You’re Gonna Wanna See This

 

WE’VE BEEN IN THE MOUNTAINS for a few days while we get something-or-other done with the old oil tank that came with our new (old) mountain house. It’s a weekend place high in the Blue Ridge in North Carolina, and to date we’ve spent many happy hours working to get things in shape to suit us. This morning I washed up and rearranged as Tim took to the great outdoors, his might spent pushing a giant bushwacker through the jungled meadow that serves as our back yard. In the front, he changed to a super-sized weedeater, falling the mass of weeds that has overtaken the front, sides and back of our non-landscaped lot. It tickled me to watch him stomp around out there. It delighted me as well, as there was instant gratification for both of us in his work.

Then he surprised me at the side door.

You’re gonna wanna see this, he said, and so I followed.

 

OUR HOUSE IS BUILT into the side of the mountain, the driveway nearly at roof height with a slope and steps that lead to the low front door. The front of the house–all the way across–faces that slope, with a small covered porch that separates the structure from the land. It also serves as our exterior walkway–a route we take regularly. A bit of neglect and a healthy Spring had left the slope significantly overgrown and caused one to wonder–which I did quite verbally–what all might be slithering around beneath those small thickets.

And he had gone to town cleaning it up, my sweet husband, whacking it down with a wild abandon that belied any worry of snake-ige hiding there.

There were other tasks that needed doing (aka clearing parts of the meadow) and so he moved on. A couple of hours later he came around the house’s corner to find me. I followed him to the porch and we stood there together, staring at that cleared slope.

What is it, I said, not seeing.

There, he said. Look there.

Not four feet in front of us was this.

 

nestintheground

 

Exposed but miraculously unharmed was a most perfect ground nest of tiny baby birds. And they were hungry.

 

babies

 

Mama and Papa hovered about.

 

inthetree
a sweet dark-eyed junco

 

They were both a little squeamish (who can blame?) but fully intent on feeding their babies.

 

feedone

 

all-in

 

We stood there for the longest while watching the action, thinking what a joy it was see this up close, right at eye level. Thinking how profound it is the babies survived at all, what with the stomping around and the–heaven forbid–whirring of that weed wacker.

They are our four little treasures, that’s for sure, a sweet bird family welcoming us to the mountains and reminding us once again:

Miracles happen every day.

 

last

 

 

 

Never want to miss a Daily Grace? Leave your email here and I’ll happily send a notice whenever there’s a new post.

when small is big

IMG_5815

 

I’d just turned into the rainy parking lot when I saw several of my co-workers returning from lunch. Notable among them was my friend, Kevin, tucked–exactly as you would expect if you know Kevin–beneath a perfectly tasteful black umbrella. We waved at each other as I pulled into my spot and began gathering my things for an afternoon of meetings.

I happened to glance into my rearview mirror when I saw him coming back across the pavement. Clearly he’d reached the front door and had done an about-face, splashing toward me in a pretty good downpour, his mission to get me tucked in for a safe, dry journey across the parking lot.

It was a kindness that touched me. I’d brought my own umbrella–quite uncharacteristically–which made Kevin’s generous, thoughtful gesture all the more sweet.

Thank you, dear friend.

 

Want more Daily Grace? Leave your email here!

In Support of Miracles

I’VE BEEN THINKING A LOT LATELY about miracles, the sort wherein you pray for something highly improbable, all the while doing your best to hang on to the belief that anything is possible.

More than once I’ve said it out loud–to a friend, to my family, to myself. Miracles. Do. Happen.

They do.

Don’t they?

 

WE WERE EXPECTING our dear friends, the Coles, for an impromptu It’s-Nearly-Summer-Let’s-Eat-On-The-Porch Saturday night when I heard such a raucous on Bickley’s pond I stepped to said porch to investigate. Clearly it was the Canada Geese, an odd collection this Spring that includes a core family with four babies and various and sundry other couples and loners that come and go in welcome–and unwelcome–fashion. There have been loud, physical fights on a regular basis, but this one seemed to be getting out of hand. A grove of trees stood between me and the fuss and so I grabbed my camera and headed to the back yard for a closer look.

