Be the Light

 

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For so many of us, this week feels dangerous. People are getting ready, which means different things to different folks.

Some are going to guard the gates.

And some are going to shepherd others to safety until the storm passes.

We all have a call to justice. But we have to listen to the way of the call. For me, even though my gift is words and my weapon is sarcasm, I am not being called to raise my voice in anger. I am holding fast to truth, to seeking it and speaking it with compassion and kindness.

Whether we go to guard the gates or shepherd others to safety, let us make sure we bring our Light.

Otherwise, we just become part of the darkness.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.        

Martin Luther King, Jr.   

Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.

Matthew 5:16 

 

 

Living in the Digital Age

These past few weeks have been filled with nostalgia and dust. Lots of dust. At the age of 93, my Grandma Betty has moved into an assisted living home. Her health is touch and go, her eyesight is bad, and sometimes, she just can’t remember to eat. For us grandkids, this is devastating. Grandma Betty has lived in the same house since the 1950s. And it was last redecorated, I think, in 1979. Translate that into this: for my whole life, nearly, that place has not changed. No new carpet. No different sofa. The lamps? Same spot. The kitchen? Can we call it “vintage chic” or perhaps just waaaayyyyy outdated?

Walking into Grandma Betty’s house is a like walking into a time capsule. It looks the same as it has for my entire life. It smells the same. My handprint that we gave to Grandma and Grandpa when I was two months old is still on the original nail from 1975. So leaving it has shaken us to the core.

For my cousins Dawn and Sarah, and me, going to Grandma’s house was like going to a safe-haven. At Grandma’s house, we played ping-pong with Grandpa Art, we dug in the sand box (remember when we would find the toys we had buried the previous summer?), and we had Coke floats, and fires in the fireplace. We would eat breakfast on the patio, wrapped in Grandma’s fluffy pink robe. We would go for bike rides or walks in the evening. We tried on her clip-on earrings and her amazing shoes. Rummy Cube, Rack-O, Clue, Uno.

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But no matter what we did, even just sitting together reading books, there was always an abundance of love. We were cherished, treasured, indulged. We were the smartest kids, or the funniest. She would say, “Why I never!” through her giggles. We were the most talented. “Where did you ever learn to do that?” And no matter what we did, it was cataloged in pictures.

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The picture albums at Grandma’s house begin in the year 1969. Everywhere she went, her camera went too. There is evidence of our Halloween costumes (in 1980 I was Chewbacca), evidence of our school performances. There are snap shots from evenings spent climbing trees or afternoons painting her white picket fence. And going through these pictures has been a blast. Dawn and I have spend more than a few hours gasping (Do you remember how high my bangs were?), groaning (I can’t believe I wore that!), giggling (We look like a couple of sunburned lobsters!), and remembering (I felt so special when Grams and I went shopping together.).

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In her closets, too, I have found some real treasures… more pictures of Grandma’s brother, Marvin who went down over the Pacific in WWII:

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Pictures of her sister Mazie, who my older daughter is named after:

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Pictures of her first (yes, first) fiancé, Warren:

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And a real gem, a picture of her mother’s mother, dated 1871:

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Finding all of these treasures has made me reflect on my own record keeping. It’s easier than ever, now, to take pictures. And don’t pretend that you’re not just like me and that you don’t whip out your camera for an especially good latte:

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We snap pictures and videos like crazy, but how many of us still get them printed out? I know that I don’t. And right now, I’m a little sad about that.

What about when Mazie and Violet’s children are packing up my house?   Will they sit in front of a computer and look at my iCloud? Will it even exist any more? Will they find their mamas’ baby pictures? See them in funny outfits?

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Will they find pictures of me and my dad, and see his nose or his smile in their own faces? And one more question… Does it really matter?  Do these events, unimportant to everyone but us, have a place in our lives?

