Where we used to sit.

I remember where we used to sit, a worn comfortable table that we never worried about spilling or scratching. Those spill and scratches, bumps and bruises only added to the tables warmth, its charm.

We started out across from each other, carefully bringing what we had to offer, setting it on the table. Explaining what we had to share. But pretty soon we scooted the two chairs next to each other, threw everything on to the same plate and ate right off of it. Together. I don’t even know when it happened. It just made sense at the time.

And in that sharing because it made good sense, my soul was fed. It was like our hearts came right out of our bodies to meet each other, recalibrate their rhythm and beat again, differently, better because of each other. My heartbeat as much my own as yours. We were doing this thing together. We were less alone in our struggles, less alone in our joys. I would tell people I had a tiny piece of the community I am sure is waiting for me eternally.

I don’t know who moved first. Honestly, I no longer care. I only know that we are no longer sitting next to each other, sharing, saving the best bites for each other. We have migrated away from the table. And in our worst moments we were across the room with our arms crossed and glaring. I may have even stomped my foot in frustration that you won’t see it my way.

We have since approached that worn table again. Uncrossed our arms from our chest so that our hearts may hear each other. We are sitting across from each other again, but on opposite ends of the table. Offering the things we know the other will need. Soon we will pull out the chairs and sit again. Perhaps you have already.

We are careful with each other. Thank you’s and pleases and are you sures, each taking what we need but keeping our portions small and polite. I miss the days of sitting next to each other, everything on the same plate.  The simplicity of sharing everything, sure that there is more than enough to go around, sure that everyone will get their own best bites.

I can hear our hearts reaching for each other across the table and the awkward silences. Wishing to recalibrate once again. We inch to toward the seats we were once comfortable in, prints worn into the wood reminding us that the seats next to each other are where we belong. The plate is still there, between the two seats waiting for the offering of shared lives.

I am hopeful we will find our way back there, next to each other. That it will once again feel like one heart beating, one story told. My heart yearns for that once easy communion. The way it once was. The way it will be. Forever and ever. Amen.

I Lift My Eyes Up

Saturday I met up for dinner with the woman I ride home with and her wife, as well as some of my other colleagues. We have fallen into a few patterns of conversation. We talk about religion, specifically mine, a lot. But somehow it is different when I am across the table and we are actually looking at each other and there are other people in the room. Everything just becomes more noticeable.

So we are having our conversation, she has asked me about something or other that has been a part of my life so long I don’t remember it is weird. (We may have been talking about Lent, which is kind of weird. And hard for me to explain because I am a protestant and don’t fully understand it. Though I do value participating in it.) Or something that is hard for me to understand, and I am just a little bit intimidated by how smart the questioner is. It is just, she always seems so sure about her positions.

Anyway, she says to me in the  middle of me thinking about how to respond to something, “Sometimes when we are talking about this stuff, you look upward, as though you are waiting for God to come down and answer your question.” Apparently, I really don’t hide anything on my face. I suppose I am waiting for my God to give me the right words.

The right words. I have been waiting for the right words quite a bit lately. I think that somewhere it has gotten into my head and my heart that if I only speak clearly enough, choose  the right words than all will be clear. I think it is a danger that makes sense in light of what I do. I teach english, I blog not only because I really like it, but also because I feel like the Lord is calling me to it.

But the truth is this, my words are as inadequate as the few fish and loaves were to feed thousands of people. My words, like myself, are from the dust and will return to dust. It is not up to me to make them enough. I only offer them to my savior. And sometimes they get multiplied. And sometimes, though I am doing my best, I get it totally wrong and He is gracious enough to work around that too. 

Sometimes I think that I have to have all the answers. But I don’t and won’t this side of heaven. And I will probably discover on the other side that some of the things I was sure of aren’t right either. I was feeling bad about all of this inadequate talking and thinking. How am I ever going to get it right? But then I read this.

Psalm 121:1 and 2 

 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
   where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
   the Maker of heaven and earth.

Yup. I do that. I look up to the Lord and trust that God will help me. He will help me correct what I don’t have right. He will help me say what needs to be said. I lift my eyes to the mountains and my help comes from Him. And I may not have all the right answers, but I don’t have to because my help is always enough.

Let the Record Reflect

Aside

Let the Record Reflect: That Jill called me at 5 to 10 and no one was out of there PJ’s or showered. And I got the girls out of the house by 10:30. I was showered and everyone was dressed. And everyone was fed.

