Tag Archives: grace

Mother’s Day Booty Call

Dark chocolate, wine, nature, invitation to embrace my calling, I am seen by my children this Mother’s Day and every day. I feel loved all year long by the best kids. I do not need a specific day to remind me.

Still, they show up with surprises. Some with their presence, some with a text, some with a call. Loaves of dark chocolate babka (not pictured) draw waves of laughter, because Baab. Of course it is a fitting type of Mother’s Day specialty bread.

We tear into it together with delight. Then bemoan our stomachs being full of chocolate and rich, glutenous bread.

I have learned to rest on Mother’s Day. I have come to a place of deeper healing and kindness in my mothering story. What once was a struggle has become a challenge, an honest one, at that. Engagement with my narrative has brought deeper healing to my heart.

I have learned to repair with my children. They extend grace upon grace upon grace.

We laugh and cry and discover more inside jokes. Older siblings heal through youngers, as they name similar feelings and childhood anxieties and process them together. It is a beautiful mess.

So on this day set aside to honor mothers, which can feel fabricated and false, I marvel at the booty arranged on the table. My people love me well. They love me with their thoughtfulness and presence. They love me by feeling freedom to celebrate with their other mothers. Oh, how I love the others who mother them.

It brings me deep joy to see my adults living their lives in freedom as individuals. Whether with me in person or by text or by call or in spirit, the space we give one another is a gift. There is big space.

Now I do not want Mother’s Day to end. I want it to last and last, and in many ways, it does. Every day feels like Mother’s Day.

I look forward to a card arriving in the mail this week. I anticipate goodness with a son and his girlfriend joining us for a favorite dinner on Wednesday. The sun goes down on the day, and my heart feels full and so very blessed.

That is the greatest gift of all.

Free Bread

It says card declined.

The cashier looks at me inquisitively. I return his gaze. I have no idea why my bank card would be declined. I insert it again.

Still says card declined.

His face grows bored. The checkout line lengthens. I glance apologetically at those waiting, wishing I had tossed the checkbook into my purse this morning.

Ok. I’m going home to get my checkbook. Can you keep these to the side for me?

My cart waits at Customer Service. I exit Food Lion full of second thoughts about today’s grocery visit. Maybe my card knows something I do not and is trying to keep me from the constant grocery spending hemorrhage that seems to be taking over.

Daily I stop in for bananas or bread or milk. There is always something written on the marker board in the kitchen. I don’t have my usual photo of it but certainly I can remember the items.

apples, oats, both kinds of bread, butter, block of cheese

There is marked down meat, always a find. I add it to the cart with the apples. Rounding the back of the store I remember bacon and coffee cream.

What else was on that list again? We need juice for lunches.

I am glad to see that juice is on the same aisle as oats and add two boxes of Capri Sun to the cart.

Piling items on the checkout conveyor I remember butter and cheese. Hoping that the lady in front of me will move slowly, I run to the dairy aisle to grab them.

Returning with time to spare, my card is declined and I drive home for my checkbook.

Bread! That’s what I forgot. Two kinds of bread!

At Customer Service, one of my favorite cashiers collects my check, making small talk as she enters data into the register. I ask if I can leave the cart there to grab bread.

Oh! You could have gotten bread first and paid for it here.

I assure her it’s okay, hoping it will give me a chance to see what’s up with my card. I grab four loaves of bread and enter the express checkout line.

Another friendly cashier rings up my purchase. I laugh over the events of the day when she asks how I am doing.

Somehow I continue to hold the illusion that I will get my act together one of these days!

Yeah. those ducks are hard to get in a row.

Mine are quacking all over the place!

Laughter ensues as I insert my card only to have her tell me,

If you have ninety cents that’s all you need.

Looking at the screen, I see that the total is $12.90 but that I have earned $12 in rewards, making the purchase $.90. Surprised, I fish through the change in my wallet, taking out quarters and nickels to make up the difference.

For a minute my ducks all lined up and handed me free bread, and it was beautiful.

Hiking and Heart Connection

It was a good day of hiking and heart connection.

Mamas, it’s hard. Mothering is just hard. Maybe not all of the time, and maybe never for you, but it was really hard for me. And in my story, something being difficult to do was not a reason to pause and question it. There was no room for exploring other options or making changes, only soldiering on with the choice that had already been made.

Nineteen years ago I was 27 and had just birthed a 10lb 4oz boy. He was welcomed by his three older siblings, ages 5,4, and 3. Steve and I had been married six years. That is a lot of living and people to fit into a short period of time.