Things had quieted down by the time I got to the water’s edge and it only took a glance to my right to understand why. The sweet family was there, intact, but their attention was turned toward an adjacent sandbar. On it lay another big goose, its long neck stretching against the sand, the body unmoving. Three or four other geese lolled about in the water while the still one’s wild, panicked mate screamed and flapped her wings, hitting with such force it raised the goose’s head, only to have it fall back to the earth flat, lifeless, dead. Then she took her beak and grabbed at its neck and lifted, squealing, begging. Over and over and over.

It was to no avail.

 

IMG_0284

 

IMG_0283

 

IMG_0281

 

I RAN TO THE HOUSE for my phone and quickly dialed my friend (and expected dinner guest) Jay, executive director of Carolina Wildlife Center. “Get here fast,” I said, relaying the story. “The goose is probably dead, but maybe there’s something we can do.” And then I ran again for the water.

What I saw there I could hardly take in. The pond was silent, and the sandbar was empty.

I looked all around. The sweet goose family and the miscellaneous others floated quietly away from me and the crime scene. There was no body there, no evidence anything had happened at all.

Could an eagle have gotten him?

Could he have been merely stunned?

Is it even possible he is one of those out there now, carelessly floating away?

 

IMG_9989
moving on

 

 

OURS IS A GOD who can do anything, this we know, and as is so often the case when something has been on my mind, it was our Sunday School lesson the very next morning. Along with the work in our study book, Dr. Bragan reminded us how important it is to think of God as “in here,” yes. But He is also the God of “out there,” a God so great and distant from our mortal understanding as to require great faith, and awe.

 

I CAME HOME FROM CHURCH still thinking about that goose and about the other significant things in my world requiring prayer and hope. Tim pulled the car in and something caught my eye as I looked toward the back yard, toward that pond. “I’ve got something to investigate,” I told him as I exited the garage and walked to the back yard.

There it was.

 

feather
my promise of the angel’s presence and God’s love

 

A giant feather–a giant white feather–in the grass of our upper yard, far from the water but near the side porch, just where I could see it. A reminder to me that God’s love is pure, and that miracles do happen.

Every single day.

XXOO

 

I’d love to send you an email when there’s a new post on The Daily Grace. Just leave your email here.

a letter to my daughter graduating from college

(first posted April 29, 2015)

My sweet girl,

Today you take the final exam of your college career–your final finals as we have been calling them. While that in itself is reason to rejoice (!), I know there are a thousand other emotions moving inside you, like ocean swells that become waves that crash into each other in an approaching storm. It’s a funny thing to be the Mom of a daughter facing these confusing and conflicting feelings. I have been in the same place, on the same campus, facing the same things. I know your heart like I know my own: half sad and hopeless, half ready to move on. Fearful, yes, but nevertheless feeling that tug toward what’s next.

It’s just life, this tug of what’s next. It’s how God keeps us moving along our journey. That’s something you know but somehow it is of little comfort when emotions run so wild. Right?

Let me put your mind at ease on the two thoughts that I expect most weigh you down.

1. You are ready.

There is no experience like college (particularly at Clemson, which is ideal in this way) and for many of us, it will always be a pinnacle time in life. This is a good thing! It happens because it’s the perfect match up of want and need. College is an immersion in a life buffet–you only need fill your plate with the things that interest you and that move you along on your big life journey. Classes, clubs, relationships, parties, travel, lectures, sports, activities–a little of this, a little of that–and each one plays a part in getting you ready for the big world waiting for you out here. It’s all rather remarkable, I think.

But then years pass and you begin to get your fill. The food still looks good, but somehow you’re not so hungry anymore.

It’s God’s way of telling you it’s time to make a move. He knows because He’s provided everything you need to be ready for the next chapter. You are more mature, more grounded, more confident. You’re better at making your own decisions. You have a better sense of who you are. (Okay, so maybe not completely, but you definitely have a better sense of who you are not and that is just as important.) You know how to navigate, how to get from here to there, how to read the proverbial map and ask the right questions and work through problems that arise along the way. You know how to make the difficult calls, have the tough conversations, face the inevitable consequences. You’re finding out what drains you, and also, what brings you powerful energy and great, giddy joy.

