Inviting Grace to the Table

What is grace? The word has been swirling in my head these days because it appears as if the world has lost its sense of grace. We are divided, spiteful, bitter, and full of venom.  Has grace disappeared or is the glory of grace is that it always there, patiently waiting? As I delve deeper into the meaning of grace, I realize I have witnessed it in all its brilliant simplicity.

The word grace, used as a noun, has multiple manifestations. Grace can be elegance or beauty, an attractive quality, a favor, a pardon, or a delay in debt. The word is derived from middle English, middle French, and Latin meaning such things as kindness, mercy, and honor. 

In Christianity, grace is believed to be given by God through Jesus. Those who accept Christ will receive salvation. Faith is confirmed through baptism, communion, and discipleship within the church. 

In the Jewish religion according to the Talmud, God combined both mercy and justice, thus creating divine grace. Both mercy and justice counterbalance sin and man’s existence here on earth.

Muslims believe God is the only one who grants grace. Faith and good deeds do not guarantee Salvation, although both are encouraged; is only granted through God’s grace.

In Buddhism, grace comes from within. Looking inward is the only way to acquire grace, which is often referred to as spiritual awakening. Lama Surya Das, an author and Buddhist teacher, states, “Grace is the “isness’ of life. It’s the recognition that everything is connected and sacred. The more in touch we are with this natural abundance of life, the less we need.”

The writer Anne Lamott says,“I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.”

Pastor, writer, and public speaker Joseph Prince once said, “The law condemns the best of us; but grace saves the worst of us.” 

Writer and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel stated this about grace: “For me, every hour is about grace. And I feel gratitude in my heart each time I can meet someone and look at his or her smile.”

I asked my friend Glenda, a yoga instructor, freelance writer, and seeker of truth to give her personal definition of grace. She wrote:

 “Grace is invisible; it cannot be seen with the naked eye. It is more about a feeling, an experience rather than a tangible. It is extreme benevolence, a second chance (or 3rd or 4th) because the essence of grace does not keep track of how or when it arrives on the scene. But it’s there, always, for the taking or the giving. It is an inherent quality bestowed upon all and the measure with which you apply or extend it is in direct proportion to your receipt and continuance of it.”

Where is grace in my life? It is when my sons call their grandmother to just catch up her, with no prompting from me. It is the gentle sound of my husband’s voice when he talks to his girls. It is the text I receive from an old friend, just to let me know she’s thinking about me. It is the courage of my friends out in Northern California, going about their daily lives, despite the fire destruction in their towns. It is opening a door for a stranger, a anonymous donation, a smile across a crowded room. It is showing up at a relative’s funeral.

Grace is acknowledging our stories. It is knowing we all come from different places in life. Our language, our neighborhood, our food, our customs, our beliefs may be not be familiar to others, yet grace is looking into one another’s eyes and catching a glimpse of a person, not a stereotype or a caricature. Grace is recognizing love, even when it is difficult and strange and unconventional.

Grace is accepting our privilege, our gifts, our abundances. To gratefully recognize all we possess, yet reaching out to give to others without expecting thanks or something in return. Grace is knowing all our stories have substance, even the downtrodden, the oppressed, the unlovable, and seeing each other for the magnificent creatures we are. This is grace.

As we gather next week for Thanksgiving, let us invite grace to the table. Let grace teach us forgiveness and joy and gratefulness. Allow grace to whisper, “All are loved.”

Love is the crowning grace of humanity, the holiest right of the soul, the redeeming principle that chiefly reconciles the heart to life, and is prophetic of eternal good.

— Petrarch
 photo from antwuanmalone.com
photo from antwuanmalone.com

“It’s chaos; be kind.”

Last night my husband and I watched comedian Patton Oswalt’s Netlix special “Annihilation.” It was raw and coarse and heart-wrenching. The middle was devoted to the aftermath of his wife Michelle’s sudden death, and how he is now groping his way through the grief. Even through the tears, he had us laughing, because that is life. It’s awful and joyous, deliriously agonizing while blissfully awesome. He said that he and Michelle used to have deep philosophical debates about the universe. He thought that perhaps there was something bigger than all of us while she argued the world is just chaos. There’s no plan. The only way to combat the chaos is to be kind. Oswalt then said she got to prove her theory through the worst possible way ever: her death, leaving him alone to raise their young daughter. His story about trying to protect Alice from the the harshness of her first Mother’s Day without her own mother was especially poignant. He ended his show with his wife’s words, “It’s chaos; be kind.” I love this. The reaction to all the chaos in the world is to just be kind. 

