Grace: It’s Not Just a Pre-Dinner Offering

Photo by Olivia Snow on Unsplash

Having recently returned home from a visit to New York City, where an abundance of energy-zapping heat, humidity, and overcrowded streets reminded me of the constant need to grant grace to others, I have become keenly aware of the plethora of daily opportunities we all have to do so:

There’s the barista who botches the coffee order.

The postal worker who puts the mail in the wrong box.

The dog owner who doesn’t clean up after her pooch.

The doctor whose overbooked schedule creates an extra-long waiting room stay.

The server who drops the ball, leaving tables unattended.

The neighbor who doesn’t take care of his property.

The driver who moves too fast, too slow, forgets to use a turn signal.

The family member who refuses to do or see things our way.

The woman who doesn’t dress or style her hair the way we would.

The guy who has an opinion or orientation or religion that goes against our beliefs.

These instances (and many, many more) represent occasions for grace. We can choose to react critically or we can choose kindness. We can make a snap decision to judge others against the yardstick of our individual expectations and experiences or we can take a moment to remember our collective flawed humanness. To remember that we, too, not only need, but also often fully expect, to be pardoned for and separated from our own perceived mistakes or unconventional choices.

As we go about our lives today, as we are faced with opportunities to grant or withhold forgiveness, let us remember that it is in the midst of both our differences and our similarities that we grow in understanding and compassion. Let us remember the golden rule to love as we wish to be loved. And let us remember that grace isn’t just a pre-dinner offering of gratitude to God, but a daily gift that we can give to each other.

A Purposeful WIP Grants Grace

As of late last week, I finished entering my manuscript revision edits into my Word document and after letting it sit for a few days, I am now rereading it, adding any last minute changes before sending it off for another round of beta reading. This time around, I have the opportunity to receive feedback from a new set of eyes—a writer friend of mine, whose opinion I value greatly, has agreed to read it. As with most steps in this novel-writing process, I have mixed feelings about this one.

While I recognize the importance of having a secondary perspective regarding the story as a whole and I’m looking forward to another extended break from working on the manuscript, I’m also nervous and anxious and, I’ll be honest, even a little bit afraid. That critical inner voice that for years kept me from sharing my writing with anyone else, has again reared its ugly head. It’s telling me that despite my increased effort and determination, the manuscript is still not good enough. I’m not good enough. And in fact, if I were a better/faster/more competent writer like so-and-so [enter unhelpful comparison here], I’d be much further along on this road to publication.

This is where I’ve had to learn to grant myself some grace. Progress on my manuscript wouldn’t have been possible without it, because the urge to give up still sits in the back of my mind at the end of a difficult and unproductive day (or two or three). The itch to throw in the towel is still strong when my expectations aren’t met. The compulsion to quit still gnaws at me when I hold up my story in comparison to another’s.

But I needed to stop those thoughts. We all do. We need to let go of the notion that our progress must look exactly like someone else’s. We need to move at our own pace, run our own race, and forgive ourselves when we mess up, slip up, and fall back into old habits.

That’s grace.

It’s acknowledging and being grateful for tiny signs of growth without focusing on all the bigger more blatant ways in which we could have done better and the areas where we still need so much work. It’s adjusting our expectations without giving in to our excuses. It’s retaining the ability to celebrate purposeful progress while letting go of the idea of perfection.

Because none of us is perfect. And approaching a goal with the notion that we can hike a flawless journey toward achieving it is one of the quickest routes to abandonment. Remember that next time you’re tempted to give up on yourself or your goals or even someone else. Because as much as we need to grant ourselves grace, we also need to grant it to others.

A Writer Looks at 39

My husband and I recently traveled more than a thousand miles across three states in order to catch a Jimmy Buffett concert. While I’m no Parrot Head by any stretch of the imagination, I do appreciate many of Mr. Buffett’s songs, my favorite being A Pirate Looks at Forty. This bittersweet lamentation about what might have been and what still may be makes my introspective wheels spin on any given day, but as my birthday looms in the near future, bringing with it the beginning of the end of my thirties, I have felt even more contemplative than usual.

