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Photo by Adam Cao on Unsplash

So this morning, I started to go downstairs and got as far as the first step. Forgot the laundry! Turned around, got the bag and went to the basement to get the wash started.

Have you ever started a diet, got fed up (!) with melba toast, and cheated by having some chips? At that point, you said to yourself, Well, I already cheated on my diet. Might as well go all in!, and ordered a pizza?

Mercy. I’ve been there! You figure that the day is already shot since you took that first bite of a Ruffle, so you give up on the diet.

But life isn’t all or nothing. You can turn around and get the laundry. You can stop over-doing it at any point in the day.

The same thing is true of faith. You don’t have to give up on God because religion has let you down. Or you thought it would change everything and you’d lead a charmed life once you found faith.

Deciding hope is better than fear is the first step. Believing in something rather than thinking life has no purpose is another. And the good news is that even if you don’t believe in God, he believes in you.

There’s no set of steps you need to take to make God a part of your life. Some religions require a laundry list of requirements, but I believe He meets you where you are. There are many ways that believers choose to honor their beliefs, including baptism and rituals, but those traditions are symbolic. Just another way to say to the world, I’m going to believe life is good, God is love, and this journey is worth it. All you’ve got to do to make that leap of faith is take that first step.

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Photo by Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash

In years past, when I had extra, I found many creative ways to spend it… on things I didn’t even want or enjoy. I’ve been on three cruises in my life. Yet. I don’t swim, I can’t be in the heat due to my medical issues, and I hate crowds. Complained the whole time. Spent a boatload (see what I did there?) of money. Didn’t like it one bit. Well, the food was good. Overall? I could have, and probably should have, stayed home and socked that money away for a rainy day.

Tell you what’s true: it’s been raining lately. Money’s been tight, but we persevere, and wait/pray for better days to come. We all need certain staples to live on, but sometimes, there’s just not enough to buy some of the basics.

When “enough” returned, I actually said out loud to my son, “This is the best slice of toast I have ever had in my life!” Toast. Just made me do a happy dance. Although I did have other food in the house, I was out of bread and there just wasn’t enough in the budget as medical co-pays and deductibles came up early in the year. When a simple piece of buttered toast finally came back to my plate, I was over the moon!

Tell you what’s true: when I had too much I used too much; still, I wasn’t satisfied. Now when I have just enough, it’s manna. I’m content, though eager (if Someone upstairs is on the line listening) for the next batch of bread from heaven! I feel God’s saying, Do what you can. It gets better, and there’s more than “enough” on the way. Grace is always right on time, and that’s good enough for me.

Grace.  Say this word to me and I generally thing gift.  We are blessed by Christ’s gift of grace.  It isn’t something that we, flawed people that we are, can earn.  Nope.  It is truly a gift.

But it is also a prayer.  And, in all truth, prayer is also a gift.  Through prayer, we can converse with God.  It is one of the ways we have to connect with Him.  But it too is a gift.  When Christ gave people the Lord’s Prayer it was a revolutionary idea.  People going directly to God in prayer?  Not going through the priest after presenting an offering?  Christ gave us this gift, this connection to God.

But grace is also a way to live every day if we so choose.  We can carry God’s grace into the world.  We can help other people understand that they don’t have to be perfect to be worthy of love.  They don’t have to be perfect to have a place.  All they have to be is human.

No matter how you define grace at this particular moment it is a remarkable gift.

–SueBE

Everybody’s trying to be heard. They’re making a point, even if nothing’s being said.

Like the way my cat stalks elegantly into the kitchen, gliding over to his bowl and waiting, back foot out, tail up, as if he’s still in motion. He’s conveying, I’m moving toward this bowl, and as you can see, for some inexplicable reason, it’s not filled to overflowing. It’s only half full. Is there… some…reason for this, hooman?

When I fold laundry, I have to remember that in KitKat’s language, a folded towel reminds him of his early days when he was still getting used to being in a house for the first time. I’d fold an old towel, put it onto the floor, then the couch, then the bed, so he’d realize he could sit anywhere he liked. He was welcome here.

So one time I was folding towels near where KitKat was resting on the bed. I put one down, ready to fold the next one. He immediately got up and came over to the towel, carefully putting one foot on it, looking at me as if to say, Is this okay? Cuz I’m going to sit on this towel you put here for me. Gingerly, the next foot went on, and he looked at me, then the next, until he was sitting in a circle, purring. So nice of you to fold this fresh, clean towel for me! It’s soft and comfy. Even warm! Guess I’ll take an eighteen-hour nap now!

He looked so comfortable there that I just patted his head and went on with the laundry. In his language, he’d heard me say, Sit here, beloved feline friend. It really was a nice gesture. I wish I’d thought of it!

