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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Grace and Home Improvement

I learned something new today.

They say you should make that your goal each day, you know?  So today I did it, and that makes me glad.   Doesn’t happen every day, so it’s kind of a big deal.

Today Leroy and my Fella were hanging some shades for me.  It was no small task, and I am thankful they were willing to take it on together.

While they worked and Mess Cat and I visited, the thought occurred to me–the thing that Mama often quoted:

“Many hands make for light work.”

Truth.

But that’s nothing new; I already knew that one.

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And I thought about another thing I know from home repairs and home projects–“Measure twice, cut once.”

That one came in handy big time with this project.  We almost made a really big mistake.

It’s a good thing to remember–like “righty tighty, lefty Lucy.”  I use that phrase a lot–especially when I’m outside turning on the water spigot.  I love little memory tricks like that.

But it was when the project hit a snag today that I learned a new and important part of home improvement projects.

Leroy and the Fella were putting their heads together over what would be the best next step to take.  The Fella mentioned our local hardware store not far from here, and Leroy’s face lit up.  “Yeah, I’ve been wanting to go in there.”  They were both smiling at this point.  It was pretty close to precious.

“You know, it’s not a real home project until you have to make at least one trip to the hardware store,” Leroy told me.

Really?  No, I didn’t know.

But I do now.

After they returned and were working on putting holes where holes needed to be and not putting holes where holes didn’t need to be, Leroy put a hole in one of his fingers.  (Well, not a hole exactly, but there was plenty of blood.)  He asked for a paper towel and a band-aid.  As I went to gather them, I thought of another quote of Mama’s: “The right tools make any job easier.”

Leroy quickly cleaned himself up, put on the band-aid, and went back to work, announcing, “A trip to the hardware store and an injury.  That’s how you know we’re almost done.”

Again, good to know.  Duly noted.

Tonight I’m thankful for windows with shades and for the two guys who made that happen.  Isn’t it awesome that we all have different gifts and talents and that we can share those to help others around us?  I give thanks for a job well done and for lessons learned in the midst of it.  All other lessons aside, Leroy taught me once again about the gift of grace.  He set out to do the job, but his game plan allowed for grace.  Grace when all the necessary tools weren’t in place, and grace for when there was a mistake.  He didn’t beat himself or anyone else up and make the whole experience even more difficult than it already was.  He had built-in grace.  We need something we don’t have?  No worries, we can go see what they have at the hardware store that can work.   A slip of the hand and there’s a cut and blood?  No problem, clean it up, slap on a band-aid, and let’s finish this job.  I love it.  Today my brother-in-law and my Fella taught me that even in home projects, in the words of my Bubba, “It’s never that serious.”  It’s all about getting it done.   Doing the best we can with what we have and keeping our wits about us.  Working with others and helping folks out.  With smiles on our faces and grace in our hearts.

Kind of sounds like a good way to go about life too, doesn’t it?

Love to all.

About Smiles and Being Beloved

Some Sunday nights at our gatherings we talk about hard things.  We attempt to answer hard questions.  We wipe away tears from laughter and from introspection.  And though we may not leave having answers to all of the questions (or some weeks, any), we leave with a sense that we are not alone in our questions and doubts and heartaches and joys.  That is huge.

Truth?

It’s what most of our Sunday evenings look like.

This past Sunday night my pastorfriend shared this video from Phileena Heuertz of Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism.

It’s all about hearing ourselves called “Beloved” by the One who created us.  That we are just as loved, each and every one of us, as our Creator loved the Son.

That’s a lot to take in.

While the words said in this clip were powerful, what struck me the most were the faces.  The faces of the people in the video.  When the camera focused on one person and his or her face filled the screen, I found myself searching.  And yearning.

What was I waiting on?  What did I want to see so badly?

And then it came and I knew.

The smile.  One after another.  Their smiles transformed their faces.

I know folks say that eyes are the windows to the soul, and I won’t argue the point.  And while I recognize that tears are truly an intimate thing to share with another person, I realized as I watched each person smile that smiles are the most precious, intimate, and vulnerable things we can give to another person, especially a stranger.  It brings us closer.  Tears can come, and it’s okay if the person sitting with me doesn’t also cry.  But a smile is nearly always shared.  When we are brave enough to share a smile, we wait and hope for one in return.  And we are often crushed if it isn’t.  When each one of these people in the video smiled, so brightly and openly, I found myself smiling right back.  Connected.

And I know this happens every day.   We might not be the best at opening up like that to strangers.  But when we do, it’s rare that we aren’t gifted one right back.

The idea of being beloved.  Of being worthy of being loved.  That’s hard to accept sometimes.  Many times I don’t feel like a beloved. Or like I’m worthy of more than being tossed in a holding pen for a long, much-deserved time out.  Is it hard to feel loved in those moments?  Absolutely.

What if, what if we are one of the ways our Creator shows others they are beloved?  What if we could do just that–look someone in the eyes, smile with all our being, and say to another, “You are beloved.  You bring this world great joy.”

I think that could be just about the most precious thing to be called to.  To tell others they are loved.  By us.  And by the One who breathed life into them. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.  There are no “buts” in God’s love for any of us.  Nor should there be any in the love we share with others.

Beloved.

It’s a beautiful, mesmerizing, and life-changing word.

Who needs to hear they are beloved today?  Look in the mirror, hug your friend, smile at a stranger in the checkout line, and tell them.  

You are beloved.  

Love to all.

 

 

 

Bad Guys and Hurting People

We had a house full of fun little folks today.  They played and ran and talked and got to know each other in such a way that I am convinced the littles in this world should be in charge of peace negotiations.

They know what’s most important.

