Unmitigated Gratitude in the face of gray hair…


Well, it’s official! I am 52 today.  Not that this is earth shattering news for the world but in my world it is a little life changing. Man, it feels like I was 51 just yesterday. Where does the time go….

Today is a bit gray-literally, not metaphorically- there are crows skipping in the bare branches of the old oaks in our woods and the air filling with a feathered version of Marco Polo. I would prefer the trill of spring birds but this will suffice. As the sun gradually begins to wake itself up I can’t seem to shake the grayness resting on my shoulders-and its not my hair.  I want today to be filled with all good things! I want to feel celebrated and special because it’s my birthday but instead I feel groggy, unstill, and untethered.

I’ve had a series of texts-some waiting for me when I woke up (you two get bonus points 😉 ) and others trickling in as the morning goes on. I love each one.  The best thing to happen to my day so far has been the 4 year old rendition of “Happy Birthday dear Miiiiiim, Woo.”-which I will carry with me throughout the day. Your heart cannot get any lighter than when you hear a sweet little voice sing with gusto and love.

If this all sounds like a pity party under way then you might be on the right track.  To make it complete I will add that the check engine light in my car has come on, I have to go in for pre-op testing this afternoon, my ninja blender may have whirred its last whir and its 17 degrees outside. It’s suppose to be spring and 17 doesn’t cut it. Ok, enough of the groaning.

I am doing the Sacred Holidays Lent study again this year-and leading a group of really wonderful women online as we journey together.  One of the practices set up as part of the study is Sabbath. I think incorporating Sabbath into a study like this is a great addition. Oddly enough, though, it falls on Wednesday’s-which takes a little getting used to!  While it isn’t possible to take a Wednesday off every week, it forces us to pay attention; to look for those moments when we can breathe in the peace of stopping, acknowledging, and praising within our daily routines.  This makes sense. And it is a great practice for any day.

The other thing this study offers is a space to begin with written prayer.  Written prayer can be hard. It is hard to put down into words the truth of our need, our sin, our failures.Writing it all down makes it all very real and, once in writing, permanent. In our study there is a process that we are guided through that goes like this:

Praise God

Repent of Sin

Ask for Others

Yourself

Yield to God

Wait and Listen

Having it laid out like this provides a very intentional process and writing it out can be even more telling.  This morning as I trudged through the waking up process-where said Ninja may have met its demise under the auspices of a special birthday coffee-I can’t say I was thrilled to see the prayer box staring at me from the page. I took a deep breath and was immediately filled with gratitude. Yeah, that last sentence? Not really. That’s how it should have gone. In truth I stared at the box, drank some coffee (now, less than special), drank some more coffee. Checked Instagram. Saw that Google wished me a happy birthday and checked out what happened on this day in history. I stared at the box again, sighed heavily and waited. And then morning prayer spilled out…

Oh, Lord. My God. How excellent is your name in ALL the earth. Thank you. Thank you Lord for today. For this now. Even though I am tired, YOU are still good. Even though I feel weak, you are STILL good. Even though my attitude is in the tank, you are STILL GOOD. Even though my thoughts wander, YOU are still good. Even though my check engine light is on, you are still GOOD. Even though I feel afraid, YOU ARE STILL GOOD. Even though I am anxious, YOU ARE STILL GOOD.  Oh, GOD, you are STILL GOD and ALWAYS GOOD……….

I’ll stop there. It goes on for a while. Nothing beautifully eloquent or well written but an outpouring of heart that was both unexpected and very welcomed. There is something wonderful that happens when defenses come down in the presence of God. I live a very guarded existence and I have been accused of thinking way too much. My prayer today became an uninhibited litany of reminding myself that God is still ALWAYS good-whether my circumstances are good, bad or unremarkably ordinary. What IS remarkable is the sense of true praise and gratitude that came in these four words that will be a mantra for my day: YOU ARE STILL GOOD.

To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.

Thomas Merton

A dear friend just left me a message and reminded me that God chose this day for me to be-but he chooses everyday-for each of us-and it is in this extraordinary and astonishing truth that we can find praise and gratitude in every situation and, in turn, find Him there.

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Grace applied-shame denied.


I have struggled to create and finish this funny little quilt. It started out as a roll of fabric 2016-02-22 17.09.40squares that I bought at IKEA. When I saw this little roll I picked it up and put it down a number if times but something nudged me that I needed to buy it. So I did. I thought I could make some cute birthday or letter banners or something along those lines. Now, sewing is one thing-especially in a crafty sort of application- but quilting?? That’s a whole ‘nother language all together and I don’t speak quilt. It is precise and measured whereas I fall more into the winging it camp. When my daughter suggested I make a play mat I thought hmm, that can’t be too hard. So what did I do? Dove in, head first no directions and only a vague idea of what I thought it could be.

Over the course if the project it evolved and so did some of my thinking.
I had to let go of this notion that it needed to be perfect when really all it needed to be was done. I just wanted to have it available for all my sweet grand babies to play on not become a symbol of just how amazing their Mim was to create this amazing play mat/quilt that was now too precious to play on AND  now that they were all teenagers they didn’t need it anyhow. I had to let go and be guided by what was necessary. Does that mean that it will be any less useful or fun? No. It will fulfill its purpose perfectly because it is free from the bondage of bring a perfect quilt-it will be used (I hope) to shreds and not put up out of reach or put on display. It will fulfill its purpose.
In case you didn’t see it coming,  there is a lesson in all of this-and all because I bought a 4. 99 bundle of scraps.  I need to let go of this perfect image of whatever it is I think I need for my life and let  God do the work. I will never have the house of my dreams like so many Instagram and Pinterest posts show me is possible. The reality is that I cannot go out and buy all the decor it would take to satisfy that image!  Instead, I need to find joy in the making of tiny bursts of lovely in corners here and there. Figuring out what to do with the three dollar bargain I picked up in the clearance section of TJ Maxx (so much fun to be had there!) is a kick. Some people call it styling or vignetting- I just call it figurin’ out how to make it work.  The other reality is that I am not all these other voices out there. I don’t need to be a different voice-I need to be what I was created to be-which may be a bit quirky, a whole lot of introvert and admit I am 51 and wear my hair in braids-and that’s that.
Back to this little quilt-it too is quirky and made up of many parts that someone else might not thought of to put together but it is it’s own kind of wonderful-just like each of us.  One thing its not is beautiful and I am O.K. with that. Beauty is an overused concept in our culture and I believe it has been distorted-even in the church. We want everything to be ‘beautiful’-a sweet word delivered with a smile. We cannot imply that something is less than amazing or that ugliness does in fact exist- because that might mean that we are less than, that we might possess ugliness. I truly believe that beauty is a concept reserved for God to reveal, something we need to learn. What we say is beautiful is often only pretty, or disguised as pretty, or lovely  (love-able in human terms) which are merely worldly applications of a supernatural concept which will fail the true test when the time comes. Beauty possesses a depth beyond comprehension which in a lifetime we can only hope to come along side and can only hope to have revealed-in it’s fullest glory-on the other side of heaven, not this side.
The other great thing about this little quilt is what it taught me about grace.  When I gave up the lofty idea of it being something it really wasn’t meant to be I was able to allow it’s imperfections emerge as something good. This is no excuse for shoddy craftsmanship-this quilt may well outlast me-but in granting a certain grace I could look at it and not be ashamed that it isn’t perfect according to what  someone who makes quilts might expect. It is my quilt. Made how I am able to make it. And that’s OK.
Grace applied, shame denied.

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