present. thankful.

bc90113e29ef351de769933bf5fbbb79Early in the lonely darkness, I wake this morning with a heavy heart; how can the absence of Something, Someone weigh so much? As in yoga, I will not fight this pain’s strain; I will lean into it. I will stay present in the sorrow, to the grief. And even in this, I will give thanks. Yes because it’s a holiday, but also because it’s a holy way.

  1. Though I don’t understand it fully nor embrace it completely, grace is more powerful than condemnation, compassion truer than judgment. The Divine, at the deepest core and at the wildest edges, is Love. For this, I thank God.
  2.  I live in a cozy house in the mountains, on a wildlife corridor–a glory this suburban flat-lander only imagined in daydreams. This house, once another’s outdated debt, has been made our beautiful home by my husband’s raw talent. For this, I thank God.
  3. I live and laugh with my best friend, a man of generosity, grace, strength, humility, adventure, athleticism, authenticity, wildness, industrialism, honor, spirituality, intelligence…love. For this, I thank God.
  4. I had a special relationship with my Dad. From playgrounds to cardinals to Frank Sinatra and Yanni to walks to movies, our spirits were woven together. Yesterday in the car, just like him, I whistled along and sang off-tune to a Christmas song. In his absence, he was with me in that car, in that moment. For this, I thank God.
  5. I had a special connection with my Mom. Our stories were written from the same words. When those stories are told now, in her absence, it is not only me–it is my husband. As we threw out bacon grease this week, we looked at each other knowingly, remembering and resurrecting Mom’s conniption fit at such a waste. His relationship with my Mom was a rare and precious gift, now a majestic river bird hovering above and between our love. For this, I thank God.
  6. Though my parents are gone, the utterance of “Mom” and “Dad” still floats up from my heart to glide across my lips. Dave’s parents hold a special place in my life–far greater than the empty label of in-laws. For this, I thank God.
  7. I go to work every day alongside people who fight for social justice. I teach students who teach me. I gift the power of words through stories that matter. My job is a ministry of empowerment for which I am equipped. For this, I thank God.
  8. My sister gets me. We are cut from the same cloth. Reunited by grief, our friendship’s foundation has solidified. For this, I thank God.
  9. I have friends of the soul variety. Tammy, who has been beside me and inside my spirit since I was 14. Laina, who when I am with, listening to her stories, makes me feel like I’m with my Mom. Libbi, who gifts me with the call to presence. These are but one small glint of a massive web of glittering connections spun around me. For this, I thank God.
  10. My body is strong and capable. My legs can take me to the hidden heights of the Rocky Mountains; my spine can bend and bow into peaceful poses of meditation; my lungs can fuel me through 13.1 miserably momentous miles. For this, I thank God.

Like beads on a Mala, I count my blessings. There are far more than this list; there are far more than I recognize with my eyes or name with my voice. For this, for the unseen and the unnamed, I thank God.

Scissors and Saints: The Story of My In-Laws

In-laws. The phrase, a common topic of pop culture, sends shivers down many people’s spines:

For the first time ever I was taking the family on the road. We stayed with my in-laws, which on life’s list of experiences ranks right below sitting in a tub full of scissors. (Jeff Foxworthy)

I feel so fortunate to be blessed with in-laws that rank high as compared to Foxworthy’s joke. Since falling in love with Dave, I have found an additional family in which to give and receive love. They will never replace my parents…but the beauty lies in the fact that they do not have to. My heart has expanded so that where there were 2 parents, now there are 4; where there were 3 siblings, now there are 4.

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30249_424511792812_629555_nMy additional brother, Jeremy, is a man of quiet observation. He is brilliant with his hands–whether working on cars or homes. He is a man comfortable with himself, generous, patient, insightful and kind. I am lucky to be his sister.

My additional mother, Debbie, is a woman who walks closely to God.

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When my Mom got sick, both times, it was her I called. When a close friend’s Dad was dying, it was her I emailed. I turn to her because I rely so deeply on her fierce intercessory prayers. I recognize that Dave and I stand on the shoulders of this saint; I feel carried by her prayers and love.

232323232-fp3;--nu=326--75;-857-WSNRCG=323668-364-75nu0mrjMy additional father, Ron, is a man who speaks little, but carries and discreetly shares the world of words in his heart. Words like this:

You have made a difference in my life and I THANK YOU for that.

When he writes to me in emails–whether it’s corny jokes and forwards or emails encouraging my heart–he is as handy with language as he is with a tool belt. He has a way of melting all my crusty defense mechanisms, just by leaning in with a gentle pat on the back or a shared quiet conversation.  I treasure his presence in my life.

These are the saints with whom I spent my first Thanksgiving without my Mom. They fostered a place for me to be in grieving silence and stupid joy. They gave me space and grace. 

And they created the Christmas spirit. Sorry Mr. Foxworthy, the only scissors here are used to open all these presents–physical and metaphorical. 

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