It’s chaos; be kind.

When I look at my thesaurus for synonyms for chaos, the list is exhausting…bedlam, disorder, pandemonium, anarchy. All of these can define the world we live in now. It is unruly. We’re all wandering around in a fog. We roar against the turmoil only to have our voices echo in a vast canyon of utter confusion.

Where do we find comfort? Be kind. What to do when confronted with a troublesome situation? Be kind. What if our world seems to be swirling toward a Scylla and Charybdis of our own creation? Be kind.

Smile at strangers. Generously tip waitstaff. Hold the door for the person behind you. Be patient when you’re behind a slow driver. Realize there is a personal story behind the young mother in front of you at the store using food stamps to pay for her groceries. Say “good morning” and “have a nice day” and really mean it. See people instead of stereotypes. Admit you’re wrong. Forgive. Acknowledge that everyone out there has their own worries, their own pain, their own struggles.

It’s chaos; be kind.

Be present. Know life is shitty, but it is also precious. An ecstatic announcement of a long awaited pregnancy often comes at the same time as a dreaded diagnosis. This is the paradox that is life.

It’s chaos; be kind.

Some find comfort from chaos in houses of worship, singing familiar hymns, holding onto faith and believing in the power of prayer.

Me? I walk beside a muddy river that churns along despite everything. I dance on the path and sing off-tune to my favorite songs. I nod at fellow walkers. I spy white pelicans walking gracefully in shallow water. A stranger stops me and asks if I can identify the hawk in the viewfinder of her camera. I say no, I am not a bird expert. She smiles and says, “That’s okay. I’m new to all this.” We smile at one another and continue our separate walks. 

Aren’t we all new to this? We naively stumble through each day ignorant and broken, yet we seek solace from the mess. We cook for each other. We hold hands. We listen to music. We pray to whatever deity we honor. We comfort the wounded. We stand up. We continue to believe in goodness, because as Anne Lamott once wrote, “Love and grace bat last.”

It’s chaos; be kind.

Sunday Dinner

Back in my early single mom days when the boys and I survived on boxed mac and cheese, I realized that even though money was tight, I still enjoyed inviting friends and family over for dinner. It didn’t matter if the meal was simple and the dishes didn’t match. It was the fellowship that was important. I began with jarred spaghetti sauce, and then eventually graduated to more complicated meals. I tried new recipes and, yes, some were epic fails. Laughter and conversation ensued as the children played beneath our feet. Love was present.

Gathering over a meal became a tradition among my family and friends. Sometimes it was Friday nights, but Sunday soon became the evening when we would meet over a warm pot of chili, roasted chicken with potatoes and gravy, or spaghetti and meatballs. Sunday dinners meant a newfound recipe or an old favorite. Often it was a last minute invite, inspired by a drop in the temperature or the discovery of a tempting new dish or the desire to whip up a delicious dessert. The table was set. Pots bubbled on the stove. Bread was warmed up in the oven. We showed up.

After grandchildren graced our lives, Sunday dinners meant stacking blocks or playing horsie on the living room floor. Oohs and ahhss were expressed over colorful drawings. Cupcakes were eyed, but not distributed until a few bites were coaxed from the main meal. Kisses and hugs abounded. This was our heaven.

Now that we have moved to a new state and a new community, our Sunday dinners had been on hold, waiting for life to settle itself. Yet last Sunday we decided it was time to resurrect the tradition. Daughter and son-in-law sat around our cozy table as we shared stories and reflections. Talk ranged from our favorite music to holiday plans to the preparations for their new baby due in the spring. I looked at these faces around my kitchen table and instantly recognized love in its purest form.

A meal shared is a simple way of offering up your heart. Fancy table settings or matching serving bowls are not required. You don’t need to have a perfectly clean house. Just clear some space and you are set. Don’t worry about whether there are dust bunnies or the bed isn’t made. Light a few candles, heat up a pot of your favorite soup or order pizza, and crowd around the table. Coming together over food will strengthen your bonds and enhance your life. If family doesn’t live near, invite friends or make new ones. Life is infinitely better when you gather together, (especially if there is pie.)

