Dang– I’ve been missing a lot of posts lately. Last night’s detour was completely necessary though. I made four accidentally enormous candy corn jello shots last weekend and I needed to trick some people into eating them last night. Only Sister Doctor fell for it. At least they looked nice and festive even if they were mostly disastrous.
I have a nice story for you today to make up for it– get ready to find some grace!
When I was in fifth grade one of our first classroom assignments was to draw a self portrait… but with a twist.
First, we had to look up the meaning of our name and then incorporate the meaning into our drawing.
So, I looked up Rachel. The meaning? Ewe.
So, I looked up ewe.
Lady sheep. Nice.
My teacher was excited and thought I should draw myself with short, curly hair (wool, if you will) and little sheep ears. Or not! I was in fifth grade and I was a nerd. I was not about to draw myself as a sheep. Can you even imagine? (Incidentally, that was the year of the shroom-cut. Wool for hair? Yeah, it could be worse…)
So Plan B: middle name.
And I looked up Ann. (Which was my middle name before the Social Security Administration let me change it to anything I want– nothing too exciting here, but it could have been!! I chose Vonck, my maiden name, just like my mom did.)
The meaning of Ann? Grace.
Grace? That was something I could work with.
So I drew my fifth grade version of grace. I was wearing a long, red, Disney princess style dress and white, elbow length gloves. Pearls around my neck and sparkly, dangling earrings from my ears. Hair in a fancy up-do and perfect make up. (All of this as a fifth grade illustrator, mind you, so nothing amazing. I‘m sure it included blue eye shadow. It was nineteen-ninety-something after all.)
That fancy pants version of myself was what I thought of when I heard the word grace for a long time.
I think perhaps I had confused the idea of grace with the ideas of elegance, class, and finesse… to be graceful.
Or maybe confused is the wrong word. Perhaps the real idea of grace was just beyond me at the time. Which is likely considering that it’s still hard for me to grasp even today… many, many years removed from 5th grade.
Fortunately, I have spent much of the last… umm… approximately 20 years? Yeah, about that. So I’ve spent the last 20 or so years slowly figuring out what grace really means.
Even the limited understanding I have of the concept is enough to leave me somewhat floored. It’s a powerful idea really, that you can be “flawed” and still be perfect. That you can do “bad” things, but still be a good person. That you can sin and yet you still have infinite opportunities to be forgiven and to be loved— even at your most unlovable moments.
Perhaps it’s cheesy to put too much stock in song lyrics, but I really think that Mumford & Sons say it so crazy succinctly and brilliantly and understandably in their song Roll Away Your Stone:
It seems that all my bridges have been burnt
But you say that’s exactly how this grace thing works.
It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart
But the welcome I receive with every start.
The whole song is great really, but I’ll play it on repeat again and again and again (especially while I’m running) just to hear that line. I love it. It resonates with me so strongly. That idea, that we can always try again, no matter how bad it seems, is what I’ve searched for for a long time.
Want to know something kind of crazy?* My little friend Emily, the one I keep telling you about– the amazing girl who colors my vision, survives my attempts at destruction, and is in so very many ways just like me… her middle name happens to be Grace. And she is grace to me, because she gives me a chance to start over loving myself… and giving myself grace from the very beginning. It’s powerful stuff.
Now, when I talk to her beautiful and amazing mama and hear about Emily’s struggles, it’s so meaningful to me because I can give Emily grace in the same situations in which I’ve so long been unable to give it to myself.
I really think we all deserve that from ourselves, even though it’s hard to do. Forgiveness is difficult, even for other people, but I know I tend to hold myself to a ridiculously high (and largely unattainable) standard. (But I’m sure you’re not like that…) Life seems a little better with a dash of grace though. When I can stop the second track for just a second to give myself a break, knowing that I can try again and do better next time.
I suggest starting with a pair of elbow-length satin evening gloves. You can only go up from there.
*Ok, ok… that wasn’t really crazy. Grace isn’t a terribly unpopular name. But to me, it’s quite meaningful. And if you knew Emily’s parents and knew how unbelievably graceful AND grace-giving they are, you’d really appreciate how big of a deal this is to me. It’s big. Bigger than my hair on a rainy July day in New Orleans. Big.