Tag Archives: Grace

What is self-love?

I am a hypocrite. In last week’s post I said the following:

Exercising compassion and love and grace for yourself is far more effective in achieving the body-love you want.

I meant what I said and still advocate for my point. However, the next day I sat in my therapy session in tears struggling to articulate how I could show grace and compassion to myself. How can I possibly invite you to engage grace and compassion (both elements of self-love) for yourself if I don’t do it in my own life. *sigh*

I’m sorry.

We’ve got to do this together, okay? I am going wrestle with it in this space and you can ponder for yourself as I’m breaking it all down.

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First I have to figure out what these words truly mean; I often use them instinctively and purposely without connecting to my understanding of what they mean. In other words, I know what the words mean, but do I truly understand them and their differences when put into action? I don’t think so.

Grace: both a regard and act of undeserved favor; kindness, courtesy, clemency, protection, provision even though undeserved.

Compassion: “suffering with”; feeling the emotions of another (as in empathy) but with a desire to help.

Mercy: withholding harm or punishment (even though you have power or merit to cause harm or punishment). I threw in mercy because I need to understand how grace is the same or different than mercy.

I’ve had no mercy with my body–starving it, insulting it, punishing it, depriving it, abusing it, controlling it.  I’ve thrown ungracious insults at myself, labeling me as lame, ugly, fat, impatient, lazy, stupid, nerdy, dorky, slow, uncreative, undependable, unworthy, a bad friend, a bad mom, a bad wife… In all of this there is no room for compassion–the desire to actively show love to myself.

Are you with me still? Have you ever labeled yourself any of these things?

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When I view from the outside how I’ve treated myself … as if I were to see someone treat another person the same way I treat myself, I would consider it abhorrent. I would also be (and have been) devastated seeing someone treating themselves in the same manner.

Ugh. Now the understanding is sinking in. And it’s really uncomfortable.

Okay, just like I’d want to step in and help someone who’s hurting because I feel their pain as I try to imagine how they might be feeling, then I need to feel the same for myself. Weird, but true.

I don’t have the power to do this on my own. So often the world–everything from subtle (and repeated) messages in the media, to underlying implications or expectations in Christian culture, to body language from acquaintances, to direct words or actions from colleagues, family and friends (often unknowingly), feeds the abhorrent lies and subsequent behaviors I place upon myself.

However, I remember that I am in this world, but not of the world. I belong to God. Never does He view me as the world or the people in this world view me, or how I view myself for that matter.  When I am a mess, God shows me grace, compassion, mercy and Love–usually through seemingly random happenings that leave me going “Whoa. That was a God thing.” So how do I show myself the same Love God shows me?

    1. I stay connected to Him. He reminds me that I am not “a bad” anything. Imperfect? Absolutely and beautifully, yes. But not bad.
    2. I acknowledge my emotions rather than judge them. If I am mad, sad, joyful, scared, goofy… then okay. No need to avoid, hide, chastise, justify or be ashamed of how I feel. I can just be in the feels.
    3. I rest. For me, resting involves clearing the calendar (maybe for the day, maybe for the month) and avoiding social media so I can eliminate both real and perceived expectations of what, who, and how I am “supposed” to be to the outside world.
    4. I figure out what I want or need and do it. Sometimes I just want to lie down; paint my nails with my daughter; experiment with new recipes in the kitchen; watch cat videos online; write a blog post; sit on the couch holding my husband’s hand; cry; pray; eat a cupcake; read my book; play Wii; have coffee with a friend… whatever it is. I connect with myself and oblige what I need with zero judgement, justification, or expectation to either “deserve” it or punish myself later for having done it (also known as “making up for it later”).

Self-love is fluid movement of grace, compassion, and mercy working together that derives and thrives from a deep understanding of yourself–of who you are are what you need–with zero judgement. Body-love is rooted in self-love. So my message last week still stands only this week it stands firmer!

How do you or could you show self-love in your own life, friends? I’d love to know in your comments.

The girl who paid for my groceries

Basket of Groceries

As my sweet daughter finished unloading our groceries onto the conveyor belt, I rummaged around my oversized purse to find my wallet. In a sharp sting of realization, I knew my search was futile. I had left my wallet back at home. I pictured my bright orange wallet resting on the living room floor next to my laptop, right where I left it the night before after ordering the book Unoffendable by Brant Hansen.

“Oh no,” I moaned.

“What’s wrong?” my seven-year-old asked.

“I left my wallet at home,” I said, scanning the load of groceries on the counter. “Ugh. I can’t believe I did that.”

