Introverts Unite.

I guess the proper place to begin is with the admission she was not even on my radar. Oh, I’d heard of the book. I’d been drawn to it for years, the title alone tugging my heart until it pulled itself all the way to the top of my To Be Read list. But I don’t watch Grey’s, or Scandal, or How to Get Away With Murder, and so Shonda Rhimes, who created and runs those blockbuster shows, was a not a familiar name to me.

All that has changed. I just finished Year of Yes and can proudly say Shonda Rhimes rocked my world in the most powerful, gorgeous, healthy way possible.

The book is her telling of the life explosion she experienced when her sister offered, in a casual comment: You never say yes to anything. It pierced her, this thought, and it became the driving force behind a commitment to spending one year saying yes to anything that came along that scared her.  

(This is a woman who hired a publicist so she could avoid public appearances, just saying.)

This book is good, y’all. So good. And not in the way I expected. Shonda gets real, going deep enough into her hesitancies to actually identify what it is that scares her. Then she works hard at addressing that particular thing, which changes her perspective, which opens up her life.

My favorite part of the story is the commencement speech she delivered at her alma mater, Dartmouth College, in 2014. The audiobook (read by Shonda, which is so powerful) features that speech. I want every young person everywhere to hear it. I wish I’d heard it at 21. 

Heck, the truth is I want every young woman I know to read this book.

So thank you, Shonda, for lessons and inspiration and a grand nudge to walk more boldly toward.  For the reminder that as women, and as human beings on this earth–it is our honor and our glory to step out of the shadows and fully, confidently, into the light.

 

this morning’s light

 

XXOO

 

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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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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

 

 

The Champion of the World

The following came to me from my dear friend, David LaFuria. Any email from David is reason to rejoice. I love his take on things. I value his opinion. And I always learn something important.

 

Subject line:  Billy Crystal Eulogizes Muhammad Ali

Cath:
Sometimes when I sit and think, I think of you.

The funeral ceremony was much too long, but really, all you need to see is Billy Crystal. His vision, that Muhammad Ali was a bolt of lightning, illuminating everything around it, is fantastic. When was the last time one could say that an athlete is the most recognizable person on the planet?  When will it happen again?

He points out something important – you had to live through the time to appreciate him.  His fights were world events – everything stopped for that hour of boxing – everyone had an opinion. Outside the ring, he was bigger than the president, several of them. Looking back now, those of us who lived it were really lucky. Not to be critical of any one athlete, but let’s pick one. Michael Jordan raised the bar for measuring athletic greatness, but off the court he changed …. what?

Ali affected how all of us think about race. How we Americans think about free expression. And religious freedom. It is a big thing to say he changed how members of other races think about blacks (important terminology here – not just African Americans – but blacks worldwide). More important, he changed how blacks think about themselves. But perhaps his biggest triumph – he changed how whites think about themselves. Again, not just in the US, but around the world.

How many people can you name that have really affected how an entire society thinks about anything important? After Dr. King’s death, who carried his core messages to more people? A king? A president? A business leader? A philanthropist? No….an athlete.

He is the most consequential athlete of the 20th Century, and his athletic accomplishments stand only as a platform for him to be consequential. That he was so beautiful in the ring was the icing.

 

Image: http://muhammadali.com
Image: http://muhammadali.com

 

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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

 

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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

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