Growing Pains

growing pains tv.jpg

(Not the TV show. )

Update: Wally and I are still together. A couple of days ago, my right foot felt better. I wore two matching shoes. I guess I cheated on Wally. Don’t tell him. My foot hurt a little, but it was nice to feel like I had a cohesive outfit on. It’s getting better. I’m doing deeper stretches and it seems to help.

I’ve realized something. Our house, the one that my dad and stepmom used to own, probably won’t be a showplace anymore. Jonathon and I both work full-time. We have 2 kids who live with us, and 3 pets, also living with us full-time. Between the extensive grounds and 3,000 square feet of house, it’s a lot. Can I enjoy what is and work on things as I’m able, or will I succumb to the pressure of perfectionism? Stay tuned.

Jonathon and I spent some time praying about it, feeling a bit overwhelmed. As we prayed, I felt like the Lord impressed two words on me: growing pains. Aha! Well, that makes sense. We’ve never had such a large, beautiful home and yard before. We don’t know how to manage it all. This means we’re going to have to grow into it, like kids growing into new clothes. We have to roll up our pants and sleeves until our limbs lengthen. We’re excited to wear them, but might need to wait a few months before they fit correctly.

Then we went to church. My brother preached on – you guessed it – growing pains. Seemed a confirmation of sorts. The context was parenting, but the idea is the same. We need to help our kids grow, through gracious love and correction, into the people God created them to be. Shouldn’t that extend to ourselves as well? We’re called the children of God, after all. I’m learning. For sure and for certain, it takes me *forever*, but I’m learning. I’m never going to be perfect. Never. Only one person who ever was, and we crucified Him. It was for the best reason, to bring us into relationship with the Father, but still. Something to think about.

So today, right now, I leave regrets behind. I let fall away all the old things. The dead things, including the failed attempts at relationships, activities, jobs, etc. I want to be free. I want to be able to love and serve in the present, not weighted down with baggage and wishes.

Both wearing Wally and living in this new residence have caused me to rethink my ways, to slow down and consider. I’m taking a breath. In Christ, I can extend grace and patience as I get better and as we figure out the best ways to dwell anew. 

 

grace made perfect.jpg

 

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Faulty Filter

filter

Yesterday, I read about a gal named Rebecca Jane Stokes who got fat-shamed on the subway. In case you don’t know what that is, it’s when you’re fat and someone shames you. Ta-da! Usually, it’s about what you’re wearing or eating at the time. Like, “If only you lost some weight, that dress would actually look good on you! Such a pretty face.”

You get the idea. It’s an ugly form of communication.

In this case, the young woman in question was carrying a box of freshly baked cookies home to share with her roommate. You can read the original article here. Warning: the article contains profanity. I understand her response to the lady who addressed her.

‘I looked up and she said “You’re so lucky, just eating whatever you want and not caring. I’m a dancer so I can’t do that.” ‘

As someone who has struggled with self-esteem and has never been traditionally skinny/scrawny/underweight, I felt her shame.

Her thoughts would be some of my thoughts:

‘Do I tell her that I first knew I was fat when I was 7?

Do I tell her I saw my first nutritionist, started counting calories and working out at the gym when I was twelve?

Do I tell her that even on my good days I don’t look in the mirror and automatically like what I see there?

Do I tell her that every day is a battle to love myself?

Do I tell her that I’m still half convinced the last guy I dated didn’t want me in the end because I was too fat?

Do I tell her that she has just made one of my biggest nightmares come true?

Do I get snotty and say I can tell that she doesn’t eat much because of her wrinkled skin?’

You can see where this interaction was going. Nowhere good.

But what if she had it wrong? Stay with me here. What if this young woman, haunted by her failure to meet societal norms and pressures, has her own baggage? What if she has her own grenades to toss? I mean, doesn’t she?

She didn’t come into the encounter with a clean slate. She had past hurts hanging around. That shame doesn’t just dissipate; it loiters, it lodges, it makes a home in our hearts. She didn’t hear a friendly, innocent statement. Maybe the dancer felt lonely and wanted some company. Maybe she was hoping for an offer of a cookie. They probably smelled delightful, filling the train with their intoxicating aroma.

I don’t discount Rebecca’s experience or her interpretation of it. But she had a definite filter. We all do. I’ve had people blow up at me for nothing I’ve done. All I’ve done is been the one nearest the dynamite when it exploded. What if Rebecca tried to diffuse the situation instead of escalating it? She took the bait, if that’s indeed what it was. She could have made it a joke – “Glad I’m not a dancer!” Or just smiled and looked away. Every statement doesn’t need a response.

My point is that not everyone is out to get us. If we carry rejection around with us, we’ll find it. If we expect to run into shame, it’ll show up around the next corner. We can get healing and extend forgiveness to ourselves and others. Jesus offers it to us freely. Grace is even better than fresh-baked cookies. It’s fat-free and it lasts forever.