“Eating is so intimate. It’s very sensual. When you invite someone to sit at your table and you want to cook for them, you’re inviting a person into your life.”  – Maya Angelou

 

Come to the Table

A group of friends gathered over coffee and muffins. The conversation turned to a political hot topic that exploded over the weekend. The tension in the room rose immediately, knowing there were opposing views. Many thought to themselves, “Is this wise? Should we be talking about this? What if someone gets upset? What will happen if I offer up my opinion? Will I be judged? Will this fracture our friendships?” Instead, the group allowed civil debate. No one yelled or threw names around. Each view was heard. It was honest, open, and a bit startling. There was grudging acceptance of conflicting beliefs. The friends concluded that this type of raw communication is vital in order to heal our nation’s brokenness. We must all come to the table with honorable intentions.

But how do we do that? In this fractured Twitter/Facebook-enabled world in which we coexist, it is easy to upchuck vile words with the tap of our fingers. We immediately shut down other viewpoints with an ugly phrase or hateful name-calling. It’s safe to live in our own little world, convincing ourselves we are right and the other side is wrong. With arms crossed, we block anything that doesn’t fit into our own definition of certainty.

What if we upend it all? What if we decide to tune out all the electronic sonic buzz? What if we all decided to have hard and often delicate conversations with open minds and open hearts?

According to the American Bar Association, “One of the hallmarks of a democracy is its citizens’ willingness to express, defend, and perhaps reexamine their own opinions, while being respectful of the views of others.” In order to do this constructively, the ABA offers certain rules that must be honored by the group:

    1. Show respect for opposing viewpoints.

    2. Do not monopolize the discussion. Allow others to talk.

    3. Direct comments to the group, not to individuals.

    4. No name-calling, bullying, or shouting is allowed.

    5. Do not interrupt.

    6. Remember to listen and really hear what others are saying.

The School of Thought International requests that everyone contributing to debate adhere to “The Rather Nice Rules of Civil Conversation.” A few of their rules include:

    1. I will try to reach a shared understanding rather than ‘win the argument’.

    2. I shall endeavor to not commit logical fallacies in support of my claims.

    3. I promise to remain genuinely receptive to changing my mind if presented with compelling arguments or evidence.

    4. I promise to try and see the merit in what people are saying.

    5. I will seek to clarify that I understand their point of view.

A few personal additions:

    1. Be aware of your own body language. Nonverbal communication speaks volumes. How are you sitting? Are you crossing your arms? Have you rolled your eyes at a comment? Think about what you are communicating through facial expressions, gestures, and posture.

    2. Do not attempt this type of discussion if alcohol is involved. Nothing productive will come of it.

    3. Do your research. Read credible sources. Do not begin if you do not know the facts. Be an informed citizen of this country and of the world.

None of this is easy. We will trip over missteps and cracks in the sidewalk on our way to understanding, but the journey will be worth all the bruises obtained along the way. Let’s open our minds and our hearts, and begin to see what brings us together instead of what breaks us apart.

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” – Albert Einstein

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” – Marie Curie

“Try to understand men. If you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and almost always leads to love.” -John Steinbeck

 Photo: pinwords
Photo: pinwords

 

Sources consulted:

“Ground Rules for Ensuring a Civil Conversation.” American Bar Association. americanbar.org. 2017.

“The Rather Nice Rules of Civil Conversation.” The School of Thought International.. 2017.

 

For the Simple Love of the Game

On Sunday evening after finishing a dinner of hearty soup and apple cake, my husband and I settled in to flip through television channels and happened upon Field of Dreams on MLB Network. We had missed the first half hour, but it didn’t matter. 

After a tumultuous weekend of divisive rhetoric concerning protest, what constitutes respect, and American sports, this gentle movie offered us a little peace and it got me thinking. 

I am not an athlete. Far from it. I can’t throw or spike or bat a ball. No one wants me on their team. I have no coordination and little competitive spirit. Yet, I spent years on worn benches in humid ball parks, rainy soccer fields, and freezing ice rinks. I have seen the power of sports. I have felt the visceral connection players have with their coaches and teammates. I’ve experienced disconnect when irate parents questioned an official’s call or dominant teams were encouraged to run up the score. Despite the conflicts, sports allowed my boys to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They learned the rules. They wore their jerseys with pride. They looked up in the stands when they made a goal or hit a line drive, just to make sure we were watching. 

Field of Dreams isn’t about politics. It is about something deep in our national psyche, our fractured and complicated relationships, and our innate love of the game. Not the fanfare or the spectacle, just the simple pared down freaking love of the game. The snap of the ball. The hush before a putt. The thump of the ball hitting the back of the net. The squeak of shoes on a wood floor. The look of triumph after crossing the finish line. These are the moments that fill us with awe, no matter who or what we root for.

