Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Child Called Grace

When she was born, 6 lbs of intensity, I marveled that such a tiny new baby girl could be that alert... Particularly in contrast to her twin brother, who preferred to sleep the day away and remained in that drowsy state for the whole first month of life.  She eyed me with suspicion, watching every move I made, like she didn't quite believe I knew what I was doing.  She never slept more than a few hours at a time, afraid she might miss something important, I suppose.  She resisted any attempt at scheduling or even a loosely defined routine, and insisted that we all follow her lead. As a newborn. My husband said often, "It's Gracie's world, we just live in it."

Fast forward 3 years...

This morning, Gracie has been in the time-out chair twice, sent to her room once, and it is not even 9am.  This is a typical beginning to our day.  And I am, as usual, already longing for bedtime. Don't get me wrong, I adore this child.  I love her spunk, her mischievous grin, the way her long blonde hair is always a mess in the morning... But she flat wears me out.  Our days are peppered with battles, some I choose to avoid, some I insist upon winning, and some that I lose hands down.  Sure, there are moments of fun and laughter, but at the end of the day those moments often seem eclipsed by the difficult ones.

I have said this before, but in case you didn't know, I am not exactly good at dwelling on the positives.  I tend to be a little cynical in my thinking, and can easily get swept away by negative emotions.  I work on it.  All the time.  And I know God gave us Gracie for that very reason.  She makes me face my own heart-issues every single day.

When Michael and I were discussing baby names, we would often text options to one another during the day while we were both at work.  During one of those "baby-naming sessions", we volleyed a few ideas back and forth.. Emma Claire? Ella? How about Analise?  All beautiful, but they just didn't feel right... So we took a little break.  A little while later I was sending a text to him at the exact same moment I was receiving one from him.  Both texts read the same:  "Gracie".  Coincidence? No way.  I am convinced God gave us her name.  And now I know why.

The joke I have made for the last couple of years is that we named her well, because she requires a lot of grace.  But as I have struggled through trying to be the mommy God calls me to be to a child who truly believes she should be in charge of the world, I have come to realize that her name is a reminder of how much I need grace.  Grace to parent beyond my comfort zone, grace to cover where I fall short as a mom, grace to give to a child who is so much like her mother in so many ways.  Her name reminds me of how I can not only help her become who God created her to be, but also how I will become the Mommy he created me to be.  It isn't just about how strong-willed and stubborn she is... It is about revealing all the yuck still in my own heart.. The pride, the temper, the lack of patience and self-control... The need for grace.

Being a mom is not for wimps, for sure.  But I am beginning to see a bigger picture... A beautiful portrait of how God uses all things to accomplish His purposes.  Even time-out chairs and potty training.  And I, for one, am so grateful He works in even those fleeting moments and seasons of our lives that seem more tedious and mundane than eternal.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Simply and Honestly

An author I respect once said "Write in a way that scares you a little."  That is how I write.  I can't help it, it is just what comes out.  But it is also the reason I don't post or publish as much as I would like to.  Because it scares me a little.  More than a little, really.  I have no desire to write what someone else wants to hear.  I have no desire to try and pretend I have it all together and know all (or any) of the answers. I do have a compelling desire to be real, authentic, and at times, painfully honest in my writing.  The problem with that is that once I click "publish" it is out there.  For anyone and everyone to see.  And that is when the fear sets in.  Some toxic combination of my old fear of rejection, need for approval, and desire to just be "liked" that halts the flow of words and leaves me unsure.  Because maybe I'm not as cheerful, or as funny, or as smart, or as "glass-half-full" as I feel I should be?  I know this is a result of unhealthy comparison... A trap that gets me more often than I like to admit.

I compare my writing style with other bloggers.  I compare my outlook on parenting with other moms.  I compare my attitudes with other sisters in Christ.  I compare my home with the one across the street.  I compare my body type with other women at the pool.  And somehow, someway, I always come up lacking... And I already know that comparison is a trap... And it is an area of my life I have actually experienced some victory in over the years... So how does it slip back in so silently and trip me up?

To choose to be real and authentic in my life, my writing, and my relationships, I have learned, is to leave myself open to criticism.  It is far safer to play along with everyone else and pretend... So it is fear that keeps me playing the game.  And fear that drives me to compare.  And the enemy of my soul pounces on that fear every time.

In my writing, it is easy to try so hard to be encouraging that I stop being honest about how hard life can be sometimes.  I want to be uplifting and positive, but ya know, some days just don't leave me in that mindset.  It is often the writing, the spilling my guts for the world to see, that transforms.  The words have power.  But only when they are real words.  Not something I concocted to garner praise or admiration.  The passage that comes to mind as I think about this is in Matthew 6... Where Jesus warned us not to do or say things just to gain man's applause, pretending to be good or compassionate as long as someone is watching (or reading).  Verse 6 says it this way: "Here's what I want you to do:  Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role-play before God.  Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage."  (And here's the best part) "The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense His grace."

Of course I realize that He probably was not referring to blogging.  I get that.  It is a passage about honest prayer.  But His Word is alive... and this is what He showed me this morning as I prayed through the restlessness of knowing that this silly little blog is His place for me right now, and not knowing how to approach it in a way that somehow reflects not only the real me, but Him in me.  "Just be there... as simply and honestly as you can manage."  That is where He changes my focus. That is where I find grace.

So, you brave readers, I ask that you read and give grace... To a girl who just struggles to find the answers like everyone else, and who sometimes will get it wrong.  I am no theologian.  I am no teacher.  I am no expert on anything other than failure.  I make no claim to have a clue about anything other than what God does in my own life.  And I am so thankful He even reaches down to work on this broken vessel that should have been tossed out with the trash a long time ago.  He is good at that, you know. Taking something that others would have discarded and making something beautiful.  Reason enough to stop playing the comparison game and just let Him continue working on me, right?

(And now I sit, wondering if it is bad form to end a blog with a question.  Sigh.  Progress, not perfection.)