Archive for July, 2010

Margaritas & Mailboxes.
July 27, 2010

“You’ve always been good at the loving…but you’re not so good at the being gracious.”

Spoken by my brother and echoed by my best friend…or vice versa.
I don’t quite remember the order, but I remember the truth of it sinking to the bottom of my heart like a two-ton barnacled anchor.

I’m great at the loving when it doesn’t require hurting and selflessness…when it’s easy and it’s fun.
When it’s hard? When your insides get sucker-punched and the tears caused by someone elses intent or thoughtlessness swim in ribbons down your sorrow-twisted face? To love then…well that’s grace.

I remember sitting on a dusk-washed deck with someone I love two years ago, someone who’d hurt me, someone I’d hurt.  Swimming in words of pain with awkward edges, I told her she wasn’t very selfless…and she told me I wasn’t very gracious, and I went down.  I hate to admit it, but the thought never occurred to me. A slew of other virtues were worth my constant pursuit, but “grace” wasn’t a part of my vast emotional vocabulary.

From that day on I determined to grow in grace, some days like a weed, and some days had me backtracked to feeling like a lost cause.

I villianize people, I root against the bad guy, I take every misspoken word and give it the intent it was never meant to have.  I cry over hurts that shouldn’t exist, and I position myself as the constant fighter.

It’s exhausting.

Why am I so afraid to extend grace?
…Maybe I’d be better at it if I started taking note of how grace is extended to me…

Not only to be aware, not only to be thankful, but what if my heart took hold of a freshly sharpened #2 pencil and jotted a note or two on what it looks like when God washes my rough ‘n’ tumble self with the kind of love that makes me squirm?

I look for beauty…I look for answers…but now I’m on the hunt for the sweetness of the undeserved.

I went looking for God.
(I should’ve had my Wheaties first.)

Three weeks ago over a salted rim with Don Julio Blanco slipping past my lips, I stared across the table at what was once my favorite freckled face and let my baby-grays slosh through the puddle pooling behind my lashes while he asked for my forgiveness.  And the angry pile of words and feelings I’d been storing so carefully and so intentionally was washed out with my simple reply of  “Of course I forgive you.”
If it was up to me, I’d have stayed stone-faced with a “maybe” pursed somewhere in my response…but in that moment, God’s grand grace looked like letting his pouty kid extend it so she could know it.

4 days later in a hipsters hot-spot, a similar scenario played out.  This time over pizza instead of fresh guacamole.
A girl that’d disappeared from my everyday for much, much, much too long was inches away from me as we tried to smush two years of life’s events into one conversation, and the me that was used to playing the victim felt buoyed to let go.  The diamond on her hand that wasn’t there when we were best friends served as a nod to the fact that yes, time had passed, but it didn’t take much for love to catch up.  So we lost ourselves in laughter and words of life until they were locking the doors.  And I walked through the night air on the way home feeling something new… in a way I felt unshackled… in a way I felt free.

Here I am, with God giving me illustration after object lesson and many days, most days, I refuse to believe Him.
2 weeks ago I buckled.  I folded. I went limp.
As I’ve spent months now screaming at Him and shutting out His attempts to teach me to trust His grace, walking through my kitchen one morning I stopped and grasped the sink to simply stand.  I shook with fear.  My empty cupboards, bare-bones bank account, and soul sunk with the feeling He’d given up as my provider.  That feeling had me both furious and fragile.  I gave up.

Moments later I walked outside thinking “What if I found salvation in this mailbox?”
One lone envelope peeked up at me and my hands started shaking as soon as I saw the return address.

No. No way. Nuh uh.

And there it was.  One penned sentence… “Hope this helps bridge the gap.” And as I unfolded the check that accompanied those 6 words, I sobbed on my front stoop.  A family that oft-times knows the fear that comes with the last cent is a family that has taught me more about faith than anyone I’ve ever met.  They extended GRACE to me in the realest sense I could’ve known it.  I needn’t keep screaming… because there it was…salvation in my mailbox.

This weekend we drove across our state’s border to celebrate a wedding of two friends.  Two friends whose story of meeting belongs on the pages of a Lifetime movie script.  As the temperature reached the mid-90’s and sweaters were shed and long curls went into high-ponytails, we lost ourselves in their love and in the cupid shuffle.  We licked the icing off doughnuts and blew bubbles out of the gumballs from their dessert buffet.  We laughed loudly and kicked our shoes off.  Everyone was smiling.  Everyone was dancing.  Everyone was happy.  At most weddings all I notice is the “& guest” on my invitation that went wasted… but not that night.  As Matt & Maggie said their vows in her daddy’s backyard, the more-than-warm evening felt a powerful breeze rush through, and as the leaf of every tree ruffled & rustled I swear I heard the applause of heaven…honoring a lovestory that was worth their wait.  His grace was so palpable I could’ve tripped over it.

Last night found my baby brothers and I stalled in the middle of an intersection.
AAA on it’s way and my worry rising, a little grace snuck into the evening.  It hit me that I wasn’t alone.  We would be fine. We were fine.  I called a best friend who had been out late two nights in a row and who’d have to be up early with her little one, and without a moments hesitation she was on the road to come bring us home.  I didn’t have to rack my brain or my rolodex to find someone who loved me enough to be inconvenienced…there she was.  Mmmm… grace.

It’s in the repair, the restoration, the rescue, the romance…

In every moment I’m caught breathing, in every afternoon I’m caught worshipping, in the evenings like this one where I tipped a smile at the yellow sun that lit the world lovely while praying for the couple that’d welcomed me into the most beautiful home I’ve ever seen to show me genuine care and friendship… it’s wrapped in that tiny second the very grace I don’t want to miss…the grace I want to echo.

I don’t just want to be good at the loving.

July 27, 2010

I’ve been missing Manhattan…I’ve been missing my loves…

And so, before July is over…in honor of the 4th, my favorite of holidays, and in disbelief that it’s been a year since my fingers flew across the keys writing these words, I am reposting “Sparks” from…

New-Yorkers don’t stop.

They just don’t.
They’re always walking, talking, and Blackberrying.  I have yet to see a single hammock strung across someone’s premium-price penthouse patio.

They might miss the moment, but they never miss an opportunity…and America’s Birthday seemed no exception.

I am a hopeless romantic.  In the aftermath of a war-torn heart there is a sense that no gesture or sweetness or beauty is lost on those of us desperate to see God’s goodness everywhere in anything at anytime. We’ll melt as a warm afternoon dissolves into dusk, as dappled light shifts in our steps, as the sun goes to sleep.  And against the inky night sky, there’s nothing more dazzling than Independence Day…

Emily and I wandered out to the Hudson River, only a two block skip from our apartment, and walked the busy pier, looking for a spot to tuck in.
As we slipped slowly between revelers, I tipped a heavy smile at what I saw.
The moment done right.

Here “Going Green” means reusing a recent Prada shopping bag, now void of new purse to carry your picnicking supplies… out tumbled glasses for white wine and fresh fruit, cashmere throws, vintage cameras and decks of cards, books and bottles of Perrier.

We found two square feet of cement and snuggled between lovebirds and a giggling brood from Connecticut.
As we waited out the hour until the night sky was dark enough for the show to begin, I just breathed…
Breathed deeply of the fresh air and my surroundings and the communal romanticism of what was coming…

At nine o’clock, the crowd surged with expectation and stood to see into the distance.
Way in to the distance.
Way, way, way into the distance…. Uh-Oh.

The fireworks that we expected to roar overhead barely whimpered miles & miles away.  We all stood on our tiptoes to see a teeny-tiny somewhat flash of color so far away that even the crack and fizzle of the explosion couldn’t be heard.

And in that disappointing minute, every wine-sipping, moment-enjoying, Hermes-clad New-Yorker whined collectively.  They gathered their afternoon delights and started streaming home.  People who had been sitting in the hot sun for hours to save seats for the USA’s “largest fireworks display” walked past me grumbling and visibly upset.

Stepping closer to the railing and straining my eyes for the little light show,  I was determined to enjoy any bit of blazing color I could catch.

Determined to be content with the handful of inch-wide glitter I saw, I turned to find my sweet Emily and head home when,


Above our heads the.most.beautiful. fireworks I have ever seen EXPLODED!!!

The crowd that was left erupted in applause and screaming! For twenty-seven minutes we stood breathless as the canvas stretched above the water was painted in flashing gold and red and orange and blue and purple and green and silver.  Etching the night was a show that surpassed the every expectation of every spectator.  The beautiful curly-haired preschooler next to me sat atop her daddy’s shoulders and stretched her little fingers to the sky exclaiming “I think I can touch them! I’ve almost got them Daddy!”

And I stood there shoulder-to-shoulder with my fellow Americans, and tears as hot as a lit match filled my wide eyes.  It’s one of my very favorite moments of every year.
I knotted my arms in tight against my chest and let the tears fall as the sparks flew.

It wasn’t just the weeping gold chandeliers in the sky, or the overwhelming emotion of love for my country…

It was that this 4th of July etched an illustration of God’s very grand goodness deep into the recesses of that sometimes-unbelieving heart of mine.

I chose to be content with what seemed less-than-ideal, a choice I rarely make…and as I stood thankful, something “immeasurably more than I could think or imagine” burst above me.

And isn’t He known for that? Lavishing us when we least expect it and holding out for our faithfulness when we do?

Tears both bitter at my too-often-doubt and sweet for His grace continued to pool.
This holiday followed quickly behind a week I’d never have guessed.
There was consistent surprise, blessing and tenderness in days wrapped in serving with new family.  God had orchestrated a perfect gifting as these brothers and sisters did more to bless our lives and rush our empty spirits with a palpable, pure, plain love than I have known in a while.

There was much, much, much needed laughter and warm embraces, and the most honest of prayers and certain gazes that made my insides shake, and somewhere between the surprise that was Riva and the brightly jeweled darkness, the breeze slipped over my skin and I felt God wooing me.

As I blushed at His pursuit, a beckoning I don’t recognize nearly enough, I listened intently for His voice and shared the longings of my soul…and let me tell you something…

sparks flew.