While it may be a tradition for some to use landmark birthdays as occasions to reminisce and reflect and perhaps even regret, I have an apparent penchant for doing so the year before. At 29, I wrote what I thought of as a motivational missive entitled Dare to Dream which I submitted to (and was subsequently published by) The Bismarck Tribune. In it, I listed out a number of famous people who achieved greatness in their 20s: Michelangelo completed the Pieta and David; Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Microsoft; Jennifer Aniston’s acting career was jumpstarted when she was cast as Rachel Green in Friends, etc., etc.

With these people and several others as my guideposts for success, I made a commitment to myself (and to readers) that I would follow through on a dream that I had been carrying with me for years. The deadline I set for my first goal—which I called “the initial step in realizing my dream”—was my 30th birthday. In case you’re wondering, I didn’t make it. How could I? When my aspirations were so swathed in ambiguity that even I couldn’t decipher the meaning in them, how could I expect to measure my achievement of them? But maybe that was the point. It’s so much easier to write off a goal when its parameters are indistinguishable and unclear.

That being said, as I’m now looking at 39 and thinking about the past decade—how much has changed, how much I’ve changed—and everything that I thought and hoped I would have accomplished by age 40, my objective has become singular in nature: to learn and progress and grow into the woman God created me to be. You might ask how that is any more measurable than my goal at 29 and the answer is this: It’s not. But even though I may not be able to define exactly what this growth and progress is, I certainly know what it isn’t.

It’s not playing the victim. It’s not simmering in blame and resentment. It’s not staying stuck and standing still and waiting for life to happen. It’s not striving for perfection or affection or accolades. I have spent way too much time caught within the bars of these unsavory prisons to waste even a minute more in their grip. So, here’s to (almost) 39. A year of grace. A year of gratitude. A year of growth.  

A Purposeful WIP Faces Fear

When I first had the idea for doing a series of videos and posts entitled The ABCs of a Purposeful WIP, I thought using alliterative terms to describe the behaviors and habits that I attribute to my own growth would be both lyrical and easy to remember. But at the same time, I worried about coming up with such terms for every letter of the alphabet. It seems the opposite is true. (At least for now. Ask me again when I get to Q, X, and Z and I may have a different answer.)

Take F, for example. Last week was all about Fueling Faith and although I should be moving on to G this week, there are two more F’s that are far too valuable to be left out: Finding Focus and Facing Fear. As you can see from the title of this post, Facing Fear won out. Not that finding focus isn’t an important factor in making progress. It certainly is. I decided against it because we’ve already discussed Disabling Distractions and Embracing the Essentials. And if you’ve got those two down, you’ve got focus.

So, let’s talk fear. First of all, I’m not referring to the kind of physical reaction our bodies have when facing an actual external danger, but the internal kind. The anxiety and doubt that is rooted in our deepest seated insecurities. It’s that inner voice that pipes up anytime we try to step out of the ruts we get stuck in or whenever our goals include growth and development or sometimes when we even just think about trying to tackle those big, scary dreams. It’s the voice that says “I can’t” or “I shouldn’t” or repeatedly warns us about the consequences of failure.

It’s those types of thoughts that are largely responsible for so many of us not reaching our potential, not reaching for those big goals and dreams, not reaching for that better version of ourselves. We are simply afraid. And that fear can be paralyzing. It keeps us stuck. It keeps us playing small. It keeps us underestimating our worth and our abilities. And unfortunately, there’s only one way to overcome it and that is facing it head on.

For years I allowed fear to hold me back from making progress on my novel manuscript and if I hadn’t decided to face it down, I would still be stuck. I wouldn’t be nearly finished with the third draft. I wouldn’t have created a website or a Facebook page or a Twitter profile. And I certainly wouldn’t have started making Facebook videos.

Unfortunately, simply deciding to face my fear didn’t make it magically disappear. Every time I sit down to work on my manuscript or write a blog/social media post or record a video, my fear of failure is still very prevalent. It still tells me that I’m not a good enough writer, that I don’t have anything important or interesting to say, that I’m never going to succeed. But I’ve realized that the more I continue moving forward in spite of my fear and the more I take back my power from fear, the more I grow and develop enough courage to take the next step and the next and the next and the next.

And that, my friends, is progress.

So what about you? How has fear kept you stuck? What has it kept you from achieving and what action step can you take this month, this week, or even this afternoon to face down that fear in order to make progress on your goals?