Sunday, December 29, 2013

To: Me / From: Me / Re: GRACE

Dear Jennifer,

Here is a gift I thought you could use. While it is belated, I wanted to make sure you received it before this hard year falls behind you, for you will need this present in the new year.

It is not exactly practical.

It did not make any of the "must-have" gift lists.

It is not too big, nor too small. It is one-size-fits-all, though it might take some adjusting on your part.

Of course, you can return it if you don't like it -- only I fervently hope you will choose to keep some of it for yourself.

I am giving you -- or us -- the gift of grace.

The other day, while reading your daily devotion, your eyes quickly scanned the passage that said you should become a "gift of grace" to your family and friends. Well, duh. You have always known that, even if you haven't always succeeded at it.

But then you paused because the devotional went on to say something you had never considered before: become a gift of grace, even to yourself.

Even to yourself.

That is something we are not very good at, are we? We are so unaccustomed to such a gift that we stumbled over that line, questioning if such a thing were even possible.

But it is possible.

And it is a gift you deserve. Stop protesting. Stop telling me you cannot possibly take what I am giving you. Yes, you can.

No matter our stumbles and mistakes, our trespasses and our faults, we all deserve to be gifts of grace to ourselves, too.

How do you receive such a gift?

You decide to accept it.

You slip off the cumbersome, scratchy, woolen cloak of doubts and slip into a fine, silken robe of grace. Yes, you will be naked for a short while when you shed your coat of armor, but do not be afraid to be vulnerable. It is who you were born to be. While our daily armor protects us, it also prevents us from receiving real, true grace.

When you are vulnerable, you must extend to yourself the kindness and forgiveness you have sought from others. Have you forgiven yourself? Have you been kind to you? Do you say nice things about yourself, to yourself?

Please nurture your soul, in the ways only you know best, whether that is through poetry or a porch sit or time with a dear friend.

You already have seen glimpses of the grace I give to you.

Remember how you danced at your high school reunion because, by God, you had lost your mother a few weeks before and you needed to dance, to lose yourself in music? You didn't care who was watching or how ridiculous you might have looked. You danced because you needed to dance. You danced and danced and danced.

That was a form of grace - to yourself - to celebrate your life, which moves forward even as you try to hold onto the past.

Remember how you were hurt by those you love most, but even as you sobbed at the utter unfairness, you knew you loved them still?

That, too, is a form of grace to yourself, allowing yourself to forgive and to love -- and yes, even to hurt.

Tell yourself that you are enough, over and over again, until you believe it, until you can toss the armor aside.

If you want more grace, you must peel yourself open like an onion, layer after layer. If you weep while doing so, all the better. Release whatever has held you back from grace. Peel, peel, and peel, until all the outer layers of you, all those past hurts, mistakes and misgivings, are stripped away - and you are the core of who you are, who you have always been.

Hold this green center in your hand. Clasp your fingers around it. Do you feel that? The pearl of who you are? That child who rode her bike down the street, not a care in the world, happy to feel the wind in her hair, happy to be alive?

This is what grace extended to yourself feels like. It feels like freedom.

It is okay to give this to yourself. I am holding it out to you. To us

Please take it. Accept this small token and allow it to be part of your life in the new year. Allow this seed of grace to grow, to carry us through love and loss, victories and defeats.

I am waiting for you to hold out your hand to yourself.

I love you.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Gift from Above

I do not know where my family will gather for Christmas Eve this year.

For as long as I can remember, we have celebrated at Mom and Dad's wonderful old Kentucky home, a tradition that became known as "Jenkinsmas".

This is where I fell in love with porch swings.

Every family has their own Christmas traditions. Jenkinsmas is no exception -- only our family traditions are, um, especially unique. Consider Mom's grape tree, for instance:

All it needs is a little love. And some grapes.

Then there was the year Mom suggested we play "Christmas flutes." The egg nog must have been especially noggy that Christmas.

And we can't forget our beloved "Otto", a blue ottoman who became the Jenkins family mascot.

Last year, we celebrated Jenkinsmas in our jammies.


As you can see, we always partied in style. Jenkinsmas is a very classy affair.

Merry Mustache-mas    

No matter our antics, Jenkinsmas has always been the very best kind of Christmas.

Before you read the rest of this post, please take a moment to read this column I wrote for this year's holiday edition of Evansville Woman magazine:

Then you'll understand why my siblings and I wonder if we can still find the magic of Jenkinsmas without our beloved mother, who died in August from cancer. How can it be Christmas without her?

As it turns out, we aren't without Mom at all. Not really.

Mom had been diagnosed with Stage IV gallbladder cancer in August, 2012 -- and although she was responding beautifully to treatment over the holidays and never once showed her family anything but hope and strength -- she wanted to ensure she was with us this year.

So last January, as she put away decorations, Mom wrote a note to us and placed it in a box, on top of the Christmas lights.

My siblings discovered her letter while helping Dad decorate the massive 10-foot Christmas tree he placed in the living room in honor of Mom.

This, friends, is Mom's gift to us at Christmas -- a gift from above -- left for those she cherished. You see, Christmas for us has never been about things. Not ever. It has always been about family.

Thank you, Mom, for letting us know that you are still with us, even if we are unable to find the strength to gather in that big, old house this year.

You will find us, wherever we are.

Chances are, we will be by your grape tree, tears mixing with laughter, celebrating Jenkinsmas, celebrating you. Just like we Otto.

We will remember the true meaning of Christmas, which began in a manger long ago, and carries over in a mother's note, tucked among strands of lights...

The gift of eternal love.

Merry Christmas, Mom.