To live in a world
where you can step right outside your own front door
to find something this beautiful
this filled with promise—
sometimes I am overwhelmed
with the wonder of it all.
Three sweet little things I want to tell you about.
It’s something that doesn’t happen often when you live in South Carolina, but sometime in the dark early hours Sunday morning, I woke up cold. We haven’t yet turned on the heat, and temperatures outside—unbeknownst to me—had dropped into the 40s. Chilled, I curled into a tighter ball and tried to fall back to sleep. ~ Not long after, my husband-the-early-riser got up for the day. In the dark and cold, he pulled the down comforter from the basket beside our dresser and, thinking I was still asleep, quietly lofted it over me and tiptoed from the bedroom. What a thoughtful thing to do I thought, snuggling beneath the blankets. What a sweet bit of love.
The sermon was so good I was taking notes. Seriously—writing things down in the margins of my church bulletin. And that’s about the time the tickle started in my throat that signaled a serious cough on the rise. I tried to suppress it, to hold it back, but this dang cough insisted on itself and I knew I had to get out or I was going to ruin the sermon for every person in our congregation. I made a run for it and hid out in a Sunday School corner until I could calm my loud, scratchy cough. Recovered, I tiptoed back to the door that leads to the choir loft. Just as I reached for the knob the cough started up again, this time with an even greater vengeance. ~ Eventually, I slipped back into my seat. There waiting for me on the cushion (as if manna from heaven) someone had placed an unassuming little cough drop. What a simple little thing, I thought again, gratefully unwrapping it. And how very thoughtful.
You know what it’s like to go on a wonderfully fun trip, then have to face that first day back in the office? There’s great terror about what you’ll find on your desk, what “issues” have collected that are sitting there, as if in wait. ~ It’s just what I faced last week when I came home from the remarkable Oprah weekend in Washington, DC. Backpack over my shoulder, water bottle in my hand, I bravely opened the door to my office and took a courageous look. Here’s what I found.
I smiled, knowing the pretty feather napkins had been left for me by my friend and co-worker, Katy. What a happy little surprise, I thought. How very thoughtful.
There are people in this world who are good at thoughtful. Don’t you agree? They smooth life’s rough edges with tiny little gestures—unassuming offerings that soften the way. Their thoughtful doesn’t scream, or demand acknowledgement, or seek the spotlight. Instead it slips into life quietly, passing under the radar, content to be a gentle little voice heard deep in the heart.
I know you. I care. I want to help, says thoughtful. And I don’t need a single thing in return.
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To those who have not yet learned the secret of true happiness
Begin now to study the little things, in your own door yard.
George Washington Carver
Many, many years ago, I was standing at the movie popcorn counter (so long ago the movie was An Officer and a Gentleman) when I began to feel faint. The next thing I knew I was lying on the floor looking up into the concerned face of my boyfriend–a face that in that moment was familiar but that I couldn’t place. I remember working hard to figure out where I was, feeling as if I were making my way back into consciousness and my body. More specifically, I remember scanning and thinking Okay now, which life is this?
And that’s not the most interesting part of the experience. What’s more remarkable was the sense I had just before “waking” that I was in a space of complete calm and serenity. For a nanosecond, and in a nanosecond, every gigantic life question I had was answered, every grand mystery was solved. It was as if the universe unfolded before me, perfect and complete, and I felt no struggle or doubt at all, just a deep and divine understanding of how it all works, how it has worked since the beginning of time.
I was questionless, and therefore, at complete peace.
I felt a similar moment of divine clarity last weekend at Oprah’s The Life You Want Conference. In a magnificent red dress, Oprah opened the conference with two hours of the personal stories that ignited her passion for helping others find and manifest their own calling. If you want to live the highest expression of yourself, she said, you cannot go about it passively. You have to pay attention to your intention. Then she put it more simply.
You become what you believe, not what you wish for.
You are living the reality of your beliefs right now.
I heard her, and I wrote it down. And then I sat there in that dark venue surrounded by thousands and thousands of people unable to let go of the thought, unable to hear what came next. Instead I sat there thinking about how true the concept is, how layered, how profound. I thought about how much of my life is joyful, and how my beliefs have shaped that joy. And then I got honest about the time I’ve spent wrestling, how much energy I’ve devoted to the ’round and ’round dance of intention and doubt. What space will open up, I wonder, when I acknowledge and deal with my true beliefs?
What a gift it is to move on through life with the clarity that this is how it works.
You become what you believe, not what you wish for.
Thank you, Oprah. Thank you.
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As I write this, I’m sitting at Reagan National waiting to board a flight home. People are rushing, televisions are blaring, airlines are screaming announcements–noise is layered on noise in a way that makes my heart race and my blood pressure rise. Why On Earth does USAirways think we need CNN blasting on top of all this?
I hear so much I can’t hear anything.
