You Are More

Cooter has become fascinated with stories of things people got in trouble for when they were his age.  He has had many conversations with his Daddy about his.  Recently he asked Leroy if he got in trouble at school.  Leroy told him he couldn’t tell them what all he did when he was younger.  I think Cooter was a little scared and a whole lot in awe of his uncle.

He asked me the same question recently.  I decided to tell him the truth.  Something I’ve been carrying around for a long time.  Something I’m not proud of, and I still hang my head when I tell it.

And so I confessed to my eight year old son.  When I was not much older than him, I was sitting in the lunchroom in between my friend and LP (the one who had bullied me the year before and had pulled my thumb back over and over and my parents had told me to kick him in the shin).  I always took my lunch, but the two of them had each bought their lunches.  I don’t know what else was on the menu that day but for sure there was cornbread and something that ketchup could complement.  Everyone was done eating, and we were just waiting to be told to line up to head back to the classroom.  My friend nudged me, handed me her ketchup, and whispered for me to pour it over LP’s uneaten cornbread.  We both knew he was done eating, but she thought it would be funny, and in the moment, I thought she was funny and while something was rippling in the back of my brain, I took the little paper cup of ketchup and squeezed it out over his cornbread while he was turned talking to the person on his left.  And we waited.

We could hardly stand it.  When he turned back around and saw the ketchup, his face turned nearly as red as the condiment.  We giggled behind our hands and between each other.  He was mad.  And so he did what most fourth graders do when they are mad–he told the teacher on us.

Oh me.  This was a joke gone horribly wrong.  One that gave us two or three days sitting out at recess.  This was back before PE, back when we could talk amongst ourselves and play near about anything we wanted to.  So missing any recess was a huge loss. To add insult to injury this teacher had taught my Uncle and my Daddy, and I felt like I had let her and pretty much the whole world down with my poor judgment and horribleness.  My heart was broken over what I was sure was absolutely my worst day ever.  At least the worst thing I had ever done.

Cooter laughed.  He barely squeaked out, “Ketchup?  Really?”  Yes, and don’t make light of it, buddy.  I learned that lesson. Not my plate.  Not my cornbread.  Doesn’t matter if he wasn’t going to eat it.  Doesn’t matter if someone else “told” me to do it.   I have my own brain, and I didn’t use it that day.  I was all about the fitting in and giggles and all the feel good of that moment.  And the truth that I now realize as an adult is that the reason LP told on us was probably because he saw us giggling together and he didn’t feel like he fit in.  It wasn’t about the ketchup on the cornbread, it was about our singling him out.

I’m so sorry, LP.

The thing is, whenever I do something that is less than my best or I make a mistake or I inadvertently do or say the wrong thing, I’m in fourth grade again.  I’m nine and my face is beet red and I’m looking Mrs. W in the eyes as she looks at me and my friend with disappointment and tell us we can’t play at recess.  I’m sitting next to her or whatever teacher is out there and trying to explain my embarrassing predicament to those who want to know why we aren’t playing.

Life is hard, y’all.

But here’s the good news.

I am more than that mistake.

I am more than the wrong I inflicted upon LP and his cornbread.

I am bigger than the poor choice I made.

I am more than my worst day.

And so, my friend, are you.

My beautiful friend Marilyn and I were talking about this earlier.  She gave me the grace and encouragement I needed today.  That I need everyday. We all make mistakes.  None of us have lived a flaw-free life, one where we have never, ever crossed a line or hurt anyone.  We all have stories we’d rather not have to share.

Let ’em go.

We are more.

We are the love we share.  The hugs we give.  The light that shines from who we have become and what we do–and who we are becoming.  We are all the right choices we have made over the years as well.

Do not let your one ketchup-pouring moment define you.

Because there is grace.  There is redemption.  There are second and third and twenty-twelfth chances.  You can do this.  You can turn it around.  As long as you have breath, the possibility exists–you can do better.  And become more.

More than those poor choices.  Those bad moments.  Those mistakes that you really didn’t set out to make.

And to be honest, this was not my only non-stellar moment from my life–it’s not even my only non-stellar moment from that year.  But it is the one that sticks out, as I was so grieved over all those I’d disappointed.  I had to look them in the eyes and face what I’d done.

And you know what?  A few days later, grace won.  Love won.  My time “sitting out” was done, and the slate was clean.

Redemption is real.  And attainable.  And free.

May we all let go of our worst moments.  And allow others to let go of theirs.  Our most painful mistakes.  And may we look in the mirror and offer the grace we so freely give to others to the one looking back at us.

