It’s the Little Things that Make a Wonderful Life


“What if you woke up one day and it turned out your whole life was only a dream?”

My older daughter Casey shared this quote with me the other day. She read it somewhere recently and it really spoke to her.

As she and I went back and forth about the craziness of this concept and how it would feel and what it would be like, what struck me the most was this: She said she’d be devastated. Because– and I quote, “I have a pretty damn good life.”


I was not expecting that.

I was not expecting that, given our family history– her father’s death when she was just a baby, my recent divorce and all of the preceding circumstances, and some of her own personal struggles in the past– I just wasn’t expecting to hear that she loves her life so much.

On sleepless nights, I spend a fair amount of time thinking about everything I haven’t been able to give my kids (read: an intact happy family) and the variety of loss they’ve experienced in their lives. I think as parents, especially, we tend to think it’s all much more complicated than it really is. And although at times my kids do feel the rough edges of brokenness rub up against them, it’s not how they define themselves or how they view their lives as a whole. There are tons of little things that give them so much happiness and make them feel loved.

And as it turns out, it’s the little things that make life wonderful, even when the very big things don’t measure up.

My daughter’s remark got me thinking. There are really only a few things any us of need to feel like it’s a pretty wonderful life after all. And the more people I talk to, the more I’m convinced that especially during the Christmas season, we cannot be reminded of this enough.

So what exactly makes the short list?  

Love that makes us feel secure

Feeling accepted for who we really are

A passion that lights us up

Lots of laughter

Being surrounded by people who genuinely like us

These are the things that make a wonderful life. It isn’t about creating an atmosphere of perfection. We never could anyway. It’s about tons of love, grace, and laughter. It’s about really connecting with each other. It’s about pursuing things that speak to our souls and set our hearts on fire. It’s about friends that feel like family and family that feels like friends.

George Bailey would’ve lassoed the moon for Mary. But even that was too much.

Mary toasted her friends simply by wishing them this~

“Bread. That this house may never know hunger.

Salt. That life may always have flavor.”

To which George added, “And wine! That joy and prosperity may reign forever!”

And in the end, it’s the bread, salt, and wine of life. The little things that make it wonderful, even when the big things may not be perfect.

Cheers to the little things~

And cheers to a truly wonderful life.

Grace & One-Way Love

grace-circus-letters-web-940x400I had a difficult conversation with someone this morning. Not difficult as in confrontational; Difficult as in emotionally raw. Vulnerable. Tender…Difficult. This person was needing and asking me to extend a measure of grace and without hesitation, although perhaps (and then again, maybe not) against all reason, or odds or…I don’t quite know…history? I freely gave it. I didn’t have to think twice. They did not specifically ask for grace– but that was the tone of our conversation. And I did not specifically say, “Here is grace. Please have it.” That is not usually how grace is exchanged. But there is a moment when one person has a need or weakness and another person simultaneously has the terrifying power to so easily and unnecessarily hurt or cause suffering…and chooses not to. And it is so soothing and tenuous and frightening. And I am not acting as a self-proclaimed Grace-Giver here– spouting off about it would be the antithesis to graceful. I almost feel as though I am observing it objectively– because let’s be honest and clear– I do not always give grace. And I do not always give grace freely. In our base humanity, there are times each one of us gives “grace” with many many spoken or unspoken conditions attached. And this is not grace at all.

And so all day long I have ruminated about the nature of grace. About what it means. What it feels like to give grace and receive grace. About unmerited favor. Undeserving mercy. And it has kept the tears close to the surface. There is something achingly beautiful and fragile and fervent about the nature of grace that is undoing me today.

6cc889098349daf806f65245c9d0af4fAnd perhaps that is why this morning’s conversation is affecting the landscape of my heart so deeply today. Because life is hard. And grace makes hard things easier.

What, exactly, do I mean by grace?

“Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unlovable…. The cliché definition of grace is “unconditional love.” It is a true cliché, for it is a good description of the thing. Let’s go a little further, though. Grace is a love that has nothing to do with you, the beloved. It has everything and only to do with the lover. Grace is irrational in the sense that it has nothing to do with weights and measures. It has nothing to do with my intrinsic qualities or so-called “gifts” (whatever they may be). It reflects a decision on the part of the giver, the one who loves, in relation to the receiver, the one who is loved, that negates any qualifications the receiver may personally hold…. Grace is one-way love.” – Paul Zahl, as quoted in William Tullian’s book, One -Way Love.

And so may we–more often these days–find ourselves on both ends of such love and grace. Because in the end, we are all just walking each other home. (Ram Dass)


Life Lessons from the Kindness of Strangers

Recently during the course of my day, I was in a medical office where the doctor’s name seemed vaguely familiar. As I went about my work I kept tossing the name around in my head and started flipping through my mental files. And then it struck me. Nearly 15 years ago, just a month or two after losing my first husband, my son [Dylan] had been sick and was referred to an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist. As it turned out, he needed to have his adenoids removed. I vividly remember sitting in that doctor’s office crying. I knew the outpatient surgery for Dylan wasn’t serious. It wasn’t that. It was just…everything. I was already feeling fragile and this just felt like too much. Too hard. Too overwhelming. It would be the first major life thing I was going to have to face without my husband by my side. As this young doctor looked at me with compassion and concern, trying to reassure me that my son would be okay, I could no longer hold it together.

“We have no health insurance”, I sobbed through ragged breaths. While my little boy   quietly sat next to me, I began to tell this virtual stranger some back story to my tears. “I recently lost my husband and everything hasn’t been sorted out yet.” I told him that I was worried about the cost and details of the surgery. That I was scared. And sad. (And then I apologized profusely for my complete meltdown and tried to pull myself back together…) Without a moment’s delay, he told me that I had nothing to worry about . He went on to say that he would take care of everything, adding that while he could only speak for his own expenses, he would personally talk to the anesthesiologist and the hospital, as well. I was floored. To say I was relieved; touched; comforted: all MAJOR understatements. The kindness of this stranger sustained me that day. Would I have figured it out? Yes. But instead of having to wade through all of that fear and uncertainty, this doctor immediately offered what he could to lighten my load.

It all came rushing back as I stood there in the same office. A nurse walked in and I told her I couldn’t leave without sharing my story.  As I described what had happened all those years ago, she didn’t look a bit surprised. “That sounds just like him”, she said. “That’s just how he lives his life.” When she asked my name, I told her it didn’t matter–there was no way he would ever remember. “Oh no!” she answered quickly. “Doctor never forgets these things. They leave an impact on him too.”

This was the second time I would be leaving that office with tears running down my face. This time, the words ‘That’s just how he lives his life’ racing through my mind. And a burning question: What do people say of me? What WILL people say of me? It’s not a question you can answer for yourself. But I want to be known the way this doctor is–for kindness and generosity, compassion and grace. I have a long way to go but I hope I’m on my way,  stumbling and failing forwards. We’re all on this crazy ride together–if there’s a way we can make it easier for someone else, let’s do it.