But Let the Record Omit: That the Peanut and I both had Girl Scout Cookies for breakfast and I did my hair and make up at the house we were headed to after we got there. Oh, and that the Peanut had last nights ketchup on her face until Aunt Jill wiped it off for us.

There is no shame

No one ever told me how strange it would be, to see the things that I had been battling my whole life show up on the face of my daughter. Not yet two years from the day I had her, and already it happened.

The Peanut is a chatty one, and friendly as can be. She is especially friendly when she gets the sense that her parents like the person she is meeting. Our good friend Betsy recently moved back to Atlanta (forever, please). She was awesome enough to babysit on Valentines day and then this weekend she accompanied us to the farmers market. We were consistently mistaken as the two hottest lesbian moms in the place.

But before we left for the farmers market, the Peanut was showing off her new tricks by naming the people we pointed at. Mommy, check. Daddy, check. Rilla, check. She even informed us that Rilla also went by sister. But then we pointed at Betsy. She has said Betsy’s name before, which is pretty impressive considering the Peanut is not yet two and this was the second time she had met Betsy. But in that moment, she didn’t know it. And she looked for a long time at Betsy, then looked to the ground, crawled off Betsy’s lap, and walked over to her daddy, being cute.

I suppose I could be projecting on her, but somehow I don’t think so. She was embarrassed, ashamed that she could not remember someone’s name. Someone that mommy and daddy like.

In the past I have been easily shamed. I can remember verbal smacks from elementary school teachers that I didn’t even like. And to this day they burn. I used to spend hours at night reviewing in my head things that were said to me, things that I said, what I should have said, why that person said what they did. It was so much wasted time, wasted energy, wasted moments when I could be sleeping. For whatever reason, I could not let  those things simply roll off my back. I was embarrassed; sometimes I was ashamed.

It has taken me a long time to fully embrace the grace that Christ has to offer. To simply think “when you know better, you do better” and then go on about the business of attempting to do better. And even now, the people who are closest to me know that I am a serial apologizer. I say “sorry” for things that are not at all my fault. But I am working on it. I am doing better every day.

I don’t want my daughter to carry the that weight, the weight that I was carrying around for years. The weight that I now leave at the cross. I don’t want her to feel embarrassed or ashamed when she doesn’t know something or makes an honest mistake.

I want her to know that God’s grace isn’t just sufficient enough to cover our sins and squeak us barely in to heaven. It is abundant, and covers the rest when our best isn’t good enough. God’s grace is sufficient enough to take what you give Him and turn it into something beautiful. Even if what you give him isn’t the perfect right thing. It doesn’t have to be, just your best love. God thinks that is grand,

And I want her to know that we think her best is grand too. And all the people who love her, they think her best is perfect. Even when it isn’t good enough.

When good enough is good enough

I never would say that I am a perfectionist. I never strived for perfect grades or was overwhelmed by wanting things to be just so. Heck, I probably should be a little more careful with my edits on this thing. (Lucky for me I have a truly supportive husband who goes back through and quietly corrects my spelling errors.) I thought I didn’t really deal with that.

Thought is the operative word there. When Rooster was still in the hospital we got some pictures of her done that were simply too perfect not to buy. I was sure I wouldn’t want them, but then I saw them. I know why some religions think a still image can capture a person’s soul. Then I looked back at Peanut’s new-born photos. I found the picture there that speaks to the fact that there are simply some things, beautiful things, that God creates in us from the very beginning. And these photos compliment each other in a way that I did not plan, just like those sisters that are in those photos.

So I bought frames and printed out these pictures. I had every intention of hanging them on the wall. But then, I just couldn’t find the perfect spot. I didn’t know the perfect place to hang these photos. So I waited, and bought another picture to hang with them, and waited some more. Until two weekends ago a half hour before people started coming to our house, I pulled the trigger and had Christian put them up. Even though the third thing I want hanging up is still in need of being printed out (but I did buy frames, so there is something). And you know what, it isn’t perfect, but I am glad it is up. It looks good, my wall in progress.

This past weekend was a pants-less weekend at our house. Not for me, just for the Peanut (Aside: If I ever have a band full of mom’s and dad’s I am naming it “Pants-less Weekend” like many aspects of parenting it sounds like more fun than it really is.) She has been talking about potties for a while now, and likes to watch other people go to the bathroom and give her commentary. Mostly “eeewww, yuck. all done. shut it, flush.” People always say that you have to potty train while the window of interest is open or else it is a nightmare. I have been worried that the Peanut is losing interest, so we spent Friday and Saturday hanging out watching movies and sitting on the potty in the living room while drinking juice. She did a good job for the most part, and even the accidents happened almost exclusively on places that are not carpeted.

