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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 block is a true cross-section of America. African-American families live on either side of my house. Across the street, there are a few White families. Next door to them, a Latino family. A Native American family lives at the end of the street. There’s a lesbian couple, an older lady and her dog, and a foster family.

In my own home, there’s me – a tiny, little “ginger” (5”5), so white that, in a snowstorm, you’d miss me; ☺ my tall (6”3) bi-racial, teen-age son who wears his brown hair in an Afro; and our cat, who’s black, brown, and white – the perfect mascot for the family and for the neighborhood.

I’ve got to be honest. In all my years here in New Jersey, I’ve never used the word “diversity.”  The reason for that is that it’s a part of my life, so it doesn’t need a label. It’s just, y’know, my block.

My theory is that most people who use the word “diversity” really have no experience of it in their lives, so their views may be based on stereotypes or misconceptions.

I’ve heard a lot of people rail against the Black Lives Matter movement, and the usual argument is this: why should any one group matter more than the others? Don’t all lives matter?

SueBe wrote the book on this issue, literally, with Professor Duchess Harris, and critics piled on, even before the book came out. Lori spoke for me when she wrote of her anger toward people spewing such hate without having all the facts.

I look at it this way. I’m a proponent of the “Faster Care for Veterans Act.”

While I support the idea of veterans receiving faster care, that doesn’t mean that I think everyone else should receive slower care. I just believe it’s long overdue that this group should have their specific concerns addressed and resolved.

Supporting a group’s right to have their issues heard doesn’t mean that nobody else matters. It means that we’ve still got some work to do. We live on the block together. Can’t we live in the world together?

Many years ago, I worked in an office for a healthcare company. One of the perks of working in an office is that there is usually a break room where you can sit with your colleagues over coffee and just shoot the breeze. It’s a nice break in the day and it can be a palate-cleanser between hectic projects.

So one day, I was working my way from the break room table to head back to my office, and I tried in vain to squeeze past the lady sitting in the chair at the end by the wall. Ever so slightly, I grazed her shoulder as I passed, and she spilled a bit of her coffee onto the table.

“Sorry!” I said. “Let me get a paper towel.”

“It’s okay, I’ve got a napkin. No biggie,” she said, and went back to her morning paper.

A male co-worker, also sitting at the table, said to another person, “But she’s not even…”

He didn’t have to say it, but he was thinking, She’s not even heavy. How did her hips not make it through that aisle and cause a minor spill?

The other person, a middle-aged woman responded, “Well, it’s not about weight, it’s about grace.”

Oddly, I wasn’t offended, even though this woman was, of all things, the communications manager! She should have known better, perhaps, than to say something right in front of me that might hurt my feelings. As a matter of necessity, I’ve developed something of a thick skin through my years here in the garden state, where the passing of the man who played Tony Soprano led to the state flags being lowered to half mast.

I’ve also instituted a personal policy of not being hurt by anything others say, as long as it’s “factually accurate.” This is a phrase we used in corporate communications so often that I truncated it to “faccurate.” We could fend off a lawsuit if the claims were not faccurate. We could put out a press release with documentation of what was faccurate (according to us).

She was right. I wasn’t a ballerina. There’s not a bit of gracefulness in my gait – even more so now that I’m on the mend from an MS exacerbation.

The thing is, we all knew the communications manager was one of those people, as we say in Jersey. Not a bad sort at all, but (as we also say in Jersey) if it’s on her mind, it’s out of her mouth. You get used to people who function this way and work around them, the way you give more latitude with the language to people from other countries. Like Simon Cowell, they seem unfettered by things such as tact or sensitivity, but most of the time, they’re speaking the truth.

I realized that tact just wasn’t her department. It wasn’t her grace.

Everyone has a gift of connection that bonds them to others, and for some, it is empathy. For others, like this woman, it’s effective project management. She could take an enormous project and break it into manageable bites. This makes everyone’s job easier; we all know what we need to do and when it needs to get done.

What’s your grace? For me, it seems to be listening to stories. I know this happens to Lori and SueBE too, and it may be because our friends know that we’re writers, but it happens randomly with strangers too. Offering support and encouragement doesn’t seem much of a ministry, as compared to going overseas on a mission, as one of my favorite bloggers, Ang of Faith Sweat & Tears is doing currently. But it is a grace note on a chaotic day. Another favorite blogger, Debbie, speaks of grace finding us where we are, and just as we are.

I think I’m being faccurate when I say that grace is what is holding the world together. We rely so much on God’s grace that we may forget it’s a gift that never leaves us, even when we give it away. Grace shows up everywhere when you start to look for it. Look around today. Where do you find grace?

Prayer is a choice. For us to pray to give thanks, or to voice our questions and doubts shows that we are choosing to leave an opening in our spirits. Without this opening, there is no vessel, no place into which God can breathe.
Joanna Laufer

I’ve often wondered if expressing doubt to God in prayer is an oxymoron.  Or even sacrilege.  The whole premise behind praying is that God exists and that He is sovereign. Who am I to throw pebbles at Him and question his ways?

A month ago, I had an exacerbation of MS and came home from the hospital ready to heal. Then last week, I fell down in the hallway and had a setback. I was frustrated, distraught, even hopeless.

As I look back over my life, this is, unfortunately, the way I’ve lived my faith-walk at times as well.

It’s as if I see each challenge as the end of the road.  That’s it!  I’ve had it.  As we say in Jersey, I’m too through. I mean, how can I possibly contribute anything to the world lying here in bed, feet wrapped in Ace bandages, barely able to hobble on crutches?  Even writing a blog post takes forever for me now due to dexterity and visual issues.

The reality is that these are speed bumps.  I’m not able to drive right now, but I’ll drive again at some point.  When I was driving, I wouldn’t throw up my hands in disgust if I had to stop for a red light.  I’d know the light would turn green again. It’s just a matter of time.

Some of the most important discoveries in history came from people who questioned the status quo. The world is flat?  Somebody said, “Doubtful.”  The earth is the center of the universe?  Somebody said, “Are you sure about that?”

Lori is active in the Catholic church, and she’s written about voicing dissent within her faith community. In the news today, Catholic nuns are speaking up, even if the hierarchy doesn’t always listen.

During an intense time a few years ago, I wrote about coming to terms with doubt. I decided that it doesn’t negate my faith in God if I express confusion or doubt.  In the end, it strengthens it, reminding me exactly what I believe and why. Once I’ve worked it out in prayer and in my mind, I can move forward with a measure of peace that I didn’t have when my doubts were unexpressed.

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27

It also helps to know that we’re part of a faith community, and that we hold each other up in prayer, as SueBE said in her moving post last week.  “Simply knowing that people are praying for us is a weight off my shoulders.  I’m not going it alone.”

And that – no doubt –  is the gospel truth.

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