There comes a point in just about every evening when a switch is flipped within me. A moment when I go from gentle, loving, patient, ever-bearing Mommy to a weary, prickly, cranky woman who wants nothing more than for her child to go the eff to sleep and for a lion’s portion of quiet to reign in my house again for the little time that I have left before my body requires me to sleep before getting up and doing it all over again. In those moments, I have to admit to being largely graceless.
“Off to dreamland! I love you deeply and dearly,” is replaced with “Go. To. Bed. Now!”
“What is it, sweetheart?” is replaced with “What do you want now?”
“Let me hold you,” is replaced with “Please! There are no monsters. Just go to bed!”
Yep. Graceless. My own weariness, both physical and emotional, takes sway and all I want is to sit and stay seated. My introverted soul needs to recharge after a day of teaching and an evening of caring for my beautiful little family, so the gentleness retreats inward. So that switch often gets flipped. My words become sharper, my voice more annoyed; even though I try to temper it, I know it’s there. I know my girl can hear it, and I regret it. I always regret it. Often, I find myself slinking into her room to kneel by her little bed, kiss that curly head of dark hair, and whisper into the perfect shell of her ear.
“I’m sorry, sweetheart. Your mommy is sorry for being hard. I hope you can forgive me. I will try to be better tomorrow.“
I cannot change what I have done, but I can endeavor to do better and to give the grace I so desperately need myself.
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I acknowledge my gracelessness, my fallibility. I am human. I fail more than I succeed, and it’s far from fun. Just like Scrooge, none of us like to be shown our bad side, our mistakes, and failures.
Last Friday, I was done before the day even started. As my first-period prep ended and my first class of students of the day entered the room, I was done. They started talking. I was done. It took me fifteen minutes to quiet them down, make announcements, and start the film they were watching over the latest work we had read. I was done. So very done. In the last period of the day, a student asked what felt like an inane question (I honestly don’t even remember what it was, though I remain sure that common sense would have answered it for them if they’d given it a chance) and it bumped into my already-prickly self. So, instead of answering the question, I returned fire.
“Can I just send you to the principal and not have to deal with you today?”
Graceless. Utterly graceless. And after I had just spent an entire unit admonishing them of the lessons Ebenezer Scrooge had to learn about grace, mercy, and realizing the impact that we have on our world with our every word and action. Now, here I was: cutting that lesson off at the knees with words sharp at their tips and graceless in their speaking. I regret it. I’m ashamed. It bothers me when I am a graceless person. It makes my heart hurt in its aftermath. I cannot change what happened, no; however, I can endeavor to make a better impact in the days that lie before me.
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In those moments, I forgot something very important: my feelings can be indicators of where my heart is in a moment but they do not have to dictate my actions. I feel like this lesson has been tattooed onto my brain and my soul, one of the most tangible and “stickiest” lessons I have ever learned. My feelings need not dictate my actions; I can choose how I act, regardless of how I feel. When I am graceless, I allow that choice to pass me by. That choice and the chance to be merciful, graceful, and loving, like the Jesus in whom I claim to believe and live my life in service and emulation of.
Today is Monday (and all the people rejoiced: yay). Mondays are excellent days for grace. Every day is, of course, but we seem to have all collectively agreed that Mondays can be ridiculously hard and, therefore, I deeply believe that a little grace can go a long way. I am endeavoring to show that same grace to my students today, these kids who have come off a weekend of fun and freedom and are now forced to sit in their desks, pay attention, concentrate, and be quiet. Hard beyond words, right? As the holidays start to pile in, obligations and traditions and To-Do’s tumbling in along with them, it can become so easy to push grace to the side in our stress (believe me, I’m an expert). Let’s be mindful of where we are, as well as of where we want to be. Why not startle the world around us and the world at large with grace and mercy, by bridging the gap?
Is there someone in your life who could use a little grace today, just as you might need it yourself? I know that these recent days and weeks have been hard, have left us sore and prickly, scared and angry, but I would beg you to remember, dear one, that we can choose how we act, regardless of how we feel. And, then, even when we are graceless, we can pick ourselves up, straighten up and tidy our minds with gentle intent (like Mrs. Darling), and determine to try again tomorrow. To be better tomorrow, or sooner yet, in the next moments presented to us.
I’m sorry. I’m sorry for being so hard. For being graceless, merciless. Please, forgive me. Open my heart, my mind, and my sight. May I see people in their real, sit with them and love them in their real. Please help me as I try to be better tomorrow.