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two white and yellow ceramic mugs
Picture of a yellow mug with the words, “So Very Blessed” on it, along with holiday decorations, including a small orange gourd and autumn flowers.

Looking out the window on this beautiful fall morning, I saw that the bluebirds (Indigo Montoya and Azure Likeit) were eating the food I’d put out for the stray cat (Vanessa Vavoom, who’s got a luxurious orange and white, flowing mane). 

At the same time, the squirrels (Steve & Shirley Squirrely) were stealing the seeds I’d put out for the birds.

No matter how you plan, life happens the way the leaves fall. The wind carries them off and they land on new real estate, far from where they started.  Everything changes and that’s the way it’s meant to be.

This is what I was thinking recently, when there were so many things to get done and nothing was going as intended. I wished I could get it all under control.

But wait: that’s God’s job. There’s no way I can get my arms around the world and suspend it in space. Nor can I go back in time and change seminal moments so that I wasn’t deeply affected, even to this day.

But I can be blessed, right where I am. Sit on the couch next to the cat as he basks in his own blessings: a nice perch by the window to monitor the wildlife that dares to populate his yard. Catnip toy to gnaw on. Soft blanket to curl up in. A cool breeze on an autumn day with Mom nearby, working away on her computer. Squeaky has got it good! And, you know what? So do I.

“Good” is being content with where I am right now, while still trying to improve whatever needs fixing.

“Better” is when I trust that God has got my back, no matter how long the road ahead may seem.

“Blessed” is my birthright. The state of being in which I know all is well, no matter what is going on around me or inside me.

All in all, life is good, but it could be better. And it will be, as long as I focus on my blessings and leave the rest in God’s hands.

Picture of a chocolate layer cake drizzled with ganache glaze and decorated with buttercream rosettes.

Last week, I celebrated my birthday, and started to think about things I’ve yet to accomplish. I realized that a life well-lived is one that’s in a steady state of grace. 

The contentment that comes from being shored up by grace doesn’t fall on a date on the calendar. It’s not measured by a number on the scale or the dollar amount in your bank account.  

The good life is the sense that you can count on what I call “mundane miracles:” a warm blanket to curl up in. A comfortable cardigan. A pair of sneakers that are broken in perfectly.  

My greatest “creature comfort” is a sweet, tiger-striped cat named Squeaky who trills, chirps and meows his way through the day. He knows when I need a gracious pick-me-up, and he’ll come over and sit near me, nudging my knees playfully.

I’m also truly blessed to have a son who’s considerate. Last week, when he ordered take-out and realized they’d forgotten something in the order he knows I was looking forward to, he looked genuinely annoyed. “Aw man! They forgot the cole slaw!” It was such a small thing, but these tiny grace notes accrue until you realize how blessed you truly are.

All of these things remind me that grace is a steady stream of positivity, unseen but on-scene at all times. Could be that this is God’s way of saying, “I’m here. All’s well. I’ve got you.”

It’s comforting to know, too, that my sisters of the soul, Lori and SueBE, keep me covered in prayer and send lo(a)ve in my direction constantly. I swear, there are moments during the day when I just KNOW one or both of them is thinking of me. 

So, feel free to wish me a Happy Birthday, but as I sit here basking in blessings, gifted with grace, most of the time, I’ve got a Happy Everyday. And I wish the same to you.

May be an image of food
Cucumbers from the garden for the food pantry.

Maybe it is because I grew up on stories of service to others. My father and uncles talked about rescuing lost and injured hikers from the Davis Mountains in West Texas. I heard about my grandfather’s work as a lifeguard in Biloxi Bay. And they talked about my Grandmother’s Sunday dinners.

Sunday dinner as service? You know it. The family was poor but there was always room for one more person at the table. Biscuits could be stretched as could the pot of beans and various home grown vegetables. There was always food for whoever came to the table.

These stories came to mind when our pastor recently talked about service. He acknowleged the fatigue that we all have living during a pandemic. Yet, he encouraged us to get out and serve others. After all, our church offers three opportunities a month as we give out sack suppers or boxes of food from the local foodbank.

Admittedly, I didn’t really feel like doing it. It is hot and humid and and and . . .

But my husband got us all in the car and off we went. We spent three hours packaging up sack suppers and handing them out to passers by. We chatted with parents who just needed a break. There was a bus rider with vision problems who needed a bit of human connection. We even encountered one of the mom’s from the swim team my son used to belong to. Serving others helped us connect with our community. That’s #1.