Love and grace to all.

one day I hope grace and love and mercy will prevail

grace can come in so many ways
on days such as these
much like love

in the reaching of a hand
as the words “I forgive” pour forth
freely and quickly

in the vehemence of a child
who doesn’t understand why killing
would ever be okay
and says that the folks in that big city
must be out of their minds
except for the ones who run that doll store
“because it really is lovely though”

in a cup of coffee and a muffin
gifted over the miles
to lift a spirit and share light
in the darkness

in the signs held by hands
that are weary
from the weight of worry
but still join together
in prayerful petitions and praises

in the messages sent by family
and friends
with encouragement
and permission to shed tears
and be angry
and then to move on…..
as on is the only place left to go
and make all of this mean
something

love and grace can be found
in all of these small moments
and so many more
and when I look back on this day,
I hope that I remember those
the most

that love and grace
joined together
and erased the lines between people
and we all held hands and
hoped that love would win
and grace would triumph
and mercy would be granted

love to all

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I’m a Monet, Y’all

Last week was my sweet neighborfriend’s birthday.  The past two Tuesdays we’ve had the opportunity to paint together in celebration.  It was something I never would have taken on by myself but when she agreed to go together, I was all for it.  Though for the record, this was a style of painting I’d never done before.

I’ve gone to classes where we painted an owl or a tree on the beach or something more concrete and I’ve sat with Mess Cat on the back porch and painted things we’ve seen on Pinterest or ideas we’ve come up with ourselves, but I’ve never done an impressionistic painting.

Until now.

Our teacher reminded us that the idea behind this was to be loose and free in our painting and covering the canvas.

I have OCD say what now?

Yeah, it was hard at first.  But when I started letting go of what I perceived as imperfections, I really began to enjoy what I was doing and worked to make it my own.  I was doing fine until I made the silhouette of the man on the sidewalk look like he had no neck.  When I went back and touched him up, I could breathe again. He looked more like a human and less like the Hulk, thank goodness.

Last week we did all of the base colors, and outlining, but yesterday was all about adding the color and the detail.  We moved quickly and with purpose.  As we were finishing up, I stepped out of the room to rinse my brush.  I walked back in and saw my friend’s painting from the doorway.

“Girl, that is fabulous!”  And it really was.

She laughed.  “Yeah, when you’re looking at it all the way across the room, right?”

As I tried to protest, our teacher spoke up, “Well yes, that’s how it is supposed to work.  It’s impressionistic.  When you look at it from a distance, it will look ‘better.'”

All I could think about was the movie “Clueless” and how they referred to someone as a “Monet”–“far away she looks great, a masterpiece, but up close she’s a mess.”  (I’m ad libbing here, y’all.  I haven’t seen that movie in YEARS.)

As we gathered our things and paintings and said our goodbyes, I saw this sign that I don’t remember being there before over near the front door to the gallery.

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Amen.  Some of the best things in my life came about when I took a trip outside my comfort zone.  Some of the most beautiful and broken and hard and precious and moments I hold most dear in my heart came from crossing that line into the unknown.

Tonight I’m thankful for my friend who stepped way out of her comfort zone to paint for the first time something other than a room or piece of furniture.  That’s the thing about comfort zones–they are much easier to leave when you have a friend at your side.  And way more fun.  Also, I’m thankful for the reminder that up close we can all be a mess, and that what we see from afar–from the outside looking in–that can be very deceiving.

And here’s what I am most thankful for in the midst of a day of painting–

this canvas I painted, this picture I created–it is an “up close mess, far away lovely thing” all together in one.  Broken and beautiful.  Messy and magnificent.  Wacky and wonderful.

All in one.

Just like me.
Just like all of us, I’d daresay.

We are all of the beautiful and broken things, and maybe it’s time we start hanging that on the wall and letting folks up close enough to see all of who we are.  The realness of our being.

It means being vulnerable, it means being raw and open, but if we really ever want people to see who we really are and all of our magnificent colors–not just the shadows or an impression–maybe it’s time to hang ourselves up for folks to see and appreciate and love.  Up close and everything.

May we all begin to love the Monet that we are.  One point at a time.

Love to all.

My painting from across he room.  I can handle y'all seeing this.  It's not perfect, but I rather like it.  "Tardis in the Rain" our teacher called it.

My painting from across he room. I can handle y’all seeing this. It’s not perfect, but I rather like it. “Tardis in the Rain” our teacher called it.

But this. This, I didn't want to show y'all.  It's rough around the edges and way less than perfect and there are things I'd love to touch up.  But this is me--being vulnerable--and this is the REAL me.  Leaning, off-kilter, but here.  Go love yourselves, y'all.  All of you.

But this. This, I didn’t want to show y’all. It’s rough around the edges and way less than perfect, and there are things I’d love to touch up. But this is me–being vulnerable–and this is the REAL me. Leaning, off-kilter, but here. Go love yourselves, y’all. All of you.