Sometimes I find myself getting frustrated when I pray and it seems no answer is forthcoming. But I look around and realize we’ve got a roof over our heads, food on the table, and a peaceful place to call home.

Just like a slow-blink from my KitKat. Seems to me that God sends his love without even saying a word.

Well, I woke up this morning feeling tight. My son and I have been dealing with a problem, and it’s the same problem we’ve had for years. It left me with the feeling that we’ve been running in place. Getting nowhere. But something happened as I stewed. I scrolled through posts from my spiritual support team, and it felt as if a weight was lifted.

Lori’s prayer-poems take my breath away, and then I find I’m breathing easier. SueBE can really tell a story from the heart, and then I find it’s got me thinking. We’ve gotten through some things, like this poignant remembrance of Lori’s first Christmas without her father. And SueBE’s inspiring post about the loss of her friend, and how it reminded her of losing her mother.

We’ve lived through some things individually and collectively. We got through, and got each other through.

We’re all still here, writing this blog that started as a reaction to the ending of a writing gig that was wonderful/awful. Well, a lot like life – it wasn’t what we thought it would be, but we got each other out of it.

The best way I can do anything positive for my son is to be content myself. To do the things that make me happy. To create a warm, welcoming home. So when I get up, I look up. When I get dressed, I remember I’m blessed.

If I could, I’d like to solve all my son’s problems. I’ll settle for not causing him problems with my constant reminders to him that this problem needs solving.

I’d like life to be laid out in front of him, and all the right choices to be glaringly obvious. I’ll settle for: I’ve raised him the best I know how/I trust he’s got the know-how to find his own way.

I’d like to be wise, but I’ll settle for blessed.

Just as I’m grateful for faraway friends who are close to my heart. Just like God’s grace. I didn’t earn it, but in quiet moments of repose, it restores my soul and keeps me going.

My son is eighteen-years-old, and, as you can imagine, I’m keeping him covered in prayer. At the same time, I’m trying to keep my distance.

After all, he knows how to navigate the world, and he’s got a good head on his shoulders. I have to remember that I’ve raised him to the best of my ability, and now the rest is up to him.

Still, occasionally, if my prayers were read aloud, they would sound frantic. Because sometimes, that’s just how I feel.

He’s going to college. He’s got a steady girlfriend. He’s driving on New Jersey’s busy highways.

The other day, I prayed anxiously. I’d been thinking of all the things I hoped for him in his life, and felt tight. At the end of the prayer, I spoke to myself, just as if in conversation with a friend, trying to understand why I felt so unsettled.

I hope he does well.
I trust God knows what he’s doing.
I believe it all works out in the end.

Breathing in and out a few times slowly, I went into my sunroom and sat in the spot on the couch bathed in soft light rays. Just as my cat might do, basking and being. Just being.

There was a subtle shift in my soul and I exhaled, speaking out loud the words I had just said, only this time, I changed the punctuation slightly. When I put the emphasis back on Providence instead of on the problem, a wave of of peace washed over me.

I hope. He does well.
I trust. God knows what he’s doing.
I believe. It all works out in the end.

“What if you woke up and the only things that remained were the things you gave thanks for yesterday?” This is something I read on Twitter recently, by a site called Amazing Grace.

Staying in a state of grace is putting God back in charge. You know. Where he was all along. It’s okay to let go of things you really can’t control anyway. Just a gentle reminder from someone who’s been there.

When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative.
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

earyikg21d4-maja-petricIn the news lately, we’ve been hearing about people committing awful acts of terror, and this term seems to come up more often than not: “self-radicalized.”

It might be more accurate to call it “metastasized.” Something incompatible to life taking root at the cellular level.

I’ve noticed that this word isn’t applied to everyone equally.

We don’t call these two grandmas in a shoot-out at Wal-Mart “radicalized.”

In most cases, the term is used when speaking of Muslims involved in violent acts, but I think it could be applied to people of any race, gender or religion who feel disenfranchised.

That being said, I still believe that most of the world’s population is comprised of peaceful, law-abiding people. Of course, there are some exceptions, but there are still many reasons to be hopeful about life.

God’s grace is still the oxygen of the universe.

Here’s what buoys my spirits.

To know that there are people like this four-year-old who read a thousand books and was made Librarian for a Day at the Library of Congress is like a vitamin for the soul.

To know that this elderly lady in distress dialed a wrong number and it turned out to be a police detective who stayed on the line to help her is evidence of Providence at work.

To know that these stray dogs in Turkey were given shelter at a mall by kind-hearted locals during a snowstorm warmed my heart.

To know that young and old can connect, as this 82 year old man found out when a 4 year old said, “hi, old person, can I have a hug?” brought a tear to my eye.

What if we took back ownership of the word, “radicalized,” and used it in the spirit spoken of by Dr. King?

