Tag Archives: grace

Keeping Calm While Taking on Water.

I panicked this week. I ended up shouting at my ex on the street. It was horrible.

Horribly public.

Horribly undignified.

Horribly futile.

Horribly childish.

I was out of ideas. I could not think fast enough how to counter preposterous comment verbalized as calm reality. I just couldn’t think fast enough to refute soberly what was declared as fact. So I screamed with rage and insult.

And the children were there. Who are fully aware. Watching, seeing, hearing, listening.

It was awful, and shocking.

And in response afterwards I panicked about what I must do to stop this ever happening again. I felt desperate, horrifyingly on my own and wholly responsible to create an effective boundary to prevent a repeat performance. Ever.

I have been on this particular battlefield for a long time now. I have good days and bad days. I have days when I can look back on my responses and my actions and think, “Classy, well done. You backed away, you didn’t speak, you took the high road.”

And then there are examples like this week.

Later as I lay on my bed staring in muted fury at the ceiling, I asked the Lord what I could learn from it. And He told me this: “Where pride gives up, grace remains.”

What does that mean? Well, you see, I want to be dignified through all this conflict. I want to take the high road. I want to be mature and Godly and, honestly, I don’t want to get tarred with the same brush – “Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.” 

However, there are times on these mighty seas where my boat appears to be taking on so much water I resort to desperate measures. I grab whatever comes to hand to beat back the waves.

Do I keep calm? Are you kidding?! In these moments I’m not keeping calm! I’m just surviving.  And – I have to remind myself – the whole point is to survive. Survival is victory. Not the manner in which I achieve it but the fact that I will have done so.

This incident confronted me with the truth that – of course, Josie! – it won’t always be pretty and I won’t always behave as I would wish BUT… at the end of the day I will still be here. I will still be functioning and able to continue on. Only with the immeasurable advantages of greater strength and less encumbrance.

As I reflected on the incident, my greatest grief (apart from the childrens’ witness) was about my own behavior. And this realization broke my pride. I had engaged. I had allowed myself to become so publicly naked, so nakedly desperate, and so childishly aggressive. As if I should have known better, could have done better. HA!

And with the breaking of pride came breakthrough. The platform I had been standing on looking down on my opponent cracked and broke beneath me. Shame and disappointment crashed down on my head and I fell and fell and fell to the hard ground beneath.

Which turned out to be the Rock of grace that had been there all along.

Waiting for me to land.

 

 

Jsg/June 16

CONTEXT.

IMG_9789

I have rarely raised my voice in a public place (being British, obv) but I did a couple of weeks ago, at a computer store. “You’ve gone on to ANOTHER PERSON?? YOU PROMISED YOU WOULD HAVE THIS DONE FOR ME IN FIVE MINUTES!!! THAT’S WHY I LEFT!!

I feel sorry for the guy now, but on this particular day I had my very unwell daughter with me in the car. I had a major voiceover audition 40 minutes away from our house, but it was also almost round the corner from a computer store that I’d been trying to get my computer to for months.

My daughter was on her third day of a foul stomach bug so I couldn’t leave her, but I couldn’t afford to miss the audition either.  And I was right there!  And I desperately needed my computer fixed. So after the audition, I quickly nipped over to the computer place and dashed in lugging my weighty iMac.

This was where I was coming from when the nice (and very young) man in the computer store (when I explained I had a sick child in the car and needed to be quick) kindly suggested I should go for five minutes and they would enter my computer into the system.

But I misunderstood what he meant. He meant “Go and check on your sick child, and I’ll set you up when you get back.” Not (as I thought) “and when you get back it will all have been done for you.”

So when I came back five minutes later and they not only had not touched my computer but had moved onto another customer in what had now become a long line??? I was furious!  Couldn’t these people see that I-wasn’t-coming-back-any-time-soon??! That I couldn’t stay any longer because-my-child-was-sitting-outside-in-a-hot-car-on-her-third-day-of-VOMITING??!! 

Well of course they couldn’t, they weren’t mind readers.  And I was just a sweaty, panicked, red-faced angry lady.