My husband has told me he watches sports for the story. Not the personal anecdotes of players, but the actual drama played out during each match or game. He claims it is better than any scripted movie or television show, because one never knows how it will play itself out. This is the beauty and appeal of sports, he says.

Late last fall, an entire nation (and parts of the world) held its breath as a team who hadn’t won a World Series in over a hundred years came back after a power outage and won the title. I knelt at the edge of our bed, knowing my oldest son was also watching, and I could feel his joy halfway across the country. This is the connection of sports. These are the significant moments we hold in our memories. 

My dad was a huge Chicago Bears fan, even in their darkest years. On any Sunday we would find him in the basement family room, dressed in his blue Bears sweatshirt, and often down on one knee in front of the television, hoping the tide would turn and the Bears would score. This precious memory has been on my mind during the past crazy weekend: my ultra conservative father, taking a knee during a professional football game. 

Terence Mann, the character James Earl Jones plays, has a moving monologue at the end of Field of Dreams, and as I watched it again, my heart filled with tentative hope for this fractured country of ours. Even as factions want to divide us, most clamor for peace, for good, for justice. When my husband and I head to one of the final St. Louis Cardinal games of the season this Friday, I will remind myself of all that is important and basic as the players take the field. America has heart, even if we disagree. The flag and the anthem are symbols, but it is our goodness that will prevail. That hope is my own personal field of dreams.

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again.” – Terence Mann, Field of Dreams

Love Is…

Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.

— James Baldwin

I found this quote online the other morning and it touched me, because it speaks the truth. A true love is never a straight road. It’s a never-ending battle. It is chaotic and often bruises the heart.

Love changes us, molds us. We learn from love. Forgiveness is born from love, and so is pain and worry and loss. Love teaches patience. it gives us wisdom, but it isn’t always clear. Love gives us a picture of our desires. It can lead us to joys we have never known.

Love is hard. It’s worry and tears. It is heartache. It’s sleepless nights. It is a constant pounding of the chest.

Love is a puzzle that never gets finished. Even as we find the last piece, something comes along to knock part of it on the floor.

Love is a growing up. We wind through tribulations and then discover our strength, our gifts. It makes us strong, but is also bring us to our knees.

Love is new. Love is old. Fighting for love is a struggle. We claw. We brawl. We step back. We embrace. We disagree. We’re silent. We start all over.

Love is trusting the unknown. It is believing there is hope, even when the darkness permeates our souls.

Love is letting go. Love is hanging on. Love is our destiny.

Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn’t it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up.

— Neil Gaiman

 

 

“If This Isn’t Nice, I Don’t Know What Is.”

“And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’” – Kurt Vonnegut

Since I retired two years ago from teaching, I often find myself scurrying to fill my days with activities. Lunch with a friend. Errands to the grocery store or post office. Yoga classes. Day trips to new places. Scribbling out a blog post. Writing more of my book. If my days aren’t packed with all types of endeavors, I feel guilty. I need to be busy. I need to be productive. I shouldn’t waste these days.

But there are also days when I spend all morning in my pajamas and robe (today). The car never leaves the garage (Hey, I’m helping save the ozone.). I cuddle on the couch and read an entire book (It can be done.), or find a show to binge-watch on Netflix. (Personal recommendations? Anne with an E, Friends from College, Girlboss, and Grace and Frankie. Guilty pleasures? The Ranch and Fuller House.)

What I need to pack away is the guilt I sometimes feel on these days. It is not critical to have every moment crammed. Every item on my goal list does not need to be checked off. Sometimes quiet is the answer and for that I should be grateful.

Busyness does not equal happiness. After all these months I still struggle with this concept. When my husband comes home I love to report to him all I have done. See, honey? I’m not a total slacker. I do things. I contribute. But here’s the thing: he never judges. If my days are packed with stories, he listens. If I’ve sequestered myself at home, he smiles. 

I am slowly learning to smile at myself. I am grateful for these muted days when I slowly sip coffee while a cat purrs on my lap. I shuffle around in my ragged pink robe, not planning a thing. I put aside “I shoulds and I need tos” and bask in “whatevers.” There is solace in throwing out lists and relishing in simple joys.

And I whisper, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

Sweet summer evening, hot wine and bread
Sharing your supper, sharing your bed
Simple joys have a simple voice:
It says why not go ahead?