We might self-radicalize toward full-scale compassion. Mobilize in the direction of brazen kindness. Maybe if we open our hearts and reach out our arms, we’d find we could embrace the whole world.

  • Someone saying, “I’m speechless!”
  • The Lone Ranger had a sidekick.
  • “Stay out of trouble,” I said to my teen-age son. “And have fun!”
  • A faith that claims to welcome all, simultaneously excluding some.

So I’m no longer driving, and have discovered Uber. I’ve met many drivers – some say very little, and some are quite talkative. Last week, my Uber driver chatted amiably with me, inquiring about my Freelance Writing projects and suddenly asked, “Are you a Christian?” I said that I was. “Well, we should talk.” He handed me his card, and it listed his title as, “Church Planting Catalyst.” He suggested that I might be interested in writing about their movement.

I mentioned to him that I don’t belong to a church, and it occurred to me that my writing to encourage people to go to church would be an intrinsic oxymoron. He told me that it wasn’t an issue and asked me to think about it and take a look at their website.

The site talks about the important role that believers play in establishing new churches in communities. It spoke of welcoming all believers, but as I read on, I noted an intrinsic oxymoron, and that is, women have no role in the organization. At all. It seems to be geared toward men exclusively, only referring to “ministry wife” as an option for women.

It would be another intrinsic oxymoron for me, a woman, to take on a writing project that would exclude women from making meaningful contributions.

Outreach to me is what SueBE’s Presbyterian faith does, as she wrote about in an earlier post – standing up for social justice. It’s what Lori’s Catholic Church does to minister to those in need. In my town, it seems that Catholic Charities helps more families than the government’s social services.  

Even the word “outreach” is all-encompassing, so I’m puzzled as to why any faith would decide to bypass some of God’s children. So, while I’m always in the market for new writing gigs, I think I’ll take an Uber to another destination. Somewhere that everyone is welcome to ride.

Scanning the headlines this week, I found myself leaping to conclusions and making assumptions. Before I knew it, I was psycho-analyzing public figures I don’t even know.

Governor Paul LePage of Maine found himself in hot water last week when he left a profane, threatening voicemail for a Democratic lawmaker. He’s ignited a lot of controversies lately, most of which are exacerbated by his brash style. I came to the conclusion that LePage was still fighting battles from his hardscrabble childhood. Okay. Figured him out. Next subject.

Flipped over to the Entertainment Section and read that actress Blake Lively had a baby shower that singer Taylor Swift attended. Hmm. That Taylor Swift has been collecting famous friends for years now. Probably a direct result of Kanye West ruining her VMA award moment.  Must be trying to prove that people really do like her. Okay. Figured her out. Next subject.

Of course, it did occur to me that these are people I’ve never met, and never will meet. The only “facts” I’ve got at my disposal are those found on the internet. I have no degree in psychology, so everything I’m assuming is just my own best guess.

One of my favorite sitcoms is The Odd Couple with actors Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. In one episode, Randall’s character, Felix Unger, says, “Never assume. When you assume, you make and ass out of u and me.”

We all make assumptions about each other, but we don’t know the whole story. It’s a good idea not to take our own meanderings too seriously. Lest we forget, people are making assumptions about us, too.

So even as I find myself putting on a judge’s robe that I never earned and banging a gavel in my own mind, I’ll also send up a quick prayer. “Bless them,” I’ll ask. “And forgive my little lapses.” I’m more grateful than ever that God’s grace is such a big umbrella!

Clean and Clear PostAlways Do Your Best. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.
Don Miguel Ruiz
The Four Agreements

So I was in the kitchen washing dishes yesterday, when, for reasons unknown to me now, I started to think of a time years ago when I made mistakes as a mother, and it left me feeling sad.

How could I do that? I asked myself. Before long, I was in tears, still scrubbing away at plates.

At just that moment, I noticed some marks on the wall where the trash bins used to be kept. There were little flecks of debris that I’d never noticed, as this wall was behind a door we always kept open.

The garbage can was gone from that spot. All that was left was the residue.

Just as the things I was beating myself up about were well in the past, and all that was left was the regret.

It isn’t here anymore, I said to myself, wiping down the wall. It’s been removed.

Odd as it may seem, I felt that God was speaking to me through the grungy grime!

The things we can’t forgive ourselves for are echoes from a bygone era. If we’ve truly changed our ways and have brought it to God in prayer, the only thing left to do is release it. Not forgiving yourself is like saying God doesn’t know best. If he’s forgiven you, there’s nothing left to forgive. It doesn’t exist anymore.

When I was done with the dishes, I realized that I felt lighter, as if a burden had been lifted. As I cleaned in the kitchen, my conscience had cleared. I did my best at the time, I reminded myself, and I’ve learned to do better over the years.

Well. Laundry is next on my to-do list. I wonder what life-lesson I’ll learn from fluffing and folding?

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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