The “both-and” of grace

I was yesterday years old when I realized there were better ways to love and care for my crepe Myrtle tree than I knew.

Look. No one ever confused me for a green thumb. I’ve loved crepe Myrtle trees for years and was so happy when our father in law gave us two. I love watching them go from stark, empty branches to a full explosion of pink in the summer time. I never thought more about it.

Our trees were late in blooming this year, but, what else would you expect in 2020? I finally googled to see what, as a Myrtle momma, I was doing wrong, and learned that I was supposed to prune them. In the fall.

Whoops.

This evening I went out to take a closer look and found this bunch of flowers. I did nothing to cause them to grow. I did nothing to earn them. Yet here they were, in all of their hot pink glory.

Complete, unmerited grace.

And yet…and yet what did we miss out on this year because I hadn’t pruned the tree last fall? Yes, the tree is doing its thing and providing its color, but could there be more?

I can’t help but think of the “both and” of my own life. I am fully and completely loved and I experience unearned grace on the daily. And also there is so much more beauty, peace, and color that I can have when I know how to love and care for myself and my soul better. When I know and use daily practices that feel as boring as pruning back some leaves in the chilly fall, it’s hard to believe it’s worth it some days. But then, almost without warning, the explosion of color erupts, the peace in a difficult situation, realizing that there are hints and scents of patience, kindness and goodness in my words and actions throughout the day.

And I realize it’s been worth it. Not because I earned it, but because the promise of beauty was there for me all along.

The Invitation

Have you ever been tired? Like, deep in the bones, deep in your soul, weary-tired?

It seems like the more tired we are, the more easily we fall into the patterns that come easily. Scrolling Instagram and Facebook. Zoning out to whatever home-improvement show is on TV. We fall back into patterns with our spouse, with our coworkers, with our children, with our perfectionism, or with our anxiety that exhaust us but at least feel comfortable.

And yet, there’s a small voice that whispers. An invitation to something more. Deeper. Fuller. There must be more to this. There must be more to this than doing the same things over and over again, expecting everything will be different this time. There must be more than the inner noise that almost matches the volume of the outer noise and drowns out all we know to be good and right. There must be another way.

The picture above is from Radnor Lake State Park in Nashville, TN. I had a day free and wasn’t quite sure how exactly to spend such an extravagance. The list of to-do’s and should-do’s had grown, but I heard the voice calling me out into something else. Slower. Quieter. I left the list behind, and drove to Radnor.

This picture perfectly captures the invitation I felt that day. A turn in the path led me to this view. To the blue of the water and the white of the clouds. To the fresh air and silent bench where I could sit and absorb the nature sounds around me and quiet my own mind enough to fully embrace peace. I listened. I took a lot of deep breaths. I walked slowly and noticed All The Things. Every leaf, bird, stone, and tree.

Here’s what I love about Radnor Lake. It’s not too far from a busy city, with all kinds of (honky tonkin’) noise.

In Enneagram language, I resonate with Type 5: The Observer. I tend to fall into the pattern of believing that if I read about how to do a practice, it’s as good as doing it. You will probably have a different belief about practices that keeps you stuck from the fullness of experiencing it for yourself: that you would have to be prepared to do it perfectly, that it would be too selfish, that you would have to find a way to make it productive, that it would be horrible if you got bored in the middle of it. That you don’t have the time.

Lies. Noise. It’s like one of the old TVs that would go to static after midnight.

The truth is, the Invitation is always present and it’s true for all of us. The Invitation isn’t even something that we need to escape to, or go away to find (although those are precious times). The Invitation to practice can be right here. Right where you are. In the middle of your workday. In the middle of corralling your children. In the middle of Walmart (okay, that might be going a little too far).

What is the Invitation? It’s the invitation to see another way. To recognize your patterns for what they truly are: malformed attempts at being enough that used to work to a degree but don’t work anymore. It’s an invitation to stop and pause long enough to see what other options there are for responding. It’ll be different for each of us. My journey won’t look the same as yours. But I love getting to help others understand where to take the first step.

Is it scary? Sometimes. Stepping out into water, you don’t know if it’s cold or hot, deep or shallow. Unknowing what we thought we knew can feel like an unraveling. Is it hard? Oh, friend. Yes. It’s hard enough that it’s not a journey that you should go alone. Is it worth it? Always. Leaving behind the shell of what we thought we knew to become what we were created to be colors every day with brighter hues.

What about you? What are some practices that have helped you let go of old patterns? Have you heard of practices that you would like to try? How has the Enneagram helped you understand your journey better?