Then I Remember My Favorite Things

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February is an Eeyore kind of month. Gray. Gray skies. Gray snow. Gray trees. Gray clothes. Gray mood. But today, the sun is out. I’m wearing hot-pink. And I decided to make a list of some of my favorite things. You know, I think Rogers and Hammerstein had Maria give us some very solid advice.

There are things that I enjoy and like. And then there are my favorites: the things that I can’t stop talking about. The things I want everybody to try. I like it so much. I want you to like it too.

If you’ve been to my house some evening this winter, chances are I’ve made you drink Ina Garten’s Mulled Wine. It’s so perfect for practicing hygge-cozy, delicious, and hot. The perfect accompaniment for good conversation. Unless you are not into wine. I don’t make you drink wine if you are opposed to it or underage. I’m not really a wine pusher.

Do you live in the Minneapolis area? Do you ever travel by Lake Calhoun? Have you been to Rustica Bakery? Have you tried their bittersweet chocolate cookies? My sister calls them magic cookies. Because that is exactly what they are. Magic.

Monday night, I finished reading Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove. I cried and laughed my way through that book. It is simultaneously heartbreaking and funny. That’s the best combination. It left my heart feeling bigger and broken open just a bit when I finished it. Have you read it? No? Oh, I really want you to.

Have you watched the movie Sing Street? We watched it about one month ago. Last Friday, I was moping around: “I’ve told everybody I know to watch Sing Street! Has anyone watched it yet? No, not one.” That night I received a text at 9:01 from one sister: “Jess, we’re watching Sing Street right now!” At 9:03 I received a text from another sister: “Jess, we’re watching Sing Street!” You don’t know how happy that made me.

Do you like movies? Music? The 80’s? Ireland? Funny and heartbreak at the same time? You should watch this movie. I must be a Sing Street pusher. I really want you to watch it. I really want to watch it again.

If you have ever received a book from me, chances are that book is John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us. I’m an unashamed O’Donohue pusher. His words are so wise and true. They have changed me. I can’t loan you my copy, because I haven’t stopped reading this gem since I bought it almost 4 years ago. You should get your own copy.

What are some of my other favorites? Mary Oliver, Frederick Buechner, Rumi, Parker Palmer. I’ve told a lot of people to read their books. Gosh, I sound really bossy.

I guess this blog exists because I can’t stop talking about contemplation, practicing presence, God. Those are my deep-down favorites. They change me. They make me more me. They break my heart open and make it a more spacious place. I hope I’m not a pusher here, I’d rather be an inviter. This stuff is good.

Oh. And this guy. Isn’t he so cute? He likes me. And I like him right back.

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What do you know? Those are just a few of my favorite things, and this list thing worked. I don’t feel so gray. What about you? What are your favorites? What do you want everybody to try? Maybe I would like them too.

 

This is how I want to be

 

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Hi. How are you doing?

Me?

Honestly? I have anxiety in me. My body hasn’t felt such a fist in my chest or a jaw this tight since my lawyer days. It doesn’t feel great.

I have a lot of questions: questions about what is happening in our country; questions about what I can do. What does political action look like for me? How am I supposed to love my neighbor? How do I engage from a whole-hearted place of Enough and not just react in fear?

The last time that I had anxiety with a lot of questions swirling around in me, I needed to pick one question. The question that I landed on last time is the question that I think I need again: How am I supposed to be?

How am I supposed to be? How do I want to be at this time, in this moment?

I want to be awake. I want to pay attention.
I want to be present.
I want my presence to matter.

I want to use my voice, my hands, my feet, and heart.
I want to be love. Love inhaled, love exhaled.
Love embodied and real.

I want to teach my children about love and caring for our neighbors.
I want to not just hope for justice and peace for all, but to work for it too.
I pray for courage and for clear sight.
I pray for an open heart.
I pray for wisdom.

I am taking one day at a time. What is my step for today?

There are so many things to care about. So many issues we could fight for. It’s good that people are sparked by different issues. We can’t all march for every issue worthy of marching for. But we can march, or write, or pray, or show up in some way for the issues or the people that weigh on our hearts. I can honor and support you as you march for the justice and the people that weigh on your heart. We need each other.

I can do small things. I’m learning to make phone calls. This is a big deal for an introvert who is uncomfortable calling strangers. And I’m learning that these phone calls aren’t very scary after all. I’m making my voice heard.

I can notice when my heart is growing hard toward some person or group of people. I can stop the script that’s running through my head and breathe or pray compassion toward them. I can try to understand why others feel the way that they feel.

Each day, I remember who I am. I remember that I abide in God and God abides in me. I open myself to the energy and power needed to do this day’s work. I keep my eyes and ears and heart open. I take the next step.

I remember that whether or not the sky is falling, I am rooted and grounded in Love.

This is how I want to be.

/ / /

That we may have courage
To turn aside from it all
And to come to kneel down before the poor,
To discover what we must do,
How to turn anxiety
Back into anger,
How to find our way home.

from John O’Donohue’s blessing For Citizenship in To Bless the Space Between Us

 

 

 

 

On Celebrating 40

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“May you be blessed with good friends,
And learn to be a good friend to yourself…” John O’Donohue

Today is my birthday! This year it feels especially significant because I get to celebrate being 40. And I feel like celebrating. Not with a big party. That’s not my style. But by being with people I love; by enjoying good company, good conversation, and good food. I want to celebrate and enjoy who I am today.

No one asks to see my ID when I order a glass of wine. That’s okay. I don’t want to look like a 20-year-old. I want to celebrate with sparkles in my hair and laugh crinkles surrounding my eyes. My body has softened and expanded in the last few years and so has my heart. There’s beauty in both.

I am surrounded by people who love me. By friends who encourage me and just like being with me. My children think I’m the best mom in the world, except for the moments when they think I’m the worst mom in the world. And I feel lucky to be their mom. Every day.

I am married to someone who has always made me feel free to be exactly who I am, whoever that was or is.

That’s an incredible gift.

I am convinced that God adores me. And I adore God right back.

And really, that’s Enough. I’m learning to truly believe in Enough. Enough is better than success, isn’t it?

Enough is teaching me, finally, how to be a friend to myself. Not perfectly, of course. Enough isn’t interested in perfection.

But I’m learning.

Learning to enjoy my own company.
To trust in my heart and intuition.
To take pride in the strength and resilience
of my body and mind,
and to appreciate also my soft spots.

I’m learning to welcome my shadows
and celebrate my light;
to deal gently with my vulnerabilities;
and to let myself be loved–
even by me.

I’m learning to belong
in my feet.

I want to be who I am. And
who I am is who I want to be.

That’s a kind of wisdom
I didn’t know at 30.

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Hooray for 40!

 

 

The Question that’s Saving my Christmas

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I’ve had a tenuous relationship with Christmas the last few years. Christmas has seriously stressed me out. It’s not just all of the extra and expectations that go into the month of December; although, these also play a role in holiday stress. But navigating Christmas with faith-shifting questions is hard. Christmas has a way of throwing these questions back in your face and reminding you that you don’t quite belong to the places that once felt like home.

This year, I feel like I am making peace with Christmas. I think it’s because I’ve found my question for this season.

I had a faith that needed rattling and deconstructing—the big questions accomplished this purpose. What is growing in its place is good and beautiful and full of life. My faith is being rebuilt and my soul is moving forward one good question at a time.

The best questions are those that can’t be answered right away. The questions that transform us need time and space and breathing room because there are no one-size-fits-all answers.

This Christmas season, I found one of these questions. I’m borrowing it from medieval mystic, Meister Eckhart:

“What good is it to me if Mary gave birth to the son of God 1400 years ago, and I do not also give birth to the son of God in my time and in my culture?”  

This question is giving shape to my Advent this year. I want to make room for God to be born in me and through me. What does this look like? What does this mean?

We tell a story of God putting on human flesh in Jesus. The story of God-with-us didn’t happen just once upon a time. But it happened, is happening, and will continue happening. God is waiting also to be born in each of us—inviting us to become part of that incarnation—God’s hands, feet, and smile in our families, neighborhoods, and world.

Sometimes, I get tripped up because I start thinking that if God is growing something in me, if God is being born in me, then it’s going to be something big and spectacular and world-saving. I forget that the Christmas picture we are given of God-with-us starts out as a baby in a manger. Ordinary and earthy. Just Enough.

I needed the reminder I read a few days ago in Jan Richardson’s advent book Night Visions:

“ …we give birth, too, when we create with our hands, offer hospitality, work for justice, or teach a child. We share in giving birth whenever we freely offer ourselves for healing, for delight, for transformation, for peace. And we become, as German mystic Meister Eckhart wrote in the Middle Ages, “mothers of God, for God is always needing to be born.”

Our world needs Christ to be born today. Born in Aleppo . Born in Washington , D.C. Born in our homes and in our churches.

Born in people like me. To live out God-with-us in an often dark and broken world.

During Advent, some people pray “Come Lord Jesus” and hope for Christ’s return to earth.

But what if that prayer is an invitation for Christ—for God with us—to be born in us now? Here? Whatever that looks like. Whatever that means.

 

The Song Needs Each One of Us (A Piano Parable)

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There is a song in my heart. One I am meant to play. But it comes out all wrong when I sit down in front of those black and white keys. My left hand is weak and rusty from nearly 20 years of practicing every once in a very great while. The song should be very playable. It’s not complicated.

After practicing a bit, the left hand starts to find its rhythm. The right hand can sing the melody when it is working on its own.

When I try to put them together, they forget everything they know.

The left hand stumbles. The right hand too. They forgot how to work together. They are out of practice.

Even so, my heart sings on. It needs the song. And the song needs both of my hands.

The song sings true in my heart, compelling me to sit down and practice again.

So I sit down. I practice. One hand at a time. Putting them together and slowing way down. Allowing my hands to remember how to work together.

The song needs both of my hands.

/ / /

“Compassion: that sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside another’s skin and for knowing that there can never really be peace and joy for any until there is peace and joy for all.” –Frederick Buechner

“Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things.” –Thomas Merton

/ / /

We need each other.

This suburban mom needs the city mom and the rural mom.

This white woman needs the African American woman, the Latina woman, the Asian woman, the Native American woman.

This American needs the Mexican, the Ugandan, the Italian, the Indonesian.

Liberal needs conservative.

Religious needs the agnostic.

We need each other.

How?

How do I need each person?

I don’t know exactly. I don’t think I’m there yet. But I think within the answer to that question lies the key to our salvation on earth.

/ / /

The song needs each one of us.

 

 

(Also if you want to listen the song I want to play on my piano, you can check it out here. It’s pretty.)