on lent – reflection

Here follows a short article I wrote for our local community’s lenten season, focusing specifically on forgiveness:

This past weekend I spoke at a retreat; teaching from the first four chapters of Ephesians, in the second talk we looked at Paul’s second chapter to the church at Ephesus. He continues to remind his friends that the purpose of the Mystery Revealed was to bring about peace and unity to both the Jews and Gentiles. If this same letter applies to our lives today, then how are we, as a community also to experience peace and unity not only individually but corporately as well?

A young man in his mid-twenties came up to me afterwards with tears in his eyes: “My father left when I was just two years old, so I grew up without a dad. I’ve forgiven him and I have peace about the situation, but we don’t have unity – and I don’t think we ever will. Is that okay?” My heart broke for this friend: he obviously wanted to live in the reality of Jesus’ purpose of peace and unity, but when it came to his particular situation, he couldn’t see any way around it. I mused over in my own mind, instances of deep pain, whilst also wondering whom I’ve caused extreme pain to as well. Who do I need to forgive today? Who have I wronged that I need to simply apologize to and ask their forgiveness? Together we sat down, and as he told me more of his story, we walked through the pain together.

The truth is that Jesus does call us to forgive – 70 x 7 – and what an exorbitant amount of forgiveness that is, especially when the abandonment hurts deeply. And as a follower of Jesus, he is called to continue to forgive his earthly father, even when the tears well up in his eyes and the ache seems to physically lodge itself in his chest. In Ephesians 2, although Paul doesn’t then specifically address forgiveness, he does join together the themes of peace and reconciliation: you see, the wall of separation has been broken down, and in this new creation of humanity, peace is made, “…that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity” (Ephesians 2:14-16).

No longer are we divided, for Christ is our unifier! Together, we are new creations in him. Together, we experience his peace that surpasses all understanding because we then have been reconciled to God through Jesus’ work on the cross. For my friend, we ended our time resting in our big God; we thanked God for being the ultimate reconciler, and for reconciling our hearts to him, more than anything else. We thanked God that his own father has been given peace and reconciliation through Jesus as well. And we gave thanks for the peace and unity that is brought about through the god-man, even if it’s different from what the idyllic should be. Might the Mystery Revealed be your peace and your unity today, as he reconciles your heart to His.

The Monday caramel update – #9

belly shot - week 22

Week: 22

Size: weight :: almost one whole pound! (and how many then have I gained? Next question, please). Length :: 11 inches, about the length of a spaghetti squash.

Name: Little Caramel Meredith

Gender: bouncing baby boy!

Maternity Clothes: I found my gaucho pants – hip hip hooray! And then I wore them with Uggs – hip hip hooray! Over the phone today, mi papa reminded me that pregnant women can wear whatever they want. Thanks Dad!

Food Cravings: Let’s not talk about the fact that I just found out that a local donut shop sells Maryann’s ice-cream (a Santa Cruz favorite), and therefore has the capabilities of making macapuno or baby coconut milkshakes. I’m done. Put a fork in me now.

Currently reading: The Science of Parenting; Just Generosity (class) – I’m focusing on these two before I get back to the rest of the list.

Most interesting fact: Many have heard that pregnant women have fuller, thicker, more luxurious locks, but did you know that said hair isn’t because you’re actually growing more hair (or using Bumble & Bumble), but because you’re losing less hair? So interesting!

Feeling: chunky and funny. This week I got my best and worst compliments. Best: “Cara, you know, you’ve gotten so much funnier since getting pregnant.” Thankyouverymuch. Worst: (from a high school junior, so I tend to play the “I don’t care what a 16 year old thinks of me” card) :: “Girrrrrrrl, you’re looking chunkier than the last time I saw you!” I quickly told her to never ever ever use a variation of the word “chunky” when talking to a pregnant lady, and instead instructed her to always use words like “beautiful” and “glowing” and that “skinny” doesn’t hurt either.

