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Last weekend, our pastor was on the road. He delivered his sermon to us in Missouri from a visitor’s center in Mississippi. Technology is an amazing thing. Still, it took a couple of tries for our two techs and the pastor to work out the feedback issue.

And yet everyone sat and waited. After all, we realize that these things don’t always come together on the first try a lot like this blog post.

What?

This isn’t actually what I was going to write about. I was going to make a connection between a parable, specifically the Shrewd Manager, and grace. But I’m just not feeling it today.

And that’s okay. Not everything comes together on the first try. Sometimes we have troubles pulling our ideas together because we simply need more time to process them. This might be the case when we have butted heads with a friend. Or before we try to talk to a family member about something they have done. Or that we failed to do. Whatever the details, we need to take the time to get into a place where we can approach things carefully.

Sometimes we need someone else to lend a helping hand to solve a problem. It took three people in three different locations to bring us that sermon on Sunday. The lesson here? Accept help when it is offered. You don’t have to do everything on your own. There’s a reason that Christ advises us to take part in a community.

But even with the help of our community, some things don’t work. And they won’t work. And what we need to do is throw up our hands in defeat and admit it to ourselves. Fighting on doesn’t do any good and just isn’t worth the effort. Note to self: The instructions say you can hard cook eggs in the air fryer but do NOT try that nastiness again. Really. No one will thank you.

Perfection belongs to God alone. We human beings are fallible and that isn’t likely to change especially when one of us is still experimenting with the air fryer. What to try today, eggplant or cauliflower?

–SueBE

Let me sum it up for you: Grace — I don’t have it. Well, at least not outwardly. Not the kind of grace that shows up in the fluid movement of a dancer or the effortless courtesy of a good hostess. Certainly not the kind of grace Jesus’ mother Mary had, which was a complete freedom from sin. The kind of grace available to me (and to all of us) is pure gift, the redemption we receive only from God.

We give grace when we forgive one another. But it’s hard to bestow that kind of grace, hard to say, “I forgive you” without adding, “even though you’re essentially a bad person/ a selfish swine/possibly a criminal/not someone who deserves my friendship.” Grace doesn’t judge. It’s rather like mercy in that way, dropping “as the gentle rain from heaven / Upon the place beneath.” Raindrops don’t choose where to fall. And if we want to be Christ-like, we can’t pick and choose where our grace falls either.

I’ll admit it’s a struggle. Lucky for me, grace is also a prayer. Maybe not this kind, but still — praying might get me there.

I was not built for grace.
It fits me ill,
a hair shirt at once too small
and dangling from my shoulders.
Still, I’ll have the mastery of it.
I will practice the fastening of buttons,
repeat the words until I mean them.
I will work at grace as at a puzzle,
trying the pieces, searching for a fit.
Perhaps the picture will never be clear,
but I will accept it as it stands, with holes
and jagged bits, unfinished but enough.
I will rain grace, fertile as a heavy cloud,
no matter how the stony ground accepts it.
But first, I must fill myself.

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.
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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.

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