Grace Walking

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It isn’t often that grace walks around on two feet in this world. But grace is walking in Charleston.

Felicia Sanders played dead in a puddle of her son’s blood. He died. She survived to offer mercy to his killer.

Nadine Collier’s 70 year old mom went to that bible study and didn’t come back. Nadine offered forgiveness.

Bethane Middleton Brown’s sister was killed, leaving behind four daughters. But Bethane told the world “We are the family that love built. We have no room for hating.”

I don’t know if I could do what they did. Maybe, now that I have seen them do it.

A mother. A daughter. A sister.

There are some people calling these women weak, saying things will never change if we appear to accept and forgive the things that are done in the name of hatred, ignorance, bigotry.

But these women aren’t sending a message to men. They are talking to the evil that walked into their sacred house of God and tried to rob them of their faith.

And they are telling him that he failed.

Wherefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10

If you want to help the people of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC you can donate to these two funds, one to help the church members and one in honor of Reverend Pinckney. Or you can send an email of prayer and support directly to the church from the Contact US button on their website.

The Wasteland

My dear and beloved T.S. Eliot begins his epic poem, “The Wasteland” with the line, “April is the cruelest month,” and for me, the end of April through the beginning of May feels like a wasteland.

On April 23, 2013, my dad received a radiation treatment that was a last resort for us, for him. Beginning in October of 2012, as his lymphoma spread, his chemo treatments failed. In the month of April, we received two big blows. We were hoping that he would go to San Diego for stem cell therapy, a treatment that held the hopes of really good results. The day before he and my mom were supposed to leave, they got the news that his cancer was growing, rendering him ineligible for the treatment. I was with my parents when they got the call and it was the first time, during his whole bout with cancer that I had seen my dad truly break down and cry.

The second blow came the day before the radiation shot. The hospital called to inform him that this particular treatment isn’t covered by Medicare, and would cost $40,000. They then asked if he would like to go ahead with the treatment. For the second time, my father cried. He told us that he didn’t want to use that much money.  He cried in the kitchen where I had eaten every breakfast of my childhood. Where he fixed chocolate malts in the summertime. At the table where we laughed. Where we fought. Where we three now cried together.

The dates are hard for me. On the 23rd he got that shot, which had the most negative of side effects. On the 28th, we went to see him in the hospital where he was in treatment for extreme pain. Mazie and Violet picked him a white rose and brought it. His face lit up with joy to see those girls. May 3rd, he collapsed at home and my mom realized she couldn’t care for him alone and he went back to the hospital. May 5th, a CT Scan showed lung caner and we stopped all treatment. May 7th, we decided to bring him home. May 9th, he left the hospital. May 11th, he left us.

m and dad

v and dad

The days leading up to April 23rd, then to May 11th, wear at my soul. I feel physically different. My anxiety picks up. It’s hard to breathe sometimes. My body aches. I told my friend and dance instructor that my muscles are so tight lately and that even though I’m faithfully in yoga classes, my flexibility seems to be getting worse. “It’s because you’re not releasing.” He said matter-of-factly. “What do you mean?” I asked. “You know.” he said, “Emotionally and physically. You can’t do it right now.” And he’s right. Don’t you love friends who know? I feel like if I release these emotions, I’ll drown.

But what is the lesson? What I am learning is to be gentle with myself. I don’t fake being ok. I don’t overcompensate with loud laughter or a huge smile. And that’s all right. My friends who know are loving me right through this.  Many of us feel like we always have to be strong, like we can’t be the ones who break down.  But right now, I am broken, and that is ok.

I spend my days not stressing about what didn’t get done. Right now, that stress is too much for me. My girls and I take longer at dinner, listen to French music, dine by candlelight. In my sadness, I delight in them.

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Many people tack on to their grief advice the phrase, “your dad wouldn’t want you to be sad,” and I hate that. Because deep down in my heart, I think he would want us to be a little sad. Who wants to be forgotten? Who wants to be not missed when they’re gone? What I don’t do is allow my grief to stop me from living. There can still be smiles among the tears. There can still be bursts of light in the darkness. We do a poor job of thinking that things must be black or white. There are not only two choices.

So during these 18 days from April 23rd to May 11th, I’m remembering that. I take my girls on outings and we have fun, but I also allow a space for my sadness. We talk about things that Zsa-Zsa would have loved and I let them see the tears flow from my eyes. We go to Disneyland. We opt for a little longer of a walk and push bedtime back 15 minutes. We live gently. But at night, when the house is quiet, the hole that he left in my heart opens up and I feel utterly lost in a world that just doesn’t make sense without my daddy.

If you are grieving, if you are struggling emotionally, please be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself a space to grieve. Forgive yourself for your moments of sadness or anger. Embrace your struggle. Avoid people with whom you have to “fake it.” If you take a hard look at it, they probably aren’t your true friends, anyway. Surround yourself with your definition of beauty, with things that make you happy. Get a latte. Or a beer. Or a vodka gimlet (the drink Dad and I had together in New Orleans) and raise your glass to us. Smile and cry. And know that the sun will rise again tomorrow.

