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I just finished another Anne Lamott book. Its her new one Help Thanks Wow. (This has been the year of Anne Lamott for me.) I got home last night after work and was Chatty Cathy with Gregg, rambling about what I had learned over my lunch break when I read her Thanks chapter. I thought I would relate more to her Help chapter, since I recently sent an email to my girlfriends asking for post-baby help. But it was Thanks that got me.
Thanks was different than I anticipated. She actually wrote a lot about looking out for the good when circumstances are not. She doesn’t write about being thankful for the hard or tragic circumstances, but about trusting God in the middle of them and searching for what you can be thankful for afterwards: what you learned, who was brought close to you, etc.
There’s a lot of sad going on right now. Even though its Christmas and its the season for joy and family and friends, but, along with the school shooting which the entire nation is mourning together, there have been a handful of tragedies closer to home. To be thankful for the tragedies doesn’t seem right. But, maybe her point is to recognize God in the middle of them and to know that good will come.
She also writes about thanks in action. The whole “to whom much has been given, much is required” thing. She says that this does not just apply to the Kennedys and the Romneys. I like that. Its us, we should give, even the smallest kinds of giving can mean a lot to the recipient.
Example. My grandmother is one of the most generous people that I know. This year for Christmas, she gave each of us grandkids a gift that was even bigger than her usual. To say thanks and Merry Christmas, I sent her some sweets and a scarf that I had knit (she’s a knitter, too). My mom said that she was overjoyed with the package, especially the scarf. She said she’s knit for other people her whole life (she’s 92), but no one’s ever knit anything for her. It was not a big deal for me to knit her a scarf with some white, lacey yarn that I had had around for awhile. It was almost silly to me that she was so excited, since, compared to her gifts to her 5 grandchildren (she also has 3 children and 8 great-grandchildren,) the scarf and candies were beyond miniscule. But, as small as it was, my thanks made a difference to her.
P.S. I’m getting really annoyed by the use of the phrase “a lot.” I’m open to substitutes if you have any suggestions.
Last Christmas I got really into decorating our house. Lights and those shiny balls (so cheap, but pretty hanging from the ceiling or mounted in bowls), holly and burlap are among my Christmas decorating staples. I really did let myself get stressed by the season. With decorating, baking goodies, buying gifts, planning a trip (Gregg’s present last year was a quick trip to New York City), I missed the reason for the season. (The perfect overused phrase for what happened–and it rhymes.) I didn’t realize it until Christmas was over, so this year I’m taking a slightly different approach.
This season, I decorated, but I did it pretty quickly so as not to get consumed by it. We aren’t getting gifts for as many family members this year as we did last year (this cuts down on stress). The gifts I have purchased are ones that I’m excited about giving, and I haven’t spent too much money on everyone. But, I’m also preparing.
I’m preparing for Christmas itself even though I’m really not sure how to do this. Reading baby Jesus scripture, gazing at an Advent wreath…I’m not sure, those don’t feel quite right to me. But, I’ve found a way to tie in preparing for a baby with preparing for Christmas. This just occurred to me this morning. The common denominator between the two (Christmas and pregnancy) is grace. Grace.
Even though I’m not sure how to prepare for Christmas, I’ve been doing a lot of preparing for a baby coming our way. When I ask moms for advice, (and I have been asking. I’m usually not a fan of advice, but I’ve had little shame in asking about maternity clothes, baby gear, labor, reusable diapers, pumping, a side ways swinging swing versus a normal swinging swing, and motherhood in general. The questions are endless. I can’t get enough of this advice to be honest. And, I know I’m not going to get all of the answers until, um, I guess never.)
One piece of advice that I’ve been holding onto is to give yourself grace. (Two examples are E’s posts and Ashley’s post, another example being my good friend Anne Lamott.) This is not my best attribute. But these women are saying over and over, give yourself a break, cut yourself some slack, trust its all going to be okay. Grace. Grace. Grace. They are talking about those immediate post-baby months and forever after that, too. So, I figure, I should go ahead and practice now. Christmastime seems like a good time to start.
Now, how do I do that? Again, not really sure. Its a total change in thinking. A different way of thinking about myself and looking at myself. Lowering the standard for myself of what I should do. Should=my Arch enemy. As I’m preparing for labor and preparing to be a parent, learning things like how to keep a baby from crying not-stop, etc., I’m also preparing to practice grace. Anne Lamott talks about looking at yourself from the outside with absolute tenderness. She describes how helpful this is. This is how God looks at me/us, right? So why shouldn’t I/we do the same for myself/ourselves?