You’ve had four years of practice on a demanding college campus. But the walls are closing in. You’re ready for a bigger stage.

2. You get to take the people that matter to you with you when you go.

It’s so true.

You’ve developed relationships with some remarkable people who’ve been an important part of your growth in college. These connections won’t just sever and die when you leave campus.  Those who matter to you will be an important part of your future, as well.

Chief among these, of course, are your friends. Guys and girls with whom you’ve spent time, who’ve influenced the person you’ve become. And most particularly the deep dear friendships of your tightest circle. How lucky you are to be surrounded by such strong, intelligent, beautiful women. How lucky they are to have you! As you hug goodbye to begin new chapters in different cities, rest assured in the knowledge these friendships will only deepen as you all move on. Life has a funny way of making sure this happens–it will challenge you in ways that demand you reach out and hold on to each other for support. I know from my own beautiful experiences–you will be there for each other in ways you can’t even imagine. They are your circle for life, these women, and you will lean on each other as things change over the next 10, 20, 30, 40 years and more. How you will need each other for strength, for guidance, for honesty. For keeping it all in check. And for laughter and fun. For the rest of your lives, when you girls are together the laughter will come as easily as it does today. With no work, with no effort, the laughter will always come.

There’s so much grace in that, I think.

Anyway, my sweet girl. There you are on that threshold. In front of you is a big, beautiful world filled with so much. I can’t wait to see you gobble it all up.

You are ready. It’s time.

Love, love, love,

Mama

girls
my girls

I’d love to send you an email each time there’s a new post on The Daily Grace. Just leave your email here!

in the mountains

theview

 

We sat there on the deck not really talking, not doing much more than casting our eyes out across the long view, trying to take it all in. Such a vast look across so much nature is so big, so powerful–mountains that roll and climb and dip for miles in every direction, land meeting sky in a huge and gentle reckoning of the earth’s majestic glory.

And then without fanfare the fog rolled in, an unannounced guest at our high elevation gathering.

 

in-the-fog

 

And suddenly we were cocooned in light, the world no bigger than the field and trees before us.

 

XXOO

 

Want more Daily Grace? Leave your email here!

for love of april

It’s an interesting thing to take photos every day then to look back over them as you build a monthly slide show. My guide is blogger FatMumSlim’s daily prompt, an exercise I really enjoy because it forces me to keep my eyes open and to look at the world in new ways.

April found me celebrating my husband’s return home after more than three years working in Mississippi, where he traveled each Monday morning and returned to South Carolina late Thursday night. It also found me in Great Falls, Virginia, spending a gleeful five days with my dearest high school friends. There was a gathering of college besties, a couple of trips to the mountains, and plenty of sweet Little Bit time.

(I even got a day or two with my sweet Eliza.)

There were bird nests, bird eggs, and baby birds galore. What a happy, happy month it was and how I love looking back over it all with a full, grateful heart. There is so much to love about April!

 

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
This photo slideshow personalized with Smilebox

 

 

I’d love to send an email whenever there’s a new post on The Daily Grace. Just leave your email here!

Perfect Moments

 

trio-plus-one
the tea party

 

IT IS MOST CERTAINLY not a stock photo, although it is just the perfect kind of moment such a photographer would hope to create. It is, instead, real life: four pals sharing a birthday tea in the pretty light of early November; four friends donning their Halloween best–which just happens to be a delightful lineup of jewel-toned princess gowns and a denim prince, slightly rolled cuffs, high-tops and all. There is the one bare foot (adorable), and did you notice? Every cupcake has a giant candle.

I’ve thought of this scene a thousand times since it first caught my eye, rolling along, as it did, amid countless others on my Facebook wall. I was captivated, and so I messaged its share-er, my sweet friend, Elizabeth, for details. The tea was a celebration of all their birthdays, she explained, the four friends having been born within weeks of each other. Their mothers met in lamaze class and formed a tight circle that continues today.

