Day 11: Shouts and Whispers

IMG_3358I was listening to the radio on the long drive to Florida, a marathon of goodness via Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday series. There was so much to love in every single conversation. But then Iyanla said this, and it cut right through and took up residence in that I Know It’s True place in my heart.

God whispers to us in our pleasure,

speaks in our conscience,

but shouts in our pain. 

Of course, C.S. Lewis, you are right. When I don’t hear the whispers, the voice gets louder and louder until—well, as you say, it becomes impossible to ignore. I am grateful for this powerful reminder why.

 

30 Days of Grace III

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Day 9: Shoe Therapy

I was having a retail moment—in passing through TJ Maxx on the way to something I actually need, I spotted an incredible pair of shoes that I stopped to try on—when I overheard a conversation that caught my attention. It was an exchange between two ladies who obviously hadn’t seen each other in a while. I couldn’t see either of them, separated as we were by a tall rack of shoes.

Hey girl said the first voice.

Hey there said the second, with an inflection that let you know this was a pleasant surprise. Good to see you. You doin’ alright?

Oh, said the first (and here there was a definite pause).

I guess I got no complaints. (another pause) I don’t reckon it would do any good anyway. Ain’t nobody wantin’ to listen to a bunch of complaining.

You’re right about that, said two. And they both laughed.

I laughed, too.

~~~~~

How true, I thought. Ain’t nobody wantin’ to listen to a bunch of complaining. And yet that’s just where we tend to go when talking about our lives, isn’t it?  Even in brief exchanges or surface conversations, what we feel most compelled to share is the bad, the ugly, the difficult.

Why do we do that? Why, when we all already know:

Life is hard.
Each of us carries a heavy burden.
No one of us is immune.

And yet when we connect to one another, we tend to weigh down rather than lift up. How significant would it be if that moment—How you doin’?—opened the door to a little sliver of light and grace?

Is that even possible?

(A little soul searching is in order for this rather guilty party.)

I’d love to know what you think.

30 Days of Grace III

be_kind

my favorite reminder

 

 

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Day 8: The Promise

I can’t explain how it came to be planted at the corner of our house, on the edge of the bed beside the driveway. We built the house, after all, and we oversaw the landscaping plan. You’d think I’d have paid great attention to that particular spot, as it is the one I see as I enter and exit the house a thousand times a day.

Nevertheless it is there, this thing I call a “tulip tree.”

What is her issue? you may be wondering.

It’s pink, for starters.

And it blooms too soon.

This thing buds out, you see, in February. February! When the temperature is likely to be unreasonably cold and the threat of a deep freeze looms with every sunset. I worry about that tree from the moment those buds emerge. And if they make it to March (an unlikely bet, is what I’m saying), they bloom leafless (!), a wild burst of fuchsia that’s made a grand ballroom entrance—only to discover the party has yet to begin.

Until this year, that is.

This year, I spotted those buds and (I cannot tell a lie) my heart leapt at their promise.

bud one

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The blooms unfolded, one after the other after the other, and I rejoiced.

Spring is coming.

How happy I am my tulip tree has the courage to be the first one to the party.

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30 Days of Grace III

 

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Day 7: What Alexandra Taught Me

The halls of our church are lined with artwork created by the children of the Providence Presbyterian Child Development Center. They’re holding a fundraiser, you see, an art show to raise money for scholarships and playground equipment.

As I turned the corner to Sunday School, I looked up to see this.

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What a beautiful interpretation of a profound truth. God can love the wohle world. And He does!

(Thank you, Alexandra.)

30 Days of Grace III

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Day 4: For Love of Ash Wednesday

And so it is Lent, a time to draw—with reverent intention—closer to God. I have always loved this quiet season, this time of deep reflection that begins with the solemnity of the Ash Wednesday service.

you are dust, and to dust you shall return

We had received the imposition of ashes when she turned to me, our foreheads marked, and said: What have you decided about Lent?

It was my dear friend, Donna, a woman I believe to be an angel on this earth.

Oh I said without much conviction. I’ve been thinking about keeping a Lenten journal. Of course I’ve tried it the last three years, and I have yet to accomplish writing every day. So I’m not sure why I think it’s such a great idea. And then I kind of laughed.

She looked me right in the eye. Then she smiled in her beautiful Donna way.

Maybe every day doesn’t matter she said, with heart. Maybe writing once a week, or just when you need to, is enough.

I have to tell you, I had to think about that a sec.

She waited patiently, my friend did. And then she added this.

God doesn’t divide time into 24-hour segments, you see. We do that. Our time is not God’s time.

 

Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern

 

Donna is right, of course. God’s time is not our time is a concept that is not foreign to me. I understand we wildly impatient humans must trust that all of life unfolds in an arc of time that extends from creation, an arc not marked by our earthly calendar. “God’s time,” yes. But there is something new to me in reversing the idea, in pointing it the other direction. Our time is not God’s time. And so God, too, is patient, giving us the wide berth we need to journey, to find our bumbling way along His time continuum.

It is a thought that allows me to exhale in a profound way. It is an insight that fills me with extraordinary peace. You see, I too often view my life as a series of To Do lists—a daily accounting of things to be accomplished, compounding tasks that require a rising level of competence and speed. And at the end of most days, when I put my head on the pillow and look back over it all, what I most often feel is frustration. And stress. Oh yes, stress.

But our time is not God’s time.

There is no stopwatch. There is only an endless pool of love and acceptance and grace, grace that wraps around us, imperfect us, grace full and glorious and holy.

I exhale. And then I offer thanks to God for giving me work to do and for giving me time—His time—to get it done.

Amen. Amen.

30 Days of Grace III

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*Thank you to my sweet friend, Sarah Stumpo, for allowing me to use this photo she took at the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul. What a beautiful way to step into Lent.

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Day 3: Warm, and Safe, and Dry

photoWhat a gift it is to go to bed early, to sink into the layers of flannel sheets and thick covers, and to be transported to another time and place through the pages of a great book.

On this cold, cold night—an unexpected blast following a full-on Spring weekend—here I am cozy and warm listening to the wind as it howls against the screen porch door. What a blessing it is, I think, to be here, a novel in my hands, my greatest worry (for the moment) how 13-year-old Theo Decker will ever find his way out of the bombed Metropolitan Museum. And where is his mother?

Turning around didn’t work; going backwards didn’t work; so I decided to crawl forward, hoping that things would open up, and soon found myself inching along painfully with a smashed, desperate feeling and my heard turned sharply to one side.*

A few more paragraphs I think. Then a few more pages. Then, I’ll just read to the end of the chapter, to see what happens.

I think I shall acknowledge it as the grace of this day, the fact that I can be there in that awful rubble with Theo, then simply close the cover of the book, turn out the light, and fall fast asleep in my warm, safe bed.

*from The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt 

 

30 Days of Grace III

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Day 1: For A Song

I stopped for a quick glance out the door and there s/he was, my sweet guardian mockingbird, perched on a branch of the crape myrtle just at the curve of the front path. The sight was so pretty I grabbed the camera and made my way (gingerly) out the front door, hoping against hope to capture a photograph before spooking the little creature. All the while that bird sat right there, looking at me as if s/he had been waiting for me a long, long time.

Hey there, friend I said. Haven’t seen you in a while.

And that mockingbird commenced to singing like nobody’s business.

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I click click clicked. Then I made my way around to the bird’s left side for an even better view.

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A pretty pose and that was that—a happy, happy moment brought right to my front door, thanks to my guardian mockingbird.

 

30 Days of Grace III

 

 

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