Everyday grace

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Grace.

It's Jellybean's middle name. Technically, it means this:

1. Smoothness and elegance of movement: she moved through the water with effortless grace.

2. Courteous good will: he had the good grace to apologize to her afterwards.

2a. (Graces) An attractively polite manner of behaving: she has all the social graces

3. (In Christian belief) the free and unmerited favour of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.

I mean all of those are good things, but it was the latter I thought of when we decided on her name, stroking my swollen belly and marvelling at the miraculousness of it all. I mean, when I look back on the direction my life COULD have taken, to find myself sitting here with a beautiful daughter and a wonderful husband is astounding.

Sometimes, I have to go back and just reflect on it a bit. On what I have been given. I have to kind of re-astound.

'Blessed' is a bit of a dodgy word at the moment. I've read a lot of blog posts about it, and I have been pondering what it means myself. I mean, when we say 'God has blessed me with a new car', what does that say to the many people who might be desperately praying for transport but are unable to afford it or obtain it? That God loves us more and them less? When we say we are 'blessed' by good health, what does that say to people who are suffering with sickness, with disease? That they aren't as favoured by God?

But then who am I to decide how God blesses people and in what way?

It's a tricky word. But I'm not talking about it today. I'm talking about 'grace' which is a HUGE word in terms of theological importance but is different than 'blessing' or 'blessed'. Grace, to me, speaks of love in its purest form. Love itself: not just the outward expressions of that love, but the love that is at the root of those things.

Grace speaks of love that knows no bounds, love that is unending. Sacrificial, burning love.




Grace also speaks, to me, of forgiveness.

When we ask people for grace, it is kind of like asking them for understanding, patience, mercy. It's saying 'I need you to be forgiving of me here. I need you to understand that I might do things wrong, but still to be patient with me.'

That is what I ask of my daughter, and that she asks of me. Not that we ever say it: it just is.

The thing is, Jellybean and I are close. We are very close. Two years of almost uninterrupted time together will do that. She is just as close to her Dad, but still, she spends the most time with me, and therefore we get to see each other at our best and at our worst.

At her worst? Jellybean is temperamental and rude and stubborn.

At her best? Jellybean is THE best. She is funny, sweet, kind, polite, and loving, OH so loving. It pours out of her like she can't contain it.

At my worst?

I am judgemental. I am cowardly. I am absent-minded. I am uncaring. I am cynical. I am frustrated. I am angry. I am bitter. I am afraid.

At my best?

That's the trick question, see, because I don't SEE my best in myself very much. My brain focuses in on all the mistakes I make and there are many of them.

We spend so much time together, Jellybean and I. We have a zillion joyful moments in the bank, memories stashed away like Inside Out. I think some of her 'core memories' are moments she has spent with me.

But sometimes, I am not a very good mother.

Take today, for instance. The pain from my trigeminal neuralgia was singing its steady hum, the backdrop to every movement I made, every thought I had. Occasionally, something - eating, speaking, even just breathing - made its song swell into a scream and I wanted to scream, but couldn't. The pain makes everything around me seem so loud and overwhelming and close. And so I'm standing in the kitchen and I'm desperate for a break from, you know, being awake, and Jellybean is tired and angry from being tired and I'm angry with her for not napping and therefore making my day more difficult and I am snapping at her because of it.

I hate that.

It's not her fault, it's mine, obviously. I suppose I can pin some of the blame on my stupid damaged trigeminal nerve, but I can't blame that for everything, as much as I want to.

Little moments like this need grace.

I need her to give me grace. Grace allows a bit of wriggle room for mistake making. It kind of encompasses forgiveness too, the grace I am thinking of. It is a person deciding 'Okay, you are annoying me right now but I am forgiving you in advance. I allow you the space to be a bit of an idiot because I love you.'



She does, too. She gives me grace in her own way, and I give it to her.

I need to give myself some of that space to be unperfect. To make mistakes.

I need to accept that I will make mistakes and not hate myself for it.

And I need to make more room for God's grace.

I really need His grace to, you know, fill in the cracks left by my own attempts at being everything to my daughter. I need His grace to see me through each day. Recently, I've been desperate for practical advice when I read Christian stuff. I don't just want to pray: I want to take ACTION. I don't want peaceful thoughts, I want to actively make peace, somehow. I want information on how to do that. I want steps to take, something tangible.

This is normal I think, in having faith. Sometimes you want to reduce it down to something bite-sized that you can hold in your hands. The concept of God's grace, though, is huge and kind of fluid. It slips through your fingers. It seeps into your life. Into yourself. It is free, undeserved, and utterly mysterious.

But I do acknowledge its existence. The grace of God. I pray for it often, especially recently. I have taken to short prayers, while the kettle boils, while I chop up more cucumber sticks for Jellybean (that girl is going to turn into a cucumber at the rate she eats it. I, on the other hand, am going to turn into coffee). 'I need your grace here, Lord. Give me grace so I can extend it to my daughter. Or even myself.'
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This act of pausing and praying, of asking, is a tiny relief in what can sometimes be a tsunami of a stressful day. It is a way for me to acknowledge God's reign over my life. Over myself. And it reminds me, briefly, to let go. To hold on less tightly to the idea of being everything, to everyone, at all times, at all costs. That I can lean on God and trust Him to take care of me.

Tiny moments of the day. They last a few seconds. I am more keenly aware of my need for grace and forgiveness when I am unable to give it myself.

At my best?

I guess, at my best, I am loving, and I do my best.

I trust God to help me with the rest.

***

Grace also speaks to me of thankfulness. We say grace at each mealtime, a short prayer of thanks for our food. It becomes a bit robotic at times. It is supposed to be a reminder of how lucky ('blessed?') we are to have food. Healthy nutritious food whenever we want it. Water on tap. Time to spend together. These are basic things that I take for granted but I want to show thanks for them.

Sometimes, though, we just parrot it, and Chris and I take a peek at Jellybean, who is squeezing her eyes shut with all her might and clasping her little hands together. It is adorable.

I want to take the principle of that part of grace - thankfulness - and weave it into our days. I think I do this as best I can. I like the idea of mindfulness - of being fully present and aware of every situation you find yourself in, so as best to appreciate it - but frankly my mind sometimes is like a pinball, racing around and bashing into obstacles and lighting up new thoughts. I can't really force it to settle fully onto, I don't know, sitting down with Jellybean to play with her new farm animals. But that's okay. Things like mindfulness and mental health exercises are only good if you don't let it become another stick to beat yourself with. I try to be mindful, when I can. This is good enough.

That is giving myself grace, see?

***

I guess I will never understand how blessings, forgiveness, and grace work. Until I see God in person and ask Him. I get the feeling, though, that when that moment happens, a lot of things will not have to be said out loud.

I rely on it, though. Like a lifeline. And I try to give it to others in my human way.

It is a beautiful word.

And a beautiful middle name, for a beautiful, and graceful daughter.

***



Started a new study last week and it is speaking into all the vulnerable ouchy places in my (doubt-filled, cynical) heart. It doesn't really have anything to do with this post, I just wanted to mention it and use it as an excuse for my lack of blogging. Wow, wow, and thrice wow. 

And I'll see you soon. :)

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