Love, Grow, & Overflow

My cup overflows. My laundry does too.

Tag: grace

Beds and Flowers

(c) Tambako the Jaguar

(c) Tambako the Jaguar

Last weekend, my mother-in-law came to visit, her car packed with luggage and her father’s old tools.  She and my husband spent the weekend building a loft for my daughter, four generations intersecting on sawhorses in our driveway.  Over the course of three days, hubby and his momma measured and cut, sanded and painted, drilled and assembled.  When they were finished, we had a beautiful loft, painted blue to match the sky on the rainbow wall in my daughter’s room.  There’s a butter-yellow platform with stairs that go halfway up, wide enough for a reading nook in the back, high enough to hide below.  It’s amazing.

The bed is everything we want for our children.  We’ve built something sturdy and beautiful, strong enough to support their wild moments, soft enough to catch them if they rise too high and bump their heads.  It’s a safe place for the quiet, vulnerable moments, for reading and resting and dreaming.  We try to parent like this, with great thought and labor.  We seek plans, lay foundations in measured care, choose values that will hold firm as they grow, that will catch them softly when they fail and fall.  We don’t parent perfectly, but we parent intentionally.

We are not nearly as intentional about our yard. Sometimes, when the weeds get too high next to our garage, I think I should just stick a scarecrow in the ground and call it our weed garden.  When I start talking scarecrows, my husband knows it is time to pull out the weed wacker.  This year, though, we’ve become accidental gardeners.  First, one of my daughter’s teachers gave her a pack of flower seeds, which we planted in finger-dug holes in the front yard.  Next, our neighbor offered us her gardening extras – two tomato plants and a pepper plant.  (We accepted, largely due to my daughter’s recent hypothesis that green beans come from frog legs.  Apparently we are in need of agricultural education.)   We dug up the weeds from a sad flower bed in our backyard and planted them, along with some chives that another friend offered.  We threw down a bag of mulch we found in a corner of our garage.  For the next few weeks we watered our gardens, the flowers in the front, the vegetables in the back.

Then, I got pregnant.  In the stomach-churning first trimester, it felt like we pushed the pause button on our lives – on play dates and museum trips and neighborhood walks.  On grocery shopping, whenever I could avoid it.  We were just getting by, and gardening was easily abandoned.  And still, as the weeks went on, blossoms formed on our vegetable plants.  Tomatoes started growing on the vines.  The cutest little green peppers soon joined them.  And, in our front yard, the flowers have popped up, blooming in brilliant colors on tall, leafy stems.

I believe our kids benefit from our measured parenting.  I think God blesses the work parents do, the hard labor, the long, seemingly endless battles.  Even at our best, though, we are limited.  I’ve seen much grace in our lives in the last couple months, in my plants and my kids.  The God who dresses the lilies of the field and the zinnias in my yard doesn’t stop when I’m exhausted and sick. In my just-getting-by days, in the times when intention fails, when my measurements fall short, he’s there.  God is at work in the dark and overlooked places, breathing life into forgotten seeds, calling them forth to bloom.

Conquering

Today has been a bad day.

Dear husband (and I use that phrase with no sarcasm) and I got into a fight last night.  We tend to be very peaceable creatures.  Every now and then we have a disagreement that involves lots of sighing and lots of sulking and lots of long silent stretches.  And once or twice a year we have a “real” fight with raised voices and wanting-to-punch-walls and sitting up way to late trying to fix things.  We wake up exhausted and baggy-eyed with our conversations full of all these “Are you OK? Are we OK?” undertones.  We are OK.  Sometimes this happens.  I’ve learned, on these days, to give myself a little extra grace.

My children have not yet learned that extra-grace-for-mom bit.  They see great opportunity.  They find the tiniest cracks in my walls and jab their sticky little fingers into them, chipping away until my resolve lies in heaps.  Then they stomp around on the rubble, feasting on Cheerios by the handful.

Today, for example, my son managed to climb up on a chair and dump an entire box of crackers on the floor – and tantrum when he couldn’t eat it.  He also grabbed a pair of scissors by the blade and tried to suck on a battery.  I feel like they are filming a low-budget babyproof-your-house public service announcement and I have been cast as “mom-not-to-be.”

This morning when I was all full of “We’re OK and it’s going to be a great, productive day” cheeries, I looked at our back room and decided I would conquer it.  Then I decided I would tidy it.  Then I decided that I would put away the new, fancy food processor we got for Christmas that has spent the last thirteen days sitting boxed in the corner.  So I got out our old, not-so-fancy food processor and began gathering all the parts and cleaning off the little crevices and nooks so it would be ready for whenever it makes its debut at our someday-garage-sale.  Thirty minutes, three almost-catastrophes and two time outs later, it was boxed up.  The new one is still in the corner.

So… extra grace for myself today.  Some days are about conquering.  Some days are about hiding the scissors and watching Dance Moms at nap time.  Sometimes this happens.  And we’re OK.

A Little Bit Brave

I joined the gym.

Actually, I joined the YMCA. Besides having a contract that doesn’t involve the life of my firstborn child, it also has a fun theme song. The people there are friendly, too, which is important. I need all the grace I can get when it comes to athletics.

The first time there, I didn’t bring a lock. I ended up hanging my jacket on a hook near the front-desk staff. The next time, I showed up with lock in hand and went into the locker room, only to have a bunch of ten-year-olds in swimsuits grow silent and cast sidelong glances my direction. Turns out the Y has a girls’ locker room and a separate women’s locker room.

Today, after locking my possessions up in the grown-up locker room, I found a treadmill in between a runner and a very petite, toned lady who was tearing it up on the stair machine. I always want to run on treadmills, but I have a tough time staying upright when the ground is standing still. So, I put on my headphones, started playing some David Crowder, and began my brisk walk.

About twenty minutes into my walk, I was feeling great – heart rate up, muscles engaged, spirit buoyed. The music was a little quiet, so I turned it up. It still seemed quiet, so I tried to adjust my ear bud. That’s when I realized that the headphones were not plugged in all the way. The stair machine lady and the runner had been listening to my music whether they wanted to or not. I apologized. The stair machine lady complemented me on my music choices. Grace.

After the runner and the stair machine lady finished their workouts, I was still walking. My program on the treadmill ended, and I started it up again and kept going. I thought of my mom who just started college after graduating from high school forty three years ago. She’s brave, my mom. So I figured I could be a little bit brave too. And I ran. I watched myself in the mirrors on the walls, and actually I didn’t look very clunky or cow-like. If someone blurred there eyes a little, I could even pass for an actual runner.

I was graceful. I was fierce. I was brave.

After the workout, I went into the hallway and got a cup of water. My hand bumped into the tank as I raised the cup, and water spilled all over the hallway. So my fierce, brave self got to go back into the room for paper towels. And then return for more paper towels. And a third time. The others in the room were polite enough not to stare. Grace.

I am learning that it’s OK to be vulnerable and a little unsure at times. Being vulnerable means being honest, and it gives me a chance to grow braver in big and small ways. It also gives me a chance to practice grace with myself and to savor it from others. I’ve learned there is a big difference between gracefulness and grace. I don’t have a lot of gracefulness, but I am surrounded by grace.