Passing Down the Grace

Today I picked up the book 365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne’s Book of Precepts by R. J. Palacio and thumbed through it for a minute.  This quote jumped out at me:

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These words made me think of my parents.  While I know they weren’t perfect, and I’m sure this wasn’t always the case, when I knew them, they were wise.  Some of the wisest folks I knew.  And as I got older, their wisdom (it couldn’t have been my perspective, right?) only grew.

And yet, I like this quote.  A lot.  It gives me the grace to take my own path, to trek in places that my folks never went and might never have wanted to go–and yet, their lessons about being good stewards of our world and all what inhabit it, their lessons about loving one another, about kindness and respect and giving–all of those things they sought and sought to teach us, they are in my knapsack as I make my own way.

seeking what they sought
but in my own way

With these words, Bashō-san, a 17th century Japanese poet, gives me the grace I have long looked for.  That I don’t have to do everything just as Mama and Daddy did, as long as I keep the big picture in mind.  I can remember what they taught me and what they were seeking…..and head out thataway.  On my own path.

Grace.  I am not my parents.  But I can honor them with how I live, even if it looks different from what they might have chosen.

Today I was “mother henning” my oldest–pecking and pushing and making all the suggestions about how she should handle this or that.  As I was typing my next message, wanting to “suggest” one last thing to her, I wrote, “And while I am mothering you…..”

only the word police, also known as Ms. AutoCorrect, not only didn’t like my word choice, she knew better.  She knows me and she knows my girl, apparently, because, in the words of the young folks, I got served.

AutoCorrect changed it to “And while I am not being you…..”

Ahem.  Well.  AC, you can just drop the mic and walk away, because what you said…..

truth.

I hear you.  I get it.

I am not being my girl.

And she is not being me.

And that is a beautiful and wonderful and magnificent thing.  That we can all be different and yet have some of the same things on our hearts–that we can live those things out in different ways, on different paths, with different styles and dreams and plans for reaching the same goal.  That is really good stuff.

Peace.  Kindness.  Love.  Justice.  Mercy.  Compassion.  Laughter.  Joy.

All the good things.  With so many paths to find it.  And so many ways to show it.

All the love.

Tonight I am thankful for a message that came to me not once but twice today.  And I’m thankful that when I was given this grace, I was reminded to pass it on to my own fabulous daughter who is no longer a child, but a young adult–filled with her own dreams and goals and beliefs and her own plans for seeking many of the same things I’ve been going after all these years.

Just looks a little different, that’s all.

And that is absolutely, slap dab, downright wonderful.

Somehow it makes this journey a little easier knowing that.  We can do it together–we just don’t have to be each other while doing it.

May you find the message of grace you need today in a book or billboard or in your very own heart.  Or maybe even in AutoCorrect.  It can happen.

Love to all.

An Angel in the ATL

Today we made the trek up to the big ATL, Atlanta, the big city, for a checkup with a specialist.  Me, being me, I underestimated the time it would take to get there.  I also was not up to date with the information that they had moved offices.

So while it was very near 11:00 a.m., our appointment time, when the Fella dropped me and the littles off at the door so he could go park, it was nearly 11:25 by the time we got back in the vehicle, drove up the road three blocks, and he dropped us off again.  At the correct office.

And unfortunately, doctors don’t sit around waiting on patients as much as one might hope.

Yeah, we’d been scratched.

Which I totally understood, but the thought of traveling back up there AGAIN in the near future stressed me out to no end.  I asked if there were any options for us.  The office staff there were fabulous.  The office manager came out and explained that if we came back by 1, the nurse practitioner we were seeing would try to work us in between 1 and 1:30.

It was above and beyond really.  They didn’t have to do that.  But there I was in one of my least favorite situations–in a town where I’m not very familiar with the eating establishments and needing to feed my child with severe food allergies.

I hate food allergies.

For a number of reasons, but mostly because of the feeling in the pit of my stomach when I have to figure out what to do about eating safely.

I asked the office manager if there were any places to eat close by.  She talked about some places that sounded so trendy and different and wonderful that I would have loved to go.  However, I needed a place we’d been before so we could do a dash in, dash out and get back to the office.  And know the meal was safe.

I asked about a particular restaurant that we eat at here at home.  She and the registrars looked at each other, shaking their heads.   From what they were saying it sounded like it was pretty far off.  I thanked them for their time, and told them we’d see them again before 1:00 p.m.  I did appreciate their willingness to help us out.  It would have been well within their rights to reschedule us for another day.  I am so thankful they didn’t.

As I was waiting on some information about our referral, a gentleman sitting behind Cooter turned around in his seat and quietly said, “There’s one over on the next road over.”

“I’m sorry?”  I asked.  It didn’t register with me at first that he was rescuing me from the grip Anxiety Girl had on me.

“The restaurant.  There’s one close by.”