“Uh oh, mommy. What are we going to do?”

“We’re just going to have to tell the checkout lady the truth and come back another day. Ugh. What a waste.”

My gut felt heavy and my spirit frustrated.

The young girl ahead of me finished her transaction and the checker grabbed the first item of our stuff.

“Um. Wait just a sec, ma’am,” I held my hand over the food to stop her, “I don’t have my wallet. I left it at home; all this will have to go back. I am so sorry.”

The young girl before me, who looked maybe no more than 18 or 19 years old, (and who I figured was off for an afternoon at the pool with her freshly purchased Poptarts, Cheez-its, Peach Snapple, and two apples), promptly stepped back over to the check stand: “Can I buy your groceries?”

Erm… blank stare.

“What? No, no. You don’t need to do that. That is so nice of you. That’s okay, though.” I said, dumbfounded.

She looked at me square in the eye, “Please, I want to.”

I had no words and the swell of emotion in my chest was threatening to push tears out of my eyes. “If you really want to. If you’re sure,” I responded weakly.

“Yes. Please let me. Go ahead…,” she made a nod to the checkout lady, who was clearly just as surprised and touched as I was.

As the items beeped through, I stood there feeling helpless and humbled and bewildered and thankful. This teen girl was buying my groceries. So I did what any mom would do in this situation, I began to cry.

I felt a light stroke on my arm; I looked down at my daughter who looked up at me with her toothless grin. “It’s okay, mommy.”

The teen girl (I didn’t even think to get her name), smiled and repeated, “Yeah. It’s okay. No need to cry.”

I couldn’t help it. I was so moved and flabbergasted. As the bill pushed the $40 mark, I turned and said, “Are you sure you want to do this, it might be expensive.”

“Yep. Not a worry.”

The bill was $42 and change. She handed over her Visa and it was done. I gave this young woman a hug of thanks and offered her blessings. Then she walked away and was gone.

The checker looked at me with a big smile. “Hey, it’s okay,” she said, “It happens. We forget our wallets. No biggie. Just be happy.”

“Okay, thank you.”

As I drove home in silence, I went to God in prayer of thanks. But then fell into the following conversation with Him:

“Why did you do that, Lord? I don’t deserve having my groceries paid for. I don’t need the help like others do.”

This isn’t about need. It is about love.

love“But I feel like I took a blessing away from someone who really needed it.”

This isn’t about need. It is about love. My love is unconditional. 

“How would you like me to pay it forward? If I receive a blessing, I should bless others too.”

How do you know I wasn’t blessing you because of how you’ve already blessed others?

“I don’t know. I just don’t feel like I deserve this, Lord.”

Let Me love you.

“But…”

Let Me love you.

I had prayed to God early this same morning, as I do everyday, for a wise and humble heart.

And I waited, as I do every day, for humiliation… to be humiliated.

Today I learned the difference between humiliation and humility. Humiliation brings shame, and God promises we won’t ever be brought to shame. Grace, an overflowing of undeserved favor, brings humility. I was humbled in a gentle yet powerful way… I have money to buy my groceries and even groceries for others, except today. Today I had nothing. It was literally by the grace of God, the Spirit prompting humble love in a fellow human–a teen no less–that I was able to go home with my groceries. He’s teaching me how to accept grace. To develop a humble heart, I have to learn how to accept grace. I don’t deserve it. I don’t earn it. I don’t need to pay it back. It’s a no-strings-attached gift. In letting Him love me through His grace, I experience the humility I desire.

This is how God works, friends! This is how awesome His love is for us.

Let Him love you.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

“From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another.” John 1:16

Karma?

It’s time to tell him. Right now.

I stopped walking and nearly dropped my mug of freshly brewed coffee.

It’s time. Now.

“No, Lord. Please, no.” The panic started to rise from my toes, buckling my legs with weakness. I set my coffee on the kitchen table next to me. “Everything is good, now. You made it that way. Please don’t make me tell him. ”

You must. Now is the time.

I slowly headed toward the stairs leading up to my bedroom. It was 5:30 a.m. and the house was dark except for one light shining behind me from the living room. I put one foot on the bottom stair and looked up the darkened path to the top… terrified and ashamed at what I was about to do to my poor husband who was sleeping peacefully.

Ghostly figureQuiet tears began to slide down my face as I began the slow climb up those stairs. Every step felt heavy as if cinder blocks were tied to my ankles. “Lord, whatever happens I trust you. If he gets angry and leaves, I understand it’s my consequence. I deserve it. If he kicks me out, you’ll tell me where to go.”

