Learning the unforced rhythms of grace


Limits Welcome

Photo credit: Nathan Hayashi

Photo credit: Nathan Hayashi

This month, I've been thanking God for my pain. It is a strange and welcome gift to have limits. For instance, as I sit here writing, I'm aware that one son is coming home from a volleyball practice and the other son will return from coaching basketball. They'll be hungry and in my 'ideal' world, I'd love to have some freshly home-made baked pizza waiting for them. Part of who I am loves the hospitality aspect of something like that: light some candles, have clean blankets on the couch for some late night TV watching and a welcoming atmosphere after a busy day.

But the reality is, I'm tired and I have some pain.  I'm laying on the couch with the blanket that our dog stepped on with her muddy feet. She's snuggled right up beside me now.  The candles are not lit and there is no pizza, just leftover tuna salad in the fridge. My ideas for a warm atmosphere will have to be a smile...and "how was your game?". They'll eat what is in the fridge or make food of their own. They don't demand or expect...it's usually me who creates expectations for myself.

Limits provide opportunity for other things to happen beyond my ideas. Limits remind me that my ideas are not always the best or necessary to every situation. Limits offer me the opportunity to take a nap and release my desire for control over the day. Limits force me to consider my own needs as well. 

Last month I wrote a blog called, "Compassion and Antennas". I described how sometimes it is important to not pick up all the signals from other people but to bring the antennaes down a little so we don't take on the burdens of the world all at once. My mentor suggested that maybe it also means bending one of those antennas down toward my own heart, so that I am not only aware of other's needs but also my own. They both matter and that's where the best decision making can happen. 

In my phone, I use a little app called "keep" for lists and things. This past month, I made a section called for prayers and wrote them out so I could keep this 'compassion' (or sometimes, people pleasing) in check. I've included an example below. I wrote a morning, mid-day, evening prayer, one for parenting, one for marriage and each time I read them through, I feel that God is refreshing my thinking and helping me focus. This is my compassion prayer:

Lord, you've given me a heart that feels deeply for others suffering. I'm grateful. But left unchecked...I can assume responsibility for their suffering and become consumed with fixing it. Or sometimes I think someone is struggling...but its less than I perceive and I tend to lock it in as more. Some of it needs to be carried by them. Some of it is for their good. So how do I show compassion and then let it stay with them? It feels funny to go about my day with joy. Give me a strong firm heart. Give me tenderness and compassion but let me also inspire courage and boldness as they face their own challenges. Will you teach me how? I will follow your lead. I surrender to your training with joy.

Psalm 23:1-3 "The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows;  he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. "