Leaning into Friday (or Saturday, I suppose).

Today’s post originally appeared on State of Hospitality yesterday – but I think it’s still rather relevant to today.  This also links to Convergent Books’ Synchroblog, which you can join in through the 25th.  Happy Easter, friendlies! 

Image

I used to have a love-hate relationship with the weeks leading up to Easter. As a child, we didn’t participate in Lent; I’d see various friends arriving at school with a leftover smudge on their foreheads, and I’d wonder why they’d forgotten to wash their face this Thursday morning.

I’d say mmm-hmm when a Catholic buddy of mine lamented at having to give up ice cream or chocolate, meat or – true story – quesadillas in the forty days prior to Christ’s resurrection.

But for me, in the little Baptist church we found ourselves entrenched in, the Easter season seemed to arrive without fanfare. As children, we found ourselves seemingly shoved with palm branches on Sunday morning, made to make our way down the long aisle, waving and fanning and smiling our fronds to the adults sitting in the pews to the left and right. And then, just as it always seemed to do, the dreariness of the week ahead began to set in. I knew I’d have to hear the brutal story of One Man’s death on the cross, the nails driven into his hands, the way he cried out, without answer, to his dad.

It made me yearn for the arrival of Sunday morning.

I wanted to stop living in Friday. I wanted the hurt and pain and loneliness of that dreaded waiting period to return to triumphant hymns, to again hear the shouts of He has risen – He has risen indeed! I wanted the afternoon feast of ham and mashed potatoes and lemon meringue pie, just as I wanted the pretty new dress from J.C. Penney. I didn’t want to sit in the ugliness – I begged Beauty to return.

But now I kind of like it.

I love Jerusalem Jackson Greer’s words in A Homemade Year: The Blessings of Cooking, Crafting and Coming Together,as she chronicles the Easter season, and Holy Saturday in particular: “…I do my best to live in that place, that wax-crayon place of trust and waiting. Of accepting what I cannot know. Of mourning what needs to be mourned. Of accepting what needs to be accepted. Of hoping for what seems impossible.” Because when I actually sit in the waiting, in the mourning, in the accepting and in the hoping, then it makes Sunday morning all the more resurrected.

I then feel the joy that much more. I lean into the hope and I embrace the celebration and I believe in his peace, all over again, as if for the first time.   So this week, as you prepare for Sunday, might you also sit in the waiting pain of Friday.

What about you?  Are you like, Give me Good Friday or give me death (…wait a minute…), or are you a Resurrection Kid, all the way?  Or does all of this Easter-talk just make you want to mouth-puke a little?

this morning’s barista (& my messy beautiful).

cup_of_coffee_2-2560x1600

I stand in line at Starbucks, eyeing shelves filled with baked bliss, dreaming of caffeine’s ping! even though I’ve already gulped down my own lethal limit for the day.  When I get to the counter, I place my order, succumbing to decaffeinated second-place.

“I’ll have a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, and a tall decaf drip with room.”

The woman behind the counter stills, slightly stunned.  She punches a few buttons, murmuring “bacon, egg and cheese… bacon, egg and cheese…” to herself a couple of times.  It’s obvious she might just be figuring out to work this machine for the first time in her life.

“I’m sorry, and what else?” she says, not flustered in the least.  I look to my right, at the Advanced Green and White Veteran ringing patrons up, one after another, after another.  I yearn to be in her line.  I yearn to already have my cup o’ joe in hand, to already have placed my bum in the comfy leather chair, to already be typing away at the keyboard.

“And a decaf drip with room, for here,” I say, adding for here, self-congratulating my eco-savvy ways.  Now she looks confused.

“A what?”

“A decaf drip with room, for here,” I sputter, more emphatically this time.  Am I the one speaking a foreign language?  Now I’m starting to get confused: Do my words not make sense?  Have I officially become a mumbler in the last three minutes? And more importantly, am I dreaming?

She looks at the screen in front of her: “What does drip mean?”  she says aloud to the computer portal, leaning slightly to her left.

