Why is it that we are able to extend grace to anyone but ourselves? A friend or colleague forgets a to do something or has to cancel on a playdate or has laundry on her couch when you stop by and it isn’t even a blip on our radar. When someone in your life is in need or we have to fill in a gap for another, we extend help without a second thought. We accept genuine apologies with grace. But... (and you knew there was a but coming, right?) we (and I am using the collective we because I know I am not alone in this) don’t extend that grace to ourselves. We don’t give ourselves that flexibility to in our daily lives. We don’t even expect it from others even though we know we would freely give it to them.
Two experiences this week have made me think a lot about grace and how we experience it. I wrote to a friend about my bad experience with a new medicine that was supposed to calm my anxious mind but instead hyped me up like speed. Seriously, and here is where you can laugh, someone who could spend all day on her couch racked up 11,000 steps before lunch! Even just standing in line at the store, someone said you look like you are riding a motorcycle. It was not a fun experience for me. However, not only did several of my colleagues extend grace, but a friend that I emailed to ask for prayer came back with a beautiful message. The last phrase has really stuck with me. "You are so HARD on you".
I think that is so true of a lot of us. Why are we so hard on ourselves? Expecting so much perfection that we either make ourselves miserable or exhausted. I am not talking about the drive to do better or be successful or work hard. I am talking about the need for perfection that drives us to do so much and be so much that we don’t have room for grace for ourselves when we are tired or sick or just need to curl up with a mystery novel for the afternoon.
The second experience was on Monday Night. I bumped into someone that had hurt me a long time ago. It is that kind of hurt that is curled up in your head and makes you feel nauseous when you see them. As he came toward me, I knew I could extend a small amount of grace (maybe faked). I smiled, welcomed him and asked how he was while made small talk. As I went to excuse myself, he stopped me and told me he knew what he had done years ago had hurt me; he had done it maliciously with no excuse and that he was truly sorry. He said and I quote, “Every time I see you I get a little nauseous.” I refrained from saying, “Me, too.” I was, in that moment, able to extend real grace and accept his apology and move forward. I bet money that next time I see him I won’t have to fake grace. It made me think of people I have hurt along the way... whether maliciously or accidentally. The hurt was enough to make me avoid them if I possibly could. Do I think grace would be extended to me if I stopped them and genuinely apologized? Do I expect grace to be given?
Grace is a tricky subject. We are quicker to give it to others, but are often surprised by it when it is given to us, even if we have asked for it. I think as I pay more attention to grace in my life I have decided it is an exercise in multiplication –not subtraction. The more you extend it to others, the more you accept it from others, the more you may be able to give to yourself.
-Nancy Lee Zimpleman
Great insight Nancy Lee! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!
If you saw me on a day to day basis, you might not notice or realize that I struggle with anxiety and worry. Some of it is exasperated by sleep deprivation and hormones (as I have been pregnant or nursing or both for almost 4 years or 3 years and 7 months and 20 days but who is counting…)
Several passages have come into my life lately to draw my attention to what God wants me to focus on. He wants me to focus on the moment he has in front of me NOW not the what ifs that might happen later. He does not want me to focus on the long list of tasks to do ahead or the future that is not promised as I tend to do.
Joseph had a tough life. He was sold into slavery, lied about, cheated and even put into jail unfairly but he eventually was very successful. Joseph’s eventual success came from his faith in the Lord to do his divine will and he invested himself fully. He understood that some of his situations were out of his control and he entrusted God fully to bring good to his life. Joseph couldn’t see how God could work out all that was going on in his life –from his trials to his successes- but he worked at the task of the moment and trusted God to the big picture.
After thinking about Joseph and his focus on the present, I picked up the book Jesus Calling only to read this: To find joy in today you must live within its boundaries. I knew what I was doing when I divided time into twenty-four hour segments. I understand human frailty and I know that you can bear the weight of only one day at a time. Do not worry about tomorrow or get stuck in the past. There is abundant life in my presence today. (*)
As women we are often multi-tasking several projects at once and there are times that it is necessary. I encourage you though to take time today –even 30 minutes- to focus on one thing you enjoy even if it is work. Notice how much better you feel after spending 30 minutes blowing bubbles with a little one and not looking at Facebook or checking email while you do it. Notice if the work product is better when you spend these 30 minutes doing that one thing instead of doing 4 other things and being on the phone too. Spend 30 minutes in a calm place seeking God, asking for his guidance, rest at his feet. LIVE really LIVE within His boundaries of today.
