We went on a family vacation a month and a half ago (though it feels much longer ago than that!) to Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. Kate and her family have been going down there for nearly 20 years. It’s a special place for them, so much so that her grandparents purchased a timeshare that we get to use as well. We love HHI and the Low Country; it’s so restful and rejuvenating for us.
Except when we went to a local United Methodist Church to worship. This has absolutely nothing to do with the church we attended, and everything to do with being the parents of a toddler.
On this particular Sunday morning, I gained an entirely new appreciation for parents whose children stay with them during an entire service.
Our daughter just turned two years old, and – because I’m a pastor – I don’t usually sit with her on Sunday mornings. My wife does that, or at least she used to. I have been adamant with our church to make sure we have a thriving Nursery ministry, because being a parent is hard.
When we got to sit together as a family (a rare luxury for us), I quickly found myself getting very frustrated. I wanted to enjoy my family and enjoy not leading anything on a Sunday morning for a change. I wanted to enjoy personally worshipping God. But that didn’t happen. Between water bottles, snack packages, banana peals, toys, crayons, crying, fidgeting, and shushing, I didn’t get anything out of the service. I still don’t know what the pastor preached on, or what he talked about that morning.
Sometimes life is just hard. And we need to give ourselves some grace during those seasons.
At our weekly bible study yesterday, a retired man shared that his job had him regularly working six days a week. Sometimes seasons last for decades.
It would do us all well to remember how challenging life can be. Families, careers, taking care of our homes, purchasing groceries – there are a lot of demands on our lives. That’s not even including pressures put on to us by well-intentioned churches who tell us that “Good Christians” take “quiet times” for prayer, bible reading, and are regular participation in church ministries.
Books and magazine articles – both religious and secular – tell us how to live simpler lives and how to say no to good things and yes to great ones. While those books are quite good, I’m finding myself drifting more toward ones like Brene Brown’s I Thought It was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What will People Think?” to “I am Enough” and her book The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting. I haven’t read them yet (they’re in my Amazon Wish List), but I am quite fond of their titles 🙂 They seem to give a little grace, and remind me that it’s ok to not always have everything together. Sometimes we get behind. Sometimes we “just wing it.” Sometimes we fail. It’s not good, it’s not bad, maybe it’s both, it’s just how it is.
I was twice reminded of this recently (I can be real thick-headed. Sometimes God needs to tell me two, three, seven times before I’ll understand “oh! that one’s for me?!).
One of those reminders came from Jay Bilas’s book Toughness. I’m only a few chapters in, but I’m loving it. Bilas played basketball for Coach K at Duke University and has since gone on to live a very successful life as an attorney and ESPN commentator. In his book, he writes, “Failing does not make someone a failure. It makes them a competitor.” I love that. Life is hard. Life is challenging. Life is full of failures. But that doesn’t mean we quit or give up or call ourselves failures. It is what it is. And so we keep competing, we keep working, we keep reading the bible and participating in the life of our local congregation, we keep loving our spouses, and we keep parenting our children the best we can. When life gets hard, give yourself some grace and keep on going. Every season has it’s joys and challenges, beginnings and endings. If this is a challenging season for you, it won’t last forever. Keep going. Keep doing the best you can, even when your best isn’t very good. And be sure to give yourself some grace even when no one else seems to be doing so.
The second reminder came when I was reading my daughter what has become one of my favorite books of all time: Dr. Seuss’s Oh the Places You Will Go! I love this book, its encouragement and – especially – its honesty. Right toward the very beginning Seuss writes: “Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest…Except when you don’t. Because, sometimes, you won’t. I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you.” How true. Life happens, and when it does be sure to give yourself some grace. You’re a person too. It’s ok to be human. Even Jesus was.
Grace and peace my friends. Carve out some time to care for yourself today.