Several days later, I found myself working in the community garden, again beside my husband. With all the rain we’ve been having, every other week we have to pull should-high grass from the various beds. We work for about an hour in the sunshine. We listen to birdsong. We wave to preschool teachers, landscapers and others off in the distance. When we are done, I feel so much more relaxed. Whether I’m packaging up food or working in the garden, service gets me off screen. And, really? How can that possibly be a bad thing. That’s #2.

Last week, our book club discussed Faith by Jimmy Carter. I expected the book to be about his Christian faith, and it was. But it was also about his faith in humanity. And service because, as he explained, how can you BELIEVE and not feel compelled to reach out. Service isn’t essential to salvation, grace takes care of that, but really? If you believe, service is an expression of that belief.

And, that, my friends is #3. Service shows others what you believe.

It’s been almost a week and I have to tell you. I’m finding myself once again drawing inward. It is time to get back out there to serve.

–SueBE

Feathered, almost, I suppose.
an egg cupped in a nest,
the worrisome business of being born
blunted by something sure
bringing light and heat
to the blind uncoiling of limbs.
There will be no abrupt nudgings
to take flight with wings too weak
to shatter air; you are welcome to stay
a week, a year, a lifetime.
All you need do
is never look down.
Instead keep your vision fixed
on the sky: something is coming,
flapping furiously, with arms like an angel,
to enfold you. Believe in this.

Image may contain: 1 person, text that says '"Every tomorrow has two handles; we can take hold by the handle of anxiety or by the handle of faith." ~Henry Ward Beecher Inaugurate Light'In “The Last Straw,”  Lori encouraged us all to look for small blessings.   Ruth added her plea that “In These Times” we can avoid taking our anxieties out on each other.  I don’t know if the woman I encountered this week had read their posts, but she was definitely an angel in my troubled week.

In addition to the onslaught that is 2020, the day I went to the library was just a comedy of errors.  If there was something hard, I banged my elbow on it.  Getting my books off the hold shelf, I knocked a sign to the floor.  Picking it up meant putting down a stack of 15 picture books, graphic novels, novels and a movie.  Everything I had requested for three weeks showed up at one time.

Scanning all of this out through the single self-check out station was not a rapid process.  Then I realized there was someone behind me in line.  Normally there are 5 places to check out but not right now, and she only had only one thing in her hand.

I apologized and she graciously told me it was no problem.  “I’m not in a hurry.  Don’t worry about me.”

Still I felt guilty as I juggled to get it all in the car without dropping anything.  Then I realized the same woman was parked next to me. She stood patiently in her mask, social distancing.

“I am so sorry.  You’re stuck waiting for me again!”

“It isn’t a problem.  We are all in this together.”  I met her eyes and she held my gaze.  “Really.  It is okay.”

I got in the car and sat there a moment replaying her words.  It is okay.  We are all in this together.  After this encounter, my day improved considerably.

At this point, I go almost nowhere, but I am looking for my opportunity.  Someone out there needs to hear a kind word.  They could use a glimmer of His light and love.

–SueBE

[Note: The following is a collaboration between Krissy Mosley of Visionarie Kindness and Lori Strawn of Praypower4Today. Krissy’s words are in bold; Lori’s in regular type.]

In the deep dark depths
where lost things go
Outside, at the bottom of ourselves
three steps down before the sidewalk begins
where the heartbeats are faster against the pavement
I found among the roots
and angled shoots a stone
that mended the spot in my soul
where once a wall stood.
I took it.
palpitations rapid, helpless hearts are fallen
stricken — what will it be now?
to hope in vain
to pray and never get an answer
blow by blow, wave after wave,

Though all falls to rubble,
though my spine is plucked
like the pith of an orange,
but suddenly through this gush of disaster
long before I stepped outside to wonder
long before the aromatic taste of morning 

I will not fail. Faith, like all
final things, falters, falls,
loses footing, fades, then
surges, sure as the sun
we’ve been circling since
long before our tragedies
were named.
Hope’s on the scene
plunging out the dark-dank air
pressing fear into faith:
second wind’s arising.

 

closeup photo of woman's eye wearing maskAs I shopped the early “senior/disabled person’s shopping hour,” I overheard two grocery store workers talking about an incident involving another employee. “It really got ugly. That customer got so angry, he pushed a cart at her!”

Could it be that the “subcutaneous” part of the Coronavirus is that giving in to fear and panic will lead to you actually losing your grip on reality? Could people really be going out of their minds in this time of chaos?

If so, the best protection is to shore yourself up with a mind-clearing, soul-centering meditation before you leave your home to go grocery shopping, or go to work if you’re in an essential job. 

If you believe in God, say a specific prayer, asking him to put a fence and a forcefield around you, body, mind and soul. 