I apologized when I realized my mistake, meekly waited while they entered my info, walked back to my sick child in the car, promptly burst into tears and drove home.

Sigh. Context mixed with stress, heat and hormones was not my friend that day.

Life is all about context, isn’t it? Nothing in one’s everyday life ever happens in a vacuum.

I’m a Christian so I believe my life happens in the hands of a loving God whom I have entrusted to be in control of it. All of it. And whose daily grace I embrace radically – especially on days like the computer store.

Two or three hard things have happened to me in quick succession recently: BHAM!; BHAM!; and BHAMM! If the context of my life were different, why might I not respond with fear, rage, panic, or despair? “Oh the injustice and randomness of it all!”

BUT. My context is that none of it is random or unseen.  I live in the fortress of someone who is stronger than me, wiser than me and in charge.  I can see ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ but I am not their pawn. I am safe, no matter what.  And I never have to go out there and face it all on my own.

So right now I am standing perplexed about the present, but not in despair about the bigger picture. I am calm, I am enduring. I’m not enjoying, but I’m enduring. Because the owner of my fortress lives and – even as I write – is at work to redeem all of it.  Even as I wait and watch.

Every last bit. Computer stores included.

Jsg/Aug15

Survival is Victory.

Otter - surviving

An older friend was involved in a collision on the Freeway yesterday. Miraculously she and the motorcyclist both walked away but, when I called to check on her this morning, she had gone in to work.

Wait, what? If you escape physical injury, praise God. But there is still injury!

In crisis, why do we set the bar so high for ourselves?

As I prepare to turn my half-century, I can see on how many occasions I have done this in my own life. When no one else would have expected miracles from me, I have expected them from myself.  Why?

Our lives are wonderful, and difficult. Sometimes it feels like we’re flying, sometimes Life has the unmistakable appearance of being unendurable.

Yet we do. Endure. Why do we expect so much more of ourselves than that?

“Well, I survived the terrifying accident unscathed, praise God. Off to work I go.”

“Well, they didn’t die, so what have I got to complain about?”

“This isn’t going to kill me so, for the love of Pete, suck.it.up.”

I’m obviously talking about the larger things in life here. Things which are difficult to overcome. So why when the playing field is no longer even reasonably level, is it then that we expect so much more of ourselves? As if we are saying to our circumstances, “Oh YEAH?? Bring it on! It’ll take more than this to bring me down.”

Isn’t there strength to be found in calling something difficult what it is?

As Christians, we cling to the verse in Romans 8: ‘In all these things we are MORE THAN CONQUERORS through Him who loved us.’ Yet the longer I walk with Christ, the more I have been caused to reevaluate what conquering – victory – may look like.

Because it won’t necessarily be me standing on top of a hill waving a flag with a huge smile on my face. It might be much less than that though victory nonetheless.

What if sometimes victory is as simple as being able to say, “I’m still here. I’m still standing on the truth. I’m still listening. My head is still UP”?

What if victory is oftentimes simply survival?

In this period of my life, there are so many things I wish I were doing better. I wish I were stronger, wiser, more mature, more calm. If I measure myself against a bar higher than survival, I am clearly failing this season altogether.

But grace shows me that, in reality, I’m not failing.

I’m still loving my kids (imperfectly).

I’m still showing up.

I’m still feeding us.

I’m still moving forward. Painfully slowly or not, I am still moving.

And I still know my foundation:

I am still standing on a rock that no wave can sweep me off.

Am I enjoying it? No. Am I thrilling to the “adventure”? No. Can I find positive things to say about it everyday? No.

But am I surviving it? Yes.

And for this reason alone I want to shout at my inner critic, YES I AM, YOU BIG BULLY!!”

Because I am victorious, even now. And so – I bet – are you.

jsg/mar15

Pride Cometh.

photo 1

Oh deareth.  It was me-eth.  Here’s how our morning went.