“Really?”  I felt like hugging him.  He proceeded to tell my Fella how to get there, while I finished up with the registrars.

While we gathered our things together, I saw him leave the office.  Interesting, since he had just been sitting there with us and he hadn’t had time for an appointment.

As we walked through the parking garage to our vehicle, I heard someone calling out to us.  “Hey!”

I looked over.  It was our new friend.  “Did they get y’all settled? Are you going to get back in?”

I smiled and waved.  “Sure are.  Thank you so much!”

“Good.  I’m just heading down to the 2nd floor parking deck to pick up my wife. Y’all take care.”

“You too!”  We all waved our thanks.

And then I thought–wait.  What?

Why had he even been on the third floor office where we had been waiting?

I have no idea, but I do know I stand by what I told him after he gave us directions to the restaurant.  “You may very well be a human, but right now, I only see an angel.”  An angel who eased my burden and made my heart light.

Tonight I’m thankful for the presence of an angel–or a man who made himself interruptible to help someone he saw in need.  Both are kind of one and the same for me today.  I give thanks for a doctor and her office staff who treated us as people and not as numbers.  The grace they showed us today was not merited but it was much appreciated.  Because of that, I was a better person for the rest of the day.  Or at least I tried hard to be.

May we all take the opportunity to help another when we see someone in need.  May we all offer grace to another every chance we can.  It just makes the journey better all around, don’t you think?  We need each other, y’all.

Love and grace to all.

Two for the Price of One

When the unexpected words came out of her mouth, I almost wept.

Oh, the grace.

I was so thankful for it, and I thought to myself, “I’m not the only one.  I wonder if there’s more of us out there.”

The bad ones.  The parents who didn’t.

Complete.  A.  Baby.  Book.

Last night though, after 19 years of guilt, I was freed.

It felt so good.

Last night my dear friend of many, many years, my oldest child and I went to hear Theresa Caputo speak.  She has a dynamic personality and is an engaging speaker.  As she was talking to one of the audience members about a lock of hair, she said, “You know, like in a baby book maybe.”

Then she turned to the side and with her dry wit said, “I didn’t do baby books for my kids.  I was a little busy.”

I laughed out loud while my soul was fist pumping, “Yes!”  Oh me, what a relief it was to hear that.  I’m not the only one.

And yes, I remember being a little busy too. Which is why there exists only one scrapbook that covers about six months (from 1 year to 18 months I think) of my oldest’s life.  It took me a while to put it together too.

Ah.  Well.

I am not knocking the parents who are diligent and keep a wonderful record of their child’s first and big moments.  My hat is off to you.  You are awesome.

It’s just that I never could get it together and make it happen.  (I’m sorry, my little people.)

But I did try my best to make the moments we had together scrapbook/baby book worthy.

I hope that counts for something.

Tonight I’m thankful for a beautiful evening with two people I love very much.  I give thanks for a wonderful speaker from whom love and peace and laughter and grace exude.  Most of all, I’m thankful that through Teresa’s confession I found grace.

I hope she knows the good she does.

I wonder how many of us have had that same opportunity to be honest about something in our lives that would give relief to another if only they knew.

Be truthful.  Learn from it.  But when you tell your story, you offer someone else the opportunity to learn from it as well.  So if you have the chance to share, do.

Two learning for the price of one experience.

I love a bargain.

Go love on someone today, and give them the grace you can easily give and they so need.  Share your truth.

Love to all.

Columba pacis

This evening as my Aub and I gathered together in a circle of 100 or more people gathered at the Vigil, I looked down in the midst of the singing, and I saw this leaf there on the ground in front of me.  It intrigued me and comforted me.  As prayers were said for the one inside the building hidden by the woods, awaiting to know if her life was about to end or not, I focused my heart on the prayer and my eyes on the leaf.  As prayers were said for the ones who know and love her and would grieve for her both inside and outside of the building with the bars, I focused my heart on the prayer and my eyes on the leaf.

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At first I thought it was a cross, but as I looked a little longer, I realized it was a dove.  Of peace.

And my heart and soul breathed a sigh of release.

And a prayer for grace and mercy.

Tonight I am thankful for a life that is still being lived, a story still being told, and for the souls who shared their stories and hopes with us as we stood in the cold and hoped and prayed and laughed and cried together.  I am thankful for weather delays and cloudy medicines and the chance that hearts could still be changed and justice and mercy can go hand in hand to continue the life of one who cares, who has saved lives herself, and who has told folks they were better than their circumstances.  Of one who loves.

As for what tomorrow will bring, I focus my heart on the prayers and my eyes on the dove.  On peace.  And grace.  And mercy.

And I know that whatever story comes next, in the end, Love Wins.  It just has to.

Love to all.

 

 

 

Other Thoughts:  The Sanctity of Life and the Miracle of Grace

 

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