I approached the top step and took a deep breath. Gently pushing open our door, I stepped into our darkened bedroom. Even though the room was cool, I felt sweaty and clammy; my mouth as dry as if I’d been in the desert. I sat on the edge of the bed next to my sweet husband and ran my shaky hand along his face. I didn’t need the light to see my husband; I know every inch of him by feel. I leaned in and gave him a kiss on his forehead.

“Heyhon,” came his groggy voice.

My heart pounded in my ears.

“Hey, Love. Um… I have something I need to confess to you.”

“Oh yeah? What?” his voice was a little more awake now.

“Um… so, remember two years ago when we were having trouble and you asked me several times if there was someone else and I said no?”

“Yeah.”

“Well. I lied. There was. I was having an affair. I am so sorry, hon. I am so so sorry.” I began to weep while still trying to hold myself together for what I was sure to be an angry yet well deserved outburst toward me, complete with a request for the dissolution of our marriage.

Andrew was quiet for only a moment before he tenderly replied, “You know, I wasn’t there for you the way you needed me back then. You found someone who could support you emotionally. I get that. And if you would have confessed this back when we were in counseling two years ago, I wasn’t mature enough to handle it. You probably weren’t mature enough to deal with it either. Neither of us were. This whole thing would have been different. It’s okay. I forgive you.”

Shock and awe do not even begin to describe my feelings. What followed was a deep and tender conversation about everything that happened regarding my unfaithfulness; I answered all his questions honestly; and we ended the conversation in laughter (of all things) and a deeper intimacy that has yet to wear off.

If karma were a thing, I’d have a broken marriage today. Karma would dictate that I should have experienced the devastation I feared as I trudged up that stairway. I don’t believe in karma because karma is self-inflated with the permission to expect and appreciate revenge upon others yet never accept it as something we deserve ourselves. There is zero room for grace or humility

I believe in something equally inexplicable yet far more powerful in producingphotodune-693733-grace-xs love and restoration. God. God offers grace–an unlimited supply–to those of us who don’t deserve even a drop. It’s the opposite of karma. Grace requires me to offer love and understanding to others when it doesn’t make sense–when it seems impossible, inconvenient, and sacrificial. Revenge would be so much easier. But when I look at myself in the mirror, it doesn’t make any sense for my husband to love me either–an adulteress. When I sit down and pray, confessing my multitude of sins after asking for a bunch of selfish things, I imagine how hard and frustrating it must be for God to love me, and to give me yet another chance to get things right when He’s already given me a million opportunities. It doesn’t make sense for Him love me.

But He does. Every single day.

If karma were a thing I would be dead. I spent the last 13 years starving my body–abusing the temple in which I’ve been given to live and breathe and bear children. Yet, God is in the midst of restoring my body and breathing new life into me, the same way He restored and breathed new life into my marriage. I simply cannot wrap my mind around this Love, this Grace, because it is so BIG. All I can do is cry in my marvel and humility.

I tremble in fear at how I will take this gift of grace for granted again today. I hate that I do it. I don’t mean to. My humanness makes me weak. I spend my days asking God to help me be better. And He does. And when I mess up, He pours out his grace again. Over and over.

If karma exists, then I may as well just give up on life because I deserve revenge every day–karma doesn’t tolerate humanness. God does exist because I have experienced His grace in mighty big ways–God’s grace not only tolerates my humanness, but loves me, protects me, strengthens me.

 

*Note: This confession happened in the summer of 2014, so we’ve had much time to process and heal. The lesson I’ve learned about grace is as recent as the date of this post, so it’s a new idea that I’m still getting used to. 🙂

A man named "Pat"

Passenger airlinerYou know you’re in for a long flight when a guy boards the plane sopping his sweaty armpits with bathroom paper towels.

And then sits across the aisle and one row behind you.

I’m not going to lie. I was quick to judge this guy (who I will refer to as “Pat” for Peculiar Air Traveler) as a great representative for “Keep Portland Weird.” He was barefoot, covered in fascinating tattoos from neck to toes, reeked of body odor, and was incredibly friendly. Pat was also fidgety and talkative, though it was clear no one in his row wanted to shoot the breeze with him. Not a single person made eye contact with him in his attempt to converse. He made me nervous because he didn’t seem to want to sit down, and I began to wonder  if Pat was going to be a problem passenger.

