give me grace

Today, like very day, I woke up to the cries of my daughter. I rolled over, checked the time on my phone, and counted it a blessing that she hadn't woken up before 7:00 as has been her practice lately. I got her up, and did the song and dance of making and then convincing her to actually eat breakfast. We read books, danced to music, and laughed a lot.

While she napped I took the opportunity to finish my own book. It wasn't a life changing work of brilliance—just an easy, entertaining read.

The rest of our afternoon was spent much like the morning hours. When you have a one year old and no car to escape the house, your activity options are limited.

Now it's 5pm and I don't have anything to show for my day. I didn't enrich my mind or teach Lana how to speak in full sentences. I certainly didn't generate any kind of income. It's easy to look at my unwashed hair and snot covered shirt and think my day was a waste. But to think that would be to ignore the tiny, newly wobbling little girl reaching up to me with complete trust in her eyes. These early days are filled with endless teething, constant admonitions of “don't eat that” and “get off the stairs”. They offer very little in the way of adult conversation or uninterrupted thought. But they're also full of new words, first steps, and chances to build a foundation of unconditional love.

Isn't that what this parenthood thing is really all about? It all comes back to giving, demonstrating, and allowing yourself to receive love. That tiny baby who hasn't stopped crying in what feels like a week? The toddler who throws his lunch all over the floor thirty seconds after you give it to him? They love you. They love you enough to trust that you will love them always, forever, and no matter what. Those arms flung around your neck when you least expect it, that's their heart being so full of unabashed adoration that they don't have to guess even for a second whether or not you will wrap your arms around their tiny body and squeeze right back. And that kind of love, that it something. It's not just a small something. It's everything. Raising a child who knows what it is to be loved and to love in return is a huge, world changing accomplishment.

It's that love that will carry them through this broken world. It's what will protect, renew, inspire and heal their hearts.

But here's the thing, that kind of transformative love can't be summoned from even the purest depths of my soul. That relentless, limitless, all-forgiving love is something I will never be capable of. Unlike my fickle, often self-serving love, this kind is the result of God's mercy being poured into me and sloshing back out to saturate Lana's heart and mind.

The days of parenting a little one (and I assume the bigger ones too) are draining. It's a marathon of giving, sacrificing, setting aside thoughts of my own needs. But I can only give so much before my stores are depleted. Those are the days—the ones at the end of weeks of nonstop outpouring—that are marked by tempers running short and emotions high. They're the ones where Tom walks in the door from work, and I pass off Lana and disappear to a quiet room and scroll Instagram for twenty minutes. Those are also the days that end with me looking over my sleeping daughter and being overwhelmed by regret and shame. (It always seems impossible to understand losing my temper with such a soft, squishy miracle when I watch her sleep tangled up in piles of stuffed animals and the books she insisted on bringing to bed that night.)

When I'm knee deep in these days they seem endless and impossible to escape. But that's such a self-serving lie. When I believe that I render myself powerless, a victim of the child I decided to bring into this world. I am not powerless though, and I'm certainly not a victim. The only reason I get to this point is because I spend so much time pouring out that I neglect to refill. Mentally, physically, emotionally, and most importantly spiritually. If I'm not taking the time to replenish as these areas are depleted then of course I'm going to run out of steam. Sometimes it feels selfish or irresponsible to take that time for myself. Sometimes it takes a push of encouragement, and all too often it takes reaching that point where I'm running on fumes. But slowly I'm learning that I love my daughter best when I'm at my best.

Could I white-knuckle my way through parenthood?


Would that likely produce the kind of gracious, strong, loving, redeemed adult I pray Lana grows into?


I can't convince or coerce any of these qualities into Lana's heart. I can't give impassioned speeches or shower her with opportunity and privilege. I certainly can't live a perfect example for her. All I can do is pray for grace to be lavished upon us both. I can only pray that God's love would protect our hearts and conversations I can only fight every single day to carve out time and space to cultivate my own faith so that when Lana looks at me she sees a flawed person relying everyday on an undeserved mercy. I have to, daily, accept the grace and love being offered to me. Then I have to turn around and open my heart so that the same love and grace covers my sweet child.

I think that's the only way to survive the journey—to take refuge in the fact that I'm just a conduit for God to work through. It doesn't rest on my ability to be perfect, but instead on my willingness to receive grace.

Grace upon grace upon grace.  

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