The computer answers her, in the form of the barista whose line I yearn to be in: “Decaf means it doesn’t have any caffeine in it, and it’s in that pot right behind you.”  She points, patiently showing her co-worker the orange-topped lid, perhaps for the fifth time that morning.

“And drip means regular coffee, the ones in those canisters.  Not from a machine,” she adds.  She nods to the girl, making sure she gets it before moving on to quickly – quickly! – help the next person in line, the 12th person to go through before I get my long-awaited steamy mug.

She is so patient.  I am so not.

I’m now leaning over the counter, pleading as I wave dollar bills in the general direction of the barista whose line I so desperately want to be standing in.  I raise my eyebrows.  I tilt my head to the side, like a puppy in need of attention from her master: Please help me, please help me, please help me – I just want you you you you you!!!  I’m desperate. Ring me upppppppp!!!  

But she pays me no heed.  I am the other girl’s patron.  She rings up another five people while I watch my barista move in slow motion.  My girl flies down to South America, and climbs up a ladder; she picks coffee bean pods by hand, one slow-motion finger at a time.  She flies northbound again, she roasts and grinds and adds hot water to the beans, one pithy moment at a time.

I now lay on the floor, salivating for morning delight.

Finally, she finishes, carefully, gingerly handing me the decaf drip with room, for  here, I’ve yearned after.  She smiles, as she should.  I frown, as I should.  St. Anne’s words echo in my mind: “Lord, grant me the serenity to change the things I cannot change …which is everybody else.”  I laugh a little bit to myself, the memory of Anne Lamott on stage pinching her back fat, for emphasis, for effect, still fresh in my mind.

And then it hits me: Perhaps Lamott’s words were merely meant to make me laugh.  Because sometimes, in the absurdity of humor, we find truth.

Truth be told, I’m the one refusing to smile at the absurdity of a Starbucks’ barista who doesn’t understand the definition of “drip.”  I’m the one not seeing the Beauty in this girl standing in front of me, who’s obviously trying her hardest.  I’m the one lacking patience, I’m the one who’s forgotten that the world does not revolve around her, I’m the one currently suffering from I Just Need To Be Right syndrome.  And I’m the one who’s simply forgotten her humanity, who’s refused to let bygones be bygones, who’s kept Grace to herself.

I’m the one who’s a beautiful mess. 

And that’s okay.  Because Beauty and Messy belong together.  They hold hands, and they hug.  They filter and sift through this absurd thing called Life side by side.  A sometimes we have to sit in a few minutes of the muck of messiness in order to see true beauty, so that light might filter throughout the darkness.

So, Cheers.  Cheers to your messiness and mine, and cheers to your beauty and my own as well.

xo, c.

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — to learn more and join us, CLICK HERE!  And if you haven’t, you HAVE to read the New York Times Bestselling Memoir, Carry On, Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback.  Otherwise, how are YOU messy AND beautiful right now?  

the little things: some 4000 year old words (mimi davis)

Guest post Tuesday, guest post Tuesday!  Today you have the opportunity to hear from a new friend of mine, Mimi Davis.  Mimi and I were introduced a number of months back when we hosted a giveaway together, and it’s obvious and evident that she’s got a heart of gold.  So listen and learn as she passes on some of her parenting wisdom to the rest of us.  

I floundered as a parent when my children started approaching elementary age. I did fine in the basic areas of love, comfort, feeding, clothing, but the older my children became, the less confident I felt of providing proper direction and guidance for them. I felt ill-equipped to navigate them through the preteen and teen years still ahead. The world, I felt, had become much more complicated and harsh than the reality that I had grown up in.

Mimi's kids, Austin & Catie.

Mimi’s kids, Austin & Catie.

Then one day, I stumbled upon some words in Deuteronomy 6:6-7. I had read them many times before and had studied their significance but on that particular day, the words seemed to be highlighted just for me, like a beacon lighting my way.