What a beautiful story, I thought. How happy I am to have come upon the photograph, to have asked.

 

IT’S GREAT TO LIVE in a time when such connection is possible, don’t you think? It’s remarkable to have such a view. Elizabeth is someone I treasure, a friend I rarely see because of the geography that separates us. But through Facebook I feel a part of her world. I get peeks at her life and loves including a beautiful daughter, Catherine, and a pretty-in-pink granddaughter, Arya.

Just yesterday we had a message exchange that brought me so much joy I thought I might burst.

Is all well with you, my friend? I wrote.

Yes, Elizabeth responded. My life is just about right–my get up & go falls right in step with my desire & destination.

My life is just about right.

That, my dear ones, is perfection.

 

XXOO

 

I’d love to send you an email each time there’s a new post on The Daily Grace. Just leave your email here.

The Right Words To Say

Still one of my faves 18. Open #fms_open #fmsphotoaday #latergram

 

IT’S THE KIND OF POST that gets me to click right away–the promise of just the right words to say, or how to comfort a friend who is hurting or three things we all need to hear. There’s something I’m drawn to in the possibility of a neat little word package I can tuck away, then call on anytime my mortal old self just can’t seem find the right combination.

What a gift that would be in a world with so much woe.

It’s certainly not what I expected when I clicked on the link to an essay by Hannah Brencher via her Monday email #94 titled, quite simply: Abide.

She gets me, Hannah does, young as she is, and so wide open and unfiltered. (In all honesty, I know it probably takes the girl hours to achieve the level of spontaneity her posts suggest.) Still there’s a real beauty to her unsettled spirit, a twenty-something young woman out there preaching her own gospel of a life filled with longing, searching out the things that matter most. It’s a quest she’ll continue for years to come–that’s what I want to tell her–the answers changing color and intensity and texture as she moves from one life season to the next. It’s a quest she’ll find as terrifying and rewarding in her 56th year as in her 26th.

But oh what she gains by being brave enough to ask the questions.

 

SHE ANSWERED TWO OF MINE in her ABIDE essay is the point I want to make. Touching a soul spot in her lament over the need for greeting cards with genuine, honest sentiments, she writes:

The world needs more cards that touch the hard stuff, the crappy situations, and the days when you wish you could escape out of your own skin and be someone else. I know I have those days. I know a lot of other people who have those days too and they’d probably appreciate some sort of card showing up in their mailbox that says, “You’re not really feeling it right now. I get it. I’m with you. It won’t be like this forever.” 

It won’t be like this forever. How powerful is that simple sentence? How many times in my life have I needed to hear it? How many times could I have brought comfort just by saying it?

 

HANNAH OFFERS ANOTHER wished-for card saying in the post, one that touched me so immediately it tucked itself up and has hung close ever since. It’s a phrase that came to her as part of an answered prayer, a God-wink that appeared when she asked for a sign. I’ve thought of it a thousand times as I’ve moved through my own week planning, wondering, worrying.

Be where your feet are.

That’s the message God brought her, she wrote in her Monday Morning email, a message that packed its own powerful punch when it landed with me. I, too, battle to stay present and to live in the moment and to accept what is rather than pressing the forward or rewind button of my life. But this little sentence so direct and true makes it easier, somehow, less overwhelming and theoretical, and more real life, here, now. Be where your feet are.

Hannah goes on to write:

He didn’t say, “pack your suitcase and go.” I would have liked that. Instead, it was this gentle reminder: stay with me. Don’t run wild in your head looking for answers and solutions and trying to solve problems that aren’t yours to solve. Just calm down and stick close.

It’s God’s reminder not to run from that which is refining you, she says.

How I love that thought. How I needed to hear it.

Thank you, Hannah Brencher. Thank you for your light in this world.

 

Note: You can follow Hannah Brencher’s blog here.

 

Want more Daily Grace? Just leave your email here and I’ll be happy to email you when there’s a new post!

 

 

Oh my. Spring.