For a while now I have been wanting to do a project that featured the fruit of the Spirit.  First it was going to be a sign, then a series of mini canvases linked by ribbon.  However my 11 year old had made clothes peg wreaths as Christmas gifts and we had one left over.  Cut to me Mod Podging papers onto a wreath and attaching painted clothes pegs in fun colors.

Last night I wrote out the nine fruit, attached them, photographed it and put it on the internet.  At the bottom of the wreath is our current verse of the week: ‘No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.’

This morning the kids had art class, and we were late.  My daughter has been making Valentine’s cupcakes to raise money to go to our church’s Youth Winter Camp, and her art teacher had asked me for another jar of my Josie’s English Kitchen chutney.

I have been trying to teach my kids about responsibility and time-keeping.  I tell them in advance when we’re going to leave so (I intend) giving them time to recognize what they need to do to get organized by then, and what they need to bring.

This morning, one of our three beloved dogs puked pink frosting (from afore-mentioned cupcake world) spectacularly onto the living room carpet.  This took far longer than I planned to clear up.  Whatever e numbers they put in that stuff they are tenacious and wrong.

So I was running late.  My son had got it together, but my daughter was also running late.

I got the chutney (one of my prized last three jars), organized the cupcakes into different tins for the customers at art, closed the dogs in the kitchen and headed out the door.

We were already late.  The class is 20 minutes away and it was already 9.32 for a class that begins at 9.30.  (A class which, may I add, I am paying for).

My son runs out of the house skateboard in tow. Then my beautiful tween daughter runs out of the house in nothing but leggings and a light summer T.  Admittedly we live in California and the temperature in Feb can reach 81 degrees, but this was the morning, and their art class takes place in a friend’s garage.

“Where’s your jacket?”
“I don’t need one!”
“Yes you do! Get it! …NOW!”

I am standing on the doorstep keys in hand with cupcakes and chutney precariously piled in my arms.  As I turn, annoyed, to re-open the front door, the upper tin holding half the cupcakes and the jar of chutney beside it slide elegantly to the ground and the chutney smashes.  Loudly.

There is an extremely tense moment of silence.  I press my fingers into my eyes.  My daughter holds her breath.

“Well get it then!  GET IT!!”  I hiss.  And so it began.  My tirade at all things wrong.

I storm down the path: “Get in the car!  GET IN THE CAR!!”  Two small people scurry into their seats, Monster Mom climbs into the driver’s seat only to conclude with a final and oh-so-unnecessary couple of choice comments.

For ten minutes we are silent.

As I drive, all I can see in my mind’s eye is that blooming wreath.  Laughing at me.

photo 5 photo 2

“Oh really, Josie?  Love, joy, peace, patience?  Woohoo!  Well done.”

photo 3

How about Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, Faithfulness?  Yippee!  Way to go, Mama.”

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“And – last but not least – (everyone’s favorite) how about SELF CONTROL!!  Mother of the Year, they’ll be calling you as soon as you get home.”

I keep driving in silence.  And then I remember the text we’ve been memorizing this week: ‘God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit;  he’ll always be there to help you come through it.’ Ding ding ding ding! MASSIVE FAIL.

I broke the silence.  “OK, so both you (my daughter) and I have accomplished massive fails this morning, don’t you think?”  She nods.  “You for your reasons, and me for not doing the very thing we have been talking about ALL WEEK. I gave in to temptation.  I am so sorry.  I needn’t have lost my temper.  I had a choice. I really am, truly, sorry.”

Taking that photo of the wreath and putting it on social media was asking for it I suppose.  The voice in my head, “Oh sure, Josie.  Everyone thinks you’re really HOLY NOW. Ahahahahahahahahaha!

I asked the kids for forgiveness and SJ asked mine.  We giggled.  We hugged (a bit – I was driving).  We started talking about other stuff.  We made it to art.  We were late but kingdoms didn’t fall.

When we got home, I realized there was a crucial part of the wreath that was missing – its center.  So I added it:

photo 1

Who has the last laugh?  I think surely it must be the person who can – after everything – still laugh at themselves.

jsg/feb15

Heartbroken but not sorry.