“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”  

It was like something resonated deep within my maternal soul. Right before me was the answer for which I had been searching. Those verses contained a simple wisdom that would act as my guide for parenting. These children were mine, I reasoned, and it was my overwhelming privilege and responsibility to teach them in this short season of time the values that I prayed would last them a lifetime. Every moment mattered and still matters.

I took hold of those words that day and applied that sage advice to all areas of my parental life. What those verses suggested to me was that no moment was insignificant and to raise good humans, I needed to be intentional in my parenting to guide them onto the right paths. I realized that meant I couldn’t slack off because I was never off instruction duty as a parent. For me, I realized too that I needed to understand my faith and the world around me better so that I could be better prepared to help them.

No topic was off limits for discussion and quite often, our discussions were while they helped me with everyday mundane tasks like folding clothes. I never waited for the “right” moment to have a conversation because I believed as these verses state that any and every moment was the right opportunity to talk. We talked about everything from sex to politics to social issues while I also wove in our faith practices and beliefs into the discussion. I was careful to match the discussion with their maturity level. Sometimes inwardly, I cringed talking about uncomfortable topics but outwardly, I always tried to maintain a calm exterior and discuss them like I would their English homework. At times, I succeeded and others, I failed. My hope was that when a real crisis or difficulty came into their lives that my son and daughter would first turn to my husband and me.

These words taught me about intentional, responsible parenting, that every moment was “the moment.” For me, the secret to raising good kids was found in that 4000+ year old principle that had withstood the test of time.

So, love them, parent them, and don’t be a sissy about it.

Mimi & her family today - and let's be honest: does the woman look like she could have grown children?  Wowzas!

Mimi & her darling family today.

banff-20130927-00436Wife and mom to 2 grown children, I spend my days reading, writing and definitely not doing arithmetic.  I blog at State of Hospitality about life, faith, family, books, DIY or whatever else strikes my fancy, and teach bible study locally and host studies online at Sweeter Than Honey Ministry.  Here’s what I love about Mimi: first of all, she does not look like she could have grown children, IN THE LEAST.  Pretty please, little baby Jesus, give me genes like Mimi!  But really, mostly, I love that she humbly passes on wisdom-filled goodness to the rest of us.  What did you learn from our friend today?  Show her some love!

for the love of words (cheers).

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 12.40.21 PM

Fangirl: writers Jeff Chu and Rachel Held Evans. Buy one of their books today!

It happened.

I went to my first writing conference this past week, and I met my people.  We talked words – oh, how we talked words and sentences, thoughts and meanings - and I made connections, sending out a slew of follow-up emails just this morning.

I listened to Richard Foster, loving his love of words in quoting Twain: “The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between lightening and the lighting bug.” I mused over what it means to exude (appropriate) vulnerability in our writing, and my insides thumped in confirmation when I heard there is a place for faith and doubt, belief and disbelief in the only story I can tell: my own.

I scribbled furiously in my notebook when Rachel Held Evans uttered these profound heart-words: “People are afraid of grace getting out of hand …but hasn’t it been that way for 2000 years?”

And I said a hearty yes-yes-yes to Saint Anne’s theology, that we are pre-approved, that the story we find ourselves entrenched in is one of life, death, resurrection and new life …life, death, resurrection and new life, over and over again.  I pointed a thousand arrows at the only song Lamott knows how to sing, that “…the blessings have been [found] in the dark nights, the lostness, the surrender.

And I vowed to do the same.

When it comes to the blogosphere, content might slow down a bit, perhaps to three days a week.  But this is good.  This means that I’m finishing my book proposal, and I’m leaning into research and plopping myself into the chair, typing away at the ol’ laptop, because I can.  Because this is who I am.  And along the way, I’m remembering that I’m not nearly as important as I sometimes make myself out to be, which is a very, very good thing.

So, cheers.

Cheers to this adventure of finding our hearts.  Cheers to life-thumping conversations and interactions and connections.  And cheers to simply showing up and telling the only story we know how, our own.

xo, c.

What about you?  How have you been shown lately that you’re right where you’re supposed to be?  How are you telling the only story you can tell, your own?  

