Monday, January 31, 2011

Grace and Gratitude

This morning felt like a test that I failed. Miserably.

I was switching laundry when I heard a little voice, sounding so proud, "Look, Mama, look!" And, as I turned to look, I found a face covered in red lipstick staring back at me. Well, it was more of a dusty rose but, for dramatic purposes, we'll say red. Did I look at that face and exclaim what a beautiful job she had done with the lipstick? Did I take a picture so everyone could see how incredibly cute she looked?

No, I did none of those things. Instead I allowed my anger and frustration to take over. I sat her on the sink counter and washed her face with a washcloth. All the while telling her, in a not so lovely and kind voice, how she was not allowed in mommy's purse and she knew it. How she had ruined her shirt and my jeans and my purse. I went on and on. As if a three year old could really understand anyway. And the look on her face should have melted my heart. But it didn't. I was angry and I wanted her to know it.

Even later, when she came and laid her head on my leg and said "I sorry, mama", I patted her head and gave my forgiveness in a begrudging way. I still felt angry and I didn't want to let it go quite yet. Not very gracious. Not at all.

It is three hours later and she is down for a nap and I find myself struggling with an area of my life that I have struggled with for thirty years now. An ugly area. One that I think I have conquered and it keeps coming back. As if Satan is taunting me with my own weakness and I give in once again. And I feel awful. Unforgivable. Ashamed.

I go to my heavenly father and after all these years he should be so angry with me. He should give up on me. He should throw all of my failures in my face. I really kind of want him to because that is what I deserve.

But, instead, I find grace. I find forgiveness. I find arms that wrap me in their love. I find a new beginning. Totally undeserved, but given anyway. It brings me to my knees again and again. How can I ever show myself worthy of this gift of grace?

I know that I can't ever earn it. It wouldn't be a gift then, would it? But I can give it. I can show that grace to others. To a three year old. Did she deserve it this morning? No, not really, but I can give it anyway. Because she is my child. In need of grace. And I can give it to her. I can teach her what grace looks like even in my own imperfect way.

I failed this morning. But, thankfully, God has shown me his grace. And when that three year old wakes up from her nap we will have a new start to our day. I will ask her for her forgiveness and, as always, I will hear her say "It's okay, Mama". Grace still comes naturally for her. And I am so grateful for that.

I have been reading a book, One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp. It has challenged me to start a list of one thousand things for which I am grateful. I only started last week and I can feel this process changing me already. I find myself going through the day looking for those gifts so I can write them down. Even in the worst of days I am on a hunt for the good. And I am finding there is always good. Even on days when you have to dig deep.

On Mondays I am going to share some of the gifts I am finding and what I am learning while on my search.

1. Tears of a daughter trying to remember her sister
2. Washing dishes with a cloth that was made with love
3. Snow covering the world in a blanket of pure white
4. Playing princess with my princess
5. Watching birds feast on the seeds we leave for them
6. A husband who works to provide so I can raise our children at home
7. God's voice speaking to me through the writing of others
8. The loving heart of a little girl- Anna, full of Grace
9. Grace, so undeserved, but always given
10. The smell of vegetable soup cooking on an icy day

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Winter Snow

Could've come like a mighty storm
With all the strength of a hurricane
You could have come like a forest fire
with the power of Heaven in your flame

But you came like a winter snow
quiet and soft and slow
falling from the sky in the night
to the earth below

You could've swept in like a tidal wave
or an ocean to ravish our hearts
you could've come through like a roaring flood
to wipe away the things we've scarred

But you came like a winter snow, yes, you did

you were quiet and soft and slow

falling from the sky in the night

to the earth below

Oh no, your voice wasn't in a bush burning
your voice wasn't in a rushing wind
it was still, it was small, it was hidden

Oh, you came like a winter snow
quiet, soft, and slow
falling from the sky in the night
to the earth below

falling, oh yeah, to the earth below
you came falling from the sky in the night
to the earth below

-Chris Tomlin

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Growing in Love

Falling in Love... is easy. A glance in his direction, eyes connecting, a flutter in the stomach. And we fall.

Growing in Love... is the hard part. It takes patience, kindness, perseverance... so much more.

I have these two pictures on my shelf. One of them shows me so much younger. With the one I fell in love with. Before the growing.

We saw each other. We talked in firelight. Held hands on a bench. Talked of the future. Dreamt of the days ahead. Stood at a cross in the rain. We made promises. We had fallen. We thought we knew each other.

We stood there in a church and committed ourselves to stay together. To grow in love. I see that picture and smile. Smile at our innocence. Smile at those two who had fallen in love.

In the other I see an older version of those two. I see the lines in the faces, a little less hair on his head, hers a little darker. I see more than that. The things you can't see in a picture.

I see the stretch marks from carrying two babies. I see the jagged scar from the birth of one. And the scars on the two hearts of those who buried that same precious one nine years later. And all the years in between.

I see the laughter. Secrets shared. Battles won. And lost. I see the dreams still there and those that have died along the way. I see prayers whispered and shouted and left unsaid. The faith waivering and then standing strong.

I see the tears cried in the dark and the arms that held each other quietly because there were no words.

And I see that we have grown. In love. We are the same, but different. We are still learning each other. Still discovering the hidden parts. And growing in love.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ordinary Moments. Becoming Extraordinary Moments.

Just a normal everyday activity can become something more. I don't know why this happens at some times but not others. Maybe it is the state of our heart. Maybe there are moments when our hearts and eyes and ears are open to more. Moments when we see beyond the meaningless into the meaningful. And a moment becomes full of meaning.

Like last night. I was in another room doing the usual mundane tasks of keeping house. I could hear my husband reading our littlest one a book. Not just any book. A favorite book. A book we read over and over and over. So many times that we read it from memory, no longer paying attention to the words. Just mindlessly saying it once again. He was reading it with his usual dramatics. Making her laugh and scream in all the right spots. And I was just listening because there was nothing else to hear at that moment. Listening because I had no other choice.

And then I started to hear the words in a new way. It is a simple book. I'm sure you have read it too. Maybe even sung it, I imagine. It's the story of a family going on a bear hunt. Ringing a bell? They face all kinds of obstacles; tall grass, water, mud, snow... you remember now? And each time they say these words...

We can't go over it.
We can't go under it.
Oh, no!
We've got to go through it!

As I listened to my husband reading these words over and over throughout the story something happened in my heart. They spoke to me. I realized that all these years I have been on my own bear hunt of sorts.

I am not hunting for a bear. But, in my heart I am searching for something just as elusive. Happiness, contentment, acceptance, peace. I set out each day on my search for these things and something or someone stands in my path.

And what do I do?

I stand there. Trying to figure out how to get over it, or under it, or around it maybe. Anything but going through it. I don't want to do the hard stuff. I want a way out. And so I stand there. Thinking. Analyzing. Wasting time. Maybe even contemplating giving up or turning back.

Because going through it looks scary. Impossible even. I don't believe I can do it. But, in the end, I realize going through it is the only way to the other side. I have to take the step forward into the unknown and just go through it.

I'm so grateful, though, that I don't go through it alone. I have One who is with me. Guiding me. Making my path straight. Holding me up. Picking me up. Believing in me. Every step. Every day.

So when the obstacles come, and they will, I will remember an ordinary evening. Listening to an ordinary story. But learning an extraordinary lesson.

I can't go over it.
I can't go under it.
Thank, God!
I will go though it!