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.

 

 

The Daily Grace in your inbox? I say yes!


 

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

 

 

On little ideas, big anniversaries and great joy

My dear friend and business partner, Teresa Coles, wrote this post in honor of our company’s 29th birthday on October 19th. So many amazing things have happened since she brought her smarts to C.C.Riggs (now Riggs Partners) a quarter of a century ago, not the least of which is CreateAthon. A joint thought brought the initiative into the world, yes. But it has been Teresa’s vision, drive and passion that has turned the little idea into a national movement that has generated $24 million in marketing services for nonprofits around the country. What a joy and honor it is to bask in the glow of her work and heart. We have just completed our 19th CreateAthon at Riggs, and in celebration, I am happy to share the love here.

 

On Riggs. CreateAthon. And more than a little grace.

by Teresa Coles

Twenty-nine years ago today Cathy Rigg said enough. Enough to mediocre thinking. Enough to creative short cuts. She left her job on a Friday, bought a Mac SE with money from her grandmother, and opened up C.C. Rigg’s on Black Monday, October 19, 1987.

 

dsc_6686_ccriggs_sign_circa_1987
what a little vision and a lot of believin’ looks like

 

There were a million reasons why this company would fail.

And yet, here we are. 

Nineteen years ago, she and I wondered if there might be something more for our company. A higher calling, if you will. So we came up with the notion of pulling an all-nighter to help nonprofits that couldn’t afford professional marketing.

There were a million reasons why this idea would fail.

And yet, here we are. 

So what matters in all of this? What have these markers in our collective history taught us about our work, our lives and each other?

Consider it all joy. 

On this birthday of Riggs and the eve of CreateAthon 19, I’m mindful of the cords of grace that have bound us over the years. The unspoken covenant that held us together when we just didn’t think we could do One More Thing. The willingness to listen generously to each other’s point of view in order to solve the unsolvable. The abiding sense of teamwork that pulled us out of chaotic seasons and returned us to a place of peace.

I’m grateful for every one of these challenges and foibles. They are testament to both our humanity and to what can be accomplished when we uphold each other in pursuit of something that’s bigger than any one of us.

Riggs Partners hasn’t been in business for 29 years because we’re smarter than anyone else in marketing. CreateAthon hasn’t delivered more than $24 million in pro bono service because we came up with the idea first.

It happened because we had faith in each other. And we knew that by standing as one, there was nothing we couldn’t accomplish – even if it wasn’t always perfect along the way.

Tomorrow morning, CreateAthoners will walk into the WECO building and breathe air that is electric, inspiring and humbling. We will bear witness to our very best selves. And we will see that as much as our CreateAthon clients may benefit from our gifts, the joy we receive will be tenfold.

That, my friends, is more than enough to say grace over.

 

 

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!

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!

 

 

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!

the lenten desert

IT HAS BEEN my desert during this lenten season, my place of wandering. This is something I didn’t realize until this moment as I write this post, and it’s something that feels strange and awkward to admit, even to myself. But the truth is in these past few weeks I’ve spent a great deal of time online discovering an unfolding world of seekers who make keen observations about our profound need for grace and love and kindness in a crazy hustle world.

My journey began when, in rather typical and wildly random internet fashion, I came upon this sentence in a blog post last February. Since then it has stuck to me like brittle autumn leaves on a wool coat:

We come not because we must but because we may.

It was a story about an intimate Communion shared by Carolyn Watts and her spiritual director, a sharing of the bread and the cup that so affected the writer she wrote about it on her blog Hearing the Heartbeat. She went on to say:

I’m pondering, these days, the various habits in my life that have arisen out of a must.

Carolyn makes a beautiful point about her God-call to stillness, something that has become more than a practice for her, now a life center.

 

THE COMMUNION PHRASE HAS CLUNG TO ME, TOO, insisting I take it another place in my own world. The thought arises every time the “I must” sentiment enters my head or leaves my mouth: I have to finish this work task; I have to fold that laundry; I have to get that workout in. Ugh.  My day–every single day–is weighted down by a long list of I must tasks that define my attitude and my existence.

But here is my truth. How fortunate I am God has given me the ability to do these things. How blessed I am to be able to walk on the treadmill and participate in a Pilates class, that I have clothes to wash and a machine in which to dry them and a closet in which to hang them. I have a car that drives me to the grocery store where the shelves are stocked, where I simply need put things in my cart and bring them home to peel and chop and roast and eat, foods that nourish my body.

Oh, yes, what a privilege it is in this life that I may, rather than I must.

 

IT IS STILL COMMUNION, this being open to God’s presence in the ten thousand tiny tasks that make up my day, my week, my life. He is there and ready to meet me, this I know–not just on the altar, but at the kitchen sink, in my weed-filled garden, as I fill the car with gas.

Blogger Emily P. Freeman (through whom I found the Carolyn Watts post) encourages “small moment living” through a practice she calls Simply Tuesday. She writes,

Real life happens in the small moments we find on the most ordinary day of the week. Tuesday holds secrets we can’t see in a hurry–secrets not just for our schedules but for our souls.

It’s a practice I want to emulate, and so I will join with Emily’s followers in posting “an ordinary moment” each Tuesday on Instagram and tagging it #itssimplytuesday. The point, of course, is neither the photograph nor the Instagram sharing. Instead it is the mindful attention required to notice and celebrate that which is so ordinary in a greatly blessed “I must” day.

 

bubbles
my nieces, in an ordinary moment I love

 

THERE ARE A MILLION other flavorful nuggets I’ve found as I’ve walked through this digital desert, a wonderful community of folks out there looking for grace in the everyday. What a gift it is to find them via the internet where it requires merely a click to connect person to person, heart to heart, soul to soul.

And that in itself is rather miraculous. Wouldn’t you say?

Not because we must but because we may.

Yes.

 

XXOO

 

Want a notice whenever there’s a post? Just leave your email here.