There is an easy rhythm to a life of Grace. And the best part about Grace is that it is a total GIFT, not something to strive and work for. I have learned, though, that walking in it consistently requires one thing. Surrender. I write about this a lot, I guess, because it is what God is working into my heart and mind these days. He invites me with every sunrise to just open my hands and let go. Let go of my worry and anxiety, let go of my need to control, let go of my expectations of others, let go of my plans for the day and let Him take all of those burdens off my shoulders and just be free to live and move and breathe. The days that I make the choice to receive this daily gift of Grace and walk in it are glorious, easy days, no matter the circumstances I face. The days I refuse to open my clenched fists and let go are marked with stress, anxiety, and exhaustion. Seems like the choice would be easy, right? Not for this stubborn girl. There are so many days when I choose to believe that striving and worrying will accomplish more than resting and praying. Probably because I am new to this kind of faith. This real, every minute of every day faith that you don't cling to only in the storms but in the everyday messes and realities and struggles that are common to every mom.... I wanted to share how I am "practicing" the art of Grace, because I suspect I am not travelling alone on this journey.
Taking my thoughts captive. This is especially difficult for women, because our emotions are so very powerful, and tend to rule our thinking. I am learning to just STOP. When I begin to feel that heart-racing anxiety, or the heat of anger, or the rush of frustration, I (try to) make a conscious choice to reign all of that in, remind myself of Who is in control, and of my own responsibility to show Grace in the same measure that I have received it (which, by the way, is enormous, so I should be spilling out massive amounts of Grace on everyone!) And when I choose Grace in those moments they instantly turn into opportunities for growth, for teaching, for encouragement! It works. Every time. It just takes practice!
Choosing Calm. I have lots of reasons to worry. We all do. None of us are exempt from the harshness of life, the consequences of choices made, the challenges of relationships. But for so many years, I allowed these things to dictate my state of mind, my outlook, my choices, even my personality. I did not possess that calmness of Spirit, that Peace, that I saw in some women and longed to have. What a shame it took so long for me to realize that the way to Peace is easy. It is as simple as a whispered prayer. Praying is no longer something I try to remember to do each day. Somehow, it has become a natural flow of conversation in my days, not a scheduled obligation. I don't know exactly how that happened, but it is a lifeline for me in this mess of a life! And the funny thing is, it is so much easier than lugging that load of worry around. Why do we assign such value to worry? Like somehow it is a gauge of how much we love someone, or a measure of how important something is to us... Worry is NOT an indicator of anything except my own lack of trust. (Ok, stepping off the soapbox now.)
Embracing second chances. Often it seems that I get it wrong more than I get it right, but this is the great beauty of daily Grace. It is not about getting it right all the time. It is learning to see our failures as opportunities to try again, wiser than we were before, and with a new perspective. Again, this requires surrender! Saying, "Ok, I blew it, but I can start over. I can admit I was wrong, I can ask for help, and I can try again!" I am so thankful for all the second chances I've been given. They are gifts from a God of second chances! And with that perspective it is possible to be grateful even for the times I blow it.
Cultivating Thankfulness. When I take time to be aware of the countless gifts, big and small, that God lavishes on me every single day, I cannot help but feel loved and cherished and cared for. And being aware of all that Grace surrounding me, I can't help but share grace with others. Ann Voskamp's book, 1000 Gifts, truly changed my life in this area of gratitude. And since reading that book I have noticed how many times thanksgiving and thankfulness are mentioned in my Bible reading. Everything comes down to this. Recognizing who we are, Who God Is, and what He has done for us. Not just in saving us, but in loving us so well each and every day.
These are the things on my heart and mind today, as I prepare for a week of crazy schedules and busy days. Not things that I have mastered or can even claim to walk in consistently, just the things of this everyday faith that I want to remember and eventually grow into. Prayers for my sisters on this same journey, that we will recognize the choices we have every morning, and that we will choose Grace! And when we blow it at breakfast, we will choose to receive Grace and start again! And at 5 o'clock when the toddlers are crying and clinging and the supper isn't ready and the house that was just clean 2 hours ago is a wreck we will stop, take time to be thankful for all the mess and choose Grace again. And in the late hours when we lie in bed we will think not about our overwhelming schedule for tomorrow, but we will reflect on the Grace of today and say Thank You. That's what I'm praying. For me and for you.