You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘grace’ tag.

I thought I knew the story of the wedding at Cana until our our minister preached on it last weekend. Here’s a quick review for those of us who need it.

Jesus and his disciples and Mary were at a wedding. When the wine started to run low, Mary told Jesus to do something about it. His response? “Woman, what does this have to do with me?” But she ignored him and told the servants to do whatever Jesus told them to do. Jesus told the steward to fill 6 jars that each hold 20 to 30 gallons of water. Then Jesus told him to draw out a serving. The master of the feast tried the wine.

Yep, this is when Jesus turned the water into wine. You can read it here in John. All of us who know teens are shaking our heads. We all know a young man who sounds like this when frustrated. Woman! What are you bugging me about? And we can picture him rolling his eyes before stepping up to help. But here’s what I didn’t know about the Wedding at Cana.

When we read this story as children, the Biblical translation had the steward saying, “You have kept the best wine until last.” But people have continued to study Biblical languages. We now know that the steward said, “You have kept the best wine until now.”

Think about that for a minute. Where we are, when we are, Christ has saved the best for now. That’s a pretty powerful message for 2022. It isn’t a promise that everything will be perfect. After all, things that involve people tend to be, as Ruth would say, wonky.

But is there anything better than that first mug of coffee? Or the time you spent in the backyard throwing a tennis ball for your dog to bring back? Yesterday we had the most glorious sunshine in spite of the fact that it was 8 degrees F. The cat rubbing around your ankles. The stranger who holds open the door for you.

Like Lori said, most of us feel like we are in the midst of a Balancing Act. We’ve had quite enough. The guests at that wedding didn’t do anything do earn that wonderful wine. They were simply there. Take some time to day to simply be in God’s presence. Breathe in. Sip your tea. God is ready wherever you are.

–SueBE

Take a moment today, tomorrow and throughout the coming year. Give yourself grace.
An image of a cup of hot tea with a lemon slice.
Photo by Lisa on Pexels.com

This past week, Ruth, Lori and were chatting and I, once again, apologized for my recent absence here on the blog. What can I say? I’m sorry that I’m leaving it to other people? I’m sorry I’m not carrying my weight.

I quickly got a message back from Ruth and I’d like to share a bit of her wisdom with you. Miss Ruth is, after all, a very wise woman. She reminded me yet again, that I need time. Time to heal. Time to feel. And time to simply be.

As we head toward’s midnight, my phone is pinging with notifications. Have I chosen a word for the year? What about a cause to support? Then there are those people who comment that they know resolutions aren’t popular but making one or more is the right way to get ourselves and our world back on track.

Fortunately, I’ve got Miss Ruth and her wisdom to back me up. I don’t need to pick a word. I don’t need to select a cause. A list of resolutions? Again, I don’t need it.

What I need to do is give myself a bit of grace. Whether you read this tonight or in the coming week, I hope that you will join me. Give yourself the grace that you need to get through the day. Hold on to the grace that you need to get through the month. Day will follow month to become 2022.

And the best part is that God will always be there with a refill when you need a bit more grace. You don’t have to earn it. You don’t have to buy it. It is simply a gift given to us all. His grace. Grace for you and grace for me.

–SueBE

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.

silhouette of two person sitting on chair near tree
Picture of two friends sitting in chairs seen in silhouette at sunset under a large tree. They are facing each other as if deep in conversation.

Happy as a clam.

Cute as a button. 

Fit as a fiddle.

Do these phrases even make sense? How do we know clams are happy? Has someone taken a seaside-survey?

A button, cute? Useful, maybe. But I’ve never seen a button in a beauty contest!

And a fiddle is fit? It looks like it’s wearing a tiny corset. Maybe this musical pun is a groaner, but that can’t be good for its organs! 

So how about this saying: Goody two-shoes. Do the baddies only wear one shoe? 

It’s not possible to make sense of things as they once were, because time marches on and things change. 

Old sayings are like old ways of doing things.

It might’ve made sense to someone, at some point in time. But we’re in a new era. So just as a general rule, and public service, let me offer some sage counsel.

When someone confides a painful truth to you, please do not do this:

  • Gaslight them (say, “I’ve never experienced it, thus, it hasn’t happened to you.”)
  • Blame them (say, “What did you do to cause X? What were you wearing/saying/thinking,” etc.)
  • Snow them (say, “I know exactly how you feel.” No you don’t. You know how you feel. What they’re going through is another person’s situation.)

Show up as a friend, and if that person with a painful truth wants to talk about it, honor that. If they don’t, you know the drill…. Honor that. Silence isn’t the enemy. They may just want to sit and “be.”  

Come to think of it, there are some wise old sayings that still hold true, like this one: “A sweet friendship restores the soul,” Proverbs 27:9. Give your friend in pain space when they need it, and solace when they ask for it. You’ll know how to be there when you listen with your heart.

Potbelly stove - Wikipedia

Picture of rusty, brown pot-belly stove

At the physical therapy center last year, I sat on a table, getting TENS unit therapy for the pain in my legs. 

There were several patients there that day, and most were pleasant enough, considering we were all in various levels of pain.