Not sorry Boug

My marriage is over and I am heartbroken.  I am heartbroken but I am not sorry.

I am heartbroken because I committed to it with all my heart for the rest of my life. But I am not sorry that it is over.

For over a decade, we rode those waves with high hopes and (speaking for myself) great determination.

We have two gorgeous kids, I wanted more but he did not and I stomached it.  I loved and I prefer to be happy.

We had unending challenge but I chose to think of all the other good things we had.  And there were many.  I prefer to be happy.

Twice I dug my heels in and said, “Beyond this place I CAN NOT go, unless choices are made and changes come.”  But both times I gave in – because I loved, and I prefer to be happy.

In the end there was no marriage left to save.  There was nothing to do but sweep up the glass.  And it is heartbreaking.

But divorce causes you to think.  To think hard.  I myself am no walk in the park.  I have tremendous faults like everyone else: I fail to communicate;  I assume parity;  I hold my breath and then explode.  I “prefer to be happy.”

However, what happiness is that, truly?  Suppressing my heart to control a marriage working?  I rescued the other without rescuing myself, so that’s on meI denied me the vows that were made and I reaped that choice. I didn’t want it to stop so I kept on going.  So who is really responsible?  Certainly both of us.

Being a divorced mother is a sad thing. It’s awful. I cannot be chirpy about it, but I can grasp the reality of it.  And here’s the thing: it takes one person to divorce, but it takes two to marry. And I chose my marriage.  I chose it.

Had I said, “No!” a long time ago, could I have changed the course of our river?  Maybe. But who knows?  There are so many unknowns and the what ifs will kill you if you don’t kill them first.

So, here I am.  After everything I am heartbroken.  But I am not sorry.

Because even though I am not sorry that the marriage is over, I am also not sorry that we married in the first place.  I loved greatly. And I would not lose those years, those memories, that laughter, that growth, those children and, so often, real joy.

I refuse to be sorry for any of it: simply because it did not survive in the end.

jsg/oct14

How to keep your head (when all around you are losing theirs and blaming it on you).

Clean House

Or, to put it a tad less poetically, a short list of Don’ts and Do’s for handling the first years of motherhood:

DON’TS

1. DON’T assume everyone’s doing life/marriage/kids better than you.  Absolutely untrue!  Think about your own life behind closed doors, then think how cute you look if you ever make it to Starbucks?  Well, everyone else is faking it too.

2. DON’T accept every piece of advice you’re given – even when it comes from a sensible source.  They’re your children, it’s your house and your marriage.  If the advice fits, terrific!  Let the rest quietly drift on by.  If motherhood teaches you nothing else, it does teach you that the entire world has an opinion about how you should raise your baby and handle your marriage.

3. DON’T buy into the cultural schtick about parenthood and babydom.  Remember we’re talking about a TRILLION DOLLAR industry here.  Their job is to make you think you need everything, and they’re fantastic at it.  As a wise counselor said when I was about to give birth to my firstborn, “Remember they used to put babies in the bottom drawer.  What a baby really needs?  You and a blanket.”

4. DON’T forget who you are.  Just read an excellent article about maternal identity theft in the Huffington Post.  If you feel like you’re drowning in diapers, keep a visual clue nearby to remind you of who you also are (not once were).  I decided to hang my Yale Graduate Degree above the washing machine. Obvious choice.

DO’S

1. DO keep perspective.  Of course it doesn’t seem like it now, but babyhood is a finite season.  The days are long but the years are short.  I look back now (my kids are 11 and 9) and all I can remember is how unbelievably cute they were.

2. DO see God in the everyday.  Breathe Him in.  Those years when you were single and enjoyed two hour quiet times?  HAHAHAHA. No. Forget it.  Time with God comes closest when you are grateful.

3. DO add grace liberally and daily.  Both to yourself and others.  If you can’t extend grace to yourself, how’s everyone else going to fare?