 

 

     

random moments of grace (a book giveaway).

Last week was Micha-week, and we cheered our dear friend on in the release of her first book, Found.  Well, this week, me, myself and I proudly present Ginny-week!  You heard from Ginny Kubitz Moyer on Tuesday when she talked about those sacred words her high school English teacher said to her: “I have faith in you.”  Today, as promised, we get to hear from Ginny again in an interview about her new book, Random MOMents of Grace.

3840_RandomMOMentsofGrace

1.  However do you find time to be a high school English teacher, a writer, a wife, a mama, a friend, and a fill-in-the-blank on everything else you probably do?

Quick answer: My house is a mess.

I’m only half-joking there.  Honestly, it is impossible to do everything, so every mom compromises in some area of her life.  What I compromise on may not be what another mom compromises on, but we all give up something in order to do what we do.

I actually wrote a blog post on this very subject last year (I get asked this question a lot).  In five and a half years of blogging, it is the second most “liked” post I’ve ever written.  It clearly strikes a chord!

2.  How has your Catholic upbringing and continued pursuit of spirituality given you a distinct lens through which you view the world?

All those years of Catholic school taught me a lot, everything from how to diagram a sentence (a dying art, alas) to a way of seeing humanity.  I grew up being taught that every human life has dignity, no exceptions, and that social justice matters.

Another thing I’ve learned is that you can find evidence of God’s grace in all things.  There’s a prayer called the Examen which includes reviewing the day with God, looking for evidence of God’s presence in your life.  It invites you to notice the little things – the way someone let you go first in the coffee line at Peet’s, or the blossoms outside the doctor’s office window, or the comfort of snuggling with your kids on the sofa.  This prayer helps you see how God’s goodness saturates the world.

That’s really what Random MOMents of Grace is about: finding beauty and  spiritual insights in the daily work of parenting.  It’s not obvious sometimes, but it’s there.

3.  My favorite chapter was the very last, “Heaven,” in which you talk about losing Mary, one of your dear friends, to cancer.  Is there anything you’d add to that chapter, to those thoughts, now that even more time has passed?

I just keep being more and more grateful that she was in my life.  Our former pastor used to say that life is a school for learning how to love.  If that’s true, Mary had that lesson down pat.   When our first son was born, Scott and I immediately knew we wanted her as his godmother because you want your kids to have a special relationship with someone with a heart like hers.  Mary had suffered a lot, but she let that suffering make her open to others instead of closed.  That taught me so much.

Also, something interesting has happened since she died: I notice beauty more, especially in unexpected places.  Mary was a photographer with an eye for the beauty that flies below the radar.  She’d see red strawberries in a blue bowl and not just notice the vivid colors, she’d actually get her camera and snap a picture.   I’m starting to do that, too, and when I shared this with some of our mutual friends not long ago, I found that I’m not the only one who is experiencing this.  It’s as if Mary has left us the gift of her way of seeing.

grace shows up everywhere

4.  What nuggets of wisdom would you pass on to new moms?

If you are overwhelmed and wondering where your life went, join the club.  Sometimes people seem to expect you to be all radiant with gratitude over the gift of this baby, and you are more like, “I feel like crying with exhaustion every moment.”  Don’t feel bad. You’ll find your stride, I promise.

There’s a chapter in Random MOMents about my grandma’s favorite saying: “This, too, shall pass.”  The hard times will pass.  The flip side is that the sweet newborn smiles pass, too, and once they are gone, you don’t get them back.  Motherhood is teaching me how bittersweet the passage of time really is.  It teaches me not to want to rush too far ahead.

5.  You’ve written two books now; are there plans for a third?  Do tell!  

I’ve actually written three (the last one is Daily Inspiration for Women, which I wrote with three other women). I have a book idea I’m writing my way into at the moment.  It’s too early to talk about it yet, but I’m having fun seeing where it goes.