An older man named Steve was getting treatment for his neck on the table next to mine. “Women always let themselves go after marriage,” he said to his physical therapist. “They never put themselves together with hair and makeup. And the worst part is, they always gain weight.” He shook his head.

There was silence as the other patients and physical therapists around him — all women — processed what he’d just said. Lying on the table there, his own gut was what one would call “voluminous”. He had the girth of a pregnant woman carrying triplets. As he stood up, it occurred to me that he resembled a pot-belly stove: short, squat, and kind of rusty.

That insult to women hung in the air until finally, his physical therapist said something to the effect of, “Sometimes, we just can’t see ourselves as others do,” which I thought was just the right amount of diplomacy and wisdom. Nothing else needed to be said.

This time in history may be remembered for many negatives: the pandemic, divisions based on race and politics, and most notably, an alarming deficit of empathy.

Whatever negativity you encounter today, rise above the visceral instinct to “put someone in their place.” Remember, Comeuppance Coordinator is not an actual job, even though it’s a way of life for many on social media. Keep in mind that everyone is an amalgam of humanity and divinity. This mindset will help the world find its way back to grace again.

heart shape book page close-up photography

“…as an answer to prayer, ‘do what you’ve done’ seemed too easy. I guess I was expecting something trickier. Have you needed a friend’s help to hear God’s voice clearly?”

Maybe having a soulmate isn’t the fairy tale of finding a romantic partner who fulfills your every need and with whom you “click” instantly. It seems to me that you find that connection with friends over the years. Could it be that “belongingness” (as author Brene Brown termed it) consists of components of a whole constellation of characters in your life?

There I go with the alliteration again! Lori and SueBE know I love to use it in posts, so much so that we’ve termed it “alloteration.” Think I’ll flag it 🚩for your safety as you proceed.

SueBE’s post, “How Do You Pray?” resonated with me, and I realized we’d both gotten the same sense of God’s nudging again, even though we live so far away from each other.

Lori, SueBE and I have been discussing a project we can do together, and it seemed natural to believe it was something different than what we are already doing — writing this blog together.

But as I prayed about it, the “words on my heart” were so clear: Just what we’re doing now. Like SueBE, I thought, that can’t be right, can it? Doesn’t it have to be more complicated than that?

Just what we’re doing now. 

So what are we doing now?

  • Writing posts and prayers
  • Bouncing ideas off each other
  • Exchanging emails to catch up on our lives and discuss current events
  • Encouraging each other during hard times
  • Learning from moments of conflict (after ten years of friendship, we’ve only had one, initiated, regrettably, by me)

These things may seem inconsequential, but they form the foundation of our friendship. 🚩

Paradoxically, that moment where I left my common sense in my other purse and said hurtful things to SueBE has deepened the soul-sister relationship for all three of us.

It was me at my worst when SueBE was at her lowest. It was Lori at her best, standing by and offering care to us both, knowing it would eventually be resolved in the spirit of grace. It was how people who care about each other seek redemption, forgive, make amends, and heal together.

But as for the project we set out to do together, we decided to write “laments”, a type of sorrowful prayer, so I’ve been writing, discarding, starting over, stomping away from the desk. I just haven’t found a way to express what I’m trying to say. It could be because I’m trying to write from a perspective of hard things are happening, but in the end, we have hope. 🚩 I always have hope, but trying to make it universal with how I feel about everything going on in the world has been…? Fraught? Feels false somehow.

So maybe the three of us are supposed to do something similar to what John Green and his brother Hank do under their moniker, The Vlog Brothers. They record videos addressed to each other about all kinds of topics.

Of course, selfies are not my comfort zone, so I doubt I’ll be climbing on board the video wagon. Lori and I aren’t used to presenting our personas as a package for perusal (🚩). SueBE is more comfortable with public speaking, as she has done it often, and does it well.  She offers classes on the art of writing. She’s our professor, and it’s her purview (½ 🚩)

I’m not sure how this new project of just what we’ve been doing will manifest, but I know that we’ll figure it out from afar, together, with prayer, patience, and the persistent push of providence. 🚩

Do you have to be there in person to understand what someone else is going through? No, of course not. If you care, you can be there by phone, email, or video. If that person is part of the swath of soulmates in your life, you can be there with your heart.

True confession time.  Yesterday when Ruth wrote about the friend with the ruffled feathers, that was me.

I still feel bad that Ruth worried so much about upsetting me.  And really it wasn’t so much what she said.  It was the fact that when she said it, I was one great big raw nerve.

You may not have noticed, but 2020 has been a bit much.  No, really!  It has.  And this past week has been nightmarish.  Due to events in my family, I managed to attract the attention of a troll.  Oh, you’ve never had to deal with one?  Imagine something loud and hate-filled that comes boiling out from under a bridge looking for someone to bash.

Fortunately, I’ve got loved ones who are willing to support me when a troll does its worst.  Yes, Miss Ruth took a wrong step but I knew all along that she loves me, as does Lori.  We may not be blood kin but we are sisters of the soul with laugh lines and prayer calluses from our time together.

And I knew that.  That’s why when she said sorry I knew she meant it.  She was sorry.