This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another.  – 1 John 3:11

 

Greasy Grace

Yesterday afternoon, I sat in one of our (many) local coffee joints. I nursed a badly-needed double shot mocha and waited for my friend to arrive. A thought popped into my head. It’s not a new one, by any means. What if grace is greasier than we ever thought? When I say grace, I don’t mean her.

grace kelly(If you don’t know who this is, see me after class). The lady in the picture probably never got greasy. Ever.

We spent a good chunk of time on Saturday at BoomShaka. Ruby’s birthday shenanigans got delayed due to her illness last weekend. Still can’t believe she’s 12 now! BoomShaka involves jumping, climbing, and generally catapulting yourself into pits of foam.

boomshaka foam pitThat rectangle filled with multi-colored items is rather amazing. The blocks are about 5″x 5″ and look like this:

foam cubes.jpgAs we stood in line to sign waivers for the kiddos, I read the instructions posted on the wall. Only one jumper per trampoline at a time. No running. You must wear regulation socks, ones you brought with grippie suction on the bottom, or bought at the front desk. Yikes! Last but not least, do NOT bite the blocks.

Um. Okay. Sidenote: A lot of the blocks *did* have nibble-marks on them. Wasn’t me.

What does this have to do with greasy grace? I’m getting to that.

Ruby and her two cousins walked to the trampolines. I had an hour to play with them. I trailed behind, taking it all in. Being a smidge older than 12, I had no plans to hurt myself. I stepped gingerly onto the trampoline.

“C’mon, Mom!” Ruby urged, face one huge smile. She bounced next to me on her own black square.

I jumped up and down. I couldn’t keep the smile off my face, either. We visited nearly every station. One of Ruby’s cousins, the fearless one, swung off the trapeze straight into the enormous pile of foam waiting below. Not me. I struggled with the idea of jumping into the foam. Was it really for adults, too? Would it be enough padding?

Finally, after watching the girls jump in, I tried it. I bounced off a trampoline and cannonballed into the chunky abyss. It was…soft. I didn’t hurt anything. I tried to wrestle myself free of the foamy pieces. It was hard to break the surface of the moving pile. I pulled up and grabbed the lip of the hole. I managed to scramble to a standing position.

That was graceful.

After that, I didn’t care. I kept jumping into unsuspecting towers of squishiness, making sure no small children lurked in their midst. I swung out on filmy curtains over yet another chunky pool. But what I noticed about the little kids – toddlers – is they fell on their faces in the blocks. They didn’t care. They didn’t worry about getting hurt or maintaining their dignity. What dignity? In fact, they almost floated on the top. Their slight mass didn’t depress the foam like the rest of us did. Our greater mass sent us sinking quicker and harder. Gravity is a cruel mistress.

The thing is, all of us could get out. The foam, acting as a sort of grace agent, allowed us to get back on our feet and jump again. And again, and again. You know what? It was fun. I watched Ruby regain her inner tigress as she scaled the rigging over a pit. She clambered across a string of swings to get to the other side. She bounced up and down the line of trampolines, confident, joyful and at peace. All the girls could flip and skip and know they would come out fine.

Isn’t that the point? Yes, I’m a great advocate of having fun. We’re so serious as Christians, and especially as adults. We don’t try new things. We fear making mistakes. We don’t want to look bad, or worse yet, sin and miss the mark.

But grace. Perhaps it should have a capital G: Grace.

Grace allows us to fall down and get back up again. We can try something new, something that scares and excites us, all at once. Grace means we have freedom to fail. We can shrug, stand up, and dust ourselves off if it doesn’t work out. We can forgive ourselves and others and move on, when situations cause pain. We don’t  have to stay down, stuck in the pit like some dinosaur glommed to a La Brea tar pit. The pit is temporary, and it’s cushioned with multifaceted grace.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. – Ephesians 2:8

 

Super Friday

fresh prince friday

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I ran three miles this morning. I wanted to do more, but that’s all I had in the tank. This week has felt chock-full of Fridays. I loved it. The kids got out of school. Jonathon’s almost done with the house updates. Our vacation looms at the end of this month. So much to look forward to. And now, the weekend. Plus, I got to meet with several good friends this week. I have one more on tap at lunch today. What a bonus!

“So does that make this Friday a super Friday?” Jonathon asked me yesterday. I don’t know what it is, but I’ll take two, please. Super size me!

But…I may or may not have eaten a donut yesterday. And some dark chocolate chips.

Ahem.

I’m finding as I run more, my body craves more food. Most of the time, I answer it with more protein and/or fiber as well as good carbs. But not always.

I don’t crave the sweets like I used to. Not at all. I like that part. Food tastes better. I can savor it and get the sweetness out of it. Dried figs, oranges, apples, berries all fill the need much better. My energy holds steady all day long.

