“Mommy, why is your tummy so big?” asked my four-year-old daughter, Emerson, patting my belly as I stood next to her in a dress I thought was one of my best and most flattering. “Are you going to have another baby?” she continued.
I was horrified. My husband burst out laughing. I contemplated crying. Or going for a run. Or whipping out a spoon and the jar of Nutella. Old demons and hurtful words raged in my brain. I’ve always carried my weight in my middle, so in truth, her words weren’t a total shock. So I took a deep breath.
That is what I decided I will do throughout 2014. I will take a deep breath and focus on one word this year: GRACE.
Lord knows I need it. And in that moment, my daughter needed it too, lest I pop off and say or do something at this wonderful “teachable” moment that parent bloggers and child psychologists preach about. So, I took that breath, then sighed, gave my husband the stink eye and a flip remark about how he “best be glad it wasn’t being said about his love handles,” and remembered I had a healthy and head-clearing run coming up in the morning.
So, for 2014, I am going to feast on a fat helping of grace. For me. For my body. For my brain. For my marriage. For my kids. For my roles as mom, partner, friend and executive. For my soul. Mostly for my soul – the most important part of me that spills over into everything else.
This doesn’t mean I don’t have goals. I have another half marathon to conquer, a new cross training plan and renewed focused on eating well to sustain me. I have fun trips and special moments I am eager to reach with my family and friends. I have ideas on how to deepen my faith and service to the world. I have huge goals for myself and my team at work. I have big projects to help invigorate my church and the city of Memphis.
But, I also have powerful words that sit on my desk: “Grace is not something you say before a meal. It’s a way of living.” Perfect.
Truth is I have had this sign for a while. It was given to me by a talented and thoughtful colleague. Giving ourselves and one another grace is a topic I speak about often to my team. Yet, I have so far to go in mastering this idea. So, my only true resolution this year is to practice grace as a way of living.
Grace. The definitions range from “seemingly effortless beauty or charm” to “a disposition to be generous or helpful” to “unmerited gift of divine favor” and finally, “mercy and forgiveness.” Roll that all up and for my own understanding of the word, I land somewhere between the idea of mercy and forgiveness that I didn’t earn so I should extend the same to others. Maybe if we all lived that way, we would appear to have this “seemingly effortless beauty or charm.”
Dictionary aside, I know I need grace. I need grace to keep me from being arrogant, rude, prideful and judgmental. I need grace to combat self-doubt, low self-esteem, apathy and worry. I need grace to remind me that we are all broken, but beautiful.
I need grace to temper my anger when I fall short of a goal. I need grace to remind me messes are okay and more laughs make life better. I need grace to remind me to relax and rest when it all becomes too much and too hard. I need grace to remind me that the same big tummy my daughter asked me about in her innocence, is the same tummy that allowed me to bring two beautiful souls into the world. And, who am I kidding, it was never flat anyway. Luckily, I have some decent legs. See, I am practicing grace right now with my own body.
On the best days, I awake full of the idea of grace. I recognize that I am not promised this day, yet I am alive. Lungs full of air, body capable, mind ready to serve. I am not promised this day, yet I have children to love, a partner in my husband, freedom to worship, a roof over my head, food to eat and a job where I can help others. Grace reminds me I have more than enough and more than enough to give to others. Just like exercising, I have never practiced true grace and regretted it.
So as we beat ourselves up over past failures and resolve to start fresh in this new year, I say: Plan on. Dream big. Set lofty goals to improve yourself and the world around you. But, please take some grace along for the ride. We’ll all need it.