As the plane prepared to take off, I heard Pat instruct himself to have a seat–he listened and finally sat down, but he didn’t stop moving. First I thought maybe he was high. Then I scolded myself for judging him. Perhaps he was simply anxious about flying. After all he was twirling his beard nervously into two straight sections, not unlike the way I play with my hair when I am nervous. But then a strange smell–like that of Extra Strength Bengay–came wafting from his location, and continued to do so off and on for the duration of the flight. So I couldn’t help but be suspicious of the oil he was applying to himself.

Pat also engaged in strange personal grooming shenanigans with his hair, beard, ears, and teeth. I had to look away when he leaned over his tray table into a small mirror to vigorously scrub his teeth with a toothpick. (I feel bad for whomever sits in that seat for the next flight because I know those tray tables aren’t cleaned well.) Grooming must have made him tired because he yawned all the time, making moaning sounds each time.

We got a little break from Pat when he got up to use the restroom. The lady sitting behind me was mortified and broke her silence to a sympathetic flight attendant who had come over to comp her family’s DVD players.

“Oh my god, I am dying over here! He is picking at his ears and scrubbing his teeth. I am dying! I can’t handle it!” she wailed.

“I am so sorry ma’am. He certainly is a strange one. I don’t have anymore seats available, otherwise I would move him. We’d like to offer you and your family your Digiplayers for free.”

When Pat eventually returned to his seat (after being kicked out of the flight attendants’ company), all went silent again, and Pat finally fell asleep–leaning his head forward to rest upon the back of my husband’s seat.

While I was keenly aware of Pat for the entire five-hour flight, I was immersed in my own editing project–a manuscript filled with fascinating stories of people living with mental illness. I learned of the social plights and isolation these folks have had to deal with, I became enlightened of the minds and hearts behind the diagnoses, and, most heartbreakingly, I was made aware of the personal impact of stigma and stereotypes in people’s lives. Mental illness is a lonely and hard plight to live with in our world–there is very little, if any, grace for those who live with mental illness.

When Pat woke up and resumed his grooAircraft Seatsming, I was reading Eric’s story, a man who lives with schizophrenia and is well aware of his socially awkward and sometimes socially inappropriate behaviors that he often doesn’t even realize is happening. I decided in that moment that Pat needed grace because I didn’t know his story. Maybe he was struggling with something far beyond anything I could understand or that he could even understand. Maybe he was mentally ill. Maybe he was high. Maybe he was intensively anxious. Maybe he was just weird. I don’t know, but I made the conscious decision that I would seize any opportunity to be nice to this man.

At the same moment, the woman behind me lost her patience with Pat–

“You have to stop doing that. You are driving me crazy, and I am dying over here with all the grooming you are doing. It is really gross. You have to stop.”

Pat’s response: “What? I am so so sorry. I will stop. Just for you, I will stop. I am very sorry.”

After that, Pat no longer groomed. He sat with his legs crisscrossed (hard to do when you are a tall man in tight quarters) and began tearing out the inserts from the in-flight magazines around him. He cautiously leaned over to me–

“Excuse me, may I see your Alaska Air magazine?”

I looked at him and smiled. “Of course.” I grabbed it and handed it to him. “Would you like the one from the my daughter’s seat too?”

“Yes, please. Thank you.”

I handed him the magazine with another smile. “What are you doing?” I inquired.

“Well, you can win a free ticket if you fill these out and send them in. You just have to be willing to get a bunch of junk mail. I figure no one fills these out anyway.”

“I think you are probably right,” I said. “Good luck to you!” I looked at him in the eyes and smiled again.

He looked back and seemed genuinely surprised by my warmth. “Thank you very much.”

When we landed in Portland, Pat was in a hurry to get off the plane, and no one stopped him from rushing off. We later found Pat pacing back and forth in his bare feet at the baggage claim just before he locked eyes on a woman who was obviously happy to see him. They embraced and hugged and kissed. “Oh how I have missed you!” he said to her, squeezing her tightly. She laughed and smiled hugged him tighter.

They wanted to be close. For the last five hours Pat had endured a flight where people wanted nothing to do with him, yet here was someone who was waiting for him, who desired to be close to him. This woman knew something we didn’t–and she loved him.

photodune-2263089-view-from-the-aeroplane-xsMy husband was equally impacted by the profoundness of the moment: “What if that guy was Jesus? Like what if that is the way Jesus comes back–and He looks to see how we treat him? I want to have grace, like you. We don’t know that guy’s story and that lady wanted to be as close to him as possible. What are we missing?”

Indeed, as strange as Pat was, he has given me important pause for thought and lesson to be pondered.