Holding the Days with Gentleness


2016 is almost over and what a year it’s been. I’m not entirely sure what to make of it now that I sit and think about it but I will try to put word to thought.

This year, my watchword was grace—to give grace as well as to recognize it when it is given me and to also give it to myself. I have spent this year trying to be mindful of opportunities to show grace, as well as to accept it when I receive it. I also worked to be mindful of opportunities to study and explore grace and its facets. This year, I spent my NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) in November centering my writings on grace. I explored what I knew, what I have experienced, though, and considered, and even found new levels of thought on what it means to give grace, experience it, choose it, and even to be graceless. It was, honestly, one of the best writing experiences of my life and it renewed a desire in me to write, and I am determined to write as often and as much as possible in the coming year.

This year, I went back to teaching full time. It was a quick decision after many, many applications, interviews, and then coming to terms with being home with Elizabeth for a final year. I got a call, interviewed, and made a decision all in two to three days. I had to sacrifice some things, such as seeing my baby off on her first day of daycare/preschool, but I knew that it was the right decision for my family. Has it been easy, such a quick and large life transition? No, not really, and it has taken me almost the entire semester to feel as though I have found my feet or that I belong in teaching again (still not entirely sure on the latter but for now, functional will do). I am still struggling a bit to find a life balance again—to find the correct levels in time for daughter, husband, my self-care, and my writing–but I have learned and am learning a great deal from the teachers and students I am working with now. At the same time, my girl is enjoying school and missing her friends now that we are at the tail end of Christmas vacation. She is doing wonderfully, growing quickly, learning so very much, and I am thankful beyond measure for that.

My husband has just completed a leadership development program, which I am buttons-bursting proud of him for sticking with. I know that it was a testing for him and I am ever so proud of his perseverance and determination to get everything out of it that he could. He works hard each and every day and gives all he can as a teacher and a pastor and I am constantly awed and inspired by him. This year, we celebrated ten years of marriage surrounded by friends and full of laughter and good food. It was the best method by which to celebrate (well, that and the new Star Trek film) and I am so glad that we were able to do so. I love you, darling, today and every day and even beyond that.

As 2016 ends, I have been thinking and praying about a watchword, a word of intention for the coming year. This year’s word was grace and the year before was intentioned by courage and kindness. So far, the word that has come to me is gentleness. What does it mean to be gentle? To act and react, listen, speak, and be with gentleness?

With all the fear, the worry, the anger, the darkness, what does it mean for me to be gentle? How can I be gentle with the hearts that are afraid and hurting? How can I be gentle with those who do not understand or don’t want to?

How can I be gentle with my dear ones? Gentle with their feelings, their thoughts, with honesty, in my reactions and discipline as we raise our daughter, with my loved ones’ precious hearts and souls?

How can I be gentle in my job, with my students and coworkers, with their humanity that may break out in difficult ways sometimes, much like my own?

How can I be gentle in my faith, in speaking love and kindness and giving grace to others? In following the example of the God I claim to believe in and the Jesus I claim to follow?

How can I show gentleness in my craft, in what I write and how I post on social media, the corners that I build in the world around me, both real and online? How can I be gentle and bold and courageous at the same time?

I want to hold what people give me, what they trust me with, gingerly and carefully. I want to be gentle with souls, with words, with trust, with hearts and feelings. I want to do this for others because I know how much I want it for me. I want people to be gentle with me, with my thoughts, feelings, words, hopes, dreams, heart, and soul. Just as I know how much I need grace and so I try to give it, so it goes with gentleness. I know how much I desire it; why should others not be the same? Why should I not try to give the reactions that I would want to receive?

Everyone is going through or has gone through something; everyone could use some gentleness in a world so rough and tumble. This year may be hard, this year may be scary, but I will not let that stop me. I will not let it harden me either. I will not let it take my softness away but, if anything, I will let it increase, let it seep into my touch, fill my words, prompt me to listen more than I speak. May this coming year find me holding others with gentleness and radical love, continuing to act in grace, having courage, and being kind.

Farewell, 2016.

Welcome, 2017. I call you blessed and look forward to what we have to learn together.

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Thanksgiving Grace


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Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Tomorrow, I will gather my family around a table full of lovingly-made, delicious food, and we will indulge in feasting, conversation, beloved traditions, and spending extended time together. Tomorrow, I will remind my daughter of what day it is and its significance and help her remember all the wonderful things that we have to be thankful for.

But I don’t just want to leave thanksgiving on Thanksgiving. I want it to be a part of every day. I want to make sure that I don’t forget my blessings the rest of the year. I don’t want to forget them. Not ever.