4. DO keep community.  Even when you don’t feel you can, get out and meet with other moms.  Who cares if you showered?  It takes a village and in these years the women in that village will be the ones who save your life and maintain your sanity.  Which leads me to…

5. DO keep a sense of humor. This is breathtakingly crucial.  It’s your friends who will enable you to see a ridiculously stretching moment as a hilarious one.  We take ourselves far too seriously when left alone.

6. DO keep the Sabbath.  There is a Sabbath rest for the people of God, so grab it! Enjoy your kids!  Eat whatever can be found!  Look above the dirt!  Wear what you like!  Do nothing! In the words of the song that rings through every household, “Let it GOOOOOO.” (And, let’s be honest, everyone does enjoy us so much more when we do?)

7. And, finally, DO give your husband/partner a break.  They can’t handle the changes in you and their lifestyle?  Send them out for a drink with a mate and let them moan there.  Remember, who is the baby anyway?

Follow all these and Kipling would be proud of you.  And what’s more?

You’ll be a Mum, my chum.

jsg/oct 14

What’s the deal with grace?

Grace

I recently spoke to a group of young moms with preschool children.  They had asked me to tell them how to balance marriage and motherhood.

Once I’d stopped laughing (which took a few minutes) I did come up with a series of do’s and don’ts which had at least helped me survive those early years of diapers and late night lunacy.

Here’s the most important thing I told them.  That if they remembered nothing else from my talk, they must remember this: there is grace.

Motherhood shows you many things about yourself.  Primarily that you’re finite, imperfect and impatient. For most of the first five years, you’re likely to be a hormotional wreck.  Yes, horm-otional.  Ask any mom to explain this mix to you.

Which is why it’s so crucial to remember grace.  If extending grace to oneself were reliant upon some self-willed self-talk, I’d never get any.  If it was based on some kind of moral courage or human “bigger-ness” to extend grace to others, I wouldn’t have any of that either.

But it’s not.  Grace comes from the One who extended it to us when we deserved none.  Who gave us love, when we were worthy of contempt.  Who looked on us with forgiveness, where there should have been judgment.  And who gives us another chance to try, over and over (and over) again.

If I am not able to receive that grace and extend it toward myself, how on earth do I ever think I would be able to extend it to anyone else?

So whether you’re a mom or not, if you want to show grace to someone else, remember that it is to you that that grace was given first.

jsg/sept 14

The Grace of Bobo.

We own three dogs.  Or, more truthfully, three dogs own us.  So the family comprises of six members, all of whom are dying of heat here in LA at the moment.  The dogs have to endure it at home, but the children and I are fleeing from one air-conditioned sanctuary to the next.

Unfortunately this morning, while we were in the air-conditioned glory of the donut shop, I remembered that I had forgotten a voiceover audition. I raced back to the house, shoved roughly past the ecstatic welcome of the dogs and dove into my bedroom closet/ high tech soundbooth.  I recorded with less than 4 minutes to go.

As you might imagine, it was not the best I could have done.  And it was just so blooming hot.

I stomped into the kitchen grumping about the heat. I unloaded the dishwasher while chastising myself for squandering an opportunity. As I wiped my forehead with the front of my t-shirt, the Holy Spirit whispered to me, “What about grace, Josie?”
“Well?” I bit my lip, “What about it?”

At that moment, Guy (9) walked into the kitchen.
“What do you think about when you think about grace, G?” I asked.
Without hesitation he picked up one of our dogs: “I think of Bobo, Mom.”

Bobo Grace

I was going to say, “No, seriously, G…” but I was looking at Bobo’s face.  Unquestioning love, unquestioning forgiveness for shoving him away on my arrival,  unquestioning grace.

“You know what, Guy?  You’re right.”  I thought about Wendy Francisco’s marvellous poem:

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=dog+and+god&FORM=VIRE1#view=detail&mid=60072BAC7239FF6B53F460072BAC7239FF6B53F4

I just forgot the audition.  That was all.  It was a mistake and I was sorry.

The dogs show me grace.  God shows me grace.  I am not prepared to show myself grace.

So I need to get over myself.

Dogs homeschooling

jsg/sept14