Missing: Vino.

Anticipating: Being here EVERY weekend in March – stoked. Stoked.

What’s the best and worst thing you’ve heard this week? xoxo, c.

a grace-laced walk.

Yesterday afternoon was one of perfection, in that nothing was scheduled and the world was at my fingertips. And after reading and cat-napping and soaking up an episode (…or two…) of Grey’s Anatomy, I found myself finally heading out for a walk with the dog. Mind you, I would have loved nothing more than to watch a third episode at that point, but guilt reared its ugly head and I succumbed to being a good doggy mama.

Leash in hand, and dog at heel [it’s a miracle – old dogs can learn new tricks!], Mr. Darcy and I headed outside, clothed in parka and winter beanie. Halfway down the block the hooch was having a hard time staying at heel, only soon to realize because Simba the yellow lab was strutting down the street with his owner. Grace intersected us in the middle of the street 13 seconds later as Mona and I started walking around the neighborhood for the next 30 minutes together.

Grace – that unlikely (but so foreseen) appointment with another person.
Grace – finding commonality with some whom you’d never pair yourself with.
Grace – conversations of encouragement.
Grace – learning something new.
Grace – realizing that this walk with this person was exactly what you needed.
Grace – drinking in refreshment from that moment onward – oh, how awake I suddenly was!

Might we all see and hear and sense and feel those little grace-laced moments in our lives. Happy Monday!

Grace Laced Mondays

The Monday caramel update – #8

Oh what will little caramel look like? I promise another belly pic soon...

Week: 21

Size: weighing in at 3/4 of a pound and the length of a carrot, we’ve got a sure-fire miniature human on our hands!

Name: LC. I spoke at a retreat this weekend, and introduced (via pictures) James, Mr. Darcy and Little Caramel – the high school kids, being hip and cool as they were, decided to shorten his name to LC.

Gender: bouncing baby boy!

Maternity Clothes: I can’t WAIT to head to my friend Tina’s house in one week + a day to gather up all of her old maternity clothes. Recycling the same 2 pairs of pants is getting old.

Food Cravings: Salt. If I were a cow, I’d ask for my own salt lick to be housed in the middle of the living room right about now.

Currently reading: The Night Circus (audible – such a magical read!); The Science of Parenting; Moral Vision of the New Testament (class), and I’m just starting THE HUNGER GAMES. Stoked.

Most interesting fact: LC likes beat boxers. Last night at the retreat, this guy was CRAZY beat boxing in the microphone, and I swear the little one inside was simultaneously doing the worm and hand springs. So, is he going to be a rapper or a gymnast when he grows up? As per actual-factual facts, I’ve been reading up on doulas – would love the opinion of the studio audience. Did you use one? Was it necessary? Was having a doula a good or bad experience overall?

Feeling: So excited to have a day off with no work and no school. I’m catching up on magazines and mail, avoiding the internet and smiling at the hubs and the dog. Life is good.

Missing: My bed – simply because the speaker accommodations this weekend included sleeping on a wooden bunk. I will sleep like a baby tonite, I will sleep like a baby tonite…

Anticipating: freedom back in the schedule – speaking is done, coordinating our middle school trip is done, and coursework is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Happy Cara.

The Monday caramel update – #7

Week: 20 – BAM! The halfway mark is officially here – or I’m only 4 months away if you count my friend Mel who went into labor before she’d actually had her first birthing class. She figured it out, and we welcome to this world, little Milo!

Size: I’m excited to announce that we’ve got a banana on our hands! (And that they’re starting to measure him head to toe, instead of just head to rump).

Name: Caramel. Let the masses believe it.

Gender: bouncing baby boy!

Maternity Clothes: Am I allowed to wear capris in February, every other day? Because I am, thanks to the Christmas Goodwill find. And are capris even in style anymore? Don’t answer that question; I’m still living in 2001, which is probably when said capris came out.

