little bit of lagniappe

reflecting on everyday grace

Archive for the category “Oh, the Places to Go…”

The first day of autumn… Conyers, Georgia

Today is the first day of a new season.

Autumn.

Today, I experienced the gift of tasting these first autumn shades in Conyers, Ga, where I spent the majority of the day retreating and being — and on the grounds of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit. 

It was my first visit to this haven after many months of my dear friend Judy speaking to its beauty, its reverence, its presence.  Now I know for myself that it is indeed a place of simple, authentic beauty, and also of contemplation, quiet, and rest.

My time was spent exploring, wandering, watching hawks circle amid a bright blue sky, resting in the monastery and sharing midday prayers with the monks, and lying on my blanket ‘neath a giant chestnut tree as the sun danced among the canopy of branches above me.  That was where I felt most “home” – as a beloved child of God.  Here, I felt the tree’s arms like God’s very own, stretching down to hold me, while the sun playfully and lovingly provided both shade and light – safety and warmth.  While I laid there — a human being in all my smallness — in all my vulnerability and in all my frailty  — among scattered broken bits of chestnuts — I felt whole — wholly loved.

The simple identity I finally felt ring true was being God’s beloved child.  In the midst of all the various identities we and our society construct for ourselves, shouldn’t this one be the only one that matters — the one that we treasure most of all?

This moment also brought to mind a verse our wonderful “Rev” spoke about during yesterday’s chapel service at school:

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God.  And that is what we are!” –  1 John 3:1

(Exclamation point!)

YES!

And so on this new birth of autumn, I hope to transfer the monastery’s quiet space to rest in this current reality.

Close your eyes.  Listen to the breath that God gave you.  Feel the rhythms of the heart he so intricately crafted.

Children of God.

“That is what we are!”

Amen.

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Tuesday’s Perspective

Yesterday offered an incredible first-hand experience and lesson in perspective.

I had the incredible fortune of shadowing a good friend who works as a physical therapist at Atlanta’s Shepherd Center, a private, not-for-profit hospital offering medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord and brain injury.  There truly are no words to adequately describe what I experienced yesterday, nor can I disclose much information, as I am bound by confidentiality.  However, I can celebrate the power of hope, grace, determination, and faith that I witnessed.

In a spit second, life can change forever.  A car accident…a fall from a ladder…a routine bike ride…

Life changes, but it is by no means over, and Shepherd is in the business of HOPE and moving forward, enabling its patients to rehabilitate, reenter, and enjoy a world as functional, capable, and contributing citizens.

The cases of spinal cord injury that I saw ranged from nearly complete to partial paralysis, and each patient was confined to a chair.  For their therapy sessions, there was such patience and flexibility involved on behalf of the physical therapist, but there was also essential encouragement lined with tough love, push, and challenge.  The goals of each therapy session involved tasks like sitting up, bending forward while seated, touching toes, getting out of bed, and rolling over — the “automatic” movements of life that seem so rote, so involuntary, so simple for us who are blessed with full function.  However, from the perspective of these patients, these movements will involve every fiber of their being, day after day, and they will have to fight — whether it be through pain, disbelief of their current, altered reality, potential anger, fear, or utter exhaustion.  And yet, THEY FIGHT.  Their furrowed brows, pursed lips, deep moans, and tightly shut eyes emitted a courage I have never seen before and brought tears streaming down my face.

Interestingly, on Monday evening (and every opportunity since the Opening Ceremonies) I was glued to Olympic athletes donning their talents,  skills, and incredible abilities with determination and courage — and with very able, chiseled bodies that often made me gasp in astonishment.  In contrast, yesterday, I shared time with another kind of hero — donning another brand of courage that I will never forget.  We must not forget.

Today, may we give thanks in ALL circumstances and for ALL God’s beautiful children.  Tuesday’s shadowing viewpoint brought to light all that I have and am able to do and also reminded me of those courageous hearts who live life so vulnerably, yet with such determination, such fight, such hope.  Thank you, beautiful folks at Shepherd Center, for inspiring me to be present this day, offer gratitude, and see God’s amazing grace…everywhere.

Dates with Daddy

Ever since I was a wee little lady, my sweet daddy and I have shared lunch dates.  While our family trio has always been close and enjoyed spending time together as the three of us, there has always been something irreplaceable and special about my dates with daddy.  I remember fondly such papa-daughter outings at New Orleans “hot spots”  like Pancho’s of Airline Hwy (mama always shuddered with distress when she found out about this regular choice), the classic Taqueria Corona on Magazine St., Cuco’s near Carrollton (can you sense the common theme here?), and occasionally Camellia Grill.  We even shared breakfast dates at the doughnut shop (be still my heart) on the corner of Prytania and Napoleon — a sweet dozen savored between us, down the hatch in no time flat.  While the food was always important (I mean, we are both true New Orleanians!),  it was the simple pleasure of being together — sharing giggles, conversation, delicious bites — just being papa and me.

Over the course of the past few months or so, papa and I have rekindled our lunch dates.  Work/school schedules have prevented such from happening regularly since I’ve been back in Atlanta, but given the freedom of an intentionally restful summer this year, we picked up our old routine.  However, in the name of healthy eating at sustainable, locally-minded eateries, I decided to introduce my papa to my absolute favorite place in the ATL:  Urban Pl8.  Nestled off the beaten, rugged, and oh-so-eclectic path of Huff Road between Howell Mill and Marietta Blvd, Urban Pl8 takes the cake in every category of what I look for in a top restaurant:  value, atmosphere, open kitchen, down-to-earth folk, green-minded practices, whole food (and gluten free!) offerings, and TASTE.

To say that papa enjoyed this new adventure would be the king of understatements.  To say that now he would, could, and probably will eat there for every meal of the day is more like it.  In fact, Urban Pl8 has been the ONLY destination of these recent papa-daughter outings.  We’ve become pals with Matthew and Cathy, our most beloved waiters, we have “our” designated table, we guess what each other is ordering THIS time, and we lovingly (yet quite consciously, each feeling mildly protective about our own order) share bites while our eyes dance to the back of our heads, marveling in delight.  We have our special tidbits – those nearly intangible ingredients that make our dates what they are.  Yes, the food is amazing, and neither of us want to leave or have the meal come to an end.  But what’s so powerful, so simply powerful about these dates with daddy is how full and content we feel just being together.

Sometimes, it seems like I could be 10 years old again, except this time FOR ONCE I’m not wearing a Saints’ jersey or ball cap.

Yet, I’m no longer 10 years old, and he’s no longer 50.

And that wide span of years between our past and present selves reaches across a beautiful expanse of experience — times that were both distressing and joyful, challenging and simple.  As human beings, we often long for that past — to reclaim, relive, or perhaps recapture what was — before that clutter crept in.  We often long for the less complicated times.

However, what I find now is that the tangled mess of experience between us has flavored our laughter, warmed our glances, seasoned our conversations, made deeper our dimples.

That tangled mess of experience has made more real and true and honest our love.

And so…

Today, I celebrate the dates we have shared over the course of these 31 years.

Today, I celebrate our present intention (a successful one, I must say!) to make time for the dates in the midst of busy schedules that have crept up again.

Today, I celebrate the dates that are yet to come, both on earth and in heaven.

Today, I celebrate his successful three rounds of immunotherapy to knock out the cancer that has invaded his bladder (three down, five to go, thank you, Lord!).

Today,  I celebrate the joy I feel knowing I’ll always be his little girl and he’ll always be my daddy.

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