Over the course of this month, I have been inspired by and written on grace. I have one week left and I know that there is still so much that I have yet to learn about the kaleidoscope facets and beauty of grace that I am simultaneously floored and chomping at the bit to see what comes next in this journey of mine.

I never want to forget the grace that has been lavished on me, both by the God I love and serve and the people with whom I share my life. In these holidays (and every day), let’s determine to extravagantly extend the grace we so desperately need ourselves, dear ones, and fill our homes with safety, love, kindness, and mercy.

When I am Graceless


There comes a point in just about every evening when a switch is flipped within me. A moment when I go from gentle, loving, patient, ever-bearing Mommy to a weary, prickly, cranky woman who wants nothing more than for her child to go the eff to sleep and for a lion’s portion of quiet to reign in my house again for the little time that I have left before my body requires me to sleep before  getting up and doing it all over again. In those moments, I have to admit to being largely graceless.

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A Thought on Thanksgiving Grace


Thanksgiving is coming up quickly. November is the month during which we are encouraged to be grateful. Grateful for what we are able to give. What part does gratitude have in grace? Does gratitude, acknowledgment of all that we have and have been given, make us more apt to be gentle? More forgiving of the shortcomings of others?

I hope so. And I hope we give thanks for the opportunity.

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Everyday Grace


There are few places where I have learned, been offered, and practiced grace more than in my job. I’m a teacher. Middle school English and Language Arts. Yeah. See what I am driving at? School provides an obscene number of opportunities. Education, definitely, but also for growth, maturity, dealing with failure, kindness, and, of course, grace. Every moment is a big-decision moment, and every student is a potential big decision. Therefore, I have to judge each one, weigh each one, sometimes in only a thought’s worth of time.

There are times when a child just desperately needs grace. Even the most ornery of teenagers. They don’t know what to call it. They don’t know what to ask for. But they need it and they know they need it. They need grace. They need to hear, “It’s okay. You’re okay. Take a breath. It’s okay.” Then you will see those captured lungs exhale and they actually start the act of breathing again. The tension releases maybe just a bit but every little bit helps.

It’s rather a microcosm of life as a whole, that moment, isn’t it? We all, at one time or another (usually more), desperately need to be told that it’s okay. Our shortcomings aren’t the end of the world. Our mistakes haven’t destroyed all we hold dear. We aren’t left helpless and hopeless. We just need to hear:

It’s okay.

You’re okay.

You will be okay.

In those moments, we all need someone to extend a little grace to us. For some of us, it’s often the permission that we need to give ourselves a bit of grace. I’ll admit it, I’m about to hit that wall, I think. Thanksgiving is coming and, with being back to full-time teaching, that makes tidying up and readying the house for company a much bigger chore than when I was a stay-at-home mom and could parcel the work out over more hours in a day. I don’t have nearly as much time now to Tetris away the toys in the living room and the everyday stuff on the kitchen table, air out the house, rearrange the cupboards, and clear off the kitchen counters. I know myself and my stress level well enough to know that, (much) sooner than I’d like, I’m going to need someone to tell me, “It’s okay. It doesn’t have to be perfect. The family will have a great Thanksgiving no matter what.” I’ll need someone to remind me to give myself permission to see okay as good enough, permission to not be perfect, permission to just be.

Will you stay close? I’ll stay close to you, too.

It’s okay. We are okay.

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Lingering in Grace


Here we are: the month is half over. And I don’t know what to say, what more I can write about grace. I’ve been lingering over the thought all day, though no epiphanies have come. I am trying to keep lingering in mind so I suppose I’ll just…write, shall I? Today, I read Jennifer Dukes Lee’s beautiful blog post about tucking oneself away and lingering in karios (the right, opportune, or supreme moment). It struck my heart hard, in a good way.

{“We are addicted to hustle, deadlines, speaking before we think, clock-watching, and constant movement. We are unsure how to live in kairos time — that big-picture awareness of eternity where time stands still.”}

Truthfully, I’m worn out today. I graded close to six classes’ worth of assignments, two sets per class nonetheless. It’s hard to linger when you have deadlines to meet, especially self-imposed ones. It’s hard to linger when I’m supposed to be blogging about grace. Maybe today is a day to give myself some grace.

Maybe today is the day to tell myself that it’s okay. That I don’t have to be earth-shattering or awe-inspiring. That I can just do as I have always done, love, linger, and remember that the world is still beautiful.

Thank you, Jennifer. I needed that.

Filling Spaces with Grace


Safe spaces. We are hearing a great deal about them of late. Spaces where we are welcome, accepted, protected, defended…safe. We are also entering into the beginnings of the Holiday season, and hospitality is calling our names. The season when our homes will be filled with family and friends of all shapes, bents, and personalities. This is an excellent time to make our homes into safe spaces. Places where those around us can feel free and accepted and able to just be. These are the times for grace to fill those safe spaces.