My answer is a resounding, “Yes!” Yes, they matter. Maybe not to the world. Maybe not to anyone but me. But they still matter. They provide a sense of belonging. In the pictures I can still feel the emotion of the moment, and I realized that Grandma and Grandpa were there, sharing them with me.  Here’s the literal moment that I caught the final out for a CIF softball title:

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Here’s where I laid my head on my dad’s shoulder on a Saturday:

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Or when I signed my national letter of intent to go to University of Virginia, at 10:55pm, in Austin, Texas, she has written:

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In the older pictures, pictures of my mother as a teenager, I see the hope and sparkle in her eyes and I realize that she was a girl before she was my mom:

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I see Nana, Betty’s mother, standing with pride on the porch of her home that had just been painted, a home that she purchased, maintained, and lived in all on her own until she was 103:

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This is where I am from. This is the very fiber of my being. These are the moments, big and small, that made up my life. And I am grateful to have seen them again.

Can Is Not Should.

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My niece has been visiting the last two weeks. On Saturday, she was thinking about her next time to visit us. She has a friend who goes to Oregon University and his older brother is moving back to California to take a job. But before he starts the job, he wants to road trip up to see his brother at Oregon.

“So I could hitch a ride with him.”

Totally innocent. She’s 22 years old and in a long term relationship. She has known the brother for a while. He’s 25.

But still, “NO” erupted from my mouth, almost before I could think.

“Why?”

“Because he’s 25 and you’re 22 and you have a boyfriend.”

“He’s my friend. It’s not like that.”

“I know, but it’s disrespectful to your boyfriend.”

“How? If he knows the guy and he knows I’m going and he’s ok with it?”

“Then he doesn’t know he should be offended. I can’t explain it, but this is wrong. It just is.”

It just is. Which sat between us for a few seconds before we both started laughing.

“I know it’s lame to say ‘It just is’”, I told her. “But it really just is.”

Earlier in the week, she had floated the idea of going to the local country bar. When I rolled my eyes because it was a Tuesday night, I hate country music and the kids are going to get up at 6:30 regardless of when I go to bed, she was ready with a solution: “Then you leave early and I’ll get an Uber ride home.”

I love this girl. She is a good girl, a college graduate, volunteers with her church’s teen ministry, works for a Catholic company kind of way. She has a solid foundation and lots of support.

But sweet Mother Mary.

I don’t blame her. She is a product of her generation, whose motto seems to be “If we can, then we totally, absolutely should”.  They plan and communicate more efficiently than any generation before them because of the amazing technology they have at their fingertips.

In all of this super planning, they very rarely seem to stop and wonder if what they’re doing is necessary. Proper. Prudent.

Perhaps the man in her life won’t care if she travels alone with another man, but his mom might. And her mom. And me.

And I didn’t need to Google “Uber Rapes” to know that Uber is dodgy at best and downright dangerous for a woman alone at night. But when I did Google “Uber Rapes”, I found that taxi rapes are even more prevalent.

So this school of thought that says if you can make all the dots connect on an idea, then it’s a good idea?

Not always, my young friends. Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. Not without further reflection. There are greater rules that govern our society for the good of one and all, and those need to be considered.

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In the midst of writing this, I came across a Carol Costello op-ed on CNN called Ready for the Marriage Apocalypse? It’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about. Millenials think they don’t need marriage because they can make all the dots connect on not having marriage.

For them–not all of them, but a majority polled–the here and now is more important than the long term or the eternal.

Traveling through Europe trumps having kids.

No paperwork means no mess when it’s time to move on to the next person.

Yeah, they could be like the generations before them. The same Boomers who burned their bras and lived out of their Volkswagons are now twice as likely to identify as conservative.

But what if they aren’t?

We have to start talking to them in a better way. A way rooted in faith and hope and love. We have to show them that family is a solid and crucial foundation. And that no one can make decisions in a vacuum, thinking only of ourselves and asking only if a thing is possible. I am afraid that if they continue on, so focused on the moment, they will miss out on the lifetime.

Still Planting, Still Growing

We’ve just passed up our two-year anniversary here on Full of Graces. Last week, Jen and I were talking about some of our favorite posts that we have written. Immediately my mind jumped to the post I wrote about Planting Trees. I remember that we had just moved into our new house and the kids were so little. My husband’s parents gave us a bunch of trees, nine to be exact, to plant in the bare landscape of our back yard and I had purchased three beautiful lavender bushes and a jasmine to plant as well. As we (and by we I mean my husband) were planting all of these lovely things in our yard, it really felt to me like we were planting roots. It felt monumental, like this was now our home. We were both so eager to have a big yard for our kids to run around in, to have a safe neighborhood to Trick-or-Treat in, and we were sure that this place was it.

Two years later, now, our roots are definitely taking hold. The trees are growing slowly, and beginning to show signs of giving fruit this year. The lavender and jasmine bushes grow like crazy and fill our evenings with their beautiful fragrance. We’ve added a vegetable garden that nourishes our family. And as I sit out on the patio, rain or shine, morning, afternoon, or evening, I am so thankful for all of our roots. I’m thankful for this beautiful place to raise our girls, but I’m also thankful for the intrinsic roots that ground us all together. I’m grateful for the family and friends that have graced our home at Christmas parties, birthday parties, and dinners together, and that fill our lives with everyday laughter and love.

Our roots are beginning to run deep. And our lives are beginning to truly flower. Thank you for being a part of that.

 

 

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April 2013

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March 2015

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April 2013

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March 2015

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Our first carrot crop!

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Carrots, March 2015

 

 

 

 

 

Come As You Are

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I’ve been trying to write this post about the Drummer Boy and folks who don’t go to church because they think they aren’t good enough.

It wasn’t working. I was trying too hard to say the right words.

So here are the true words instead.

My favorite Christmas song is “The Little Drummer Boy”. I like it because it’s a song for the outcasts. The message is “Forget what they say, come as you are, all are welcome, all are loved.”

In today’s church bureaucracy, twisted up around rules and platforms, the come as you are message sometimes gets squashed. It’s easy to believe, from the outside, that only the right people go to church.

Of course, this is a lie. I’m regularly inside a church, which should be enough to convince you that “perfect” and “church” are not hand-holding friends. My church is full of sinners. I know this because we make a confession of sins every single week. And get this: even the priest says it. Boom.

Still, folks hesitate at the doors. They stay behind while others head out for midnight Mass, joking behind their glass of wine about being “retired”.

Or they shake off the invitation to come along with a whispered “I couldn’t because of, you know….” The divorce. The addiction. The lifestyle. The third husband.

Or they are angry at the church for some (probably very good) reason.

I think that most of the time, what’s holding them back is the brick and mortar institution of church. Which can be daunting, judgmental and sometimes—yes, we have to admit it—destructive. Any church that drives people out instead of in is destructive to God’s will.

I get it. I have packed my bags and headed for the door in my faith life more than once.

But then someone always says to me “It’s not about the church. It’s about Jesus.”

And this stops me because I cannot imagine my life without Jesus. I have to come to Jesus, like that Drummer Boy, with nothing but my weaknesses, imperfections and sins, and find love. Without that soul shelter, I cannot continue to wife, mother, friend, function in this world.

Can I get an Amen from the choir?

Right. So here’s the thing—We have to tell the people in our life who hesitate outside the door that we go to church because we’re human and frail and sometimes we suck. We’re not good because we go. If we’re good, it’s because of the love that we find there.

And if you are one of those people, already dreading the Christmas Eve guilt trip and also secretly wishing you could swallow your pride and just go, remember this: There is nothing, nothing, nothing in your life that would make the Baby turn you away. Just come as you are. Bring what you have. Let the love heal you.

Merry Christmas from our families to yours.

We wish you health, peace and of course many, many graces!

For Meg

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If you follow us on Facebook, you know we have been praying for Meg, a friend of Amy’s who was diagnosed with cancer while pregnant with her second daughter. Just a few, too short weeks ago, she found out that her cancer was back, stage 4, aggressive.

Elle is 5. Baby Cora is four months. Sam is their daddy.

I don’t know Meg. But I know Amy and Amy’s heart was broken at this news. That was enough for me and Dana. We rallied the prayers for Meg. My good friend Steffani called on her homeschool prayer chain and the big guns at our church.

The disease moved quickly. Yesterday, Amy called to say the end was near.  We asked for help to pray Meg Home. Two hours later, she was gone, leaving her suffering and her fear behind her.

But also her young husband and her two little girls, one old enough to feel this pain and the other too young to remember anything.

It makes me really, really mad. It hits very close to home for me, for Dana, for Amy. It’s hard to know what to do.

We can rage at the heavens. We can curl into ourselves, or push the story away from us and those we love. We can turn from the suffering of strangers, sad but relieved that it was someone else.

Or.

We can pray. We can witness. Not in a train wreck kind of way, but we can take a moment to acknowledge the grief that Meg’s family is feeling right now.

We can donate in Meg’s name to places dedicated to conquering this bullshit disease. We can honor those we have lost and those who have survived.

We can remember that suffering is a universal condition. We can do today what we want strangers to do when it is our turn.

Tonight, I am going to lift up Meg’s family in prayers for comfort.

I’m going to lift up Amy and her sister Ashley and their family in prayers for peace.

I’m going to lift up my own anger and give it to God. He knows what to do with it.

I am going to give thanks for the women and men who showed up in prayer for a stranger.

It’s the least I can do for a sister mama gone too soon.

Buying and Selling

When Shea and I bought our current house, it was at the height of the real estate market in So Cal. We did what so many other folks did—we toured the Inland Empire on Saturdays, looking at models of homes still to be built. We entered our names into lotteries and huddled with hundreds of other people at 7 am, waiting to hear our number called. When it was, we had ten minutes to pick a lot with a model on it.

The price was predetermined, as was the layout. No negotiating. We didn’t need a realtor. Once we got the house, the rest was easy.

I’m telling you all this so you understand that I. Didn’t. Know.

I have not just one, but TWO realtors in my life.  A local realtor who is going to do her best to make our short-but-almost-standard-sale in So Cal a success. And a realtor in Oregon who is stalking houses for us to buy. This poor woman. The home market in our price range is hopping, and here we are, 700 miles away and trying to play. Already, three homes have sold out from under us in less than a day.

What can you do when you’re this far away?

I didn’t know sellers would be so infuriatingly patient that even when it is clear to the whole wide world that their house ain’t gonna sell for that amount, they will not entertain a lower offer.

I didn’t know that we would find the perfect five bedroom home and enter into escrow.  Only to have my neighbor, her hand clearly guided by the Blessed Mother, discover on page 3 of Google that the home had previously belonged to a sexual psychopath, with family still living in the area and a clear history of breaking his parole.

We walked, not just for the bad mojo, but for the fear that one day that guy would knock on the door for kicks and giggles, and there would be one of my daughters.

Oh. Hell. No.

(Buyer beware: The listing agent knew. It is not legally required for anyone to disclose that a sex offender used to live in a home. The Megan’s Law websites can only tell where offenders currently live.)

And then this house popped up:

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I know. I wanted this house, so badly that I flew to Oregon on a whim to see it. And it was everything it promised to be except for one small problem: sloped ceilings. I guess folks were shorter in the 1940s.

Still, I found a lovely architect who could fix it for us if we were willing to live with it for a few years first. He was on vacation, then we were and when we came back, the house had sold.

That was when we started praying every night for “God to send us our house”.

Just pick a house, you say? It’s not that easy. One morning, over coffee and the morning Zillow report, I found a lovely contender. Great neighborhood, good lot size, enough bedrooms. Then I scrolled through the pictures and saw this:

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Do you see that thing on the stairs? It’s not a shadow. It’s an absence of light, like the light has been sucked in or forced away. Now look carefully at the TV in this picture:

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You see that???

I sent these pictures to Dana and Lesley, who called me a chicken for not wanting to live with a spirit. She’s right. I‘ve done ghost in the house and don’t need to do it again.

I’m sure the owners are wondering why their beautiful home—now priced below market value—is not selling.

I kind of want to tell them.

Today, we fly to Oregon to make a decision. We have a Top 12 list of homes we like. We are going to spend a fast 96 hours dragging the kids from house to house until we find it.

Please pray for us. Because the fatigue is setting in, and the worry about how I will fill my days after we find the right place, and if there is such a thing as Realtor.com Anonymous, because I may need it.

House-hunting: it’s not for the faint of heart.