Smitten With Grace

Watching The Three Caballeros with Sweetboy  and Sweetgirl, the other day, I was reminded that families can have rituals that make no sense what-so-ever, to other families. And, they don’t need to.

Watching this Way Retro movie, that my children adore, I was given about an hour and twelve minutes to reflect on how this came to be a comforting ritual for us.

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Sweetboy’s Autism Diagnosis was something we almost felt relieved to hear. Listening to the child regurgitate entire portions of “Blues Clues” at 22 months old, was unnerving, to say the least. His preoccupation with the handy-dandy notebook being exactly right, even more so. Terrible Two’s aside, we realized that his reactions and perseverations weren’t that of your average bear.

Once we were given an idea of what we were up against, we were able to redirect our energies into seeing how Autism could work for him instead of against him, as it had for the previous year.

We always said that our Sweetboy was like a 1,000 piece puzzle. And, up until we heard the words, Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, we felt like were being given one piece at a time.

Frustrating.

Achingly frustrating.

And then…

We felt like with the diagnosis came 500 pieces. It was a grace. It was truly a grace in every sense of the word. It was an unmerited favor – as no one owed us an explanation. It became an honor to carry this mantle with our child. And, to be brutally honest with you? We now view the wiring of our child’s brain as that of done with finesse, by a Master Creator.

There are so many gifts that Autism brings into this family. When we  see roads and maps and cultures and weather, we get to view them through such intense lens, through Sweetboy.

And that, is a grace, too.

Endowed by The Giver of all Grace.

And we are grateful. We are.

From the first time that Sweetboy’s eyes lit on Donald, Ponchito, and Pablo, he was smitten with their quirky ways. Just as we have become smitten with Sweetboy’s. Viewing that movie, through his eyes, became something our entire family could enjoy together.

And, just like that, it became a ritual. Something we could do together. An activity that we could all, every one of us, experience and enjoy.

Grace, indeed.

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This post is day 23 in the Write 31 Days challenge.

Would someone kindly remind me never to auto-schedule again? 9:45 am is O9:45. Got it Missy? Get it? Good!

 

Twenty-Two Times a Day

In my sidebar over there, where I introduce myself, I tell you that I try to remember that I’m saved by grace, mishap by mishap.  And I do! There are days… Oh, there are days, where it feels like I’m stumbling through a dozen mishaps, one right after the other. And then some.

Anyone else have days like that?

Hours like that?

And, it’s not even Monday?

Sweetman and I are attempting to establish healthier eating patterns around this house. But, there I am, reaching for the candy corn right in front of little eyeballs? At 7:25 in the morning.

I get good at telling the sweetkids to remember to speak about others the way Jesus speaks about us. And then I turn around and utter harsh words about the turtle driving in front of me.

The Twitterverse calls, and I answer. So lost in a sea of favorite-ing and replying that I forget to set an alarm to leave in time for an important doctor’s appointment.

In fact, just this morning, this happened:

And the littles in this house need underwear, for the love!

But then, Grace is faithful to enter into my myriad in-competencies. Softly He enters a momentary mishap and overwhelms it with His kindness, gentleness, and humility. He is waiting to rain down on my mishap mania. And when He does, I am washed clean.

Again.

And again and again.

Like last night. I had some harsh words for Sweetman, venting them from the safety of the kitchen. I know that each one that ejected from my mouth was more rotten than the last. Until, That One grabs a hold of my tongue, and helps me determine, in my heart first, that an apology is needed. Only, as I round the corner, I find that man clickety-clacking away, with his earphones on, never having heard a word of it.

Thank you, Grace.

Whatever mishap I’m mired in at the moment, the daily grace waiting for me is immeasurable. Literally. More than I could ask or imagine! And He provides it all, every time, already knowing that I was going to need it.

While I’d like to think that some of my ridiculousness must shock The God Who Made Me, the reality is that He is never surprised.

There is an indescribable beauty in that truth – that I can’t surprise the God of Grace.

It brings comfort in the midst of all the mishap mayhem.

At least twenty-two times a day.

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This post is day 22 in the Write 31 Days challenge.

Day 22. I don’t want to overstate here, but Y’all! Commitment and I may end up coming to terms. Stay tuned.

Beyond the Twenty-First Time

Six years ago, I was bopping along in my car, oblivious to the need around me. A new song debuted on the radio station I was tuned to. As I listened, I had to put my turn indicator on and pull my car over.

To get my weeping on.

Monk & Neagle’s song, The Twenty-First Time was that powerful, for me. It overtook every excuse I had ever given for not recognizing Need. Grace took that opportunity to reach in, grab a hold of my heart, and gave it a much-needed shake.

I hope you can overlook some of the heavy-handed images that were chosen for this video. I am praying that Grace will reach in and touch your heart, in any way, for the good of the deeper message within the lyrics. And I deeply hope that we will all be willing to keep looking way beyond the twenty-first time.

William Shakespeare famously said that “When words fail, music speaks.”

May it be true here, today.

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This post is day 21 in the Write 31 Days challenge.

It Only Took About Twenty Years

I attended a large blogging conference, a few years back, as a brand new blogger. One of the events that was pre-arranged was a “Birds of a Feather” breakfast. You essentially found the bloggers who you felt like you most identified with. I loved the idea of this. It was fairly easy for me to determine where I thought I fit in.

But, when I arrived at the table and everyone introduced themselves, I found that although we shared a desire to write humor, the ways we went about it were radically different.

I kept looking around and asking myself where My People were? After about twenty years, I’ve figured it out.

How about you? Who are your People? Aside from the ones who share your roof, what types of people make you feel the most comfortable?

I’m curious.

And also, nosy.

It never ceases to intrigue me how certain seeming types of people will feel most comfortable around folks who are nothing like them. I think of my funny friends who feel most comfortable with intellectuals discussing Academia and scholarly things, all the live long day. Or, the Think Tanker who whips out the one-liners faster than I whip out the Devil Dogs.

But, what really boggles my mind is how it took me so long to figure out what so many others realize pretty early on. Or, pretty easily.

When you find your People, you just know it. Some folks like to call it “finding your tribe“. Whatever you call it, when you finally do, you’ll find yourself feeling a sense of confidence that then allows you to float in and out of other groups of People much more freely, too. It’s such a great thing to experience.

And feel.

And know.

Are you already there?

If you aren’t, keep at it. You will make mistakes along the way. But, you will find the people who get you. They will be the ones that sharpen your thought process, lighten your load, and encourage you in all of the most important ways.

Grace allows for lots of wiggle room, here. I promise.

He gave me about twenty years worth.

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This post is day 20 in the Write 31 Days challenge.

Click my 31 days of Grace button above to go check out the previous 19 days. If you want. But, you don’t have to. No pressure.

Interrupted by Grace on Day Nineteen

I had another post planned for today.

But God…

Sweetboy informed me, this morning, that he hates it when I “go all psycho” when we need to get out the door for church.

Y’all.

I couldn’t even.

I had to take a minute and just slump down and cry.

There are Sundays where we all pitch in and work as a team to get out the door. It takes the type of planning and forethought that I’m sure even Bobby Fischer could appreciate.

Honestly, the child is right. It’s a rare morning, Sunday or not, without some sort of “For the love, child, GET YOUR SHOES ON” statement being made as I wrangle everyone out of the house. All The Planning is something I’ve let slide. Plus, it wears me out. So I don’t plan often. Or enough.

Clearly.

In that moment, I just wanted to hang up the towel and sit on the couch with some coffee and have a good pity party. Wouldn’t lamenting the fact that God forgot to give me a stronger “planning gene” be a better use of my time than sitting in church with my mind going over and over that terrible horrible conversation with Sweetboy?

No.

And I could feel Him gently nudging my heart, and telling me so.

The kids were nowhere near ready, but I was. So, Sweetman stayed behind and they did church together, at home. Sweetboy was picking out some worship music and Sweetgirl was running upstairs to get her pretty pink lamby Bible, as I left.

Why did I leave without them?

I needed to.

My own heart needed to be able to get quiet and be surrounded by the voices of some faithful. It needed to glide into a pew and worship the God of grace. More importantly, sometimes, this girl needs to retreat and regroup.

I really needed to do that, most of all.

And here’s what Grace whispered: “You are here. Be still and let me remind you of what I have overcome so that you can come confidently before me.”

So, I did. I got real still and just tuned my heart to grace.

And when I got back home, everyone was happy to see me and share what they’d done for “church” at home.

We all snuggled in as I explained how hurtful it was to hear that mama gets “psycho” in the morning. Sweetboy then explained how yucky it makes him feel when I’m rushing, rushing, rushing some mornings. Important apologies, laced with all sorts of grace, took place.

It become painfully clear that even though planning takes a lot out of me, it is in the best interest of my mission field down the hall that I do it. And, I do believe that God will honor my desire to provide a less chaotic kind of morning routine.

Grace interrupted my morning to rain down on me, even as it showed me the need for some change. That’s what Grace does. It loves me too much to leave me where I am.

I am so thankful.

Yes indeedy.

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This is day 19 of my Write 31 Days challenge.

An Epic Battle on the Eighteenth Day

On this day, my Alma Mater goes head to head with my Katie’s Alma Mater.

She and I are bonded in our hearts over many things: our kidlets, our love of the written word, our ability to eat chips and salsa like a boss, and our deepest desires for long and uninterrupted sleep.

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The college football teams we choose to cheer for, though, is not one of those uniting things.

It’s no matter. I still love her.

Grace allows for that.

May we ever be Kind and Loud.

Roll Tide.

Hook em’.

And all them good thangs.

Indeed.

And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.” (Colossians 3:14 The Message)

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Today is day 18 in my Write 31 Days challenge.

When I was Seventeen

I graduated from High School. (You’re going to have to put that sentence together with the title, folks. Otherwise, you’re going to think I’m making a grand pronouncement that happened nigh on 25 years ago.) I’d only been driving for a year, as you have to wait until 16 to get your driver’s license, down in FLA.

Full of myself, I thought I knew most of everything. (Knowledge, where for art though, now?)

And then, I left for college.

Seventeen, and utterly ignorant. Of much.

The University of Alabama was kind enough to allow me entrance. A student with the most un-studious of habits. The Gamma Phi Beta House became my home away from home. Fraternity Row became my neighborhood. The Varsity became my kitchen.  Bear Bryant stadium, my backyard.

College life hummed along pretty nicely for about 3 months.

Until I came home with my first semester’s grades.

A whopping .33!

You did not read that incorrectly. There was, indeed, no number in front of that decimal point.

And Ahab gave me The Talk. In a very matter-of-fact way, he shared that not going to college was no skin off his back and that the only one I’d be hurting was myself. He asked me to take the next couple of days to think it over and come to a decision.

And then he directed me to pull weeds out in front of his shop for 6 hours.

In the heat of the South Florida sun.

That will help clear the weeds from your head.

If it doesn’t kill you first.

I can tell you one thing I decided for sure, I didn’t want to pull weeds anymore.

And, I also knew I wanted to head back to college.

I got my head screwed on straight, put my nose to the grindstone, and any other cliche` I could possibly throw in there, and got it done. By the time I graduated, I had made the Dean’s list many times over.

Yay me!

But, no.

Because, in the midst of it all, I met The One.

The Hope Restorer.

He gently nudged my heart into a rhythm of grace. He brought precious friendships into my life to remind me that He was everywhere I was. And He pursued me, relentlessly.

I clung to Him.

Until, I started to think I could do it all on my own, again. And I pushed Him out, becoming more open to falling from Grace.

Which I surely did. And landed with a thud.

But, Grace stays close.

I can see that now.

His hand through other hands which ministered to the bruised spots from landing so hard. Soothing words that healed and gave hope.

When I was seventeen, I thought I knew it all.

Oh, how wrong I was!

Grace had so very much to teach me.

And still does.

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This post is day 17 in the Write 31 Days challenge.

To those of you reading along, thank you!

Grace Comes as a Camel on Day 16

Sometimes, grace rides in on the craft your kid brings home.

Because, blessedly, when it’s this:

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Instead of this:

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And, that’s about all you can bear for the day? Everything is gonna be okay.

Yes indeed.

(If you have NO idea why  that means anything, click here. Or here. You could even go here. And, of course, here. One of those oldies-but-goodies will give you a good sense of why the camel was more welcome.)

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Today is (probably the lamest) day 16 (ever) in my Write 31 Days challenge. (Just keepin’ it real.)

Fifteen Years Strong

Sweetman and I have been married for fifteen years.

Can we just stop and take a few moments, please?

I’d like to take one moment to marvel at the fact that this girl, right here, who never thought she’d get married, ever, has settled pretty comfortably into married life with this guy.

Monogamy isn’t something that’s necessarily glorified nowadays, is it? Add Christ into the marriage equation, and most folks find that downright antiquated.

But, here I am – in a marriage that is not only centered on Christ, but that is also thriving.

And I LIKE IT!

I apologize for the yelling letters, but it’s true.

There are surely days that I most definitely do NOT like it, just as there are days that I pretty much love it. I know I’m not alone in that. Some days, we have to apply a thick layer of grace to our interactions. Finances, anyone? And, I’m just going to admit what many of us probably experience – many a married morning starts out with a quick smooch for the day, and that is all that carries us from one to the next. But, just like you would find the average in math, all days considered, I am solidly in the “liking it” camp.

I’d grab another moment just to celebrate and say WOOHOOTY! I mean, as Sweetman always says, that like Thirty Celebrity Years!

Indeed.

And, I’d be remiss if I didn’t take one final moment to thank God for yoking me with a man who will bear more than his share of our life’s burdens. Because, he does. Man… does he ever! Grace, modeled right in this house. Almost daily.

The days in and out of a married life aren’t always seamless. We’ve ridden some bumpy roads together, Sweetman and I. But, God, in His desire to see mutual honor and respect in this commitment, has proven faithful to get us through. Together.

I’ve learned a couple of things about staying committed. I’d like to share what works for us, here.

1. Hug once a week. Like, a good long hug. It doesn’t have to be that kind of hug. But, I can assure you, standing in your kitchen after a week of being ships passing in the night, one good 20 second hug will do something pretty great for you both.

2. Have a good fight once in a while. And then make up. I’d like to just remind you that I’m sharing what works for us.  I know there is research out there saying that “strong disagreements” aren’t good for a marriage. But, I’ve looked at plenty more that says the opposite. And, quite frankly, I’ve lived my own stinkin’ study, right here in this house! A good strong disagreement, once in a while, does wonders for the spunk of a marriage. Reminding yourselves, after the making up, how your strengths so nicely dovetail his weaknesses, is a very good thing.

3. Get wise counsel. I’m going to boldly step out and make a statement here that might lose me a few online friends. Your girlfriend that just called off her engagement? No matter how godly she is, that is not the wise counsel you should be seeking about marriage matters. And, men? Your best bro that just signed divorce papers? Nope. Neither is he. That older couple from church that always holds hands, even at 88? Yeah. Them. Find someone who’s been around the block a time or four. Wise counsel knows that those fiery feelings burning a hole in your heart Right This Minute? They’ll pipe down a bit soon enough. And they’ll tell you that.

These few things aren’t going to make a bad marriage good. Nor will they repair deeper heart hurts that require some pastoral care, and maybe a PhD. But, they will help move you in the right direction.

Oh, yes indeedy!

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So, what works for you? Do you have some tried and true marriage tips  that you’d be willing to share here for us?

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This post is day 15 in the Write 31 Days challenge.

I’d Edit Chapter Fourteen

If the years of a life were chapters, I’d edit chapter fourteen.

A bunch.

Anyone else?

The hair description, alone, could use major tweaking. I’d retract the braces.  Relationships would need some serious cleaning up. Social status could definitely use some embellishing, too. Angst and awkward would be prominent characters, throughout.

I think I covered some of that back here on day One.

“You think too much,” I heard on more than a hundred occasions. Followed most closely by, “You read too much.”  Both of these statements were directed at me by family, friends, and frenemies (although, we didn’t know to call them that, back in the day).

It wore my spirit down.

Ahab would tell me they were just jealous. That they didn’t have the strength of character to march to the beat of their own drum. And Lord knows that if I didn’t hear “She marches to the beat of her own drum,” at least once a week, then I’ve completely misremembered some of my most painful growing up experiences!

He did his best to soften the amount of awkward that I felt. But, at that tender age, negative words seemed to carry triple the weight that any encouraging ones did.

I can look back now, and see many instances where the ones complaining about my over-thinking or excessive reading were feeling just as lost as I was. Grace does that. It both softens the lens of reflection and provides an overlay of compassion for the very ones who caused some of my angst.

What grace also allows me to see, looking back, is that there were glittering truths about who I was created to be all around me. Some, even in the ugliness I felt like I wallowed in.

I can pick out entire paragraphs in that chapter that held expectancy and treasure. They are paragraphs that you couldn’t pay me enough Devil Dogs to edit out, now!

But, instead of parking my mind in the past, I’m skipping ahead to chapter forty-something. I’m taking a good look at the characters around me and focusing in on how I can contribute to their character development. Where can I liberally apply some of the patience, gentleness, and kindness that I desperately needed decades ago?

Grace is like an eraser. It softens the hard edges of a story angle and smudges the darkest spots.

Even better, it allows for rewrites in our hearts.

Oh, how it does!

Actually, I wouldn’t need to edit chapter fourteen all that much. Grace has already done that for me.

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This post is day 14 in the Write 31 Days challenge.