6.  What random MOMent of grace have you seen recently with your boys, Matthew and Luke? 

Okay, here are two: we were driving to the mall and there was a guy standing on a street corner with one of those big arrow-shaped signs for a mattress store.  I’ve always thought that would be one of the worst ways to earn a buck, but this guy was flipping it, twirling it around his head like a big flat baton, spinning it here and there.  My older son said, “Wow, that guy has a lot of cool moves.”  I loved that he didn’t see a stranger with a really lousy job; he saw an artist at work.

And this: last week my younger son was running and jumping into bed and he whacked his forehead on the bottom of the top bunk.  There was a huge gash, and a lot of blood, and it was awful.  But there was grace, too: We called 911 and they sent some fabulous firefighters who were so gentle and encouraging not just with Luke, but with his older brother, who was freaking out.  And there was grace in the skill and knowledge of the ER doctor who stitched him up, and in the kind neighbor who came over to make sure we were okay.

In the book I wrote that “Grace shows up everywhere, in random places and at random moments.”  I just keep finding that motherhood is easier – and life in general is better – when we notice and savor it.

She’s a keeper, I’d say!  Ginny, thank you for being here with us again today.  If you’d like to read more of Ginny’s words, click on the link below and win a copy of the book.  Winner will be drawn at random Sunday evening.  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congrats Heather Sebastian and Stuart, each winners of a copy of Ginny’s book.  Email me if you haven’t already, and we’ll pop that book in the mail!

leaving my phone downstairs.

car-keys-and-iphone

It wasn’t in any way purposeful, and the act itself certainly didn’t happen overnight.

At first, boundaries came naturally: I refused to check e-mail on my cell phone altogether, and I trucked the trusty ol’ alarm clock from move to move, gathering extension cords, if necessary, to help the digital reach its ultimate destination on my nightstand or plush against the carpet floor.  I’d be sure to turn shut my laptop by 9 every night, because I knew my restless mind needed time to calm down before settling into sleep; instead, making myself a cup of tea, I’d nestle down with a book before tiredness fully set in.  Closing my eyes would feel right and ready, and I’d sleep uninterrupted throughout the night.  And then, just as it had mere hours before, the sun would rise again, and I’d lazily lie there, cursing the morning before gulping down gallons of coffee, before fully rising to the dawn.

An hour or so later, I’d finally see and remember my phone, left on the kitchen table, settled comfortably in the corner of the couch.

And the days and nights would repeat and repeat, repeat and repeat.

But then marriage came, and with yet another move, the alarm clock lost and never replaced.  Soon it became just as easy to keep my phone just inches from my face, its alarm my new morning salutation.  Eventually pregnancy and motherhood, with accompanying counterpart, sleeplessness, arrived; and my brain so tired from want of sleep, I’d reach not for a book to read, but for my phone.  I’d scroll through Facebook and Pinterest, Twitter and Words With Friends while I lay awake unable to shut my eyes, newborn babe in for the long haul at my breast.

Day and night, my cell phone became an extension of myself, its presence certifiably missed if I couldn’t find it, if I accidentally left it behind at the office or – God forbid – in the other room.  I’d watch the teenagers I worked with, chastising their always-texting, always-connecting fingers, their eyes frantically glued like fluffy feathers to a first grader’s sticky art project.  That’s just their generation, I’d lamentably say to the volunteer leaders around me.

Curious as to what happened next?  Click here to read the rest of the story on the lovely Addie’s website.  Otherwise, from what you have read, is your phone too much an extension of yourself?  If this too is a problem for you, how do you create boundaries?  

 

the little things: one english paper (ginny kubitz moyer).

I’m a connector, so sometimes the most delightful thing is when seemingly little connections become real-life ones. Ginny is that way to me – she was a friend of a friend, but then we somehow met through the mama-writing portals, and found out that we have a whole lot in common. So pull up a comfy chair and enjoy this English teacher-mama-writer’s words today.  I promise you will.  

sand

I’m a writer and an English teacher, so it’s probably no surprise that English was my favorite class in high school. Romeo and Juliet, The Great Gatsby, Walt Whitman, writing a modern “Canterbury Tale,” analyzing a sonnet: I ate it up, all of it.