She didn’t say that she was sorry I had misunderstood her obvious intent.  Or that she was sorry I was thin-skinned.  She wasn’t sorry that I was irrational or too sensitive.  She was sorry.

See I’m lucky.  I’ve got these two ladies in my life.  And I have another friend who is a life coach and one of the things that she helped me understand is that when I have that “Hey now” reaction, I need to think about who I’m reacting to.  Is this someone who loves me and wants what is best for me?

If I can say, yes, then I shouldn’t, as Miss Ruth says, make a problem my personal piñata.  It is time to talk things out, even if all I can say is “I get it but I’m raw right now and need to step back.”  My girls will have my back and they will bit by bit pull me back into God’s loving presence.

If, on the other hand, this person is a troll?  Then it is okay to say “Hey, now.  I’m not wallowing around in the muck.  Me? I’m heading back into the light with my sisters.”

And I’ll be thanking God yet again that they are part of my life.

–SueBE

purple petaled flowerMy favorite show lately is the comedy “Black-ish”, and in one episode, something unexpectedly good happens and a character exclaims, “Look at God!”

That phrase has been on my mind lately, as I’ve tried to come to terms with things I don’t quite understand, like how a woman’s body changes with age. Often, the changes are given “food” or “nature” names, like crepe-y skin, cottage cheese cellulite. Crow’s feet. Let’s not forget spider veins.

But all of this can make us forget we women are unique phenomena, capable of creating life, shouldering the weight of the world, and keeping the home fires burning.

These miniature miracles are often taken for granted by those of us who count on the sustaining grace of our sister-friends. That happened to me recently when my thoughtless words wounded a dear friend of mine. I probably assumed she knew I hadn’t meant any offense, as she’s used to my occasional bouts of blunt bluster. 

When I realized I’d been an Epic Tool, nay, a Stupid Stunod (as we say in Jersey), I emailed her again, apologizing for causing her pain. She didn’t reply right away, and during that time, I felt utterly bereft. Had I pushed her away forever? 

Luckily, she gave me a second chance, and it made think of all the second chances God had given me in life. Sometimes I think of my time in prayer as a chance to air a laundry list of Stuff I Don’t Have But Need, Like, Yesterday, and this is what I feel in return on my heart: Food on the table? Clothes on your back? A warm place to lay your head at night? Friends who love you through it all despite your flaws and failings? Peace in your heart? 

Bask in your blessings. Forgive those who cross you. Weigh your words and soften your tone. Don’t make a problem your personal piñata, swatting at it fecklessly. Do what you can and release it into the care of Providence. Look at everyone you’ve got in your corner. Look at all the love in your life. Don’t look at the mulch piling up on top of you. Look at the flower you’re blossoming into, not despite it, but because of it. Walk in faith through this valley, my child. Look at God.

Every day I pray that I might be God’s hands and feet. Honestly, I don’t know what this entails. I only hope that I see the opportunities as they arise and that I am up to the challenge of meeting them. I have no way of gauging my success rate, only a sense that it is an important commitment.

My life is quiet. This partially circumstantial — working from home, the pandemic, etc. But it’s also because I like a quiet life. Does that significantly limit my opportunities to work for God? Maybe? Probably? I don’t know. God made me as I am. I have to believe that God will find a way to work through me…as long as I am always open to it.

Hands too small for world-building,
too clumsy for carpentry,
endowed with no augury,
no healing touch. Feet that
can barely bear me up most days.
There is no dancing in them,
no grand displacement of earth.
Still I hold surety that somehow,
they will fit the right space,
and like the click of a key in a lock,
doors will open. If what lies beyond
is not for me, I hold no rancor.
Let others step through.
What they find and see
will sustain me.
Here are my hands.
Here are my feet.
I ask only this: Use them.
They are small; so is grace.
Yet grace can hold eternity.

We’ve been dealing with quarantine and conflict for some time now, and it’s taking a toll on everyone, so it’s important to remember to shore yourself up from the inside.

How do you do that? By reminding yourself of the blessings still in your life, like the fact that your pets are happy to have you home all the time. Well, until they start to feel you’re crowding them, at which point, they’ll have a cat caucus and decide how to address the situation.

Cats have their own unique way of communicating when they need something. Feed me, my cat will say, staring at his empty bowl. Play with me, he’ll say, swatting the air with his paws. They don’t need no stinkin’ words!

Of course, even those of us who know how to use our words find it difficult to say what we need. For example, it’s universally hard to say, I need help. People with mental health issues are often encouraged to “tough it out,” which is not very helpful, especially in times like these.

Another challenge is learning how to say, Please stop helping me. I can do this for myself. 

Maybe we could all learn from this store in Bangkok, which has two types of shopping baskets: a black one for shoppers who want to shop on their own, and a pink one for shoppers who need help as they shop.

Say what you need clearly. You never know who might be standing by, waiting to help you. And if you don’t need help, you may know of someone who could use a hand. Staying centered through prayer and perseverance shores you up so you can become a conduit of grace for all those you meet.

Archive

Have a Mary Little Christmas

%d bloggers like this: