Small graces on a fall morning

Sunlight slices through the night,
washing the world in color.
I rise, grateful
for earl grey tea in my cup
lavender swirled in
each inhale,
another chance to get it right
or rather, live gently —
to soften my heart where it’s been hardened
toward others (and myself).

Cold nips the air,
dew drops deck blades of grass,
yellow and purple mums brighten porches,
leaves shift their outfits for the season,
a reminder that change often seems slow
until one day you arrive,
bursting with beauty.

The promise that those same leaves will fall,
carpet the yard in red and brown,
become fuel for a backyard bonfire,
smoke curling in the sky
while we sip hot cider
and embrace its warmth.

The last dandelion puff,
placed in my hands by
a child who knows how his mama trusts
dreams and prayers…
in every ending and beginning
shining on the horizon,
bathing us in hope.

This list of “small graces” was inspired by this reflection.

My body, a wonder

She used to race, Nikes flashing across worn asphalt, Lakefront wind slicing against her, heart pounding, flying free.

She swam, limbs threading Lake Michigan’s rough, cool waters, gulping air, rocketing herself forward, weightless. Back then, she measured her worth with numbers: pounds, pace, calories. Afraid of everything and nothing.

She once saved two men from drowning.

Nearly drowned herself in tears when she labored for hours, failing to deliver, landing in the OR, waiting with bated breath for her baby’s first whimper. For 20 months, she nourished his small body with her breasts.

Sometimes, I am astonished by her power.

Other times I’ve felt trapped by her, my body: too flat-too heavy-too blotchy-too lumpy. Wished I could shed her like a second skin, my body. The times she’s attracted honks, heckles, stares, touch without permission? Wished she wasn’t so dangerous, my body.

But there was also this: her standing in the dusty infield, mit held high, mit finding the ball again and again and whipping it through the air to the tune of cheers. “You’re out!”

She traded her cleats for tap shoes, dancing across the stage, singing and smiling. Oh how she danced — once at a swanky, smoky club in Madrid with seven levels, dressed in blue jeans, black top, very American, eyes laughing. She was thirsty for pleasure, and drank of it joyfully.

Shape-shifter, she’s spun and curved and stretched her limbs on the mat into a dog, a crow, a cobra.

She’s softer than she was last spring. New creases and curves grace her form, stubborn weight sits at her once taut middle.

Yesterday morning I took her for a walk in the neighborhood. The sun was out, and whirligigs sprinkled down from the Maple trees, twirling lazily in the sunshine, scattering across the pavement like confetti. She can twirl too, this soft, strong, aging body of mine. She still runs on occasion — mostly after her son. She is still afraid of everything and nothing.

She isn’t done changing. Not even close.

I wonder, what will she do next?

The space between us

“Mommy and Daddy, are you best friends?” Our son issues the question over breakfast. I chew my Kashi cereal and shoot a glance at Jay, who’s busy draining his coffee. He raises his eyebrows over the mug and for a second, I think he’s leaving this response to me alone.

Best friends, huh?

We certainly hadn’t been acting like it. A recent dinnertime squabble had led to finishing our veggie burgers in icy silence, which led to raised voices in the kitchen and the finale: me sulking in the bedroom. What were we even fighting about that day? I cannot remember.

Bit by bit we’d built up walls — a terse comment here, tasks left undone there, feeling unseen and under-appreciated amid parenting our son.

Last Saturday, I’d gone so far as to grumble, “Why did we get married again?

I needed to remember.

//

Jay and I met sophomore year in sociology class. He, the laid-back genius, was late to class on the first day. I, the driven student, had arrived early. When he strolled into the classroom, there was one spot next to me.

He took it.

It became his permanent spot.

Jay was everything I wasn’t: low-key, low-stress, able to hang out for hours on end without accomplishing anything. He made me laugh. He was kind. He listened. When we were together, all my worries and stressors melted away.

We talked for hours into the night. Time together was one long exhale.

//

Hours led to weeks, led to 14 years “officially” together this month. Seven years married. Three years with our son.

Later that Saturday night, as we settled in to our respective sides of the bed, I put down my novel and asked him a question usually reserved for our preschooler. “What’s wrong?” And out it came — all the worries and fears and annoyances, his and mine. We talked for hours into the morning, crying, laughing, kissing. We found each other’s arms, closing the space between us. Just before sleep arrived, I sighed.

//

Are you best friends?

Our son’s question drifts the air. I swallow my cereal. Jay sets down his coffee.

My husband and I lock eyes and smile. We answer with one breath: “Yes.”

Grace for a Tuesday morning

grace page marker
My “grace” page marker for my planner.

If only I could get consistent with publishing, then I’d grow my platform.
If only I could be more patient with my toddler, then I’d be a better parent.
If only I could get my work inbox in order, then I’d be ahead at the office.

If only, if only, if only . . . Daily I find myself battling this notion I’m running behind—on deadlines, at home, in my career. On the one hand, that may be true. I scrolled my phone when I woke up instead of diving into my current writing project. I rushed my toddler this morning, likely causing his major meltdown. I showed up at the office after 9 a.m. to a disorganized inbox.

I’d like to think I’ve healed from my perfectionistic tendencies, but I guess coping with perfectionism is more like battling addiction. You can never really be over it. I have this deep drive to be “perfect,” but I’m not even sure why it exists.

A couple weeks ago I bought this “grace” page marker for my planner. I thought it would be a good reminder for me—queen of to-do lists, good intentions and hidden little messes—that God’s grace surrounds and permeates my life, even when I can’t see it.

Here’s the gospel truth: The idealized me, the version I’m striving so hard to be, isn’t the me God sees and loves. God loves me in my self-absorbed, hustling, sinful mess. God loves me in my goodness too.

Thinking back, my morning was blessed—I had a productive writing session, I savored extra dog and toddler snuggles and relished returning to worthwhile work after a long weekend.

If only I could see all this outright, but so often lingering #perfectionism blurs my judgment. Luckily, there’s grace for that. God’s unconditional love disrupts my paradigm and grounds me in my inherent worthiness. I need that reminder daily. I shared this today in case you need it too.