2 Guest Posts + 2 New Book Formats = 4 Reasons to Smile

Hello & happy Monday!

Today, I’d like to share a few exciting announcements with you.

First, I have a new guest post up at MissMinimalist.com! (Longtime readers may remember my first guest post there 2 years ago as well – how time flies!) Miss Minimalist is all about “living a beautiful life with less stuff.” Author Francine Jay is a gracious, articulate writer, and her site is an excellent resource for simplicity-seekers.

Today’s new post is, Real Life Minimalist Update: Caroline McGraw.

Welcome to A Wish Come Clear, readers from Miss Minimalist!

Thank you for visiting! I’d like to invite you to receive posts via email, along with your FREE copy of Your Creed of Care: How To Dig For Treasure In People (Without Getting Buried Alive).

It’s a book about balancing your responsibilities to others with the responsibility of caring for yourself. It’s a labor of love, containing 60+ pages of true stories and essential insights. It’s about living a life grounded in self-respect. It’s about loving yourself, so that you can love people with others from a place of peace.

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Next, in case you missed it last week, a piece I wrote was featured on Tiny Buddha; it’s entitled How Taking Quiet Time For Yourself Helps People Around You. I share a story of how a wise L’Arche friend’s comment changed my perception of silence, helping me to consider it as an act of service. (It’s my third contribution to Tiny Buddha, a community curated by the lovely Lori Deschene.)

I Was a Stranger to BeautyFinally, my most recent book, I Was a Stranger to Beauty (Think Piece Publishing, $1.99), is now available for Nook and iPad readers! You can also find it on Amazon.

(And if you don’t have a Kindle, Nook, or iPad, don’t worry! Neither do I. You can use Amazon’s free Kindle Cloud Reader.)

What’s the book about? It’s the a story of a family moving through a terribly difficult time, and arriving at a place of acceptance and love.

In a way, it’s all of our stories.

It’s the time you got back up … even though you didn’t think you had the strength to stand.

It’s the time you trusted … even though you’d been hurt in the past.

It’s the time you opened your heart … even though you were tired and wanted to go home.

We’ve all been strangers to the beauty in our own lives. The question is, will we stay that way, or will we learn to open our eyes?

Happy reading!

Love, Caroline

Renovations of the Home & Heart: A Tale of Transformation

Miguel*, one of my friends from L’Arche**, was in the ICU last week.

Whenever something like this happens — and despite the wonderful, highly specialized care he receives, it happens several times a year — my heart aches.

It always seems colossally, brutally unfair, these illnesses and hospitalizations. It reminds me of truths I’d rather not remember: that I am not in control, that my friends at L’Arche are growing older, that I cannot know how much more time they — or any of us — have left.

There’s a terrible powerlessness that comes with knowing: if we choose love, we are going to get our hearts broken. We are bound to lose so much.

***

Mi amigo, 2009

As I was typing the lines above, my husband Jonathan knocked on the door and asked if he could show me something. I did not welcome the interruption; in fact, it felt like the worst possible time for me to take pause.

I’m trying to figure out how to tie this post together! my mind protested. But writing about my friends at L’Arche is like being in their presence in that it gives me a sense of deep-down peace. So I agreed to Jonathan’s request, putting my computer aside.

My husband led me into the dining nook of our home, the space he’d been working on for several days. He paused, then turned on the newly-installed overhead lights. Thanks to his handiwork, what had once been a dingy, dreary corner was now a clean, inviting space.

His diligent labor had yielded beauty, and he wanted me to witness it alongside him.

The transformation was complete; in fact, I could barely remember what the space used to look like.

All of the sudden, it hit me: this is the work of love in our lives. What happened within this space is akin to what happened to my heart when I came to L’Arche. It wasn’t some surface shift, some minor sweeping and dusting. Instead, it was a total renovation.

***

Real love makes us vulnerable; it strips off the layers of old paint and debris we like to hide behind. It’s a transformative process, one that will most certainly get messy before it’s complete.

And when it gets messy and complicated, we want to throw up our hands and walk away. We want everything in our heart’s home to go back to the way it was before. A part of us thinks, selfishly: I wish I didn’t know and love this person. That way, I wouldn’t feel so vulnerable.

It feels like we’re ‘losing’ so much, being so vulnerable. And it’s true, we are losing our illusions. But we’re actually gaining a great deal, because such vulnerability is priceless. To love another in a way that opens your heart and changes your life forever? That’s what it means to be fully alive.

Arms-length, 2012

But we don’t know if we really believe this, so we look back, longingly, to the life we had (though it was dark and claustrophobic).

We want to know exactly what we’re getting into before we begin, before we open our hearts. But that’s not how it works. The process itself changes us in ways we can hardly imagine.

This kind of change — wrought by small, daily acts of compassion — looks like magic when you see it for the first time. And when you do, you know that every stroke of the paintbrush (and every time you faced a terrible infestation, searched frantically for a missing person, and shared bone-weary breakfasts) was worthwhile.

***

All of this ran through me as I stared into the new lights. Tears came, so I shut my eyes and prayed for my friend.

And though eyes were closed, light still shone against the darkness.