But even the subjects we love aren’t always fun.   For me, writing five-paragraph essays was at the low end of the English Enjoyment scale. I loved thinking about literature, but pinning down abstract ideas into a thesis statement was challenging. I knew what I wanted to say, but saying it – finding exactly the right words, writing a clear one-sentence argument – was anything but simple.

One day during my junior year, I stayed behind class after class to ask my teacher for help with an essay. I don’t recall the precise thesis I was trying to hammer into submission, only that it involved a comparison of Macbeth and Sir Thomas More from A Man for All Seasons. I presented my spiral-bound notebook of ideas and asked my questions.

Ginny's real-life original copy of Macbeth ...and that same spiral notebook?

Ginny’s real-life original copy of Macbeth …and that same spiral notebook?

Mrs. Tennant listened, nodded, affirmed the basic points of my paper, and told me I was on the right track. Even so, I was stymied by one big piece of evidence about the characters that didn’t fit neatly into my core argument.

“What should I do with this particular point?” I asked her. “It doesn’t seem to work with the other arguments. I’m not sure how to address it in the essay.”

She looked at me and smiled.   “You’ll figure it out,” she told me. “I have faith in you.”

I have faith in you.

I won’t deny that I was initially disappointed not to receive The Answer from the expert. But I recognized that there was an implied vote of confidence in her response.

“Okay,” I said, closing my notebook. “I’ll think about it some more.”

And I did. I thought and scribbled and wrote margin notes all over my notebook and, sure enough, I eventually broke through the wall of my confusion.   I wrote the paper, I got a grade that made me very happy, and I never ever forgot the words she said to me: I have faith in you.

As a teacher myself now (and as a mom of two young kids), I’ve realized that sometimes the best thing I can do is back off and keep the answer to myself. It’s not always easy. We all crave instant solutions, and making someone else blaze his or her own trail through confusion can feel downright mean, especially if I already see the answer clearly. Isn’t it kinder to give my first-grader the homework answer rather than making him struggle? Isn’t it more helpful to supervise every step of my student’s essay-writing process rather than make her go it alone?

But when you have to work for an answer, you own it. You learn from the process of thinking and processing. And when someone else makes you do the work yourself, it’s actually a compliment: They are letting you do it because they know you can.

I’m starting to realize that all this connects to my faith, too. So much of life is murky, not clear. When challenges rock my world, be they personal or professional, it’s so easy to pray, Okay, God, give me the answer I seek. Right now. Just tell me.

But I never get an immediate answer written in the sky. Instead, I keep praying for guidance, and I keep living my life and thinking and putting the pieces together and trying out new perspectives, and eventually, clarity comes to me. Grace is a part of the process, of course, but there’s also heavy lifting involved, usually more than I want.

I don’t think this is about God being lazy or liking to see me stew. I think this is about God knowing that the answers will mean more if I have to work at them a bit first. I think it must be God saying, gently and lovingly, “You have faith in me, but I also have faith in you.”

So more and more, I try to let those words guide me when others come to me for help. I don’t always do a good job of it, for many reasons. But when I remember being sixteen years old and having a forty-something woman look me in the eye and say I have faith in you, I recognize the power of those five little words. She only said them once, but they’ve been echoing ever since.

cropped-headshot-2 (1)Ginny Kubitz Moyer is a teacher, a writer, and a mom of two little boys whose energy constantly astounds her (if moms could siphon off their kids’ energy, how cool would that be?).  She is the author of three books, including Random MOMents of Grace: Experiencing God in the Adventures of Motherhood.  Check out her blog RandomActsofMomness.com for musings on faith, books, British costume dramas, and how to find grace in the mess.  …it’s Cara again, and hey, I have faith in you, too!  Leave Ginny a CHEERS-filled comment today.  Also, check back here on THURSDAY for an interview with Ginny on her new book, with TWO copies up for giveaway!