I think we're in it now.
Christmas crunch time. And given that I'm walking a fine line between peace and melt-down, I thought I'd write about how useful grace is, and how much others around us need it in abundance right now. Today, I had lots of chances to watch it unfold. It was a good day in that I was able to stay above the fray, but still, I saw the need for my attitude to stay in check, and that required me using grace.
I know the prerequisite for being a dispenser of grace is receiving grace in my own life first, allowing His unmerited favor to wash my heart clean so I can then pass the overflow on to others. The same is true for many things: you cannot give what you do not have. And I cannot give my loved ones grace when I have neglected the conscious receiving of it for myself. When I am not walking in grace, I am reactive, impatient, judgemental, and critical. (And hold on. It is not a coincidence that when I neglect to receive grace over my own life, this is also how I treat myself.)
But good news. Here are some ways I saw grace functioning today amidst the hustle and bustle.
Scenario 1: Three times, I have tried to contact a certain company for replacement of a gift I ordered online that came in damaged. When I finally got a person on the phone, he tried to tell me my package would arrive December 26th. I didn't overreact. I stayed kind and calm. We worked together until he managed to have it arrive in time for Christmas for me. Grace reminded me that we are all just doing our best.
Scenario 2: I called my husband at work to offer some advice on an important problem that I didn't realize he'd already worked out. He was busy, and instead of finding my call helpful, to him it was burdensome. He was dismissive and cut me short. I was hurt, but I didn't overreact. I knew I may not know the whole story of his day. After a while, he sent me an apologetic text message and later explained that his day at work was a bad one. Normally, our initial conflict would have led to an argument, or at least a confrontation. But grace reminded me to leave a person room to be human...I'm not the only one under extra pressure this season.
Scenario 3: Shauna and I did a Christmas project with the kids. It didn't go as planned. I don't often fail at crafts (because I don't try ridiculously hard ones and/or I don't give up when I should), so I was pushing down my frustration. This time, it was myself who needed grace. When I chose to give myself room to fail, the frustration just fell off. It was easier having a friend in the same boat, a friend who is really great at giving herself room. But grace reminded me that it can redefine success. A couple adjustments made the craft still totally worth it.
Maybe you have some similar scenarios happening in your life. The best advice I can give for enduring this crazy season successfully is to stay grafted to the Lord, allowing His favor and forgiveness to fill you up each morning. It's always available, yet I don't always remember. I don't always take time to connect with God and take on His lens through which He sees every scenario, and through which He sees others. And possibly, the most important person I need to see through his gracious lens is myself.
Because if I don't, if I can't allow grace in, meaning acknowledging that His death was enough to pay for my garbage, my sin and my shame, then what exactly am I celebrating this December?
It seems heavy, but right now, the truth is resting on me like a brick: apart from grace, Christmas means nothing.
So this Thursday, I am embracing Christmas, inviting Jesus and His lens to redefine my life.
He knows I am doing my best, even though I often fail.
He gives me plenty of room to be human, and understands exactly what it's like.
And He's redefined what it means to succeed.
When I run out of wrapping paper, burn the bread, and arrive a half-hour late to Christmas dinner because my kids announce they have no clean underwear, I'll try to walk in grace and remember that's exactly why I'm celebrating.
Love to you all and Merry Christmas!