Food Cravings: Beverages. Bubble tea, orange juice mixed with 7-up, milk, chocolate milk, mint and lime (not together) mineral water. Guess I should up my protein.

Currently reading: The Night Circus (audible – such a magical read!); The Science of Parenting; Moral Vision of the New Testament (class).

Most interesting fact: Old dogs CAN learn knew tricks. Stay with me here – we decided to do an at-home training with Mr. Darcy, to alleviate any remaining (fear-based) aggression, and also to prepare him for the baby. We love our dog, and want to be responsible dog owners and responsible parents. Because he hasn’t been around babies and little kids very much, what are two of our trainer “homework” assignments over the next couple of weeks with the hooch? 1. Ti-vo the sounds of babies crying, and begin to play it louder…and louder…and louder so that he can get used to the sound. 2. Go to (not dog) parks with him, and just sit there and watch the little humans play for half an hour, so that he can see kids running around and know that’s normal. [Side note: we’ve seen an incredible response in our dog in just 48 hours – I so highly recommend professional dog trainers!] If you had a dog before a baby came, how did you prepare your beloved canine of a friend?

Feeling: I have a cold and I’m cold in general because I’m wearing those dang capris in February, with my parka on top. Do what I can.

Missing: a full night’s rest. I suppose that’s preparation for parenthood at its best.

Anticipating: being done with the current Fuller class so that I can hole up and get back to reading all these parenting and pregnancy 101 books!

Ciao ciao!

sunshine craftiness

Once upon a 30-days-of-craftiness, I started the following project.  I initially thought I’d put a profile of my dog on it, with a lovely pup quote.  Stay with me, anti-dog lovers out there.  And then we found out we were expecting, and as stated here, all craftiness went out the window for naps on the couch with Law & Order: SVU playing in the background.  Said dog quote was never found, and the initial workings of the project just waited patiently in the garage for the perfect inspirational quote.  And then, sunshine, it was found.

Step 1: find fabulous piece of wood with potential at neighbors’ garage sale:

Step 2: distress said piece of wood with Dove soap:

Step 3: paint over entire piece with plain ol’ white paint:

Step 4: take sandpaper and sand over the entire piece of wood, concentrating on the parts with soap underneath the paint:

Then, let sit for four months in the garage and admit that growing a baby is hard work.

Step 5: realize that “You are my Sunshine” in gray and yellow are the perfect colors and words, not only for this piece of wood, but for the baby’s room!

I love it! What are you creating?

The Monday caramel update – week 6

Week: 19 – I do believe we’re about halfway there!

Size: our baby is the size of an heirloom tomato. Mmm. I LOVE heirloom tomatoes, and I love this festival in celebration of it.

Name: My little caramel who shall not actually be named caramel.

Gender: bouncing baby boy!

Maternity Clothes: Please give me an e-pat on the back: twice now in trips to stores with really cute shoes, I have just said no. It’s not just Nancy Reagan’s anti-drug campaign from the 1980’s, but I have not succumbed to my own peer pressure to buy shoes. Why? Because I keep being told that my feet are going to grow – in length and width – and won’t go back to their original form. Help! Is this true, or should I have bought those sassy Target shoes?

Food Cravings: veggie crepes. Wowsers.

Currently reading: (reiterating…) The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth; The Politics of Jesus; The Moral Vision of the New Testament; …and one more book that’s in my purse that I mustn’t exert the energy to stand up and see its title.

Most interesting fact: So my sister is a week behind me – I know, that in itself is enough to throw a party over. We are stoked that the little munchkins will inevitably be cousin-best friends. Anyways, thought she has not had her gender ultrasound, I’m convinced (via hunch and the Chinese birth chart) that she’s having a girl. Therefore, she’s been having averse effects to soy-based protein shakes – and what do you (here’s the fact), said soy-based protein shakes can cause developmental delays in female fetuses! Now, I may not be a doctor, but I think her sickness is her body’s way of rejecting the soy. No way man! Soy-free, that’s me! Your thoughts?

