BloPoMo Day 3: “Grace in the Empty”

I spent most of the last week feeling like death warmed over, in the grips of a horrible seasonal head-cold. I blundered and slogged through the school day as best I could and would then collapse at home. We subsisted on take out and fast food, the laundry, dishes, and tidying went undone, and I was the most lackluster of playmates and confined to indoors, much to my daughter’s chagrin.

I felt awful but, even more, I felt guilty. Guilty for not cooking healthy meals for my family. Guilty for not cleaning my home. Guilty that we were running out of clean hand towels for the bathroom because I had not done the laundry. So, on top of being sick, I was also loaded up with guilt over something that I really could not control.

Then, as it often does, a quote floated to the front of my mind. Something I have read many times before about being unable to pour from an empty cup. And, boy, was I surely empty. Empty of strength, empty of health, empty of patience, empty of energy. I was a walking, coughing, sore, empty cup. I had nothing to pour out right then so I pulled myself together enough to decided that, for the nonce, I needed to sit in my emptiness. I needed to lean into the nothing and just take care of myself. So, as I arrived home from school each day, after making sure my people were fed and settled, I plunked myself down on the couch, pulled up the hood of my wonderfully voluminous robe (thank you for that perfect Christmas gift, dear husband) and tried to rest. I even went so far as to take a sick day from work, something virtually unheard of for me. I needed to take care of myself; moreover, I needed to allow myself to take care of myself.

Until a few short years ago, I didn’t realize that allowing myself to rest and let all the things I thought I “should” be doing go for a while actually had a name, that it actually was grace. I had no idea that not berating myself for what wasn’t done was giving myself grace. I knew that grace is unmerited favor or mercy, that it can be demonstrated when we make allowances for others’ shortcomings, or when we tell them that it’s okay when things aren’t perfect. However, I really didn’t know that there was such a thing as giving grace to yourself. The truth is that we, you and I, need grace as much as the next person. This is often the argument for extending it outward, because we know badly we need it ourselves. However, I strongly believe that it also serves as a valid argument for extending it inward to our own hearts and souls, too. We need to give ourselves permission to simply be, even when we are imperfect in our being (which is, honestly, all the time).

Perfection is not only unattainable, it is unnecessary. We do not need to be the perfect wife, the perfect husband, the perfect parent. We do not need to be the perfect host, the perfect volunteer, or the perfect anything, really. We are human, we are flawed, our stores are finite, and there is no shame in admitting such. No shame is stepping back, admitting our emptiness, and doing what we can to care for ourselves and refill.

The past two days, I have been hit by the post-illness industriousness that comes with returning health. I have cleaned, cooked, washed, tidied, and vacuumed, scrabbling my little world to rights. Apparently, the mood was so infections that my four-year-old daughter took it upon herself to join in the fray by cleaning her room, all by herself and with no request from me! (Miracle!) With this, I have experience the satisfaction and joy of a job well done, rather than lamenting the letdown of a job attempted while I was way too tired to do it well. By giving myself grace, I managed to give myself the gift

There is no shame in giving ourselves grace. In allowing for our own personal shortcomings and giving ourselves permission for things to be imperfect, for our steps forward in progress to perhaps be small for the nonce. There is no shame in allowing ourselves to lean into our emptiness, sit in our nothing for a while, take care of ourselves, and refill our cup.

{“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” – Jeremiah 31:25}

Be softer on yourself, dear friend. Give yourself a little grace in your empty moments. Have a sit. Eat something yummy and drink something warm. Read a book that you enjoy. Nestle and watch a movie with your people. Refill, refresh, and be. Trust me. The dishes will still be there tomorrow after a good night’s sleep. They will wait for you. So should you.



2 thoughts on “BloPoMo Day 3: “Grace in the Empty”

  1. JANE CORNWALL says:

    I don’t often get sick, but when I do I feel extremely guilty for not having the energy to fulfill my motherly duties. Reading this made me realize if I don’t nurse myself back to health I won’t be able to take care of my family at all. So I need to not be so hard on myself.

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