Child number four was not at all like the others. He did not fit any sort of mold, and contrary to what people always said to me, I hear it gets easier after three, nothing could have been further from the truth. Please refrain from offering things that you have heard about situations that you have not experienced to the one struggling in the midst of them. It is truly not helpful.

It did not get easier for me.

There were a lot of hard things to push through and four more babies to follow. I wondered if I would make it. I wondered how something so excruciatingly difficult for me could ever be worth it.

Today happened.

I made it.

It was worth it.

My son and I hiked High Knob together to celebrate his 19th birthday.

He has been there often. Today was my first time. We parked and entered the trail and walked and talked. The sky was a brilliant shade of blue. The leaves were beginning to change. We had the trail to ourselves.

We climbed to the top of the lookout and sat, enjoying the gentle breeze and the stunning view. We shared conversation.

We hiked back to the car, mindfully aware of our surroundings, noticing little things like this wooly bear on the path.

Somewhere along the way, my phone received a wave of service, and several texts dropped into it. One was from my mom, inviting us for coffee to celebrate Kieran and Grammy who share a birthday. We stopped there on our way back to town and captured this picture of the birthday buddies born 75 years apart.

Please don’t give up hope in your hard, whatever that hard may be. I know that it seems easy for me to say, because I am not in your situation. All I know is that today was a glimpse of such sweet goodness and such great reward as my son and I took time together to extract ourselves from the couches and get out into nature together.

It was so worth it. I am grateful for the gift I received on this day nineteen years ago and for the gift I received today.

Don’t miss yours!

Butterfly Blessing

Choosing to leave my phone behind, I climbed to the middle of the back bench seat in the family minivan. Silencing the what if’s in my head surrounding all of the things that I could possibly need it for, the answer remained leave it behind.

I don’t even need it for pictures.

Late Father’s Day afternoon, Steve packed a cooler and announced his desire to visit Riven Rock Park. With seven of us going, the van was full. I chose to give my front seat to the eighteen year old who had spent many years wedged in the very back middle between the car seats of younger siblings.

Everyone scurried to find swimsuits, water shoes, and towels. Transitioning from house to vehicle was a challenge. While moving beyond struggling with car seats, diaper bags, and sippy cups, we now wrangle electronic devices, headphones, and seating arrangements. Somehow we survived the final painful push, and the house and van doors were shut and locked.

Upon arrival at Riven Rock, the van was emptied and the water filled with laughter and voices of siblings. Sunshine poured through the trees, and shadows lengthened. I walked down to the water, stepping gingerly from rock to rock, hoping to achieve my goal of staying dry as I meandered across the top of the water.

Meandering took me back to shore and up the length of the gravel drive, deeply engaged in thought. Without an electronic device to distract and pull me into what other people were doing or to announce to other people what I was doing, I was left with myself. This felt uncomfortable and unsettling. What am I doing?

It’s the question I get most often, these days. What are you doing now? or What are you doing next? 

The answer is I just don’t know.

Walking and wrestling with the unknown, I felt gravel crunch under my feet and heard birds sing in the trees. I asked Jesus to meet me in this space with what I needed, not even knowing what I needed myself. I walked and watched.

My eyes caught sight of something blue and papery on the ground. Once my mind registered that it was a butterfly, I thought it was wounded or dead. Closer examination revealed that it was resting while slowly moving its wings up and down. I stood still, breathing with the movement of the wings in, out, in, out.

The butterfly was not in a hurry to get anywhere. My mind raced to regret that I had not brought my phone to capture this moment of breathing with a blue butterfly that was being so still for so long without an injury. Then my focus shifted to capturing the present moment of stillness with it and reminding myself that it was enough to be just me with the butterfly without the entire world watching or even knowing about it.

The butterfly remained still before finally flitting upward and away towards the trees. I stood in awe and gratitude for what I had experienced in the moment. The practice of breathing and stillness and presence with a beautiful creature clothed in a color that I had never seen before was a gift.

Moments later the blue butterfly returned, alighting just in front of my feet. I peered down closely, trying to memorize its brilliant coloring and beautiful shape so that I could look it up and identify it later. Again, I matched my breath to the slow movement of its wings.

Is this what you had for me today, Jesus? The reminder to slow down and breathe? The knowledge that it is enough just being with myself and with you? The practice of stillness?