Let’s fill our homes, our spaces with grace. Grace that turns on the lights and lets others in, welcomes them with love, acceptance, and joy at their being. Grace that dissipates the tension of expectation and influences life with generosity, kindness, and gentleness.

Let’s fill our homes with the light of grace today and this season. As Angela Nazworth admonishes us so wonderfully: let’s be agents of love.

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Image by incourage.me – “When You Can’t Handle the Hate”

Turning on the Lights


BloPoMo Day 11

“Turn toward grace and you turn on all the lights.” – Ann Voskamp

When I was little and I was scared, I turned on all the lights in the house. That way nothing could jump out and frighten me. I could see what and who was around me and know that I was safe. This week, I feel like I have been running around trying to turn on all the lights. Not just for myself but also for those I love, those who are worried, despairing, angry, or fearful. I want them to see who is around them. I want them to know that they are safe with them, with us.

But I’m also turning on the lights so that others can see. I am turning on the lights so that others can see they are scared. I am turning on the lights so that they can see each other. So people can see people.

I am turning on the lights so that people can see what they are forgetting: that we belong to each other.

I am turning on the lights so that hopefully we can remember to have courage and be kind.

I am turning on the lights that we can remember to love fiercely.

I am turning on the lights so that hopefully we can really see each other, and that we can hopefully choose to sit with each other in the real and have the strength and grace to stick it out through the hard.

I have spent my week running around, trying to turn on all the lights I can, shed all the love, all the light, all the grace I can. I know that things are not okay. I know that people are not okay. I’m not going to tell them–tell you–to be okay; I’m not going to tell you that. I’m not going to tell anyone–ANYONE–to not be angry or worried or scared or upset or to feel anything other than what they feel.

I am turning on the lights so you can see something other than the darkness. I am turning on the lights so that you can see my hand held out to you. So you know where to reach if you need or want it. I am turning on the lights so you can see me sitting next to you, can see my arms held open.

Don’t worry, dear one: I’m turning on the lights.

Grace in our Belonging. Grace in our Gifting.


BloPoMo Day 10 – The day after the Day After

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Like many others, I felt heavier today, wearier than yesterday. My body has shown signs of stress that I apparently hadn’t realized I was under. Today held my larger, rowdier classes and I prayed fervently during my prep period for the passionate strength I had found in myself yesterday. As I sat and pondered what to write about today, as I thought and read about grace in its myriad forms, I was reminded of something over and over again. We belong to each other. Let me say that again. We. Belong. To. Each. Other. There are people for whom this is the battle cry of their lives and it is stitching itself more and more boldly into the standard of my own.

We belong to each other.

This means that we are each other’s responsibility. We are each other’s circus and monkeys. Jesus set the example for us by leaning into the lives of others, meeting and loving them where they were, getting into their business as Ben would put it, and showing them that, yes, He cared for them. It didn’t matter if they were Jew, Gentile, Samaritan, man, woman, child, etc. He belonged to all of them and they all to Him.

We belong to each other. So when the going gets tough and the pain gets heavy, we share our shoulders, share our strength, share our grace, share our safe places. Sometimes we are the bearer up, sometimes we are the one falling apart, but what matters is that we are there, belonging to each other, holding each other, leaning into and being for each other.

{“…so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;  if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach…” Romans 12:5-7 (NIV)}

Not only to do we belong to each other but we are each uniquely equipped to fulfill our role in the body, in the family of humanity. Some of us are givers, some of us are doers, some of us are warriors, some of us are speakers, some of us are carers,  some of us are listeners, some of us are teachers, some of us are artists, builders, writers, musicians, healers, or creators. Each of us has a gift, a talent, a thing that we do that is indispensable to our people and to our impact upon the world. You, your gift, your thing, your grace matters. It matters a whole lot, because (if I may borrow the admonition of a little orange tree guardian), without you, this world isn’t going to get better. It’s not.

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Grace in the Unafraid


Today, I feel scared but I refuse to be afraid. I will not be afraid. Scary will not stop me. It will not!

Scary will not stop me from caring.

Scary will not stop me from doing as much good as I can.

Scary will not stop me from teaching my daughter and my students to stand in love, have courage, and be kind.

Scary will not stop me from being a decent human being.

Scary will not stop me from extravagantly showing the love of the God I believe in.

Scary will not stop me from punching above my weight to build a better, more loving, more graceful world for us all.

Scary will not stop me. It won’t stop us. We can do this. You and me and us. Every day. We can do this!

I give you fair warning here and now. I am dangerous. I will love fiercely. I will be kind. Scary will not stop me.