But I was wanting perfection. I was hoping that we would remove her pants and she would immediately figure out how the whole thing worked and bam, my not yet two-year old is potty trained. It didn’t work out like that, and once Jill pointed out to me that perhaps my sights were set too high, it all got a whole lot easier.

Teaching is like that too. You will never be a perfect teacher; you can always do better. I am reminded of that every day as I teach ninth grade for the first time. It isn’t going to be perfect, it isn’t going to be as good as the tenth grade stuff I am teaching for the fifth time. But that doesn’t mean we should just sit in class and do nothing. We try it out; we work it out. Next year it will be better, but that doesn’t mean the kids now aren’t learning anything valuable.

I think we don’t come to Christ sometimes because we aren’t doing something perfectly. We are ashamed and frustrated that it isn’t perfect yet. Sometimes we won’t give him our writing, our school work, our prayer because we don’t think what we’ve got is perfect. But that isn’t what Christ is asking from us. He is asking us for what we have, and in Him our good enough is made perfect, what we were hoping for by withholding it.

To my daughters, may you never need it.

Dear Juliet and Priscilla,

There are people who will tell you that you are not as valuable as your brothers. They will tell you that the church, the family, your God, were designed to be experienced chiefly through a man’s experience, and only through a woman’s as a sidekick (they will likely use the word helper, or mate, or help-mate.)

When this happens I pray that you will think of me, of your aunts, of your grandmothers. I pray that you will have seen the love that I have for my Lord, the love that he has for me. I hope that the women in your life who love the Lord with abandon will be a protection against the lie that you need anyone elses help to experience God. He loves you desperately.

Think about your dad and your grandfathers too. There are so many in your life who think you are incredible. They think you are wise and have something to say. They feel very very lucky that you are girls, that you are their girls. They want to know what God is teaching you. They believe it might teach them too. It is your dad, the rhetorician I think, that will make you read the words of men like this. You will roll your eyes, but also store those words in your heart.

My loves, when you hear those lies, the ones that are meant to keep you quiet and safe with you hands in your lap, I pray that your heart is protected. I pray that those things sound so strange to you that you will think them silly. I pray that you laugh and go about your day, being the woman God created you to be.

But I know that your reaction will more likely be anger. You come by that righteous anger honestly. Your mother’s temper is famous in the family lore, and your dad has a similar story. When we have something to say, we like to be heard (we met on a speech team after all.) May you not be consumed by your anger, may the desire of your heart be Jesus, and not that the people around you say all the right things about him.

I am learning just now, why Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek. May you learn that lesson earlier. It was as much for us as it was for the people who are saying things against us.  My dear sweet girls, I pray that you would not insist on having the last word, but instead go on about your life, proving every moment that God has amazing things for you.

There is a chance that you are the one who is called to vocally confront these beliefs, and if that is the case I will pack your lunch with things that will soothe your throat, and kiss your head as you go to your work every day. If God calls you to be that voice in that wilderness I will be your biggest fan. But make sure that is what God called you to do.

It is more likely that He will call you to simply live the equality in the gospel everyday. It may seem like this is not enough, but it is. Your job is to do every day what the Lord has for you that day. If it is to speak up then do so, if not then keep moving. Trust that God will multiply that offering. You living the truth challenges those lies better than anything you could say.

Remember that the people who are saying these things are your brothers and sisters in Christ, and as I once told your grandmother at girl scout day camp “sister means even if you don’t like them, you are stuck with them and you have to be nice.” The Bible is clear sweet girls, you need to be kind to your brothers and sisters the ones who live in your house and the ones who do not. It is not kind to let lies go unchallenged. Lies about women hurt men too. But make sure it is done with a gentle spirit. You and I don’t have everything right. We wouldn’t want someone identifying us purely by the things we get wrong. We hope that people identify us by the things that point to our savior. We must give others the grace that Christ so freely gave us. Especially when they don’t deserve it. That is what makes it grace.

It is sometimes hard being a woman in this church, but it is always worth it. Sometimes when we hear hurtful words we turn our backs to the church, we reject the whole thing as hopeless. God loves his church, he calls us his bride.  He wants to love you through the church, imperfect things can love you well too. I hope I have shown you that as your imperfect mom. Don’t let your pride cheat you out of the love God wants to show you.

I love you my loves, my lovelies, my girls. I am so very blessed to be your mom. I pray that you will never need this letter. But I put it here, just in case you do.