Worry and anxiety can steal your joy but God reminds us to take one day at a time – even one hour at a time. Focus on what is most important in that time and realize that everything does not need to be done going forward.
Matthew 6:33-34 says: But seek you first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
-Nancy Lee Zimpleman
(Excerpt from Jesus Calling, April 11).
Thanks Nancy Lee! We certainly needed this reminder today!
This season has been hard, but it helps to think of it in those terms... as a "season". It is easier than saying "life" is hard. If I think of it as a season, then it may pass like winter into spring and spring into summer. This season has been a battle with anxiety, depression, hormones, and exhaustion.
There I said it out loud. I love my son dearly and he along with Clara are truly a delight on most days. On others, they can overwhelm my senses and my rawness comes through. Since my son was born, I rarely have days where I feel like myself. Anxiousness over the littlest things. Depression that causes physical pain. Exhaustion because I can’t get him to a normal sleep cycle. Hormones because I have been pregnant or nursing or both for three and a half years.
All of these things make me feel very alone yet I know I am NOT alone, I know mothers all over the country feel this way but NO ONE talks about it. When you see other mothers in the grocery store or at pick up or drop off, they look polished, professional, rested, excited to be contributing to society. I feel like I am spending every drop of energy I have to put one foot in front of the other. I make myself eat, hold down my breakfast each morning and live off coffee. I have lost all my baby weight and then some. I am told how great I look, but I feel like my life is in shambles. I am portraying an empty shell that I feel is expected of me.
Recently, after a night of jagged sleep and stopping to pick up a new med for anxiety (which didn’t work by the way), I was holding Sam Henry in the store while trying to keep Clara from rearranging the shelves at the pharmacy. During the process, I was told by someone that I looked happier than I have ever looked. I almost cried! I wanted to scream, "I am miserable! Yes, my children are beautiful and yes, Clara is so smart it is almost scary but the last word on my lips would have been HAPPY!" I would have given anything to know when this season would turn.
I struggle with comparison -not feeling good enough. Rather than focusing on the gratitude I should be focusing on I tell myself I am not enough,,, not good enough at my job, not good enough as a mother, not good enough as a wife, not good enough as a friend. This is just a season of not good enoughs. Comparison is killing my soul. I see other mamas and think certainly they don’t have it as bad as me. Their kids sleep or if they don’t sleep, the moms don’t work so what's the issue? If they have to work like me then they…. Fill in the blank. It is ridiculous.
OK, so now you are depressed or anxious too (if you have made it this far). Here is the truth that I have to remind myself of daily, hourly sometimes even. I am NOT enough but that is ok. God is enough and through Him, I AM ENOUGH. He has provided me with more than I can ever imagine and through Him I am equipped to conquer all that He needs me to conquer. I might not have enough on my own power to handle these things (and trust me they are little things in the grand scheme of the world) but if I lean into Him and trust Him, I will be just fine. Yes, sometimes I wish He would just remove these burdens from me, these voices that tell me I am not enough. It would be great if the anxiousness that overwhelms me from out of nowhere that I can’t explain and the exhaustion that pervades my daily life would disappear. I would love for Him to take it all, but right now He has not chosen to do that. Right now, I am just walking with Him daily trying to see His grace, taking the little moments as I get them, breathing deeply when I am hurting, resting when I can, and knowing that someday this will be used for good. That someday, I can take another mother’s hand and instead of saying, "They grow up so quickly. Enjoy them while they are little", I can say, "I have been there in that season and it is very hard. Please know you are not alone."
Nancy Lee Zimpleman
It is so hard to be transparent as moms. Social media has made us feel we are supposed to have the perfect children, keep the perfect home, throw the perfect parties, and display the perfect appearance all the time. Who really does all that? Not our wise friends, not our genuine friends, not anyone truthfully. What if we all decided to take off our masks as Nancy Lee has done? Would we all relax a little? Who are we doing it all for anyway? Our husbands? Our children? Our neighbors? Who then? Do you think our husbands would be okay with a little less "perfection" and a little less "stress"? Mine would be thrilled! Do you think our Heavenly Father would be more pleased if we throw that birthday party that rivals Pintrest, empties our bank accounts and causes short tempers in our family or would he rather we go more low key as everyone relaxes has a chance to experience His love through us? Think about it then give yourself a break. Thanks Nancy Lee for being a truly genuine friend through your words!
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