— “Simple Joys”, Pippin

Forgiveness Doesn’t Come With a Debt

Yes, forgiveness doesn’t come with a debt

I take my chances

I take my chances ev’ry chance I get

I’ve crossed lines of words and wire

And both have cut me deep

I’ve been frozen out and I’ve been on fire

And the tears are mine to weep

But I can cry until I laugh 

Or laugh until I cry

So cut the deck right in half

I’ll play from either side

I take my chances

“I Take My Chances” artist: Mary Chapin Carpenter  songwriters: Don Schlitz and Mary Chapin Carpenter

We hang on tightly to resentment. We don’t want others to steal it from us. It makes us feel safe and smug. it justifies our anger at the betrayal, the theft, the wrong. We sit with it as it festers.

Bitterness is easy. We cast blame. Unhappiness is not our fault. It lies within the misdeeds of others. They are the reason for our suffering. We wallow in our victimness.

Forgiveness is difficult, because with it comes reflection. If we forgive, we must let go of the grudge we have harbored for so long. If we release resentment, what is left?

Oprah Winfrey tells of a moment she had on her show back in 1990 when a man told her that forgiveness is letting go of the past we thought we wanted. She calls this her “transcendent moment.” She states, “He said forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could be any different.” She then adds, “It took me to the next level of being a better person. I don’t hold grudges for anything or any situation — and neither should you. [Forgiveness] is letting go so that the past does not hold you prisoner.

“So the past does not hold you prisoner.” If we let go, we are free. When we forgive, we release ourselves from the chains of the past. So here’s the truth: we cannot change history. It has been written. Some wrongs were self-inflicted, others possessed malice toward others, and a few unintentional burns still smolder.

I have discovered that offering up forgiveness to others and to myself is a daily practice. When the rage begins to seep into my psyche, I say a simple, silent prayer, “I forgive.” And when I do this, I feel lightness appear. This quiet thought gives me pause. I begin to let go of hurt and pain and remember the line in the song, “forgiveness doesn’t come with a debt.” 

Forgiveness is love. It is loving yourself, embracing all that is flawed. It is loving others, acknowledging we all stumble. I’ll take my chances.

 hoffmaninstitute.org
hoffmaninstitute.org

“There is no love without forgiveness, and there is not forgiveness without love.” – Bryant H. McGill

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” – Mahatma Gandhi

“Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.” – Bruce Lee

Room for Big Mistakes

Right after I graduated from college back in the early 80’s I was adrift. I had majored in a crazy degree called Speech Communication which was a potpourri of speech, English, theater classes, and education classes. Teaching jobs were difficult to obtain, and at this point I wasn’t even confident it was my calling. I had a friend who was moving down to Louisville, Kentucky, and without much pondering I followed her down there. After five months of failed attempts at sales and waitressing, I ended moving back home where I spent a semester substitute teaching before I was offered my first full-time teaching contract up in Northern Illinois.

For years my dad would often talk of the mistake I made when I moved down to Louisville. He felt this decision of mine was errant and foolish, and I should have stayed home and looked harder for a teaching job. But you see, I never thought of it that way. Louisville was my mistake, yet I had no regrets. This decision was one of the first things I did all on my own. I was able to live for a short time in a beautiful river town, and it also helped me realize teaching was what I wanted to do with my life. I never lamented that move, not for one moment. Yet my father’s words burned. They whispered, “I had failed.” Even now, almost 40 years later, his words still sting. He didn’t mean to hurt me, my kind and practical dad, but he did.

Now that my children are grown and making their ways in the world, I am reminded of this story. I want them to have their own “Louisvilles,” their own big mistakes that will give them insight to their desires, but I don’t want to be the whisper in their ears they hear for years. They may fall, but man, they may also soar. 

This is not an easy endeavor. Allowing my adult children to travel their own roads has been one of the most difficult tasks I have ever tackled, and I have stumbled…shit, have I stumbled. I am covered in bloody bandages from all my falls, yet I keep getting back up and reminding myself they are grown now. No longer are the days when I could nag them about school work and manners and cleaning up their rooms. I am learning that I can’t fix things for them. Their lives…and their decisions…are their stories now, not mine. 

Yes, I still worry. That’s what mothers do. And yes, I have opinions, but I’m trying so fricking hard to keep them to myself. They will learn from each stumble. I know I did. Shit, I’m still stumbling and still learning. If they come to me, I’ll be there, but mostly I want them to find their paths, because these are their journeys, full of glorious messes and brilliant triumphs, wide open spaces and big mistakes.