Love,

Your mom

I Can’t Talk About Me Like That

Today started out like that other terrible day this week. Rooster is running a mild fever do to her four month vaccines so she is uncomfortable and can’t sleep well and I was just going to lay my head down for 5 more minutes….and this time I didn’t wake up until 17 minutes after I am supposed to leave the house. And the traffic was terrible because no one in Atlanta really knows what inclement weather is so they slow down to 35 when it is a little rainy out. (Seriously people, 75/85 isn’t just the interstate number, it should be the speed minimum!)

So I had to call my co-worker for the second time in three days and ask her to unlock my door. When I showed up at school the announcements were on. Another co-worker who also has an itty-bitty and a blooming toddler at home was holding down the fort. Both women told me it was no problem as I admitted how embarrassed I was. As the voice in my head chided, two days in a week you pull this? Get it together Abby!

And the worst part is, I may have lied to them. (I did) I may have told them that I was late because the Rooster had a fever, and not because the Rooster had a fever which made me tired so I made Christian take her a half hour before the alarm went off, so I lazily fell asleep after I turned off my alarm. (I just left out the part that made me look bad.)

Lucky for me the Lord convicted my heart and gave me the chance to come clean and apologize. My sweet grace giving colleagues forgave me and decided the grace they extended previously still stood. (I was not planning on confessing in person. I was planning on sticking an apology on here where neither of them go…that dang pride again.)

I was, I am, ashamed that I messed it up twice this week. My pride could not get over it. I am better than that. Other people are just big screw ups, but not me. I am not allowed to over sleep because I don’t do that. But I do, do that. I was easily the biggest screw up in my department this week, and it isn’t even Friday yet.

This morning I tweeted this: Kill my pride oh Lord; steal it from me. Let your grace fill those spaces.

God has heard my prayer of less than 140 characters. I decided to fight the lie that I am not good enough by treating myself to lunch, on a day I certainly did not deserve it. Besides, I had to go to the bank because I had no toll money to get home.

On the way out of the door I ran in to a teacher on duty. (Duty- the time once a week a teacher has to stand somewhere and bother every kid that walks by for a pass. It is necessary, but it is no fun.) She asked me where I was going and I asked her if she needed anything. Was I going to Starbuck’s? I was not. So we left it at that. Until my errands drove me right into the Starbucks parking lot. Literally, my bank and the Starbucks have adjoining parking lots. Cafe Mocha’s for everybody!!!

And when I delivered it to her, she told me I was good to her. She told me I was good, and I believed her. In that moment, by God’s grace, I was good. Not a screw up, not someone who better start doing better. And I had a beautiful conversation with another mom about how we don’t give ourselves the grace we give everyone else.

Sometime in mid-October I was telling Jill all the terrible things I was and she stopped me with this line, “I’m sorry, but I don’t let anyone talk about my sister like that.” She doesn’t let anyone say mean things about me, not Starcha who told me I was buck-toothed in the second grade who Jill threatened to beat up in the cafeteria, and not me about myself in my own kitchen. And now, I don’t either. I’m sorry, but I can’t talk about me like that.

Welcome to Franceland

WARNING: The following story happens within the metaphysical space my sisters have dubbed “Franceland.” Franceland is the space where we who are married to or are descendants of John S France screw up in a very specific sort of way. The classic example of Franceland is leaving the car for someone to use, but taking all sets of keys (including their set) with you. This happens more than we would like to admit, and more times than you would believe. This story is far more ridiculous than that. Feel free to be completely amused at my expense.

Last night I got all ready for bed and wandered upstairs. For the first time in a long time. I remembered both my Kindle and my phone so I did not have to trudge up and down the stairs multiple times when I just wanted to go to sleep.

At four the Rooster woke me up to feed her and on my way back into the bed I noticed that my phone was nowhere to be found. So I woke Christian up to set his Ipod as a back up (which he did without even grumbling). I was sure I took the phone upstairs and it would go off but just in case….

Fastforward to the Peanut waking up and Christian checking the time and “I’m really sorry Abby, but it is 7:04.” Turns out I took Christian’s phone upstairs, not mine. I am supposed to leave my house at 7.  I jump out of bed and rush around the house as quickly as possible and have to leave the Peanut in a fit on the floor because I am leaving. Never did I think I would be glad I leave every morning before the Peanut gets up, but it turns out I am.

And I need gas, like really need it. So I get gas and text someone that I will be late but am coming, and rush to work as fast as possible and make it to my classroom with about 6 minutes before the bell rings.

