I do not at all understand the mystery of grace–only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us. ~Anne Lamott
All of my training runs this week have been cut short–I haven’t been feeling well and though I know better than to run with a fever, I found myself lacing up my shoes on automatic pilot on Tuesday. I had ten miles on the schedule for Tuesday and as soon as my feet started moving beneath me I knew I shouldn’t be running. I had to stop countless times to blow my nose and I could feel myself breaking out in a cold sweat not even a mile into the run. I stopped at the fourth mile. Feeling defeated.
The next day I ran my scheduled 8 but I was wiped out the rest of the day. And on Thursday when I was supposed to do my speedwork day–the hardest run day of my week, I eeked out a wobbly 5 out of 8 repeats at a pace that made my head hurt. I failed. I let myself down. I had considered texting my coach on Tuesday to ask for his advice but I knew what he would say, it would be the same advice I would give someone asking me the same question: Rest. Get better. You are going to do more damage than good trying to run when you are this sick. And yet I ran, or tried to run anyway.
And I beat myself up the rest of the week for not being able to finish my scheduled runs.
When I finally settled into the couch on Wednesday night–grabbing my favorite blanket and a book–knowing my eyes wouldn’t stay open for more than a chapter because of the nyquil cold medicine already making my eyes feel heavy–I was exhausted and grateful to be sitting, all four of my kids tucked in–the house had a quiet, peaceful feel to it.
And that’s when I noticed the book. Lilly’s Big Day. It looked exactly like a book my twin daughter would choose–a mouse dressed up in red boots and a starry dress, holding her head high, with a little yellow crown placed just so, while a rainbow of paper lanterns hung over the title’s fancy font. It was on the coffee table, where I had told her to put it so we could read it before bedtime. I put my head down and sighed as I whispered to myself or maybe it was a confession:
I never read the book.
From the moment she got home from school all she wanted to do was talk about her new library book. I half listened as she told me about how she chose the book all by herself from the school library–I was focusing on emptying out lunch boxes, sorting through homework folders and making piles of to do, to trash, to sign. She followed me around the kitchen as I got their after school snack ready asking in a sing-song voice: Mommy, will you read it to me? Will you read it to me now? I remember shooing her out from under me–too busy to even look at the book at that moment, making promises of: Later, I’ll read it later. Later, after dinner, while I had two kids showering and two in the tub I remembered her asking again, Mommy, when will you read my new book? As I bent over to pick up the baby from the tub, my head feeling fuzzy from the cold medicine I took and the pressure of my sinuses making my whole face hurt, I remember snapping: I said later!
I was on my own for the week–Chris was out of town for work, so I hurried them through their baths, wrestling the baby into his jammies while reminding my oldest daughter to put her homework in her backpack. I brushed and braided wet hair, reminded the big kids to brush their teeth for longer than 30 seconds, set out clothes for the next school day, tucked blankets around each one of them while whispering four different prayers for four different children that always hold the same ending–God, let their hearts know how much they are loved and wanted.
And when I saw that book sitting on the coffee table, opened as if it was just waiting for me, I couldn’t help but feel like a failure as I remembered her hopeful eyes. I made promises. I broke them. She wasn’t asking for the world…just a story. I failed.
Thursday was no better because we had soccer practice, a sick twin brother, and that feeling of treading water that you have when you are used to having both parents home in the evening–a luxury for so many, and something I don’t take for granted, but I always feel like I’m in survival mode when he’s traveling for work. It was Friday when I finally brought up the book, forgotten now, in her busy, kindergarten mind.
Guess what? Mommy made a big mistake. She looked at me uncertain, knowing it wasn’t the first time I had apologized for messing up, but I could see her curious eyes–wondering. I forgot to read your book to you, Lilly’s Big Day. I’m so sorry. And I paused.
I love this gentle girl of mine. She looked me in the eyes, took a deep breath and whispered: Well. I still have it. And before I could say anything, she took off running, long hair trailing behind her. She marched back into the room, the book nestled against her chest with both arms wrapped around it–proudly showing me she remembered how she was taught to carry it at school. I patted the couch and she climbed right into my arms–no grudges or angry words for me. Just forgiveness. Grace.
I have no idea how she forgives so easily. How grace just seems to flow from her heart. And I soak it up because I make so many mistakes as a mom. Even now, as I write this, I feel the guilt of my broken promise–it sits in my throat threatening to take my air–disappointed in myself for not being the mom she deserves. And as I think of the disappointment I had in myself for not completing all my training runs that were on my schedule, I can’t help but wonder how I can learn to be like my daughter— to give grace freely. To learn how to give myself grace. To learn to forgive like her and give others grace when they make mistakes that hurt my heart, like I surely hurt hers.
I have two long runs scheduled for this weekend. Though I’m feeling better, I know the truth is, I’m still weak from being sick. I’m going to start with myself–if I can’t run as fast or as far as I should, I’m going to practice what my daughter teaches me on a daily basis–giving grace.
Never Give Up,
What are some ways you would like to be more like your children?