If you don’t believe in God, what the heck is wrong with you?!? Sorry. I was temporarily outside my mind (as comedy duo Key and Peele would say) right then. Apologies, indeed! If you don’t believe in God, be aware that you make the world better or worse based on the attitude you bring out into it.

No matter what you believe, put on your grace mask before you leave your house today. People who are gripped with fear are inside their own heads. Don’t go in there with them. Stay in your own place of equanimity. This is a moment in time. Don’t let it inflame you into being someone you’re not. 

Shelter in place today. If you must go out, travel with grace today. This won’t go on forever, but until it’s over, stay true to who you are. You’re not a ruffian or an animal. You know right from wrong. Don’t push a cart at a grocery store worker, i.e., essential employee. Don’t designate yourself the moral high ground police if you see someone buying too many paper towels. Get back to your moral center. Get home to your family. Get over these small moments and look at the big picture. Remember how much you have to live for and let it go.

Sorry for the absence.  Deep into meeting a work deadline while trying to skirt pandemic-monium.  No, I’m not making light.  Well, not entirely.  My coping mechanisms include laughter. And that’s not a bad thing for getting through things right now.

This image popped up this morning and reminded me of Lori’s prayer.

Me? I’m ready to quarentine.  Afraid?  Not so much but I’m a busy introvert who is trying to meet a work deadline.  I work from home.  If I had to stay home?  I could get a lot done.  And I’ve got a shelf full of library books and three blankets that I’m knitting or crocheting – different techniques for different projects.

But I have no troubles understanding why people are so afraid.  We don’t handle the unknown especially well.  We are a society who wants absolute and complete control which we call freedom.

That’s always struck me as a touch ironic.  Freedom to me is a cottonwood fluff on the breeze.  It is a flowing stream.  It is quiet and ease and rest.  Funny enough, these are also the places that I go to spend time with God.

And really isn’t that what we should be doing in times like these?  Spending time with God?

The future is unknown and unknowable.  It is out of our control.  But that was the situation three months ago.

Like the say in Hitchhiker’s Guide – Don’t panic.

Instead, have courage.  God is with us always.

Have faith.  God is with us always.

Have hope.  God is with us.

Always.

–SueBE

 

dog rescue in middle of lake

Credit: Matt Babbitt / Mlive.com

We’ve all had moments in which we felt as if we were adrift in the middle of nowhere, like this dog found floating on an ice patch on a freezing lake one night. Luckily, just when it seemed all was lost, help arrived and the dog was rescued.

It seems as if the ideal life would be one with no challenges, but what we learn on the hard road instills resilience and resourcefulness. All of the things you’ve gone through have built up your own adversity-acumen, and now you know how to lend a hand to someone else when they need it.

Don’t give yourself a hard time for going through hard times. It’s not a sign that God has left you behind, or that you don’t deserve abundance and accolades. It means you’re storing up skills for the next river you’ve got to cross. And once you get to the other side, you’ll find that, now, you’ve become a guide. 

And as you lay down to rest at night you’ll realize that, even though you’d been on a hard road, it was still a good day. It’s not the easy life that fulfills us as human beings, but a purposeful, positive life in which you do your best, and find that your best gets better every day.

Even when you end up in a difficult situation like that poor pup, stranded on an icy lake, just remember: you’re stockpiling survival skills from the inside. And since Providence is perpetual, you’re never really alone.

If a cat has nine lives, during an existential crisis, does it say, What are lives? And why do they randomly stop and stare into space as if seeing a ghost? My theory is that they’re just trying to burnish their mystique. Freaking us out in that way gives them the upper paw in power struggles.

If the only things that distinguish mankind from other species are self-awareness and opposable thumbs, are panda bears our equals since they have opposable thumbs? I suppose not, since they aren’t self-aware. 

Now, there’s no question my cat and dog were self-aware. They could manipulate me with puppy eyes or cat cuteness. It’s a pity they didn’t have opposable thumbs. It would’ve made opening the treat cabinet a breeze!

We can learn a lot from animals. For example, my cat was right — food, naps and a pat on the head (or a pat on the back) constitutes a cozy life. And my dog was right — going into the backyard, getting some sunshine and being active makes for a healthy mind and body. 

The upside to animals not being as self-aware as we are is that they live in the moment and don’t stress, agonize or feel regret like we do. 

God provides all of us — humans, animals and every other living thing — with the grace to embrace each day for what it is. The past can be too heavy to bear, and the future is still just cargo in transit. Letting go of what you can’t control may the highest form of self-awareness. Why not be present where you are and let God do the heavy lifting?

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