“Who doesn’t know what I’m talking about

Who’s never left home, who’s never struck out

To find a dream and a life of their own

A place in the clouds, a foundation of stone

Many precede and many will follow

A young girl’s dreams no longer hollow

It takes the shape of a place out west

But what it holds for her, she hasn’t yet guessed

She needs wide open spaces

Room to make her big mistakes

She needs new faces

She knows the high stakes”

“Wide Open Spaces” lyrics by Susan Gibson, sung by Dixie Chicks

The Tending of Friendships

At the end of the 9th episode of season 3 of Fargo, two police officers meet at a bar to discuss the case they have been working on together. Gloria Burgle, played by Carrie Coon, tells Winnie Lopez, played by Olivia Sandoval, about her frustrations. Her superior officer is condescending and sexist. He doesn’t believe her theories on the case involving the murder of her step-father. She’s exhausted and ready to resign from the force. On top of that, she admits to Winnie that automatic doors don’t open for her. She can’t get the hands free faucets or dryers to work. The sensors don’t recognize her. In a wrenching moment, Gloria confesses to Winnie she often thinks perhaps she doesn’t really exist. Maybe she is invisible. Winnie then tells her to stand up. Gloria rises and Winnie embraces her in a giant hug that lasts for close to a minute. At first Gloria stiffens, but soon melts into Winnie’s inviting arms. When they finish, Winnie suggests Gloria head to the ladies’ to freshen up. In the next scene, Gloria is getting ready to wash her hands in the restroom and the faucet turns on immediately after she waves her hands in front of it. She looks up and smiles when she sees herself in the mirror. Winnie’s mighty hug sparked Gloria’s energy. She is not a ghost, a flimsy specter with no voice. She’s Gloria Burgle, a woman with a fierce sense of honor and justice.

When I watched this scene unfold I felt myself audibly gasp. Gloria was there, but she had lost her confidence. Winnie’s human contact renewed Gloria’s voice. This scene reminded me of the power we women have when we reach out to one another. Our connections solidify our foundations. We keep each other upright on that flimsy tightrope spanning the raging falls. We scream, “Don’t look down! Keep your eyes on me!” We then hold out our hands, and pull each other to the safety of solid ground.

We are there at bedsides, church pews, poolside chaise lounges, and bleachers. We ride shot gun, with the windows down and Bon Jovi blasting from the radio. We cry. We listen. We hold hands. We nod in understanding. We argue. We make up. We can lose through neglect, yet sometimes we find each other again and it is precious.

During this move of ours I was worried about leaving friends behind. I needed their support, encouraging words, and hilariously dirty stories. Would I ever find women who could hold my deepest secrets close to their hearts? Would I be adrift?

I quickly discovered I wasn’t leaving anyone behind. These women are forever with me in texts, Facebook posts, phone calls, and quick trips back to my hometown for coffee or lunch dates. And now, I am slowly tiptoeing into new friendships. I am searching out fierce women who aren’t afraid of the mess, who celebrate their flaws, and who love whole-heartedly. I’m open to expanding my tribe.

Yesterday I invited a dear old friend over for lunch. We once knew each other in high school when we spent our evenings crammed into cars, cruising the streets in search of excitement in our sleepy town. We worked together at the local pizza parlor where she ran the front desk and I assembled the pepperoni and mozzarella cheese. Throughout the years we have sporadically stayed in touch, yet life and children and husbands and grief tugged us in different directions. Now we live within miles of one another. We spent the afternoon sharing stories. I was amazed at the honesty. Nothing was glossed over as we talked about the sharp edges of our lives and how we have travelled parallel paths. I am grateful for this woman and our commitment to nurture our new-found connection.

This is a lesson I have learned as I’ve aged. I can’t expect friendships to materialize out of nothing. I must make an effort, reach out to forge and maintain relationships. Sometimes it is hard and scary, yet necessary. If someone is important to me, I will send that text, make that phone call, offer an invite to lunch, because my women friends make me stronger, and I hope I offer them the same. Just like Winnie helped Gloria retrieve her mojo, my friends give me innumerable gifts for which there will never ever be enough thank-you cards.

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.” — Jane Austen

“Women understand. We may share experiences, make jokes, paint pictures, and describe humiliations that mean nothing to men, but women understand. The odd thing about these deep and personal connections of women is that they often ignore barriers of age, economics, worldly experience, race, culture — all the barriers that, in male or mixed society, had seemed so difficult to cross.” — Gloria Steinem

“I’m so thankful for friendship. It beautifies life so much.” ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

“Remember, ‘No one’s more important than people! In other words, friendship is the most important thing―not career or housework, or one’s fatigue―and it needs to be tended and nurtured.” ― Julia Child, My Life in France

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s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com