Like favorite colors, how to ask for what they really want, favorite Star Wars characters, how to share dressup clothes and stickers, and how to use their imaginations.  They are kind and even when it’s hard, they acquiesce and take turns when they are reminded that’s how we roll.

Yes.

At one point Cooter, all decked out in his shield and body armor and sword (thank you GW Boutique), came up behind me and announced in his “announcing” voice:  “I’m a bad guy.  I hurt people.”

And then he ran off.  To wreak havoc and make superheroes cry, I guess.

He’s a cute little guy, but he’s so much more–sometimes the words that come out of his mouth really make me think.

Like in this instance.

Because what has weighed on my heart today is that it’s not always the bad guys who hurt people.  Their feelings and emotions and sense of being okay.  In many cases, it’s the people we hold near and dear who really hurt us the most.  Or whom we hurt.  Without even thinking.

It’s sad.

The hurt that is caused by “bad” guys is bad, but the hurt that is caused by someone whom we think loves us–whether intentional or not–that pain goes much, much deeper.

And it takes a lot longer to heal.

I am glad that my seven-year old son sees the world in black and white right now.  It hasn’t been long since I realized there are all these shades of gray out there.  I have often heard and even quoted, “Hurting people hurt people.”  And while I think that’s true, I think it’s important to realize that not all hurting people are bad.  In fact many are good–they’re just going through something that is causing them heartbreak and pain, and that gets passed along.

Tonight I’m thankful for the words of my little guy that have me looking at my heart and thinking about the pain I’ve caused, some inadvertently and some, I’m ashamed to say, not.  I wonder how much longer before his world gets rocked and he figures out all who hurt others are not bad.

It’s a lesson I needed reminding of today.

Love to all.

 

 

 

Check Yo Self…..oh wait–

Today I had to text my college sophomore and ask her about this phrase I’ve seen floating around in social media–

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because those words kept going through my head.

Check yo self.

And I so wanted to say them today.

To someone else.

Ahem.

That’s right.  The day after I asked us all to stop judging and walk with folks in their messes.

I wanted to say this to folks who had their children in tow and maybe weren’t paying close enough attention to what their children were up to.  They were engaged in conversation and their littles were wandering a bit.  Nothing bad happened, no one came close to getting hurt, and yet I wanted to say this to them–“Check yo self and yo children too.”

Okay, pot–seen the kettle lately?

Sigh.

I’ve been there too.  I have been that Mama so needing adult conversation that I might not have been as focused as I should on my littles or their needs or behavior.  I might have been there as recently as today, but I’m not saying for sure.  Ahem.

This blog post was going to go in a whole ‘nother direction tonight, but when I saw my own words from last night-walk with each other with our messiness intertwined–it stopped my fingers and the direction of my thoughts cold.  I guess that includes our children and their messes too, huh?

Oh me.  I almost fell off the non-judgmental wagon there.

That was a close one.

I don’t get to pick and choose when living like that works for me.  It’s an “all in” kind of thing.

It’s a lot easier to say those words “check yo self” to someone across a crowded room than it is to the person in the mirror, the one who finds it so easy to slip back in her old ways, isn’t it?

Last night I mentioned that this parenting thing isn’t easy.

Let me add one more thing that’s not easy.

This living life.  Being intentional.  With kindness and grace.  Not.  Easy.

And I know I am having growing pains when I catch myself from falling back into the depths of holier than thou.  Nobody knows another’s story well enough to judge.  When I act like I do, I am opening the door for folks to do the same with me and my story.

And that has never felt too good, I’m not gonna lie.

So yes.  Tonight instead of telling y’all all about how these folks behaved and how they could have behaved better, I’m going to shrug and say, I don’t know.  It could have been way worse, and I have no idea why it was the way it was.  Me and mine did the best we knew how to do and that’s all I can be responsible for.  The only one I can really say “Check yo self” to is that chick in the mirror who finds it really hard to walk this high road of giving grace.  I’d much rather hightail it through the woods and find a shortcut.  The high road is hard.

But the scenery…..and the company–it’s gonna be worth it, right?

Off to check myself, and put this girl to bed.  About faces in attitudes can be exhausting.

Love and grace to all.

The Bug or the Windshield?

This morning I was thinking of a line that I first heard in a Mary Chapin Carpenter song about twenty some odd years ago.  Some days you’re the windshield and some days you’re the bug.  As I was having a pretty good day at that point, I was thinking yeah–the windshield. All right.  And then it hit me–

wait, is that a good thing?

I mean I know the bug part is bad, but how good is it to have things flying in to you–splat, making a mess that is so hard to clean up?

Not so much, I’m thinking.

Kind of one of those caught between a rock and a hard place situations–bug or windshield.

Ironically enough, that’s kind of how the day turned out.  Started off with such promise and ended with me rubbing my head and wondering where the bus is that hit us as it passed on through.

And that’s when it occurred to me that there is some truth in those words.  Some days you’re just thankful that the worst that could happen didn’t.  That, even though it wasn’t a great day, everyone’s still here.  That’s all we’ve got and it’s enough.  It has to be.  That, even though there are tears, there are also folks around to pass a tissue or give a hug.  And listen.

For all these years, I was so sure it was a case of things being either good or bad–windshield or the bug.  Turns out, that as is the case with so many things in this life, it’s all varying shades of both and nothing at all ever is all one way or another.  Though this may not make sense, that actually gives me hope.  It’s okay if things are not happy happy joy joy in every single moment.  There are going to be moments that are bad and not quite so much.

That’s real life.  And that’s okay.

pic of not a bad life

In another ironic twist of events, a neat organization, sevenly, shared this today.  There’s a lot of grace in that.  Grace I need.

Love to all.