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Oh, it’s been one of “those” days here at my household.  Tantrums and drama over homework time, a Pyrex dish shattering on the kitchen floor (Really, I did not throw-it; it slid off the pile of pots and pans drying on the counter!), bad day for the husband at work, and the clothes dryer deciding not make even the hint of warm air.  It now takes a whole day to dry a load of clothes.

Fortunately, the kids are now in bed, I sit with a mug of warm tea beside me and am writing “raw.”  I am so glad that days like these don’t last forever and that I managed to keep myself from coming totally unglued during this afternoons festivities.  Yes, I did yell a few times.  But I also remembered to stop and take breaths.  I prayed at the kitchen counter before going to discuss matters with my girl splayed across her bed upstairs.  And I remembered to apologize to my boy for yelling at him for obsessively asking if I was going to help him finish his homework in the middle of my girl’s melt-down.  Really, does it look like it’s a good time right now?!

It’s all about imperfect progress, right?  This fall, I have been participating in a weekly discussion with a group of wonderful and real ladies around Lysa Terkeurst’s book Unglued.  Oddly, for the first few weeks of this study, things at my house had been pretty “hunky dory,” almost utopia like.  I was gulping in the long periods of rich play between my boy and girl, noting how happy everyone seemed, all the while wondering when the other shoe was going to drop. ‘Cause you know weeks like these can’t last forever!

So, today the other shoe dropped.  Actually, it started the day before when my girl stayed-home sick.  How dare her mess-up my carefully planned week!  Now, I had to cram two days worth of chores and errands into one afternoon!

What I really want to say is that this messiness is real life and it can be hard sometimes.  Downright frustrating.  How nice it was for me to be able to sit in my Unglued book study reflecting on my own unglued moments as if they were a thing of the past.  It’s easy to show joy and calm when life is going along smoothly.  But what about the other times?  How do I find joy in the ugliness?

Well, I am still on the chapter in Unglued where I try to define what kind of “unglued” I am.  I think I tend to be an exploder at home and a stuffer everywhere else.  I haven’t gotten to the part where I learn what to do about my ungluedness; however, I have learned a few things over the past year or so, through the wisdom of my lovely friends and some insightful books.  One, I need to take care of myself, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  In general, this task has become easier now that my boy and girl are both in school, but it still can be a challenge.  While some can handle a lot of things on their plates, I recognize and honor my need for quiet and for room in my schedule to create.  Regular quiet-time spent with my Creator and intentional blocks set-aside for art and writing can go a long ways on the emotional and spiritual front.  Physically, I am learning the importance of taking care of my body through regular exercise.  I am not a gym person, but I do enjoy walking and can certainly pop-in a yoga or Pilates DVD on rainy or cold days.  A little endorphin release can definitely keep my mind from coming unglued so quickly.

I still have a way to go with this whole idea of not coming unglued.  Through it all, I want to extend my family the same grace that God shows me.  I am grateful for today.  No, I didn’t enjoy the downward spiral, but I was reminded of all that I have learned and am still learning.  Thank you, God, for granting us new mercies every day!

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Grace. This is my word for the year ahead.  The word to which I aspire to be and show more of as I move through the days ahead.  I want to exude both the beauty and the mercy that the word grace entails.  Not just when I’m feeling good or when things are going my way, but also on those days when grace feels hard.  When I am tired, irritated, and it’s easier to lash-out at those closest to me.

Recently, I set-out with my dear friend Cheryl to spend the day at a retreat entitled Grace Moves.  Set in a former convent, turned retreat center, atop Richmond Hill, we walk through those hallowed doors, not really knowing what to expect, except for the opportunity to be in silence, as long as we wish.  Bliss for an introverted girl like me recovering after the holidays!  A kind lady greets my friend and me at the front desk, tells us where to find coffee or tea and sends us on our way to the retreat room down the hall.  I glance over the schedule, noticing a few check-in points throughout the day with large amounts of  time to do whatever it is that we need to refresh our souls – wandering through the convent, reading, writing, praying, creating art, or just laying on a blanket outside in the gardens.

Sitting amongst a small circle of participants, mostly women, I ponder just how I might spend my time, when our leader begins to lead us in a centering prayer before sending-us off on our own.  “Be still and know that I am God.”  Psalm 46:10  She quotes this scripture and we sit in silence, listening,  for the next twenty minutes.  Within just a few minutes, I feel warm tears flowing down my face.  I need a Kleenex, but I don’t want to disturb the other participants.  I guess I’ll just let them fall.  Grace moves.  Sometimes it moves us to tears.

Later that morning, I take the opportunity to talk with the retreat leader one-to-one.  I tell her how difficult it is for me to show grace to my children, at times, when the talking fills every waking moment of the day and I can’t breathe.  She gently asks me what I am thinking when the talking is taking place.  “Please, stop talking!”  “I can’t think!”  Knowingly, she suggests that I might begin to replace these irritating messages with thoughts of what I need to do to calm my own anxiety during these moments.  “Breathe.”  Breathe in grace.  Speak with more grace.

I spend more time journaling and reading after lunch and then join the others outside to walk the Jerusalem Mile – a labyrinth in the form of a circle overlooking the city.  I walk the path in silence, weaving in and out, not knowing exactly what I am supposed to be doing, but figuring I’ll end-up in the middle at some point.  Words to the an old hymn “Where He Leads Me, I Will Follow” keep finding their way into my head.  I feel a bit silly, like an old school nun walking the schoolyard.  At last, I make my way to the center of the labyrinth.  A gentle breeze blows through my hair.  The sun warms my face.  I am calm.  I look out over the city and it occurs to me that, yes, I really can find grace in the middle of all this busyness called life, even when I am standing knee-deep in the middle of a messy day.  Grace moves.

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