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What gives you hope? Join the conversation in the comments!

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Fed up with an ‘impossible’ person? Tired of a situation that may never change?

Pick up my new Kindle* Single, I Was a Stranger to Beauty (ThinkPiece Publishing).

*If you don’t have a Kindle, don’t worry! You can use Amazon’s (free) Kindle Cloud Reader.

More New Posts from Yours Truly:

Upcoming speaking engagements – if you’re in the area(s), I’d love to see you there!

Enjoy this post? Receive posts via email, along with your FREE copy of Your Creed of Care: How To Dig For Treasure In People (Without Getting Buried Alive).

*Names have been changed (and the latest word is that he is doing much better now).

**L’Arche (French for ‘The Ark’) is a faith-based non-profit that creates homes where people with and without intellectual disabilities share life together. I worked with the DC community for 5 years.

Wherever I Go: An Open Letter to L’Arche

L’Arche* friends, I miss walking beside you through the world.

I miss holding your hand, Cassandra**, and how your fingernails always dug into my skin. Holding on tight helped you to balance, so I’d leave them there until I had to — ever so gently — pry them away.

We’d re-grip, but a few steps later, your nails would dig in again. I’d sigh, maybe, but mostly I wouldn’t mind the crescent moons left behind. They were imprints of trust.

You’d ask me to take you out … for tea, for sweets, for a break from routine. Because life was too short to be diligent all the time, because teatime is a chance to slow down and enjoy.

***

Supper at L'Arche

A Supper at L’Arche. Photo Credit: Brian A. Taylor Photography

I miss pushing you, Pedro, in your wheelchair … which, of course, you’d insist with great volume and intensity that you did not need. To your great dismay, I’d pull the chair along anyway. We’d go less than a hundred yards before you’d turn to me, ready to rest. I’d help you buckle in, and never say I told you so.

Though it could be stressful at times, I love that you always wanted to leave that wheelchair behind. You, with your indomitable spirit, always believed you could walk the whole way … just as I always thought I wouldn’t need to bring an extra layer of clothing when I always, always did.

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I miss pushing your wheelchair too, Miguel; I miss hearing the sound of your contented, buzzing purr. I’d see you looking around and beaming peace on everyone. You, who spent so much time indoors, never took the outdoors for granted.

I remember how you’d notice things at the margins, things the rest of us wouldn’t see … the bums sitting on the sidewalk, the brown chickadees fluttering around an abandoned pizza crust.

You’d go to Starbucks every Monday, and fill up the room with your quiet gladness. You’d extend your hand to everyone. One man refused to shake, once, and it was his loss. You drew your hand back, confused, undaunted.

***

I miss walking down to McDonald’s with you, Leo. Truth be told, I can’t stand McDonald’s, but I have a soft spot for it because of you. You’d make your daily pilgrimage, shuffling slowly. Such a pace meant more time to take notice; you once said you liked the scent of autumn leaves as they fell from the trees.

Whenever I’d see you walking alone, I’d be struck by your vulnerability. You’d go out into a world that doesn’t always understand your speech, your story. Every day, you’d show up for your life. You didn’t let fear hold you back; you’d get up to speak in front of a crowd even though you had terrible stage fright.

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I miss walking beside you, Theresa, watching you hunt for pennies. Your patience was marvelous, and never more so than on the day I came to pick you up at the airport.

It was late and we were tired, but you didn’t give me a hard time when I couldn’t remember where I’d parked the car. Instead, you walked with me through the parking decks for what seemed like forever. When we finally came upon the old L’Arche van, we jumped for joy.

On ordinary days, we’d walk along, you talking to yourself aloud, me talking to myself in silence, companionable. We’d hold hands, stopping only for glimmers of gold, pennies on the sidewalk.

***

Passing the candle after supper. Photo credit: Brian A. Taylor Photography

Passing the candle after supper. Photo credit: Brian A. Taylor Photography

I miss being able to walk beside you. But don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten.

Because of you, I slow down and listen; I write down my parking spots.

I notice the flutter of the chickadees, feasting on crumbs.

I greet strangers, because when I do, I see you in their smiles.

I bring an extra layer, even though I really believe I won’t need it.

I treat myself to a cup of tea in the afternoons.

And most of all, I show up for my life.

We may be separated by distance, but really, that’s about it.

You are with me wherever I go.

***

Who is with you wherever you go? Join the conversation in the comments!

***

Fed up with an ‘impossible’ person? Tired of a situation that may never change?

Pick up my new Kindle* Single, I Was a Stranger to Beauty (ThinkPiece Publishing).

*If you don’t have a Kindle, don’t worry! You can use Amazon’s (free) Kindle Cloud Reader.

More New Posts from Yours Truly:

Upcoming speaking engagements – if you’re in the area(s), I’d love to see you there!

Enjoy this post? Receive posts via email, along with your FREE copy of Your Creed of Care: How To Dig For Treasure In People (Without Getting Buried Alive).

*L’Arche (French for ‘The Ark’) is a faith-based non-profit that creates homes where people with and without intellectual disabilities share life together. I worked with the DC community for 5 years.

**All names have been changed.