful list, one after the other after the other.  I desperately pray for each one. My heart aches heavy and swollen, and in my plea I reach for the words of writer/minister Winn Collier and the promise of this holy season of Advent:

We watch for Light. We pay attention to rhythm and sound and cadence. Our hearts look for signals. Our hearts lean forward. Light is coming.

In that night, through that storm, in this darkness, it’s a promise I cling to more than ever.

 

 

On Thanksgiving and Tradition (Redux)

This post first appeared on The Daily Grace on Thanksgiving Eve 2011. I repost it every year in honor of my mother, who passed away in February of 2013. It has become a Thanksgiving tradition, I guess you would have to say.

I wish you every blessing of this holiday week.

 

The past three nights I have had dreams of my mother. In each, I was the age I am now, living my current life. But her age changed—early 40s, then 80s, then some age in-between.

I know these dreams came to me because it is Thanksgiving and I will not see her. She and Dad live in a retirement community in another state, and for health reasons, no longer travel. We are staying here because it is my daughter’s first holiday from college. She needs some “home” time, and she will spend Thanksgiving day with her Dad and his family. Those grandparents, who face debilitating health challenges of their own, will be filled with joy to have her there.

It is the right decision.

Nevertheless, my mother is heavy on my mind. My dreams mark that small, tight space in which I live, wedged between aging parents and maturing children. I want more time with both, and still the demands of our lives—mine, my mother’s, my daughter’s—pull us in three radically different directions.

Here is what the dreams were about. In some pretty obvious ways, and some veiled, the situations represented traditions my mother established when we were a family of six: Mom, Dad, my three brothers and me. While “tradition” infused all aspects of our family’s life, from sports superstitions to station wagon vacations, the most vivid to me are still the holidays.

Thanksgiving at our house in Virginia was exactly the same every year. My grandmother lived next door, and my brothers rolled her wheelchair down the tiny hill that connected our yards to bring her to dinner. La-La wore fur in the cold mountain air and brought with her a green cut glass bowl of homemade cranberry sauce. She also made pineapple fritters, a treat reserved for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Mom roasted the turkey, always in a brown-n-bag (70s) which meant it could not be stuffed—a choice about which my father expressed disdain year after year after year. Still, he was the carver, and I can see him as clearly as if it were yesterday “testing” bite after juicy bite in that formica-countered, wood stain-cabineted kitchen while my mother instructed my oldest brother, Sutton, on the finer points of making giblet gravy.  (“Stir like hell!”) When we were seated, and Mom complained once again about not making the dining room big enough when they built the house in 1965, my brother Randy would ask of the table:

I wonder if next year we’ll remember asking this year if we would remember asking this last year?

 

In my family today—the one in which I am the mother—we have no such traditions. Instead, Thanksgiving is a surprise every year. In the early days I made my way back to my mother’s house, first as a single girl, then married, then divorced with a small child in tow. Then the small child learned to dance and Thanksgiving week was filled with an endless schedule of Nutcracker performances that kept us bridled to South Carolina.

 

Eliza, in blue, a Party Girl in The Nutcracker

I married again, bringing another branch to our beautiful, complicated family tree, and our celebrations diversified once more. I especially loved the years Tim’s mother, Dorothy, joined us for Thanksgiving. I can still see her in the kitchen, making the Monetti family’s traditional creamed onions—a novelty to me. One year, just after a break with the ballet company, we found ourselves with no Thanksgiving plans at all. Along with our dear friends, the Coles, we hopped a plane for New York City and the Macy’s parade. I ate pumpkin ravioli for Thanksgiving dinner; it was divine.

 

at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade

 

And so, you see, my daughter has grown up rather traditionless. Instead, her life has been filled with a cornucopia (forgive me) of holiday celebrations. And I ask myself why it is that I now regret this? Why has this thought invaded my dreams? I think it is that space that we find ourselves in, we Mothers Squeezed Between The Generations. Guilt lurks on either end. I regret that I haven’t established the traditions of my childhood in my own home, for my daughter; I feel guilty not abandoning all for the mere opportunity to be with my parents—a remarkable blessing in itself.

And so tomorrow will come, and Eliza will head out the door toward her Ellis family. I’ll pull the big turkey from the fridge, overstuff it with dressing, and load it on my Williams Sonoma roasting pan. Then while I watch my husband carve the big bird, sneaking bites every chance he gets—I will smile and stir the giblet gravy.

