The walls were closing in on me. I felt ready to suffocate.
After 2 days in a row of "potty accidents", one involving my almost 3 year old with a typical accident, the other involving my 1 year old dipping into the toilet and sloshing soggy toilet paper around the bathroom floor, I was ready to scream!
We had a typical Sunday, rushing to church, serving in church, then home for a quick lunch and, (sigh of relief), naptime. I couldn't put the kids to bed fast enough. And everyone was so wired, and crazy and LOUD. Dan was soon snoring on the bed, having a well-deserved rest. But I was stuck with waiting for our baby's naptime, which didn't coincide well with everyone else's naps that day. I had over an hour - and even Ezra was being antsy and whiny and screamy. Perhaps he could feel the tension I was feeling.
That was it. I couldn't take another minute. I packed up my squirmy one year old into his carseat and tromped outside into the bone-chilling cold weather so I could just get away from everything. I was done, and my solution was to run away.
My blood pressure was up and my breathing ragged. I did the only thing I knew that would medicate this situation effectively and steered the van towards Starbucks. I lugged my baby into the warm, aromatically soothing cafe and felt a tiny bit of tension begin to release. With my choice therapeutic treat in hand, I sat at a little table, baby in the carseat on the floor and sipped and stared out the window - sipped and stared, sipped and stared...
My frustrations were clamoring in the forefront of my mind. I thought about my "challenging" lifestyle and wondered "Why did I sign up for this?" My life didn't seem fair. It was too hard. I seem to have so many demands on me that I frequently fail at keeping up.
I pulled my *Brownberry* out of my purse.
(I'll explain... my husband has his electronic Blackberry, and I can't be bothered with being tethered electronically to the universe in such a way - it took me forever just to get a cell-phone. Additionally, I'd rather not pay for an expensive gadget such as a Blackberry or i-phone, so I have a cute little brown leather-bound notebook, about the size of a checkbook, that I can jot things down into. It's a fantastic little invention, really. I don't have to worry about backing up my data and I can write down any appointment or grocery list or phone number!)
Back to my "Brownberry"... I pulled it out of my purse with the intention of writing down some of my complaints - my anxious thoughts - and to perhaps list the troubles that I am currently feeling marauded by.
I opened it up to find the first blank page, and there was a message that seemed to be straight from heaven:
Expect grace instead of anticipating stress.
The words pierced through my clouds of frustration, straight into my soul like a beam of light.
I tried to remember when and where I had jotted down such an inspiring mantra, and figured it was something I had thought to blog about, and wrote down a few weeks ago. Like a message in a bottle, these words rolled out into the abyss of life and drifted back to me just at a time when I needed them most.
For a few moments, I was convicted of my negative spiral and I realized how destructive these thought patterns could be to myself, and the people around me. It's not that things won't be tough from time to time, and we all have emotional meltdowns (they're not just for 3 year olds).
I realized, however, that perspective is an incredible thing. Sometimes we get so focused on the dirty diapers, that we forget the grins and giggles. We are affronted by winter's wind and cold, and don't notice the crisp perfection of a snow-decorated tree. We gripe about the crumbs on the couch, on the floor, in between our sheets (somehow a child ended up bringing their cookie into MY bed), and we forget to be thankful that we have a couch, floor and bed!
I was anticipating stress and frustration because I was all wound up from some of life's everyday, ordinary messes (and life tends to be messy), so I didn't see the beauty and grace that was awaiting me. My angst skidded to a halt and I turned the minivan (of my mind) around, doing a complete 180*. In that instant I realized that grace was a gift for me, for every day, for every struggle. I needed to "expect grace instead of anticipating stress".
Grace, from a theological perspective, is defined as the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God. God-given grace is a breath of fresh air in a world polluted by our sin and selfishness. Grace is like the gentle, warm rays of the sun that can melt away the crusted layers of ice and snow. Grace is like a perfectly brewed latte, on a wintry afternoon, while on a coffee date with a contented baby playing in his carseat, surrounded by the hum and activity of other coffee enthusiasts.
Grace is a surprising gift. It pops up where you least expect it - a little blessing here and there, a smile, a hug, the gift of God's beautiful creation. I know life will frustrate me sometime again in the near future - that is a certainty. However, I'll do my best to keep my eyes wide open, my ears listening and my heart soft; ready to accept grace.