Sometimes, my guard slips. I make poor choices. Well, there seems to be no thought involved at all. No thinking required, simply open mouth and insert donut. But I can get up and go again the next minute, the next hour, the next day. I don’t have to give up. I am learning to forgive myself and move on. I don’t have to stay down. If nothing else, I hope I learn that one concept from this year of no sweets.

It’s grace, people. Grace tastes the sweetest of all.

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. – Hebrews 4:16

 

Tuesday Tuition

I’ve really been battling perfectionism lately.  I am not perfect.  Just want to put that out there.  I don’t do everything “just right” at home.  I sometimes yell at the kids.  I have been known to say contemptuous things to my husband. I even rail at God in moments of great frustration.

As for work, well, I’m doing the best I can.  Sometimes the learning curve feels incredibly steep.  I’m getting it.  But I’m not there yet. I’m finding it hard to extend grace to myself.  I don’t want to put anyone out.  The truth is my particular job – records management and projects and purchasing clerk – affects many people.  Everyone in our group, in fact. I touch the files that touch everyone else.  At times, I delete files that others need.  Yep. Complete accident on my part.

The projects part overlaps into both realms. It also encompasses invoicing, buying and selling of services and other items.  I facilitate closing out projects, too. These tasks help others do their jobs. I’m starting to see how it all fits together.

I want to know all this information yesterday.  I want to have some kind of Vulcan mind meld, or Matrix-like upload straight into my little gray cells.

Alas, nobody can do this for me.  There are no shortcuts here. I have to go to work, day by day, work on the things I understand, ask questions when confronted with unforeseen circumstances and go on. I imagine more mistakes – hopefully minor ones – lurk in the future. I must apply myself with diligence.  However, I will fall down.   But I will get back up again.  I’m thanking God today for employers and coworkers full of grace and kindness.  Now, if I can only extend it to myself.

From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. – John 1:16

Graceling

I’ve been thinking about what we’re born to do.  I just finished a book called Graceling (pub. 2008) by first-time novelist Kristin Cashore.  Ruby picked it out for me. I would have walked on by and picked up another mystery of some kind.  I loved it. This fantasy is set in a land of 7 kingdoms. The kingdoms, for the most part, fight and war constantly, never forming lasting alliances.  Born among these people, Gracelings come along.  A Graceling is someone who has a certain “grace” or innate ability to do something, far above what’s considered normal.  Every Graceling reveals their status by age 5 or so, because their eyes turn different colors from each other.  Our heroine, Katsa, has one blue and one green eye.  Once a Graceling shows him or herself, they are shipped off to the king first to see if they can be of service.

Of course, the king can’t use most kids’ abilities.  The king doesn’t find holding one’s breath for a long time particularly useful, nor excellent swimming.  Once a child’s grace reveals itself and deemed worthless to the king, he sends the children home.  But they never quite fit anywhere; the regular people shun them, for the most part. Extraordinary powers frighten others. This is the norm in every kingdom but one:  Leonid.  There those graced receive honor and special treatment.

The plot captured my interest right away.  Katsa discovers at age 8 that she can kill, quite by accident. As a niece of the king, she becomes his special enforcer, trained to fight and to torture and kill if necessary.  She doesn’t like this but feels trapped by her powerless position and her particular ability. Nearly friendless and an orphan, she forms a special Robin Hood type of council to start taking care of the other kingdoms problems, all in secret.

What attracted me was the concept of having a certain type of grace.  Because we all have something we excel at, right?  It may take some practice and training to get our facility to a place of expertise, but our skill has a sense of God-breathedness to it. It isn’t like anyone else and we know it didn’t come from us.

As the book moves along, Katsa realizes her grace isn’t killing as she’d thought.  It’s something much more valuable and helpful.  It made me think how many times we let early experiences shape our thoughts about ourselves.  “I’m just a shy person” or “I’ll always like books more than people”.  “I’m not made that way.”

In God’s economy, all our graces service a purpose and have worth. He won’t ever reject our abilities because He gave them to us. Yet maybe our graces evolve all the time. Can they stretch and bend in order to serve others and God’s plan? I started out with a love for the written word and some innate musical ability. I took up cooking and learned to love baking. I’ve cultivated athleticism and administration. What else is there? What about you? Because you are a Graceling, too.

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. – I Peter 4:10

Friday Feeling

Happy Friday!

I decree a dance party today.  Enjoy.

I’m realizing more and more how much I need the Lord’s presence.  Heck, how much *we* need His presence.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5

I’m seeing God’s grace in situations where it simply shouldn’t be there. Without Him, well, it’d be a lost cause.  People coming back from aneurisms.  Others getting up from sickbeds. Friendships restored and hearts healed.

I’m overwhelmed by His mercy and kindness.

Go forth today, and be excellent to each other.  That is all.