Right as that bell rings my most jocky of jock students points to the floor and says, “Ummmm, Ms. Norman I think you dropped something….” Right in front of his desk is a breast pad, which he thinks is a maxi-pad, that I did not put in because I was trying to save time and I figured  would put them in between classes.

Then I explained to a room full of tenth graders that I am still breastfeeding and sometimes my boobs leak, as I blushed uncontrollably and probably should have stopped talking but babbled on. I do that when I am uncomfortable. Even when the little man in my head is screaming JUST STOP TALKING. Because while I am a huge advocate of a woman’s right to breastfeed anywhere anyhow, it is still awkward to talk about when you are talking to adolescent boys about your boobs specifically. I am blushing just typing that.

So I was having trouble gaining traction anyway as I stumbled through the discussion about Antigone when my phone rings. My phone never rings during class, I leave the front of the room to discover Christian has called. Something is wrong.

Yup, something sure is wrong. Specifically, I took the car seat and the double stroller with me to work. And the Rooster has a doctor’s appointment. When Christian asked me what we were going to do, I answered “we are going to call Tiffany to come rescue us.” So he called Tiffany, who ditched her plans for the day, and by God’s mercy had an extra car seat. She got herself and her two-month-old in the car and delivered the car seat to Christian so he could take both girls to the doctor sans the double stroller (I have no idea how he got them both into the doctor’s office). Meanwhile I was frantically calling the Doctor’s office to see if they could delay our appointment.

They could reschedule the appointment (yeah!) for one thirty which is too close to Christian’s class today (boo!). So I had to teach my class amidst all of this. It was a disaster to put it mildly. Out of my mouth came, “This is why I am a teacher and not a surgeon, in this profession I can just say, well botched that one, we will try again tomorrow.”

Mostly, it was this. I have three jobs, mom, wife, teacher, and in that moment I was failing at all three. All of them. I was trying to laugh it off, but my kids could tell I wanted to cry.

Tiffany did in fact come to the rescue. Christian got the Rooster to her appointment (18th percentile weight, 72nd height, 75th head size) and the Dr. gave us the okay to turn the Peanut’s car seat around.

All is well that ends well I suppose. I am so grateful for the community of people I have in my life that would abandon their plans because I botched mine. I am trying hard to simply chalk this up to Franceland antics and laugh it off, and I am sure I will. But right now it stings a little. I suppose that is my pride again. I am certainly glad that Jesus’ mercy is new every morning. I could use a re-do tomorrow.

Ohhh baby (body).

I was walking out to the stadium in a sea of fire drill induced students last week. As I rounded the corner I heard it. One girl to another “I am like going to get soooo fat this semester.” I didn’t have to turn around to know that the girl probably weighed less than 125 pounds. Only skinny girls say that. Only the ones who don’t actually have to worry about anyone else commenting about their weight. Why in the world was she concerned about her body fat? If I still had that metabolism I wouldn’t be wasting time saying “I am going to get soooo fat” when I could be shoving copious amounts of peanut butter m&m’s in my mouth.

This came just hours after I had had a mini break down in my closet because I couldn’t find a work-appropriate-Friday-casual-sweat shirt to put over my post baby body. I looked in the mirror and all I could see was what was wrong. My pull over was just too tight for my vanities comfort. And dress pants are less than forgiving as well. The “bottom half” part of dressing every day is not something I look forward to.

And yesterday, a girl in the special-ed class pointed at my stomach as we were passing in the hallway and said “you are going to have a baby!” Wow…..that…felt….awesome… I couldn’t even yell at her for doing it as developmentally, she is just in that stage right now.

In high school and college I never thought I had body issues. I mean, not the looks kind. No matter whether my body could get me out of bed and to school on time, It turns out that at 5’6″ and 120 odd pounds you do have body issues, you just don’t realize it because society approves of your body. But it turns out I have them. And having babies back to back has brought them out in me.

It is ironic in the worst sort of way. I have never been healthier. Truly. I am stronger than I have ever been (thanks to the healthy weight of the Peanut and five pm toddler dance parties). I don’t wake up every day in pain or so exhausted I am literally puking. I have the freedom to make plans without saying “as long as I feel up to it.” I can grow and birth babies with comparatively minimal difficulties. My body works great. And yet, I have never been harder on it.

When I tell my daughters that it is what is inside that counts, I want to mean it. When I tell them they are beautiful, not they  would be  beautiful if….I want them to believe me. I want to be conscious of my diet and exercise because I want to be able to play with my girls, not so I can fit into all my pre-baby clothes. I want to live out for them “beautiful and healthy comes in lots of shapes and sizes” not “it matters what the boys think, and they like skinny bodies.”

