inspiration

What is grace?

I like to define grace as a fleeting experience in which God is clear and evident. With this broad definition, grace can be known in so many of life’s moments. It might be a moment of shared prayer with a friend. It might be observing an interaction between strangers in which God seems to be whispering, “notice this.” Sometimes, I recognize grace in the vast, clear blue sky. Always, I experience God at the beach, whether in the sound of the waves or the view of the horizon. Grace is even evident in frustration, pain, suffering, and sadness. God makes every moment, every breath, an opportunity for grace.

I write this “new” (revised) introduction on June 25, 2015. It’s been over a year since my last post here. When I think about the reasons why I haven’t written, I can’t really pinpoint any one thing. And yet, the call to write is back in my heart. It’s changing and evolving, and I embrace it. I’m confident that God is bringing me back to pointing out the divine in the everyday through my writing.

On June 15, my husband and I began a new adventure. We’re living in Singapore for a couple of years. I’m embracing this change in our lives, and I’ll be collecting my thoughts about Singapore here. In the process, I’m hoping to find grace in the experience of moving, adjusting to living in a large international city, and finding my way.

My passion for writing about grace has always been fueled by a love and appreciation of spiritual writing by wonderful, spiritual authors, who have, in a sense, become my mentors over the years. These writers, some contemporary and some ancient, inspire my thought and inform my life. I’ve included a list of recommended reads for your pleasure.

Through daily prayer, I continually find myself drawn to certain sayings, quotations, and passages. At times, I want to hold onto them for a day, or a week, or longer. At times I create a visual of the quote for myself, and when I do, you might find then here. I hope you enjoy them.

Every day, I pray that God will enlighten my vision, so that I can see the grace that abounds in every moment.

I invite you to do the same.

May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder.

–John O’Donohue

for lost friends

As twilight makes a rainbow robe
From the concealed colors of the day
In order for time to stay alive
Within the dark weight of the night,
May we lose no one we love
From the  shelter of our hearts.

When we love another heart
And allow it to love us
We journey deep below time
Into that eternal weave
Where nothing unravels.

May we have the grace to see
Despite the hurt of rupture,
The searing of anger,
And the empty disappointment,
That whoever we have loved,
Such love can never quench.

Though a door may be closed,
Closed between us,
May we be able to view
Our lost friends with eyes
Wise with calming grace;
Forgive them the damage
We were left to inherit;
Free ourselves from the chains
Of forlorn resentment;
Bring warmth again to
Where the heart has frozen
In order that beyond the walls
Of our cherished hurt
And chosen distance
We may be able to
Celebrate the gifts they brought,
Learn and grow from the pain,
And prosper into difference,
Wishing them peace
Where spirit can summon
Beauty from wounded space.

-John O’Donohue, in To Bless the Space Between Us

hope

Recently, I was blessed to be in California for a beautiful sunset. My friends and I timed it perfectly. Since we were staying inland, we left Anaheim and arrived in Laguna Beach just as the sky was beginning to change from daylight to twilight, and the clouds on the horizon had begun to change to beautiful shades of orange, red, and violet. The towering palm trees along the rocky shore became beautiful silhouettes against the changing sky. It was breathtaking, really.

Growing up on the west “coast” of Michigan afforded me the opportunity to watch many sunsets over Lake Michigan. The palm trees and rocky coast of Southern California aside, experiencing the end of a day watching the sun set on the water is profound, and grace-filled. In some way, witnessing the sun disappearing over the horizon speaks to me of hope. At the end of the day, I know that the sun will rise again tomorrow.

This rhythm of nightfall giving way to daylight, giving way to nightfall again is something I think we tend to take for granted. And yet, the repetitious rhythm of life is comforting. The pattern of making dinner, sharing a meal with those we love, clearing the table and putting away the just-clean dishes is a daily routine, one that can become drudgery. Driving to work and anticipating the schedule of the day, doing what is required of us, wrapping things up, and making our way home can be excruciatingly ordinary.

In his book Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom, John O’Donohue writes,

“The world rests in the night. Trees, mountains, fields, and faces are released from the prison of shape and the burden of exposure. Each thing creeps back into its own nature within the shelter of the dark. Darkness is the ancient womb. Nighttime is womb-time. Our souls come out to play. The darkness absolves everything; the struggle for identity and impression falls away. We rest in the night.”

O’Donohue’s description of rest and renewal in the darkness of night inspires me to see the familiar routines of life that I find ordinary or simply take for granted as blessing. Preparing my daughter’s lunch for school. Walking to the mailbox with the dog at the end of a long day. Answering an email. Wiping the crumbs off the dinner table. An awareness of the gift of life can make the familiar motion of any of these things sacramental.

As my friends and I stood at the railing watching the sunset over the Pacific, we realized that a couple was posing for engagement photos on the beach below us. The four of us, all married for a while, could sense the hope and joy just in watching the body language of the young couple. This, for them, was anything but ordinary.

In the next few days, I invite you to notice the sunset. Be aware of the color of the sky changing. Consider the time of day, the temperature of the air, the amount of time that passes. Whether it is the view from your front porch over the house across the street, or you’re watching through a train window on the way home from work, or you are blessed to be able to  witness nightfall in solitude on a beach somewhere, give yourself a few moments to savor the reality that the sun will rise again tomorrow. Breathe in this grace, and then, rest in the night, with the rest of the world.