A Serving of Grace

“Hurry up and get changed. We were supposed to be there 15 minutes ago!”

There was never enough time…

“I’m sorry. I can’t read two stories tonight. Pick your favorite. I have laundry and I have to mop the floor”.

I was stretched way too thin …

“Tomorrow I am going to do better. Tomorrow I am not going to yell. Tomorrow I am going to be prepared so things aren’t as hectic.”

So many broken promises …

********************************

How I cringe when I think of the person I was back then.

How sorry I feel for her.

I had too much on my plate. I wanted to do it all but I didn’t want to admit that it just wasn’t possible. I couldn’t be everything to everyone. I couldn’t give my all to my family and to my work and to my friends and be who I wanted to be … who I was meant to be.

I remembered going to bed at night, head spinning, mentally adding the things left undone on my day’s to-do list to the impossible list for the next day. Tears ran down the side of my face, admitting defeat in the realization that my list would never be completed.

Ever.

I remembered leaving my kids to go to work, thinking of all the wonderful things we would do when I got home. I remembered that most of the time, I worked later than I planned, or was completely exhausted; and none of those things happened.

I was not proud of where my focus was back then. I started a business and was determined to make it work. I did everything on my own, unwilling to ask for help. On the outside looking in, I was doing well. I did what I set out to do … succeed…

but not where it mattered.

I was always a faithful person, but I let the world get in the way. I was chasing goals and dreams and this notion that I could accomplish all of it — alone.

Wow, did I need God!

There was no room for Him back then.

I was always a believer. I prayed. I knew Scripture.

But I wasn’t leaning on Him. He wasn’t the center of my world like He should have been.

I remembered saying a lot of prayers when I found out I was sick. I remembered reading my Bible, desperate to find the answers, to make sense of it all, to find some peace.

I remembered begging God to help me, to forgive me for allowing work and home and life to overshadow His presence in my heart, mind, and soul.

You know what I got out of that down-on-my-knees-ugly-cry-soul-baring-episode?

I got grace.

Simple, yet amazing… grace.

God told us to follow Him. God told us not to put worldly things above Him. God told us to come to Him and He will give us rest.

I wasn’t doing any of those things, at least not as I should have been.

I didn’t deserve it.

Still …. grace.

In those moments, when I was begging for mercy for straying from God. In those moments, when I was processing what was happening to me and scared about what was to come …

God’s grace came at once and changed my heart. It said in the Bible that He knit us together in the womb, but right there in the middle a cancer diagnosis and an epic meltdown; He unraveled me and then knitted me back together.

Differently.

Oh, so differently.

I was me. I was still the same person, but with a new heart – a heart for God, a heart focused on what mattered, and a heart wiped clean.

Grace.

The guilt of the missed moments, the snappy comments, the rushed manner in which my world and everyone in it had to keep up or else…

The guilt of working too many hours, depleted of energy, feeling like I neglected my children, my husband, my family, my friends…

The guilt of being so much the person I didn’t want to be that I was unable to be the person I was meant to be.

The guilt was overwhelming …

but then, suddenly …

Grace.

It had been six years since that cancer diagnosis. Life had its ups and downs.  I struggled through cancer treatment.  I celebrated through a couple of “cancer free” years, and then grieved when I found out my disease returned.  With God’s help, I found joy in the everyday moments and navigated through the difficult ones.

It had been six years since God changed my heart.  I knew what was important now.  God was in the center of my life.  My family and friends were my priority.  That to-do list was lighter than it had ever been.

My heart was too.

Recently, God put the word ‘grace’ on my heart and in my mind …

in every day moments, in Scripture, in sermons at church; there it is again …

Grace.

God reminded me that I needed to give grace, just as much as I needed to receive grace that night on my bedroom floor.  God reminded me that even though someone may not deserve it, I still needed to extend it.

How could I so willingly accept the grace that God gave to me, and not extend that same grace to others?

I started thinking about my relationships.  Relatives who had since parted ways.  Old friends who let me down. Past co-workers who wronged me in some way. I thought about people I haven’t seen in years.  I held no resentment. I held no grudges.  What was done was done.  I let that go.  God didn’t need to remind me about that anymore.

I was good.

Still, God put a story here or a comment there in front of me.

There it was again.

Grace.

No, God told me to give grace to those closest to me.  Not the God-sized grace that He bestowed upon me that night on my knees – God told me if I extended just a little bit of grace, it could make a whole lot of difference.  See, sometimes that old me popped out, that old me who was overly driven and goal-oriented, organized, and somewhat of a bulldozer when it came to getting things done. When I asked the kids to do something, I wanted it done. Now. There was no room for error, no seconds for dawdling.

Why did I always have to repeat myself?  Why did my voice have to reach that level?

Why didn’t they get that?  Why didn’t they just listen the first time?

I felt a tapping on my shoulder.  God was trying to get my attention.

Grace.

I had it all wrong.

Did it really need done today?  Did it really need done that way? My way?

Could I turn this into a learning experience instead of a disciplinary action?

Could I use humor, or change my tone of voice to diffuse the situation?

Could I remember that both kids started new schools this year, their routines changed, and they dealt with daily stress in their school days that I couldn’t comprehend?

Could I offer grace?

It might have been as simple as helping them to put away their clothes, to clean their rooms. It might have been as simple as recognizing the stress in their voices and leaving them be for a moment.  It might have been as simple as packing their lunch for them once in a while when they had a long day of school and an evening of activities.

One day, I would miss having lunches to pack.  I was raising strong, independent individuals who knew how to take care of themselves — but I wanted them to know that I was always there when they needed me.

I was always their soft place to fall…

through the bad days, and the eye rolls, and the mistakes.

Grace.

When my husband forgot to do that thing I asked of him?  When he decided to make a snack for himself ten seconds after I cleaned the kitchen? When he didn’t tell me he had a meeting that night?

Didn’t he know that I was tired too?  That I did a million and one things that day and I shouldn’t have to do his share of the work too?  That I had to alter my entire schedule around his change in plans?

Could I remember that he worked very hard for our family?  Could I remember that he had a lot of weight on his shoulders?  Could I remember that he went above and beyond for our family, friends, and the community? Could I do something to lighten his load?

Could I offer grace?

It might have been as simple as saying, “okay” instead of listing all the reasons why it wasn’t. It might have been as simple as doing that task myself instead of reminding him again, or pointing out that he forgot.  It might have been as simple as grabbing a paper towel and cleaner and wiping up the mess he made …

because how many messes had I made that he cleaned up for me?

And my messes weren’t the kind easily cleaned with a paper towel.

When I fell short, God didn’t scold me or bring attention to my mistakes…

No.

Just grace.

God wanted me to look more closely at my own heart and my own actions.

Maybe the lack of peace I sometimes felt in our home wasn’t about the husband who was sometimes forgetful, or the kids who were sometimes lazy.

Maybe the lack of peace I felt in our home was because of me…

and my lack of grace.

Maybe restoring peace in my home wasn’t up to my family…

the level of peace in my home was up to me.

Where graces lives, peace lives too.

******************************

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge

of God and Jesus Our Lord.

(2 Peters 1:2)

 

 

 

 

Author: Jennifer Lilley Collins

I'm a Mom, wife, daughter, and friend navigating life with metastatic breast cancer while finding joy in the everyday and spreading hope, love, and inspiration along the way.

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