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grace

It Doesn’t Have To Be Big

Last Monday morning early, my husband was off to work, and I was at home with River, getting him ready for his swim lesson. That hour before swim is a hectic one because I’m getting River ready, getting his bag ready and getting 8,000 dishes in or out of the dishwasher before we set sail for the Landry Center. But, this particular Monday morning, right as the door closed behind my husband, River says, “Mommy, I’m not feeling good. I feel sick in my mouth.” I think, “Oh, great, are we in the throws of step throat, again?” Then, he scurries over to me and says, “Mommy, hold me.” And, before he could tell me he was sick again, he vomited down the right side of my face, hair and body. If this has ever happened to you, you know the drill. First, you stand there freaked completely out. Second, you mentally devise a plan of how to remove the articles of clothing that were effected. Third, you check to see if your child is, in fact, ok.

So, I freaked out, threw my vomit drenched pony tail over my shoulder, pulled both mine and River’s shirts off, and grabbed that sick little cutie to make sure he was ok. Then, I hurdled the vomit on the floor en route to my iPhone so that I could text Riv’s beloved swim coach, Cameron, and tell him we couldn’t make it and why. But, as I picked my phone up, I noticed that someone was at the door on my doorbell/camera/thing-a-ma-jiggy app. Like a ninja (that had been vomited on), I eased toward the door to see if it was someone who needed something. But, it just looked like two young guys who were contracted to do work in the neighborhood and got the wrong address.

So, I go back to caring for my sick child and cleaning up the vomit (let’s see how many times I can say that in one BLOB) when, this time, I actually hear the doorbell ring. I think, “They’re either at the wrong house, or my husband has hired them to do something and didn’t communicate it to me.” So, I grab River, mainly to cover myself, and hide my body behind the wall. Then, I open the door partly and stretch my neck around enough to gently holler, “Guys, can I help you?” They begin walking toward the door and I shriek, “STOP! I’m topless!” With a terrified and somewhat curious look on their faces, they stepped back. And, through the crack of the door I say, “I mean, I’m not topless. I do have on a sports bra. I’m also holding my child to cover me.” They, gently replied, “Ma’am, we’re just here to clean your windows.” I said, “Ok, carry on.” And, as I closed the door, I got so darn tickled. So, I cracked the door open and hollered once again, “Hey, Guys.” They said, “Yes.” I said, “There’s nothing quite like being greeted by a topless mom first thing in the morning, is there?” I couldn’t see their faces, but I could hear their smiles in their voices as they replied, “No, ma’am.”

Then, up the stairs, River and I go to shower, put clean clothes on and relax. And, as I sat beside my son, all snuggled up on the “heavy” bed (that’s what he calls the bed in the master), a surprising smile stretched across my face. I was both exhausted and elated. Exhausted, of course, after a marathon of mishaps and elated that I- have a son (even when he’s vomiting on my hair), a house with windows that need washing, a husband with the foresight to get things done that would never cross my mind and the kindness and grace that two complete strangers showed me in a moment of chaos. It’s pretty amazing when you start that little mental gratitude list. Because, what looked like a few things becomes a few thousand.

In this season, there’s so much pomp and circumstance. We can’t just put a pair of warm mittens under the tree. No, they have to be Gucci and wrapped to perfection. By the way, if this was anyone’s gift idea for me, please do not return it. I’ll make do, I promise. It can’t just be a simple salad that we bring to the family dinner. No, it better be congealed to perfection, in the rightful Christmas wreath jello mold form with maraschino cherries for the holly. And, your Christmas card can’t be a candid shot from your summer vacay developed at your local CVS. Heck no! Your whole family needs to be photographed in the Swiss Alps, wearing coordinating tartan plaid, smiling like you’ve all just won the lottery, foil stamped and bathed in potpourri before being mailed to two hundred family members and friends. I mean, it has to be BIG, or it’s meaningless. Isn’t that sort of what the world tells us?

The truth is that it doesn’t have to be BIG for it to be a blessing. Let that sink in. We don’t remember the Gucci gloves. We remember the loving intention of the person gifting us. We don’t remember the Christmas wreath congeal salad. We remember the community that comes with gathering around the table to share a meal with loved ones. And, we don’t remember what the card looked like. We remember the love we feel toward the person who sent the card and their significance in our lives. What I’m saying here is, it doesn’t have to sparkle to be gold.

This season is about our Savior. And, you know the story. He wasn’t the son of a mother and father of means, born in a private hospital suite and swaddled in bamboo. He was the son of two ordinary people chosen to carry out an extraordinary mission, born in a manger which was used to hold food for livestock. There was no meal train or sip and see. But, there were three wise men who traveled from afar to bestow special gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh upon this little baby and, then, his ministry unfolded for all the world to see. And, this unsuspecting child became God’s greatest gift to humanity.

I hope that in this Savior Season and, really, every single day, you’ll make seeing what’s big in the small things a top priority. In doing so, the gift of gratitude is promised to multiply like mosquitoes in the Texas heat. And, if you’re like me, a real rascal at times, I hope you’ll remember that God’s gift to humanity in our Savior isn’t exclusive to the righteous. It’s available to ALL. No age, no color, no gender, no political affiliation, no sexual preference, no debt unpaid, no sentence served- nothing, and, I do mean absolutely nothing can take God’s gift of grace through Christ Jesus away from you. If you believe that Christ is the Son of God, then you receive Him as your Savior. You are saved. Can I get just one AMEN!

Ephesians 2:8 NLT “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And, you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

Merry Christmas, my friends!

Stay Divine,

JL PARISH

ALWAYS DO YOUR BEST

My Mom has a theory she uses for pretty much everyone. “People are generally doing the best they can.” Now, there’s a lot of grey area in that statement because “best” is somewhat relative. But, boy, does it ever help me rationalize my behavior and others behavior, too.

The truth is that our best is constantly in flux. Like our mood or the way we feel, it’s always changing. If you’re having dinner with me and I’ve had a rockin’ day, odds are I’ll be totally present and lots of fun. But, if my day has been a real stinker and I feel bad and a little beat, odds are I won’t be very present or fun. But, whatever the case may be, I’ll bring my best. It just looks different from day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute.

Insert grace here. There’s no true predictor of what our mood or effort or demeanor will be like because we can’t predict the future. We just navigate the best we can and do the best we can. And, the people in our lives that matter will totally get it and give us the grace we need in the moment. In fact, we just might be the one giving them grace. As life abs and flows, so does our “best.”

Sometimes, I overcommit myself. Just kidding, one given is that I almost always overcommit myself. And, sometimes, I’m just not feeling it even though I gladly committed to it. I’m learning that I not only need to give and receive grace from others in moments when my “best” isn’t what my idea “best” is. I’m also learning to give myself the same grace if not more. All too often we hold ourselves to standards that are way too high. As a result, we feel defeated by it, never reaching the standard we’ve set.

But, not anymore. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever. I’m striving to be my best and do my best, but I’m also giving myself the grace I so desperately need when I don’t meet the expectations of others or myself. Just writing this gives me some sort of permission to just BE. What an enormous relief. Monday, bring it!

Friends, I hope his little epiphany will serve you, too. I know that like me, you’re out there hustling, doing the best you can. And, whatever your best looks like, you deserve praise for it. It takes courage to get out of bed each day and LIVE. But, if God is gracious enough to give us the chance to live another day of life, let’s feel worthy of it, present in it, enjoying life as it naturally ebbs and flows.

Stay Divine,
JL PARISH

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