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


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.


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.

Grace in the Tumult (Election Day)

Today is the day. The day we have been anticipating-slash-dreading for months. Today is Election Day here in these United States. No other election in my lifetime has been so fraught, so loud, so tumultuous, so divisive. There have been so many times that I wanted to stop the world and get off, just to escape from all of it, even if just for a little while. However, here we are. Regardless of who you choose to vote for today, I would ask one thing of you. Please.

Go about your day kindly and gently. Go about it with grace.

There are people out there today, on both sides of the party line, who are scared, worried, and unsure. They could use your smile, a door held, a direction kindly given. Leave the candidates out of it. Don’t be a party member today; be a human being. Keep your pieces of mind; give your grace. Today is a day that could change our future forever, and that is incredibly scary. Let’s give a little grace today, soothe a heart, reassure a quaking spirit.b We are in this together, for better or for worse. We never how far the ripples go. Ripples grow into waves, waves carry more water with them and become great, roaring things that splash and spray and spread.

Can we do that with grace today? Can we let it help us see the person in front of us in line, the person behind us, as people, not party members. People who are doing what they can in the best way they know how. Can we, will we offer grace, let it ripple out, let it grow and splash and spray and spread? Because this country could desperately use some grace today.


BloPoMo Day 7: “Giving Wings to Grace”

Did you know that grace can be sent?

It is as simple as a stamp on an envelope,

A name on a package, or an address in the To: field.

Grace is given in the remembering.

Grace is given in letting someone know that you remember.

Grace is given in the “Hello, how are you?”

Grace is spoken in the “I’ve been thinking about you”.

When we assure another that they are not forgotten in the crush and swell of this world,

That is grace.

We can twine our words round with kindness, compassion, and love, like wrapping paper and ribbon.

We can give grace in a “hello”,

Extend it in an “I love you”,

Gift it with a “you matter”.

We give grace a face when we listen in silence.

We give it wings when we acknowledge another’s pain.

We give it hands when we reach out.

Sometimes, our grace is small, childish, as simple as a shared cookie or bag of caramels.

Sometimes our grace is broken as we work through our own pain, but we make the attempt.

Sometimes our grace is beautiful, opalescent, forgiving, and extravagant.

Sometimes our grace is just blue ink on lined paper and starts out, “I just wanted to say hello”.

BloPoMo Day 6: “Grace in Extravagance”

When I was in high school, I had a conversation with a classmate that I still remember almost 20 years later. We were discussing a popular female musician. My classmate insisted that the young woman had a big nose, far too big to be pretty. I replied that, even if that were so, her voice was still very lovely.

My classmate looked at me and stated, “You always find something good to say about someone. I need to learn to do that.”

I didn’t think much about it at the time because I was merely stating the truth: her voice was (and is) lovely. It didn’t think that I was doing anything extravagant, despite my classmate’s implication. But it has stuck with me all these years, always floating in the back of my mind somewhere. I have come to believe that it has influenced the way I think about and speak of others, whether I notice it or not. There is a grace in being willing to find what is good in someone, in choosing to build them up rather than tear them down. I also believe that there is grace in being willing to see what is real in someone.

What is real will not always be pretty, it will not always be easy. It may be messy, it may be difficult to fathom or handle, but grace involves seeing people as they are, where they are, and extending compassion and loving-kindness to them in that moment. I will admit that I have not always stuck it out through the real in people. There have been times when I have backed up or slipped away, when I have chosen silence over the difficult and homeostasis over the challenging, or let relationships fall silent, wither, and die because I just didn’t know what to do and was too scared or hurt or weary to try, to reach out, or to forgive. I admit this with regret and repent of it now, though, in some cases, I know the deep truth of Dickens’ words:

“[There is] no space of regret [that] can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused.” (A Christmas Carol, Stave 1, brackets mine)

 I know that letting go is a thing that sometimes needs to happen, that it is sometimes necessary for emotional and mental health on both sides. But I like to think that I might be intelligent enough (even if just) to tell the difference between needing to let go after having tried and moving away from the real. I have been shown the gentlest and strongest grace by those in my life, in those times when I know I was difficult, frustrating, and confusing in my realness. I want to emulate their example and sit with them and others in their real, to understand when they are speaking out of pain, and reach out in love.

“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” Ephesians 4:2 (NLT)

Extravagant grace is not an easy thing, but those who have internalized it, practice it, live it, make it look easy. They make grace look natural, even though it isn’t. Grace is a choice and sometimes a hard one, but the good it can do is immeasurable. Be brave, dear ones. Let’s stick through the hard; let’s sit with people through the real. Let’s shut down our propensity to take things personally and reach out softly in love that might be unexpected but so deeply and desperately needed.



BloPoMo Day 5: “Momentary Grace”

What was your worst moment?

When were those few seconds that you so desperately wish you could snatch back?

What were the words that you just wish you had swallowed?

What were those emotions that you wish you had kept in check?

What if your worst moment actually wasn’t the worst? What if, to someone else, that moment ended up being good, great, transformative? What if your worst, wrapped up in grace, became a best for someone else? Now, it’s true: we may never ever know if this is the case. We rarely get to see just how far the ripples go. But what if it were true? What might that possibility do for your soul?

I’m not saying that every worst moment is a best but we never know what our humanity, our vulnerability, and, yes, even our fallibility can do for others. It may remind them that perfection is not necessary to be good, that emotions are not four-letter words, that we all have breakdown moments, and that we all need someone to extend a little grace every now and again.

Not every worst moment is a best moment but every worst moment has the potential to be, even if all we or someone else learns is to just keep moving forward.