30 Days of Grace III

Lake Murray, February 2014
Lake Murray, February 2014

It is a busy time of year, this first quarter, months filled with all it takes to set 2014 in motion. Good stuff, important stuff, stuff that needs to be done.

And still.

In the busyness of it all, in the productiveness if you will, I find my soul needs a little nourishment. Some care and feeding. Some space.

And so I think I shall commence with my third 30 Days of Grace, an exercise during which I commit to looking for and acknowledging the sweet grace of each day. It is, for me, a chance to reset a bit, to refocus, to rejoice in the grace-filled moments currently tucked so quietly amid the chaos and noise I find myself flying right past them.

Yes. A little focus, a little acknowledgement, and a little gratitude is just what my soul needs right now. 30 Days of Grace III it is. Come on along, won’t you?

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previous 30 Days of Grace

30 Days of Grace (2011)

30 Days of Grace II (2012)

 

 

 

Remembering Tiger

I will always remember it, the look she had when she spotted what I had not been able to see. There he is, Mom, she said, there.

She turned to me desperate, her face stricken.

Is he dead, Mom? Is he?

We’d been looking for that old cat since the night he walked away, out the front door, down the porch steps, up the brick walk in front of our house. He paused ever so briefly to look over his shoulder at me. Then he sauntered off.

What a gift it was I didn’t realize that was our goodbye.

He eventually made his way to a shady spot just at the base of our driveway, curling up beneath the azaleas. It was an area with a small clearing; the opening was sizable enough that he could easily see out and we could see in. And still I didn’t find him, in spite of the thousand trips Colleen and I made looking for him, looking high and low, calling out his name. But then Eliza came home, and she spotted him.

I think of Tiger every time I see those shrubs, pray that his last hours spent in that spot were peaceful, hope that he knows how much we miss him. I’ve watched them with particular interest this Spring as they have leafed out, so healthy and full of buds they look as if they will—quite literally—explode.

Except for the little Tiger cave, that is, which bloomed so early, so significantly, that the heavy branches dropped to the ground and covered its opening with glorious white blossoms.

Tiger’s opening, now covered in white blossoms

How happy I am for this gift of Spring, this comforting sign, this memory.

we miss you, big tiger.

On Being Insanely Nice*

Mrs. Cibber as Cordelia (King Lear), Yale Center for British Art

I’m headed to Birmingham, he said, softly kissing my sleeping face in the darkness. Be back tonight.

I swam hard for the shore of awake that I might properly tell him goodbye, have a good meeting, be safe. But of course by then he was gone, the sound of the garage door closing behind him. And so I lay there thinking of the dream I had just been in, wondering where the story came from, what it all meant. And in a matter of moments I was fully awake, ready to get on with the day.

Coffee in hand (yes, he made coffee for me before leaving), I opened my laptop to find this email among the heap of overnight arrivals.

I clicked, and here was Number One the list of 10 Insanely Nice Things You Can Say To Anybody.

1. “Take your time. I’m not in a rush.”

This one is great for the grocery store, the takeout burrito restaurant or anywhere else that involves really tired people trying their best, even as they fumble and flail. For example, the woman in front of you pays the cashier but then has to rifle through her overstuffed wallet to put away the change, then store the receipt, then mash the whole fat leather money accordion into her purse. She will usually complete this action with frantic fingers because she knows she’s delaying the whole line; she knows everybody just wants to go home; and she knows she should not save old, mostly-used-up gift cards with 63 cents on them. Telling her to “Take your time. I’m not in rush” always sets off the same reaction: first, surprise (really? because everybody’s in a rush…) and then a flash of sweet wide-open relief. You have just given somebody a three-minute holiday, not from the stress of life, but from the stress we put on ourselves.

Yes, I thought, remembering the power of my recent grocery store exchange. Yes, such a tiny little gesture, a gift returned to me in the kind acknowledgement of a stranger, this woman who, like me, is simply doing the best she can.

I clicked to #2. And #3. And on through Leigh Newman’s list of 10 Insanely Nice Things You Can Say To Anybody.

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. What important kindnesses to remember.

*As it turns out, this is a 2-part post. Part One: On Being A Not-Very-Patient Waiter

Stepping Into The Light

I knew the dress was a mistake.

On tap was a luncheon during which I needed to walk across a small stage, smile and accept an award in front of a filled ballroom. I was deeply honored to be among the women being recognized; on this day there was to be a beautiful, long parade of these super heroes, and I was thrilled to walk among them. (Thank you, Palmetto Center for Women.)

One would think I might have given wardrobe a bit of consideration before 8:20 that very morning. I did not. Instead, I found myself staring into the closet, coffee cup in hand, 10 minutes to go until I had to blast out the door for a 9:00 meeting.

Hum, I thought. What ever shall I wear?

Let’s just say the next 10 minutes were not pretty. There was a flurry of try-on before I settled on a wool dress, black tights and heels, and with one last look in the mirror thought: This feels a little snug.

I spent the morning pulling and tugging on that dress, hoping it would give just a little with wear, like a pair of blue jeans on the second day. It did not, and for the rest of the morning, and while sitting at the lovely luncheon, I worried about that dress.

Salad course complete, I made my way to the ladies room. A young woman who was working there, straightening up the counter, looked me over.

Love that dress, she said.

Thank you, I said, still tugging. I’m afraid it has gotten a little tight.

No honey, she said, emphatic. You gotta work that thing.

Isn’t that what it’s all about? I thought as I made my way back to the table, this time standing a little straighter, smiling a little more broadly. While delivered in a different vernacular, her words reminded me of the Marianne Williamson quote that encourages us to all step into our own glory:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

I thought of this as I listened to story after story of the women being honored. They are out there doing it in this world—entrepreneurs, artists, public servants, educators—woman who work tirelessly to change our community, and this world, for the better. Successful, yes. Powerful, many. But every single one, simply a human being who stepped out of fear and into the light.

Your playing small does not serve the world. 

A beautiful reminder for us all, every day.

Day 15: Honor, Gratitude, and The Good Night

It was the kind of night you know will stay with you for a while, for a thousand different reasons. But the most significant is one I didn’t expect; a comment made so casually in a quick moment it might easily have gone unnoted; a fleeting bit of small talk passed between two acquaintances, just one of hundreds of layers of cocktail chatter.

But it didn’t disappear, her comment to me. It couldn’t, in that place, with those people.

All our candles together burn brighter, she said, and she smiled and turned to walk away.

It was a night in which we were to be honored—the volunteers of CreateAthon and those of us who started the whole thing 15 years ago—by The Cooperative Ministry, an organization that works tirelessly to meet the needs of the working poor in our community. The Cooperative Ministry was recognizing us for our philanthropic work with nonprofits over these past 15 years.

I was deeply grateful. And I was humbled, to be sure, recognizing how much more significant the work is of those who were doing the honoring. I said as much to Yolanda, who works with The Cooperative Ministry, standing there with me at the bar. We should be honoring you, I said.

All our candles together burn brighter, she said.

And so I smiled, too, and walked back toward the celebration.

My business partner, friend and CreateAthon co-founder Teresa Coles on the left. I'm on the right. It was a Good Night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

30 Days of Grace