The grace that grounded me.

At work last week, a few of us were discussing books, and I mentioned that at this moment my favorite book of 2014 is: “Mile Markers” by Kristin Armstrong. A colleague said oh, yes that is Lance Armstrong’s ex-wife. Of course I thought, duh. How did I not put two and two together? You would think her few mentions of her husband, Lance, in Mile Markers and her mention of Austin would have clued me in, but I was so enamored with her book that the connection never crossed my mind. By the end of our conversation one of my colleagues offered to bring in her copy of another Kristin Armstrong book: “Work in Progress: An Unfinished Woman’s Guide to Grace.”

Two nights ago I decided to crack it open, after some much-needed inspiration, and holy shit was I blown away. This is the first paragraph of the Introduction:

“You may have met, or know, a woman like this: She brightens a room, can literally alter the energy before she opens her mouth. Her presence alone is uplifting, her warmth is genuine radiance, and her eye contact feels like a gift. Her compassion and confidence are unshakable. She knows herself well enough to be able to get to know you. She has not pretense about herself, has no need to hide because she lives in truth. She has no need to exalt or deprecate others or herself, and this allows others the freedom to be authentic in her company.

She is the kind of woman who makes you check your posture, inside and out. She makes you want to think before you speak, not because you feel judged or compelled to impress her, but simply because she makes you want to be better. Her integrity draws others into the light. Her laughter is contagious. Her hugs feel so good you wonder how you can get another one without appearing needy. When she is happy, you want to celebrate with her. When she is struggling, you want to stand by her side. Come to think of it, anything with her would be fine.

Who is this woman? To me, she is a woman of grace.” page 1-2

Wow. If I could ever live up to that. I read that, and immediately had a woman in mind. Someone in my life that has always been an inspiration to me. While we have not been in touch as often these past few years, she has always been a role model to me. I can remember one time in college when I was struggling particularly with feeling like an orphan (my dad was around but not really existent in my life, my mom had passed on 5 years before). I remember I had hung out with her and her family (husband and precious little baby girl), and as I left she put her hand under my chin and looked into my eyes and said: “We love you.” Then she looked at me more intensely and said it again. I froze, and then started to cry. It was just what I needed to hear, but so hard to accept. She made me want to be better. She brightened the room, was so authentic and real, and exuded confidence, radiance, and her eye contact brought me to tears (in such a good way). She was the grace that grounded me.

I miss her.

“Love You Forever”

I have spent a good part of my life taking care of other people, family members, and probably my favorite of all children. My favorite age is newborn, that are so cuddly, sleep so easily in your arms, and smell so good. (Well most of the time). However, I love the conversation and exploration that happens when you interact with toddlers and onward. The questions at times can get under your skin, and other days they say things that are so completely unexpected that they make you laugh so much you cry. Other times the words that come out of their mouths bring other sorts of tears.

Yesterday a Facebook friend shared this article “The Story Behind ‘Love You Forever’ Is Probably Not What You Thought.” Love You Forever is a children’s book written by Robert Munsch. Now let me tell you, over my 10 + years of marriage I have wanted to purchase baby items, and Chris has somehow won and halted this urge, which I understand. However, I started a bit of a collection of my favorite children’s books well before I met Chris. One on the bookshelf is, you guessed it: Love You Forever. Maybe it is the nostalgia of sometimes feeling like an orphan, or remembering childhood memories with my parents, but this book always brought tears to my eyes as I read it to wee little ones while babysitting, or while working at a day care center in college.

The article shares the true story about the background of this children’s book. You’ll want to read the article and watch the video, but know that it is a teary affair. I cried while reading this article based on not having my parents here to tell me they love me, and now to know that the words in the book actually speak to babies lost, makes it that much deeper. The song the mom sings in the book is:

“I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.”

For those of you that have lost babies, born or unborn, or even your grown babies, this book is for you. I even think it is for those that have lost their moms or dads, as a reminder that they are loved. You are loved.

Proof that you are loved.

I recently finished reading a book called: “Proof of Heaven” by Eben Alexander. It is an interesting book. I wanted to share one of the quotes from Alexander’s book that most resonated with me:

“You are loved. Those words are what I needed to hear as an orphan, as a child who’d been given away. But it’s also what every one of us in this materialistic age needs to hear as well, because in terms of who we really are, where we come from, and where we’re really going, we all feel (wrongly) like orphans.” Page 170

The author was adopted and at one point in his life had tried to find his birth parents, only to be told they were not interested in meeting him. He felt like an orphan all over again. Yet, in many ways whether we have lost our parents or not, if we do not feel loved, the result feels orphan-like. I had a professor in college that used to tell me: “You are loved, loving, lovable, needed, wanted, and useful. Right now.” She somehow always knew when I needed to hear those words. There were times in my life (college being one of them) when I did not hear the words “I love you” too often. Yet, those were the words I craved the most. We crave them when we need them the most. When you know you are loved, when you feel it, you do not question it. When you do not feel loved, you feel alone, on your own, and sometimes out in the wilderness.

It would be easy to say that you should know who you are, love yourself, and only then can you love others. That might be true, but before we can truly hold the comfort and confidence of who we are, we have to know, understand, and feel what love truly is, and what it feels like. Each individual understands what being loved feels like, some of us might have had the experience span our entire lifetime, and it might have been more intermittent for others, but we could not have continued living without understanding and knowing how being loved feels.

I often wonder if those committing evil acts today truly understood love? If they did, would they take a different road? If anger, misunderstanding, and revenge were replaced with love, the world would be a very different place.

What do you think?