Suddenly the butterfly flew up from the ground, touched my forehead and flew away. I stood there stunned. It felt just as a butterfly kiss should feel, light and feathery and stunning. It felt like a butterfly blessing.

I was stunned and stood there in awe.

The butterfly returned a third, and final time. It landed again on the ground in front of me, just as my husband was walking up from the water. I imagine it looked odd to him to find me standing strangely still staring at the ground. I pointed at the blue butterfly, and he was able to glimpse it before the beautiful creature flew up and disappeared into the trees.

There is no picture. (The one at the top of this blog is a Monarch butterfly from my files.) There is no documentation. I cannot even identify the butterfly correctly from the images I find online. All that remains is the image in my mind. That has to be enough. I will trust that it is enough.

What I Need Today

I need you, Father.
I need grace for each day and love for my family.
I need to rest in you and be led by you.
I need strength to face challenges that arise and cause me to fear.
I need your comfort, protection, kindness, love.
I need your blessing.
I need you to keep me from going astray when I am tempted to have found a better way, so that I can dwell with you forever.

Thankful for Pushing-Through Grace

Let your compassion quickly meet our needs, for we are on the brink of despair. . .
Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will thank you forever and ever, praising your greatness from generation to generation.
Psalm 79:13

I am teetering there on the brink of despair, not wanting to pitch over, yet feeling the pull.

Physically I am in a rough place with my body image and pain level.

Emotionally I am weary.

You can’t always judge someone by what you see. Externals can mask internal struggles. They can be a grace.  Don’t think that you already know. You don’t.

I realized my temptation to craft, order, and control this week by the simple act of looking up a Friday craft activity to do with my students. I hit up a place that I rarely visit to find something to do with paper towel rolls and construction paper.


Scrolling through ideas and kid crafts, (these weren’t even gracious home decorating ideas!), I felt the discontent that stirs when one feels like they are living in the less than and chaos.

I am not in a season of gracious crafts and centerpieces and tastefully decorated mantles and fun kids’ Thanksgiving tables, yet square after square of coziness taunted me, causing me to wonder what if? 

I long to be crafty and orderly and cozy and controlled.

Those things are not what will satisfy my heart.

So this morning as a new day dawns, and a new round of struggle begins, my prayer is for grace to continue to push though.

We are all pushing through wherever it is that we need grace to sustain us.

Please help me to push through, Father. This is a tough, tough place.

You’ve been there before.

You will be there again.

You are always there.

You are with me.

I am thankful that Jesus is with me in the struggle, and that he sent crafting grace in the form of saved paper towel tubes found in the back office of our classroom (5 of them that I cut into thirds), paper plates from the kindergarten room, brown feathers from the random extra craft supply drawer in the teacher work room, scraps of red felt left from V-day (there were hearts cut out of it), and lots of washable poster paint. The ultimate classroom grace is always found in the form of my partner teacher whose calm demeanor, patient spirit, and easy sense of humor makes the hard stuff about every day not quite so hard.

photo 2

Can you find little Mae’s and Coco’s turkeys gracing the mantle in the above picture, easing us from fall decor to Thanksgiving? Mine and Roo’s are still at school waiting to celebrate at the Thanksgiving party!

Kindness ~ Devotion ~ Grace

I set an intention of kindness.

I’m not where I was  but where I am, and it’s okay, though the voices inside cry foul and hurl accusation.

I know better.

One day at a time. Day by day.

I set an intention of devotion.

Devoting myself to prayer and Bible reading, and God meets me here.

The accuser is rejected.

It’s only by the Spirit that change will come. It can’t be forced or strong~armed.

It’s okay to start small. Small beginnings lead to great change. The Lord rejoices to see the work begin.

What is my plumb line today?
What work am I beginning?
How does God rejoice when he looks to see it?

I set an intention of grace.

kindness ~ devotion ~ grace

God, encourage and strengthen my heart, so that I may carry on with the tasks you have given me to do.

Grace Enough

I am wrestling the notion of good enough these days. I’m taking measurements, self-assessments, and coming up short. I’m feeling the failure. Inadequacy.

Contempt seeps into my brain, whispering accusations and reminding me of where I lack. I see it everywhere. Even though . . .

Even though I have worked hard this year at my job as teacher and working mother.

Even though I have loved my husband, children, students, co-workers in the midst of my struggles.

Even though I have learned much about flexibility and taking one day at a time.

Even though I have walked through a school year not knowing at the beginning that a wedding was awaiting me on the other side. Would I have taken that first step had I known?

I can still see so many shortcomings.

