Preface: Writing this took me a while. I sat down to write one thing, but the words just didn’t seem to be coming out right. I felt like God had an important message, but I was missing it somehow. I asked Him to help me write it, and I learned as I wrote what God was trying to say to me. So if this seems disjointed or repetitive, it’s because I was figuring out what I was writing as I was writing it, and I’ve decided to leave this post as the journey it was, rather than clean it up. I hope it makes sense.
I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions. Maybe it’s because I regularly question my way of doing things and set goals as needed throughout the year. Or maybe it’s the millions of people who resolve to exercise or lose weight and then quit after a month or two. So a low key New Years celebration came and went, and no resolutions were set. Then I noticed that many bloggers were talking about their word of the year. I’d never heard of this, but the idea of a word of the year resonated with me in a way that a list of resolutions just did not. So I asked God if there was a word He would like me to focus on for the year. Over the next few days a number of words came and went, but nothing really stuck. One word came up a few times, but I wasn’t really sure about it: acceptance. When I was on my business trip, I spoke to two couples who had been married over 20 years, and I asked them if they had any advice for us newbies (relatively speaking). Separately both of them said the same thing: acceptance.
As the word danced around in my head I noticed that I had some negative associations with it. Acceptance can be such a powerful and positive word, but it made me think about giving up– as in, accepting that something is lousy and isn’t going to get any better, so you might as well stop trying. That’s not the type of acceptance I was after– I needed the kind of acceptance that brings peace, love and the ability to move forward. I also realized how often I hear about things that will not be accepted. After all, how often do I tell my son that his behavior is not acceptable? Also, phrases like “you don’t need anyone,” “you don’t need to take that,” “don’t accept no for an answer” seem to pervade our culture. I guess that makes sense though, doesn’t it? God’s message for us has been taken by the devil and twisted so that the gifts He’s given us somehow seem like the enemy. Thus a glorious word like acceptance first makes me think of all the things I won’t accept, rather than all the love and grace that is just waiting for me to accept it. Accepting love, grace, and even imperfections is kind of scary in a way… it feels a bit… vulnerable.
Acceptance applies to so many situations; however, as I work on applying acceptance to my life, I think the best place to start is by accepting myself. I constantly burden myself with unrealistic expectations. It is so hard for me to accept sometimes all the ways that I fall short… but I do fall short… everyday. I keep trying to measure up. I keep trying to be enough. I keep trying to get there. But I will never measure up. I will never be enough. I will never get there. Not without His help. Not until my goals are inline with His. So all this falling short, like so many other sufferings of this world, can serve a positive purpose if I let it. It can remind me that we were made incomplete by design, so that we could recognize that we need each other, and even more importantly, that we need a Savior.
Therefore, when I find myself overwhelmed, exhausted and spiraling out of control, I have to stop. I have to look at me— really see me— imperfections and all— and let God’s grace and acceptance flow over me. Then those heavy burdens can fall from my shoulders as I realize that I’m not in this alone. It is ok to be incomplete. It is ok to be not enough. After all, it is this incompleteness that leaves room for God, and with Him I am more than enough; with Him the impossible is made possible; with Him there is purpose to the challenges of daily life. This year I want to accept God’s grace and love. He’s right there– ready to lend a hand, happy to cover me in love– but He does not force His love upon me– I have to accept it. Instead of wasting my energy beating myself up for my shortcomings, what if I prayed for myself, or what if I prayed for someone else, or what if I shared God’s love with someone? None of this can happen until I accept where I’m at so that I can work on getting where I’m going, and I can’t get where I’m going without God.
Recently I have been finding myself short of patience with myself, which led to a lack of patience with my kids and my husband. I was stressed out, overwhelmed, exhausted and cranky. I kept losing my temper, which is not the norm for me– at least, not like that. I could not care for my family like this. I couldn’t even care for myself. I knew I needed to accept where I was at: as in, get real with myself, and then I needed to let God help me. I asked for help, but I was in such a bad place that I didn’t have a lot of confidence that things would get better unfortunately. I would have glimpses of peace, but then fall back to my old ways again. Finally though it seems like I’m finding the me I was looking for. No, not the one who seems to magically balance all the roles in life… you know, clean and organized house, happy kids, happy husband, happy wife. I’ll keep hoping for that hidden domestic goddess to emerge, but in the meantime, if I can just do one thing, I want to love up on my family… and the Jennifer that does that well seems to be coming back.
When I first started pondering the word acceptance, I thought I was supposed to accept the challenging traits of the people in my life (as well as my own). I thought I needed to stop fighting against who people are and instead to learn to work with them. After all, I think that’s what the couple’s were suggesting. I do think I need to improve in this area, but as I write this out, I am surprised to find that God has led me in another direction. He has plans for me that go well beyond what I expected. I think what acceptance means for me this year is that I need to accept God into my life. It’s not that He hasn’t been a part of my life… it’s that He desires to be a bigger part of my life… He wants it all. He doesn’t want me to write, speak, act, or think without Him. He wants to be so much a part of me that I can no longer distinguish where I end and He begins, and everything I give up to God. He wants me to be hungry for Him, to soak Him up, and to live for Him. This is not the kind of change that happens overnight. This takes time spent with God, and perhaps that’s why it’s my focus for the year– not just a week or a month. I don’t expect to be done with my journey after a year– I expect it to be a life long journey of growing in relationship with God– it’s just that I’m hopeful at the end of the year that I will have learned to accept God into my life to the point that I am ready for the next step… whatever that may be.
Thank you God for showing me that if I start first by accepting You, then even in the craziness of life, I have a light to follow, an anchor to hold onto and love to share. The little things never mattered anyway. I know I will stumble along the way, but please help me to remember to invite Your light into the darkness, so I can always find my way home. Teach me to love You. Amen.