Today I am grateful for grace.  For freedom and release from trying to measure up. 
Editorial note:. This sat on my computer unposted for … Awhile. It felt Ugh. I wondered: is this post too “faithy”? I went for a run, sat on the bench in this picture for a bit. I realized no, I’ve already told my readers if something doesn’t resonate with them, leave it, discard it, ignore it. That’s an excuse to not post it. It’s feels Ugh because it is vulnerable. I am far from having a good understanding of grace. Further, this junk I share, my shame, is still raw. I don’t have it sorted yet. I can’t cover my vulnerability today with pretty answers and beautiful words. My shield is down and it feels uncomfortable. I wonder if this post might be an utter flop.

Deep breath, I remember my Ennaegram 3 (my performance driven personality) reading that after age 35 you only learn through failure. I remember my counselor telling me he prescribes failure for perfectionists. Deep breath, this post might be a flop, but I choose to courageously post it anyways.

Won’t you sit with me here as we learn more about grace together. (Life is always better together)

I woke up this morning feeling full of short coming. Full of “not enough-ness”.   Multiple little short comings that mounted into an insurmountable pile and plummeted me into shame.  I have learned this word, shame, from Brene Brown. She defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love, belonging, and connection.” (p. 126 Dare to Lead, emphasis mine)  My “not-enoughness” consisted of little things like these, maybe some sound familiar to you?
-Yesterday I didn’t post my daily gratitude on social media, I ran out of energy, falling asleep in my daughter’s bed (Shortcoming)
– A persistent feeling (I need to keep in check) of feeling like I am not meeting my husband’s ideals of household cleanliness.
– Today is photo day at my daughter’s school and I had to actively rein in my perfectionism and wanting to micro-manage her appearance.    
– My friend is having surgery today and I want to be the perfectly supportive friend to her, because I care about her.  I feel like I am falling short.
– Sunday I was supposed to have soccer, but it got rained out.  I didn’t make up that missed exercise by going for a run.
As I woke this morning I felt shame creeping in.  It’s like it entered my toes and was creeping up my legs like a cancer reaching for my heart. Cancer is growth unchecked.  I took a whole course on the molecular biology of cancer in University.  It is driven by genetic defects that allow cells that have reached the end of their life cycle to keep on growing. They grow and grow, unchecked, ignoring the rules that govern a healthy body.  Shame is like this; if we let it press through the check-point where it’s supposed to be stopped, it just grows and grows like a cancer crowding out the healthy function of the surrounding body.
My daughter’s been reading a book where the main character, Annie, is a princess who is immune to the powers of magic. Annie is tasked with retrieving a magic Pearl, because she is immune to the evil magic of the sea witch.  The pearl is of great value to her because it holds the power to cure her father from the “creeping sickness”.  This creeping sickness starts in a person’s toes, turning them blue, and gradually creeps up the body.  If it reaches a person’s head they die. 
As shame creeps into my day beginning in my toes; I know I need to stop it before it destroys my perspective and my day and has a negative impact on my physical health.  I need the magic pearl that destroys this cancerous and creeping shame.
That healing pearl is grace.  Grace is a powerful antidote to shame.
If you’ve read my other posts you know it was my counselor who sent me on a grace-finding journey.  When he first asked me what grace was I was flustered, but I pieced together the response, “deep kindness.”  Brene Brown says we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.  In light of this (and my desire to love others well, starting with my family) I have begun to regularly say to myself, “Cheryl, be kind to yourself.”  If shame, for “not being enough”, creeps in this is one of my weapons. 
Furthermore, I tried creating definitions and examples of grace in my life to understand it better. I tried a bunch of these: Grace is  that I’m still alive with this diagnosis? Absolutely I’m still grateful for this, but it doesn’t resonate grace to me.  What about delivering my oldest daughter vaginally when she was almost a c-section? Or the last km on the 30 Km race I did a few years ago? Or maybe the words that flow out of me and soothe me? Again, I am grateful for all of these, but they do not capture grace for me.   
In my pursuit of understanding grace I pressed into the faith I grew up with.  I grew up with the phrase “the grace of God” slung around.  But in my quest for understanding grace, this phrase didn’t help.  What does grace really mean?  I grew up with a rule-following, religious sort of perception of Christianity.  Recently, when I read a book called Grace for the good-girl: Letting go of the try hard life, by Emily Freeman, I realized that I had been trying to earn grace in my faith-life (and probably my everyday life).  But earning grace is an oxymoron and also a futile pursuit by very definition.  So I had to press further. 
My friend, who is also a counselor, brought it to my attention that grace is inherently vulnerable because it means admitting that I am not enough.  Ouch. I don’t like being not enough.  I like being self-sufficient, capable Cheryl with a zillion gold stars beside my name.  She is a perfectionist.  She is performance driven.  She gets stuff done.  I like her.  She isn’t vulnerable.  BUT she is weighed down with the 20-tonne weight of her perfectionism shield, being heckled by shame, her backseat driver (again, illustration is Brene Brown’s).  Her life isn’t free.  And she has the creeping disease.
So where is this grace?  How do I find this magic pearl and bring it into my life?
Grace lives beyond the ruled-filled world I have loved so much.  She says it’s not about what you do, its about who you are.  Opposite to shame, grace is about being worthy of love, belonging and connection, just because I am, flaws and all.  It’s a complete shift in perspective and complete upside down logic. It’s also very liberating.
Regardless of your faith background, I think you can capture a greater sense of this sort of grace from the following story.  There are 2 sisters, Mary and Martha, who are having Jesus over for lunch one day.  Martha is this hostess with the mostest and she’s flitting about here and there making sure the food and ambience are perfect.  She is working her butt off and starting to get really pissed that, firstly, her sister isn’t helping her, but secondly, that Jesus isn’t calling Mary out.  She voices this to Jesus and he says, “stop being so upset, Martha!  Mary knows what really matters.”  From the first time I read that story I couldn’t understand it.  I didn’t get Jesus and I thought he got his response wrong. I mean,  dude, she’s working her butt off!   A few years and experiences down the road, I think I may just be starting to understand what Jesus was saying.  I think he may have been teaching the importance in being over doing.  Jesus wasn’t about the try-hard life that our society praises.   
This helps me to understand that grace is about beingloveable no matter what.  Release the rules, release the to-do lists, release the armor of a poised surface and grace remains.  Grace is deep kindness that you choose and experience firstly towards yourself.  It tramples the cancerous shame so you are freed to be gracious with others.
This is good news for my soul today. 
How about yours?  Does this post resonate with you?  I’d love to hear from you!
And let’s be kind to ourselves and have a grace filled day.