It was like a mini-post traumatic stress reaction. I hadn’t really been too nervous about his surgery. While I waited for the doctor to report to us in the waiting room, I worked on a photo calendar for my in-laws. When the doctor said all was well, we went up to see him. I spent the next 20 hours in that small hospital room next to my recovering four year old. There was no sleep that night, not really. And then the next night, either. Or the next. But he was well, the tonsils were out, I was doing okay, and we carried on.

We went home, had help, friends were kind, family was supportive. But my body started to give me signs that all was not well. The activity and stress began to catch up. And then I looked at the calendar – two weeks until Christmas. And then I looked at my reflection in the mirror – tired. And then I looked at my pantry – disarray. And as my sister dug through a cabinet to find popcorn that I swore we didn’t have (we did), I lamented my mess and lack of organizing.

She opened the popcorn bag, stuck it in the microwave, and offered freedom she didn’t even know I needed: You’re being too hard on yourself. The microwave buttons dinged, and as the little machine roared to life, my recent days played out quick like a movie reel, straight in front of me and laden with heavy worry – about this and that and them and those things. And in nearly every corner, I found shame.

It doesn’t take a hero to offer grace to the grace-filled. But to extend grace in the midst of ungraciousness? That is a most difficult task. And I can be a most ungracious girl to myself. When I forget an ingredient for the cookies, I roll my eyes and call me stupid. More than once. Out loud. And then it spirals into worry that I’m not good at having people over. I get too overwhelmed and I come undone too easily. I may have good intentions, but my follow-through is sloppy. And only an idiot would try. I should just go ahead and wish this Christmas season right away.

When someone else is running late, I am the first to dismiss it. It’s fine! I don’t mind! And I genuinely don’t. If someone else is struggling, I sincerely long to offer support. When you forget an ingredient for the cookies, I can laugh with you and we can make the best of it. I can extend grace to you and it is easy and right. Messed up is what makes you touchable, endearing, lovely.

I will extend grace to you in the midst of your tired and your need. I have difficulty extending grace to me. I don’t want to be my own most unwelcome guest at Christmas. I already see the potential to be swept away by the impossible expectations of perfect, invisible me. Has she been lurking around your house? Force that girl out and offer grace instead. Shove silly in her face and give yourself permission to laugh at the days to come.

If you need help to catch your breath, sign up here for Still Moments, a week-long audio devotional I designed to help you create space for your soul to breathe in less than five minutes a day.