√ TELL ME SOMETHING YOU LIKE ABOUT ME
√ SEND ME A THANK YOU TEXT OR NOTE
√ SAY “I GET WHY YOU FEEL THIS WAY” WHEN I’M SPEWING THE LATEST “UGH” LIFE MOMENT
√ CELEBRATE MY BIRTHDAY WITH SPEECHES, POEMS, CHEESY SONGS ABOUT WHY YOU LOVE ME
√ LET ME BE THE CENTER OF ATTENTION
Enter Little Me.
I love being cheered for when I got an “Excellent Work” on my math assignment.
I love being clapped for on the sideline at Field Day.
I love being praised for singing a solo in the school play.
It spoke to my soul that what I was good, approved of, and I should do more of the same.
It fed the very normal parts of me that longed to be liked and enjoyed by others.
It saturated this “words of affirmation” girl with a bucket full of love.
Enter Bigger Me.
This beautiful, God-given love language of mine twisted into something called UNGRACE, the view that I HAD to perform in order to be accepted, wanted and loved.
Praise for accomplishing morphed into earning the approval and love of those in my path.
I believed if I did not do these things, I deserved nothing and should actually be punished.
No wonder I strived so hard.
Many times, I wanted to just give up because it was too hard.
It seemed never enough.
The bar was too high, always just beyond my reach!
No one cheered when I was up in the middle of the night with my newborn.
No one clapped when I painstakingly folded the laundry every single day.
No one praised me for driving to (78,453) after-school activities.
I wasn’t sure if I was doing a good job, approved of, or even liked.
Sometimes I was told (hold your breath) that I wasn’t doing a good job by the wonderful children I bore from my very loins (insert sarcastic emoji here).
I wondered if anyone knew what I was doing at all, or even cared.
I felt unnoticed and under-appreciated.
Said love bucket barely had enough water in it to wash my face.
Other times, I completely blew it as a mom.
I yelled in frustration when I knew it only made things worse.
I argued back to a teenager (imagine that!), escalating the problem instead of bringing calm.
I used guilt and fear words to get my kids to do what I wanted.
It was not a pretty picture. I didn’t even like or approve of myself, let alone what others might think if they knew.
Aforementioned love bucket drained to the place of “I still think I might see faded wet stains on the bottom.”
I couldn’t hide any of the good or bad from Him.
Maybe He wasn’t happy enough when I was doing good.
Maybe He was angry when I was failing.
What was I to do?
First choice: get on the hamster wheel of “trying harder.”
Carry UNGRACE with me everywhere.
Be the classroom mom.
Get a “thank you” from the teacher.
Have an “over-the-top” Victorian Tea birthday party for my 13 year-old.
Receive a “hug” from my teen.
Make cookies for every high school basketball game.
Get acknowledged at the end-of-the-year awards banquet by my 6’5″ son.
OUTDO MYSELF AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN.
The loop viciously perpetuated and I was an absolute slave to it, never finding a way off the “round-and-round-it-goes-where-it-stops-nobody-knows.”
Enter Exhaustion. Thirst. Depletion.
It wasn’t working.
I was a wreck.
I finally wanted to jump right off the never-ending, life-crushing shiny wheel.
Enter people just like me.
Counselors (YUP! Had to go to one of those!)
Healing “words of affirmation” began to shatter the lie I was living under.
They revealed the truth of grace to me.
Instead of running frantically, I began to walk, able to catch glimpses outside the cage.
I found out that grace is fundamentally unfair.
Grace says love does not have to be earned.
Grace tells me I don’t have to gain approval to receive it.
I could keep going “round-and-round” for false approval and supposed love, the kind I had manufactured by doing and doing.
BUT I DIDN’T HAVE TO.
I could receive true approval and sincere love, the kind where I don’t have to do anything to get more or less of it.
I could get off the hamster wheel.
Maybe I could even live outside the confines of the cage.
I found out He is the ultimate source of GRACE.
He gives it willingly.
In fact, He longs to pour it into my hole-in-the-bottom bucket.
There’s nothing I can do to make Him love me more OR less.
HE IS FULL OF GRACE! OVERFLOWINGLY FULL! He’s got more than enough.
My love bucket fills. And quickly.
Of course, there is still a hole in the bottom.
That’s just part of being a person.
I need GRACE every moment. Every day. All the time.
But it never runs out.
It flows freely, a never-ending stream that keeps my bucket full.
The hole in the bottom is no match for the FREE and UNEARNED approval and love that He keeps pouring out.
Enter getting off the wheel and out of the cage.