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You Can Take It With You!

 We’re celebrating two years by looking back on some of our favorite posts.

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My very first post on Full of Graces was “Here”.

This is part of what I said:

And now…I know this: my life is not a highway anymore. Once I slowed down, I noticed that I had arrived. I was Here.

This is not about being a stay at home mom. That’s not what I mean by Here.

Here is a place for which my husband and I hoped, prayed and worked.

Here is a destination to be savored and explored.

Here there are graces and blessings and peace.

Here is what I wanted; I need to stand still, right Here and live it.

The journey is important. The journey pushes and strengthens us. But every journey needs a destination, or it’s just wandering.

When I wrote those lines, I was more hoping they were true than knowing for sure. But that’s kind of how I roll. I think about how life would be if and then I set out to make it happen.

Sometimes, I succeed. Sometimes, I don’t. And sometimes, a better truth comes from all that effort.

When I made my life still and calm and prayerful, into the stillness came a loud awareness that we needed to make a change.

Let me tell you, it wasn’t very long either. Makes me wonder what other stuff I missed in my loud and busy previous life.

So we made a journey. And the journey taught me a lesson about Here.

Here is a lot like Truth. Static AND dynamic. Here is more about heart and people than it is about place.  My Here is here, same as it was there. The same graces and blessings and peace. Same God. Same gratitude.

We just picked it up and moved it 750 miles.

But if I had never learned to stand quietly and still, I wouldn’t have recognized my Here. And then either we wouldn’t have moved or I would have left my Here behind.

Then there would be no Here here.

Or there.

Holy Dr. Seuss.

My point is that first we have to learn to stand still and quiet in our Here, filled with graces and blessings and peace. And then it doesn’t matter what happens next because the Here is portable.

We can take it with us.

A Season of Hope ~ Guest Post by Amy

Amy is how we all got to know Meg. We prayed for her health and then we prayed her through the door of this life into the next. Meg left behind a husband and two young girls, one only an infant. This is their first Christmas without their mama.

No doubt, Meg’s husband Sam will struggle as he learns to walk without his partner, juggling his grief with the responsibilities of his girls and the season. How hard it must be for him to find the light right now.

But Amy wants to share with us a story of how we don’t always have to find the light on our own.

Meg was an AVID coordinator in the Ontario Montclair school district. AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) is a national educational support program, designed for students who will be the first in their families to attend college. As coordinator, Meg was directly involved with the teachers and students, promoting a college education for all.

A few weeks ago, I attended a regional AVID training. Memories came crashing back: Last year when I was here we had just found out that Meg was diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant with her second child.

Meg took off work to fight the disease with a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. She lost her hair so Sam shaved his off as well, in support.  By early summer, the doctors felt Meg was on the road to recovery. In July we celebrated the news that her PET scan was clean, showing no lesions.

Somehow, just six weeks later, she was sick again. She had lesions on her liver, which was swollen and losing function. The cancer was aggressive and untreatable.

By October, she was gone. Her daughters were four and six months old.

At the AVID training this year, her school site team, including Sam, wore pink shirts in honor of Meg. Every year, the region raffles gift baskets to raise AVID scholarship money. One of the baskets had a pink breast cancer theme, but all the money donated for this basket would go directly to Sam and his girls. Without hesitation, I dumped all my tickets in this basket.

The next morning, another coordinator stood at breakfast and announced a challenge: that every person in the room donate $1 for Sam and his girls. Sam was stunned. In tears, I made my way to his table and wrapped my arms around him. Together we watched.

In five minutes, people donated $1500.

Sam cried. I cried. Everyone in the place, 400 people, cried.

Miracles are real. This was a miracle. It wasn’t the miracle we had prayed for months earlier, to heal Meg and keep her here. Instead, the healing was for Sam, to show him that all is not lost. Meg had a hand in it, I know she did. She used all those people to give her husband a hug and remind him that people are good, the village is good. And there is light in the world for us when we need it.

Thank you to all those people who donated that day. It was about so much more than money. Thank you to Sam’s school, who love him and hold him up. Thank you to everyone who prayed for Meg. Thank you for reaching out in love and faith to strangers. I want you to know that it’s working. God’s hands are healing this family with love.

We have to remember that we are God’s work in this world. Happy weekend.

Meg and Sam

Meg and Sam

Amazing Grace

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Sometimes, life requires a pause.

This week is one of those times when what we believe might be challenged by what we see and feel.

It’s good to remember the Truth:

Bad things happen in the world, but the World is not bad.

People do evil things sometimes, but People are not evil.

We can be scared of a moment, but Life is not scary.

We will die, but death does not win.

The storm will not blow out the light unless we let it.

Love is there. It just is.

God is there. He just Is.

Pray for grace. Grace will heal us.

Listen:

Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) by Chris Tomlin.

Thanks to Missindeedy for introducing us to this song.