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On Waffle Fries and Grace

This past Fall, my family spent the day with my brother and his kids at a festival. It was sprawling and hot, and we got back to his house at dinnertime, tired and hungry. With four kids to feed, I searched for chicken tenders and found a chicken place that the locals had not heard about. I placed a pickup order, thinking that I would get ten minutes by myself to decompress and listen to a bit of music.

Thirty minutes later, I was overwhelmed and called my husband. I could not find the restaurant, and I am usually really good at finding food! However, that evening, with a large chicken order waiting on a small stretch of road, my skills were found lacking. My husband helped me sort things out, and I finally toted the to-go boxes back to everyone waiting.[1] I felt awful dragging in those cold waffle fries.

And I received grace, as my brother pointed out that he had a microwave.

‘Tis the season for grace.

Every advertisement this time of year becomes misty-eyed or frenzied, and people without kids marvel for the first time at the number of monster-themed high school shows kids can watch. Expectations intensify as children’s wish lists grow and extended family begins talking about travel. Some of us feel the pressure to turn on the magic. Others worry about where that magic is going to come from.

Grace, that thoughtfulness and goodwill that lifts someone out of a tough spot, is great to give. You feel generous and big-hearted as you help smooth over a situation gone awry. But taking grace is a harder task. Taking grace means you did not live up to your expectations. Accepting it makes it real.

Making a gift a burden.

Ruminating on a past failure will inevitably keep you stuck in that limited mindset, and taking the mistake personally can keep you from learning from it and moving forward. The negative focus might forestall future opportunities for joy by preventing mindfulness. Accepting the gift of grace, without excessive apologies or promises to do better next time, is vulnerable, but vulnerability builds connection. Do not make the gift a burden.

There is dignity in trying.

Consider this reframe: You tried something new and different and stretched your experience. You learned something about yourself, and that’s growth. Receiving grace means you have a support system that values you and considers you enough.

And if you need one more reason to accept grace: A more peaceful you means more peace on Earth.

Stephanie Barca is a therapist at Benjamin Holmes Counseling and prefers Taco Bell to anything else anyway.

[1] I learned about “ghost kitchens,” which he had heard about on a podcast about fast food.

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