I’m NOT good enough. 

That’s why there is grace enough.

There has been an abundance of grace, and today’s was no exception.

Inspired by my homeschool-mama friend, Davene, I planned a field trip to the Woodrow Wilson Birthplace in Staunton. The planning began weeks ago, and today was the day of the trip. I was feeling woefully inadequate.

Had I prepared my students well for the experience? Would they learn from it? Would it count in their minds as something fun while at the same time holding lasting educational value?

As we sat in the parlor of the manse, not touching, only listening, and our guide explained the serious nature of the parlor and the importance of the family Bible, I was reminded of yesterday’s conclusion of Caddie Woodlawn

One of my favorite childhood books, I had chosen to read it to the class, and yesterday we finished the last two chapters. Not wanting to be a spoiler, I will simply say that Father received an important letter from England and called Mother to the parlor where they shut the door to discuss its contents. Later, a family vote was taken on a serious matter with each member casting their ballot in the family Bible.

I hadn’t set an agenda in the timing of the chapter, yet it fit perfectly with our experience.

Later, when asked questions about Woodrow Wilson, my students knew answers due to a crash course we had that morning and on the way riding on the bus. I brought some books along, and we discussed some random facts, and I let students read the books, or be read to, if they wanted something to do.

I hadn’t planned out a big unit, but the time spent riding the bus was productive.

It was grace enough.

This is what I need to remember. There is grace enough for each day, and when I recognize it, it’s breathtaking. And I can breathe.

My Embrace of Today’s Grace

Jehovah Jireh

For Steve and me, it’s our mantra, our verbal response, our acknowledgement that we have witnessed direct provision in a given moment. We have uttered it upon locating a lost pacifier in the middle of the night, finding extra money in the budget, or receiving a positive response to a last-minute babysitting call. It’s all Jehovah Jireh.

It’s what escaped my lips after barrelling down the rickety basement-cellar steps to root out the soccer box containing old uniforms, socks, and shin guards.

Weeks ago, I had retrieved the bin of cleats and found a pair that fit Roo and one that fit Coco, our two soccer players this season. Jehovah Jireh!

As the girls rushed to prepare for their first practice tonight, something wasn’t right. After painstakingly locating and lacing and tying up soccer cleats, it was Coco who asked about shin guards (or maybe it was Roo).

Shin guards! But, of course. Shin guards! That’s why it was only slightly more difficult than too easy to get ready tonight, in the fifteen minutes we had to spare.

Oh God, be with me in this time of need. The day has been long, and the end is far off, still. Please help me to find the box with the shin guards.

I barreled down the basement-celler steps.

I knew they were in a box. A brown, brown, opaque box with Soccer Uniforms or something written on TOP. Not even on the SIDE where it would be easily seen if it were in a stack with other brown boxes. I remember scrawling it there on top once upon the end of a soccer season.

There it was. The beautiful brown box, resting solo on an old piano bench or whatever people like us keep in basement-cellers.

You know in Christmas Vacation when the Griswalds finally come to the tree? It was that moment for me.

That and Jehovah Jireh.


Mealtime Grace

Sometimes it just comes together, like mealtime Tuesday night.

Well, Mom, I’d say your experiment was a success! This is delicious.

The dinner hour has always been messy at this house. Numerous tricks, techniques, and systems have been tried over the years to ensure a pleasant mealtime, or a passable mealtime, or a getting everyone fed before everything falls completely to pieces mealtime.

Tuesday, I arrived home from work and a late afternoon appointment to a kitchen waiting for dinner to materialize. Little Mae, excited to see her toys after a long day, went off to play. I opened the refrigerator door to get a meal vibe going.

A bowl of leftover enchilada filling (chicken and wild rice style) was dumped into a pot on the stove. Leftover crock pot chicken broth was skimmed and added to it, along with a can of condensed milk and some cumin.

As that heated and simmered, tortillas were brushed with olive oil and cut into strips to make homemade crunchy tortilla strips (this was the experiment part).

The white chili was served with cheese and sour cream and tortilla strips to rave reviews. Everyone ate it. And liked it.

Either it was really that good, OR people were famished after a long day. Nevertheless, it was a good feeling; one that I wanted to savor and formulatize.

How can I have a successful family mealtime like this EVERY night? What trips, steps, and plans must I implement?

Truth is, I can be grateful for grace when it happens, and on this particular evening, it happened in my kitchen and at my dinner table after a long day.

And it was sweet.

Where have you found grace for the moment or hour or day?