 

I’ve spent my birding hours by and large obsessed with the sweet Bluebirds. And no wonder–they are treasured friends with whom I have shared the immense joy of two successful nests and the heartbreak of so much else: abandoned nests, overnight attacks, snake annihilation. And so I’ve been tickled this spring to have another birdhouse family to watch. It’s a precious Chickadee couple who’ve taken up residence in a newly placed nestbox placed in perfect view of my dining table bay window. How they dart about, those Chickadees, making my heart sing.

So much so, in fact, I’ve hardly mentioned the front porch nest identified by my cousin, Meg, who knows about such things. She’s a Phoebe, Meg said, when I complained that it was probably a sparrow who would do nothing more than make a mess and attract snakes.

(Still, we’d kept the porch light off and have tried to respect her privacy.)

Until this afternoon, that is, when I made my bird rounds.

First I visited the Chickadee who was hunched down on the nest and didn’t flinch when I opened the viewing hatch.

 

mama chick
Don’t you love her?

 

The bluebird eggs looked fine, but Mama Blue was no where around. This concerns me, I have to say, as she’s abandoned the early nest so many times. (She knows best, I realize. But still.)

 

blues

 

And then I cajoled my husband into bringing the big ladder to the front porch where I might get my first good peek at the other nest.

You could of knocked me over with a feather, so to speak.

 

tucked in close behind the front porch lantern

 

A whole pack of precious baby birds right there at my front door.

 

how many are there?

 

and they're hungry!

 

There they were, tucked in behind one of the lanterns that flanks our front door. I can hardly imagine how she built that nest, much less successfully incubated them!

There’s lots of Phoebe feeding to come. And lots of growing to be done by a whole peck of babies in a tiny, tiny space. There’s also a great risk of nest attack, this I know.

So I will keep my fingers crossed, this time for them all–Phoebes, Bluebirds and Chickadees alike.

Oh, Spring. Oh, my. Spring!

 

I’d love to send a notice each time there’s a post on The Daily Grace. Just leave your email here!

 

 

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

 

A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO I mentioned my lenten walk across the internet–a bit of a dichotomy, I recognize, and one that still seems silly to acknowledge. And yet it is a journey that continues to bear fruit. My reading list now includes a handful of writers/bloggers who open my heart in ways beautiful and lasting.

Case in point a recent post from Kelly Chripczuk of A Field of Wildflowers. It’s worthy of a read for the title alone: “What I Wanted and What Love Offered.” Oh, and the subtitle: Grace and the Salt and Pepper Hang-over.

(Right?)

Kelly writes beautifully about the stifling disappointment of morning-after, not-enough-sleep, {we’ve-all-been-there} regret.

I had ruined that which I was looking forward to, my morning of writing and stretching, the feeling of forward momentum and accomplishment as I checked off my list of goals.  But it was what it was and I worked hard to not attach to the thoughts of judgment and condemnation that flew around my brain like a flock of scattered birds.

Instead, I asked myself what Love would do, what I would tell my kids if, when, they find themselves in the same predicament.

Love offered a nap.

Love said, “It is what it is.”

Oh, yeah.

 

IT IS THE QUESTION that’s come to mind a thousand times in the week since I came upon Kelly’s post, the answer to a hundred dilemmas as they’ve come in and out of focus. There is a lot going on, after all, considerable change as life moves from one season to another, as I navigate waters that churn and chop like a boat making a decisive turn. It’s the thought that comes as my own hopes and fears come into direct contact with those of the people around me, people I love, as well as people with whom I have no particular relationship but a passing one–the overloaded dressing room attendant, the distracted young waitress at a new restaurant, an acquaintance with an email request I don’t have time for. Since reading Kelly’s post, what has come to mind with each interaction and decision, each response or action I’ve needed to take is this:

What would Love do?

 

heart-cloud

 

THERE IS ONE OTHER THING worth mentioning, another thought resurrected by Kelly’s post and brought back to my soul’s center from which it had slipped but where it most surely belongs. It is the great truth also espoused by the spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle in his powerful work, A New Earth:

Love What Is.

Oh dear friends. We can go a thousand miles on that one.

XXOO

 

Want more Daily Grace? Leave your email here and I’ll notify you when there’s a new post!