I will remember, Mom, to stir like hell.

 

 

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Moving forward.

 

sunrise
October 31, 2017

 

OF LATE I’ve been considering two words I don’t think I ever use but that keep presenting themselves to me. We are wrought, each and every one of us–worked into shape by artistry or effort all through our livesSometimes something beautiful emerges through guidance of a gentle, loving hand. And sometimes we are beaten into shape by tools; hammered.

Either way this shaping occurs, molding our character and testing our values and resilience.

And sometimes we are overwrought: wrought beyond reason; worked over; weary.  It’s what keeps coming to me as I try to come to terms with my feelings in the wake of the election. I am looking for a place to land and a point of view from which to move forward, praying our good Lord has a plan in light of all this hatred and division.

 

HOPE CAME IN THE FORM of a reasonable conversation via the indomitable Krista Tippet and her remarkable podcast, On Being. Recorded on October 26th (nearly two weeks before voting), Krista talks with  former U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey and “interfaith visionary” Eboo Patel about how to live beyond the election and how to “reimagine and re-weave the very meaning of common life and common good.” Among other things, they talk about the need to recognize a healthy, diverse democracy is one in which people can disagree on important, fundamental issues but continue to work together on others.

It’s so, so good, this conversation.  Listen to it here.

A lifeboat, really, filled with wisdom and love and grace, a reminder that each of us–on all sides of all issues–can be part of the light.

XXOO

 

 

Gifts of a New Day

 

It’s one of those things you wonder how you made it a lifetime not knowing.

~~~~~~~~~~~

We’d come to the mountains for a long weekend just the day before, arriving late and promising that since it would be Saturday, we really were going to sleep in. But morning came and our eyes opened and before you could say October we were out on that deck, coffee in hand.

There was the tiniest thread of light just along the ridge line.

 

moonrise1

 

We inhaled, exhaled, and gave thanks for another day.

But then I looked closer. There was also a rising crescent, a sliver so slight I wondered if my eyes were playing tricks. There, just above the mountain. What is that? I said to Tim. It looks like the moon.

I think it is, he said.

But it’s morning, I said. And that’s about where we expect the sun to rise.

I got my big lens, and this happened next.

 

moonrise4

moonrise5

 

It’s difficult to tell since the zoom changes from image to image, but just as the moon began to disappear, sure enough, right behind it (and just slightly west) came the sun.

 

moonrise3

sun1

 

sun-2

sun3

 

It was the New Moon, I’ve since learned, one that all these years, from the beginning of time, has risen with the sun.

Wow. And thanks and praise!

 

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This is Us.

 

I REALLY DIDN’T HOLD OUT much hope, to tell you the truth. The commercials were on ad nauseam and the promotion seemed too much. It was like one of those films for which all the good moments are shown in the previews leaving nothing to delight in during actual viewing.

But there is so little television Tim and I watch live these days. A new show, we both agreed–one with even with the tiniest modicum of promise–seemed a worthy spend of an hour.

What a good decision that turned out to be.

 

THIS IS US is a new drama on NBC that has stolen my heart. The storyline is meant “to challenge your everyday perceptions about the people you know and love,” a fine line to walk if ever I’ve seen one. In less skillful hands this show could go so wrong so fast. But so far, so good (there are a few exceptions*), and Tuesday night’s “The Game Plan” resolved nicely in a lovely and surprising way as Kevin shared a Painting of Life with his nieces.

 

 

AS I WATCHED I couldn’t help but think what an important message this is for our world today, for our country today, for each and every one of us, on every side of every issue.

What if we’re in the painting before we’re born, what if we’re in it after we die, and these colors that we keep adding—what if they just keep getting added on top of each other until eventually, we’re not even different colors anymore. Just one thing, one painting…There’s no you, or me, or them. There’s just us. 

 

image: NBC, This is Us
image: NBC, This is Us

 

And this sloppy, wild, colorful, magical thing that has no beginning, has no end, is right here. I think it’s us.

It’s us. There’s just us. Yes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*His making of the painting, perhaps. But the looks on the faces of those girls as he shares it way more than makes up for that bit of willing suspension. Right???