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”

Will You Remember Me? (Tudor Women Series)


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Will you remember me?

When my life is cut short too soon? When I am gone before my time?

Will you cherish my memory?

Will you see that merry girl who served and smiled and laughed and danced?

Who cared and pitied and strove?

Will you remember me?

Know that my life has not gone unfulfilled.

I have given what I promised.

I have restored unity, family, love, brought what was broken together again.

I have given you what has been denied you all your kingly life: a son.

A bonny boy to carry your name.

Will you remember me?

I have given my life in the pursuit of your happiness.

I sought the care and good of our people, to spread light wherever I could.

You will remember what I have done.

They will call me “Good Queen Jane”. You will revere me as “wife”.

But will you remember me?

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Author’s Note: This is the fifth piece in a series inspired by the ladies of the Tudor dynasty. The first, “A Smile for a Kiss”, was inspired by Mary Tudor, eldest daughter of Henry VIII, who would become Queen Mary. The second, “Actions for a Lifetime (Love Me as a Verb)”, was inspired by the genteel Anne of Cleves, short time wife of King Harry (and many say the luckiest one). The third, “Will You Hear Me?”, was inspired by that lion of a woman, Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain, who refused to be put away quietly, to recant her position as Henry VII’s “true wife”, or to give away her title as Queen and disinherit their daughter. 

So I apparently lied inadvertently when I said that “All Shall Love Me and Rejoice” (Elizabeth I in triumphant declaration of her personage and position) was the final piece in my Tudor Ladies Series. Last night, a quiet voice began speaking to my memory and to my writing. That of Jane Seymour, the only woman, and queen, to do what Henry VIII most greatly desired: give him a son. The poor woman died in the attempt, leaving behind her son to an ambitious father who could not bear to be alone, conniving advisors who would turn the child into a push-me-pull-you in his later years, and a kingdom fraught with tumult. It was not a world made for such as Jane but it was perhaps the world that needed her most of all. I felt such care and pity for her when she laid her storied hand on my shoulder and whispered, “Will you remember me?” that I could not leave her out of this august yet pitiable company of women.

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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BloPoMo Day 8, Post 2: “From One Stray to Another”


Dear Chance,

I hope this letter finds you okay, and that your family is doing well.

I found the fox. He’s sitting safe and sound on my shelf, waiting and ready, if you ever want him back. Just let me know and I’ll send him home to you. I miss you. A lot. I feel like we haven’t spoken in months, and I worry about you all the time. I wish well for you every day, lots of car windows and frosty eyelashes. I still catch myself making coffee for you early in the morning before training sometimes because I expect you to be burning the midnight oil upstairs.

I’m sorry for everything that happened during the war. I know that it was hard for you. Are you okay? It was weird when all the lantern power went away. I still feel…different, not entirely sure how but I do a bit. I hope you’re okay, really-really. And thank you for being there for me when I was shaky and holding me fast; as usual, you were right on time.

I’m so glad that I got to see you before Christmas. I know it was a coincidence but still! It was one of the best presents I could have gotten. I’m so glad you were there and that I got to share a snowy park with you. Thanks for coming to say hi.

You are wonderful, Chance. You know it. You can do this. All of this. And it’ll be great. Be safe and be brave, hon. I’ll keep an ear out for you. And don’t forget: you promised me a surprise from a young man in a tux in an art gallery someday.

Love,

Betsy

From One Stray to Another

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