Feeling: My back hurts. My tummy is screaming. And I don’t want to be staring at a computer screen – how’s that for a chipper answer?

Missing: sleeping on my belly.

Anticipating: a day spent in solitude tomorrow. Mmmm.

Ciao ciao!

grace.

Upon driving to the office the other day, I couldn’t get out of the car even upon turning the engine off. Do you ever have one of those moments – an epiphany, perhaps – that just hits you, when you can’t think about anything else? I’d been struck by grace, or rather, NPR’s hourlong “Forum” report (local to Californians) with Michael Krasny had been struck by grace.

Please, grab yourself a hot cup of tea and a snuggle up with a blanket in your favorite cozy chair, and click here for a listen.

Now, you must first know this: I was listening to NPR. I love listening to NPR; perhaps irrelevant to the conversation, but I’d much rather listen to NPR than turn on a Christian music station. (I’m such a hater that way – the KLOVE dialogue itself annoys me to death and makes me want to mouth-puke a little). And in that way, even if I follow the ways and teachings of Jesus, I don’t then expect spiritual enlightenment from my morning commute. So when the morning’s topic was called “Grace and Spirituality,” my ears perked up like an excited little puppy. And I haven’t been able to stop thinking about grace ever since.

grace
:: noun, verb, graced, grac·ing.
1. elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action

But I also like that grace is favor or goodwill. Grace is the tiny wine-colored blossoms that bloom on the weeds in the field behind us. Grace is the nuzzle of a dog who’s excited to see you. Grace is the favor others have shown me when I’m having a hard time growing a human, and I have to cancel an appointment or take an extra day to answer an email. Grace is the flicker of a smile seen only through another’s eyes. Grace is answered prayer. Grace is a phone call from the hubs every afternoon around 2.57 pm. Grace is the gift of a neighbor stopping by just to check in on you. Grace is the phone call of an old friend who just called because you were on their mind. Grace is sunshine warming my skin in the otherwise cold winter months. Grace is seeing the tummy grow, musing over what the little wonder is going to be like in the future. Grace is talking good about someone behind their back. Grace is past, present and future.

Where have you seen grace today?

our sort of hunch.

Okay: so, truth be told, we knew we were having a boy.  Not only did the Chinese birth chart confirm it (wahh-wahhhh), but upon going to our first ultrasound at 12 turned 14 weeks, the following happened: 

*Apparently I was having a contraction during the ultrasound – did you know that women have contractions throughout their pregnancy, but only feel them near the end?  Who knew.  

*Because of said contraction, the ultrasound tech instructed us to start dancing so that we could wake up the baby.  [The contraction creates an even further cave-like area, making baby fall asleep, so the little bugger wouldn’t wake up for anything.]  Literally.  She left the room, and we subsequently started dancing to the beat of our own drum (and to the non-existent music in our heads) for the next 10 minutes.  

*Upon coming back into the room, we finished our boogying and she went to work.  She got SO excited upon seeing his little man parts that she just burst out, “it’s a boy!  See?!” to which we looked at each other in both horror and glee.  Are we really allowed to know at only 12 weeks?  Um, aren’t we supposed to give her permission or something?  

*It was then that she also came to her senses and realized what she’d done – and swore us to secrecy, at least to the doctor who’d be strolling into the room a few minutes later.  She told us that even though most ultrasound techs are able to see the gender at that first ultrasound, they’re not supposed to tell the parent(s), because people will still gender select and terminate the pregnancy.  [And this was in the city – San Francisco – how sad…]  

*But (but, but, but), since she saw us dancing, she knew we were safe and wouldn’t terminate the pregnancy.  

So, what then do we say to that?  Dance like nobody’s watching?  Dancers are athletes of God?  (Einstein).  I’ll end with Nietzche’s quote: “I would believe only in a god that knows how to dance.”  Well Friedrich, I’d like to think that He does.