I realize that’s what happens in my own life so much of the time. I am an over-thinker and a multi-tasker, intent on being as life-efficient as possible. I work out how I can start a load of laundry, chop vegetables for dinner, download an audiobook and update my computer’s software all at the same time. I think about what I’m doing, what I should be doing instead, what I’m going to do next, what I just did, how I could have done it differently. I try to work through problems, rehearse conversations, rehash situations, reconsider every angle.
It’s ridiculous, quite frankly.
It’s also exhausting.
And it was a primary topic at Oprah’s The Life You Want Weekend.
GIANT TAKEAWAY #1
Your life whispers to you all the time. If you don’t get still and listen, the whisper will become a pebble making some serious waves. And before you know it, the pebble’s become a brick upside your head.
Do I know this one. Man, have I lived it. And so I recognize the importance of getting quiet and paying attention to the things my life is telling me.
Thanks, Oprah, for a powerful reminder.
Up next: GIANT TAKEAWAY #2 from Oprah’s The Life You Want Weekend.
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Not much on my life list ranks as high as seeing Oprah Winfrey live. So when I got an email last Spring announcing her The Life You Want Weekend tour, I jumped at the chance.
O did not disappoint. Inspiring, informative and incredibly entertaining, I loved it all. And I can’t wait to tell you about it! We’ll just start with this:
If you can attend any of the remaining O weekends, do it! If not, check back here as I dig into my Oprah Journal to share bits of wisdom from the gathering.
Did I mention it was so cool.
Til next time!
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There they were just beside the steps to our side porch, two sweet feathers caught on the branches of our growing (wildly) Nandina. The splattering of other tiny ones across the driveway let me know the scene that had unfolded there earlier in the afternoon was probably not a peaceful one. Still the site of this soft, pretty duo gave me pause, and so I snapped a photo.
I hope it makes you smile. I hope it reminds you you are loved.
You are cherished, indeed.
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I have a new writing desk in my so-fun studio downstairs. It’s a swell little grey number on rollers, the perfect size to fit between the brick columns that previously defined the room as an open air porch. Last November we closed it all in, creating the most wonderful space for me to paint, write, make things, play.
The desk itself, as I said, is there between the columns, centered on a gigantic window that looks out over our back yard and just beyond, Bickley’s Pond.
It makes me so happy.
I was doing a little work in that very spot this week when I happened to glance up from my laptop screen to get this pretty view of the zinnia bed. It is so filled with flowers it is truly ridiculous. And yet I can’t bring myself to thin them out. For some reason, I am much more content to just watch the show as stem after stem does its best to outshine and out dance its neighbors. I reached for my camera and took a shot without getting up from my chair, not realizing the window’s frame partially blocked the view.
It was a good mistake, I think, the smudgy bottom edge adding an interesting element to the photo I didn’t intend at all.
Don’t you love it when that happens?
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How cool it was to have an up close view of the Williams sisters as they played doubles in the U.S. Open this year. Every point was as powerful as I expected. Then they walked toward each other, gently slapped hands, and oh so quietly shared a private word or two.
They did it every point, win or lose.
I became totally enthralled with this routine, wondering what on earth they were saying to each other. By now, surely, Venus and Serena know tennis well enough to not need point-by-point coaching. Surely, after a million points in a hundred thousand matches, they can read each other’s minds. I mean, they’re sisters. Do they do it to psyche-out their competitors? Perhaps. Or maybe they’re just offering each other a little good job or nice hit or I got your back.
That’s what I’m hoping. At the heart of the power and might that is The Williams Sisters, I’m hoping these intimate exchanges are their strength, their connection.
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I noticed it there the first afternoon of our weekend in New York, a glass jar tucked quietly into a corner on Colette’s kitchen counter. It was stuffed with little pieces of paper that bulged beyond the rim in an unusual—and interesting—way.
Eventually I asked: That jar. What’s the story there?
What a beautiful answer I got!
It started the afternoon one of Julia’s teachers helped her study for a test, said Colette, my hostess, sister-in-law, and the mother of my beautiful college freshman niece, Julia. (You’ve read of her before here on The Daily Grace.) Julia mentioned to the teacher that she loved the scarf she was wearing, and the teacher took it off, wrapped it around Julia’s neck, and said it would make her very happy if Julia would just keep it.
“That was just the nicest thing!” said Julia when she later told her Mom the story. “It meant so much to me, I want to always remember it.”
So they decided to write the memory down on a slip of paper and keep it in a “Nicities” jar right there in their busy kitchen. Each time something special happened during the year, they would make a note and add it to the collection.
“You know what’s amazing?” said Colette, her eyes sparkling. “We started the Nicities jar during Julia’s Senior year. It was the perfect time—Senior Year is so intense, filled with so much pressure. It made a huge difference to all of us to focus on the nicest moments.”
What a beautiful way to bring quiet grace to light.
I think I’ll make a Nicities jar for my kitchen today. And I think I’ll start with this:
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