I know that I am slowly making my way back into my clothes, but I also know that my body will be different than it was before. And I want to be okay with that. Proud of that even. I don’t like the way my students talk about their own bodies as the enemy at the ripe age of 15. How did that happen? How did a 15 year old in a size 0 come to fear an extra five pounds above all else? How did a 28 year-old who was miraculously healed of a disorder Dr.’s still don’t even know how to diagnose come to loathe a healthy working body that has fed and housed two beautiful babes? How did that happened?

Could it be that this world offers very little grace? We are told that good enough isn’t good enough! Perfection is the new good enough! That if we only tried harder did more we could and would reach the standard that is in fact impossible to reach. And not just in our physique, in our jobs, as parents, as friends and Christ followers. I feel like the world is screaming at me: If you only tried harder you would do better! You aren’t enough! Bad parent! Bad wife! Bad teacher! Bad, bad, bad, step it up!

It is time for me to tell the world to shut it. There is no longer space in my thoughts for those lies. God says I am enough. My body is enough, whether it fits into my dress pants or not. I am done running on that treadmill that gets me nowhere even as it increases in speed and incline. I will instead stroll hand and hand through the day with my savior, whose burden is light. I will do the best I can, and trust His grace to see me through. Rather than depend on my own efforts. And I will be kind and gracious, even to myself.

This body of mine seems to be ground zero for me when it comes to my year of giving grace to myself and others. And I am starting to understand why. It is the thing I can’t hide. The thing that is out there, not explained away. It isn’t perfect, and that is okay, imperfectly perfect even. Yes, I think we will start calling it that instead. After all isn’t that what Paul said? Something about God’s perfections coming through from my weaknesses?

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Yeah, that. I think that sounds good.

Where I am at….2011

As I look back at this year a phrase goes round and round in my head “If God put you where you’re at, He will meet you where you are.” And I think that pretty much sums up 2011 for me. It was a big year for my clan and I. Peanut’s first birthday, Rooster’s arrival. Another move by my school district, another fit thrown by me, another perfect fit for this time in my life. Christian started his PhD program. I wrote a children’s book. 

It was a big year, and most of these were big surprises. And ones I certainly wasn’t hoping for but am so glad they happened. I pray I never forget the lessons of this year. That my plans are so small, and God’s plans are so great, and so good. That the less time I spend fighting what is to come, the more time I have to see Jesus in all of the impending chaos. That if God put me where I am at, I can trust that I am stepping into his mercy every single time I step out of bed, even when that is multiple times a night.

A couple days after Christmas I was nursing Rooster in the living room where the Peanut’s new tri-cycle was resting. (Where else but Grandma’s house are tri-cycles allowed in the living room?) I wish I could tell you that I wasn’t resenting the fact that I was the only one in the house awake. But I was. I was so tired. And then I thought of fifteen years from now when the thing with wheels that the girls will want under the tree will likely not be there and will certainly not be operated with pedals. I can already here myself saying “Do you remember the year the Peanut got that tri-cycle? She couldn’t yet reach the pedals, but she got around well. That was Rooster’s first Christmas, she loved that Elephant rattle, we named him Elvis. Those were the days….”‘

I am aware that in some respects I am currently living “the days” the ones I will think about every time I see a little girl. That in some respects, 2011 was the beginning of them. I see the wistful look on my dad’s face every time he sees a couple of little girls climbing all over their daddy. I will long for these moments, so I best do less whining and more treasuring. And at the same time give myself more grace, and permission to have a good cry sometimes. Because that is where I have found His mercies on more than one occasion.

The biggest regrets I have for 2011 are the moments when I was stingy with my grace, both to myself and to others, especially my family. The truth is, sometimes your best doesn’t cut it….But God can cover the rest. If I am nothing else next year….I want to be gracious, to my body as I get back to where most of my clothes fit, to myself as I balance motherhood, teaching, and being a wife, to my husband as he balances all the Lord has for him, to my friends as they heal through the wounds life has inflicted, to my students who are simply teenagers and no one wants to do that again. I want to give grace because the world says it is unnecessary and a waste of time. But I believe it is healing and facilitates the freedom to do better.

I want to do better next year, whine less, treasure more. Let 2012 be the year of grace. God’s grace to me…and through me. I can’t help but being a little nervous writing that. We all know what Christ-giving brought….