Thursday, December 31, 2009

Gracious

I was flipping through channels awhile back when Gone With The Wind came on television. It’s one of those movies I just can’t help but stop and watch for awhile. I love the accents, the way they dressed and carried themselves, and the outrageous way they treat each other.

I always loved watching Scarlett because she was so foreign to me… so bold and brazen and unapologetic. I couldn’t get enough of her. It was the same for me when I acted on stage and got to play a back-talking Anne Frank, or a sassy Hot Lips Houlihan. Getting to experience someone whose qualities go against your nature is just so liberating. Watching Scarlett was so entertaining and simple… while she had layers to her character, she certainly wasn’t hard to figure out.

But the character in Gone With The Wind who really intrigued me the most, the one who made me stop and think and ponder decisions, was Melanie. Kind, gentle, soft-spoken Melanie. I would often watch and admire her, and think to myself that no one could actually be that good. She looked beyond the surface to see the truth in people, even when they didn’t want their truth to be discovered. Even when they didn’t know the truth about themselves.

Melanie was more confident than Scarlett, even though she didn’t seem to be. Scarlett was louder and attracted more attention, making her seem so self-assured, but it was Melanie’s comfort in her own skin that allowed her quiet strength to dominate. She wasn’t easily insulted, she didn’t jump to conclusions, she gave without expecting in return and loved without condition.

There were times I would watch and think she should have stood up for herself more… that she allowed herself to be a doormat. But the more I watched, the more I came to understand that she didn’t feel the need to stand up for herself because she already knew who she was and knew what was important in her life. She wasn’t a doormat. A doormat is when someone steps on you against your will. Melanie saw all that happened and understood why Scarlett acted as she did. She accepted her, she loved her and she chose to be her friend.

Melanie was gracious.

I want to be like Melanie.

The last few years, rather than make resolutions, I’ve chosen a one-word theme for the year. I first heard of this idea through Ali Edwards’ blog and fell in love with the concept. I certainly had no idea how much I would learn about myself through it.

The first year, my word was “maintain.” I was always pushing too hard to try to be like my old, healthy self and would often get into such health set-backs that life turned into one big rollercoaster. That year I decided to use “maintain” as a way to remember not to push… to be content in the simple and appreciate the abilities I still had. I was seeking the status quo.

That year, there was no option for me to maintain. My health was out of my hands and my body took about 10 steps backward… not because of my activity level, but because the disease has a mind of its own. My goal was to maintain, and it was in that year I learned how to let go. I learned that it’s not up to me to make decisions about how my life will proceed… it’s up to Him. While I started out wanting to maintain my health, I learned to maintain my faith and trust.

Last year, I chose “devotion.” I wanted to be devoted to reading the Bible every day, keeping in touch with friends, doing my physical therapy, keeping up with the blog. I wanted to be intentional in these things. Then life happened. Cushing’s happened. I was immobile, in crazy amounts of pain, migraines made it impossible for me to read, I was too weak to think of things to write about and pain kept me from the computer. Everything I was going to be devoted to was out the window, because my means of keeping up that devotion were stripped from me. I learned to be devoted only to my faith and trust in God.

You can see why I’m a little nervous to pick a word this year. It’s like praying for patience, and then finding your path bombarded with happenings that require you to use that patience. But I’m going to give it a try anyway.

My word, like Melanie, is gracious.

Dictionary.com defines it as:
     1. pleasantly kind, benevolent, and courteous
     2. merciful or compassionate: our gracious king
     3. Obsolete. fortunate or happy

I want to be gracious in all I do. I want to see people’s true hearts and intentions, even when their actions prove otherwise. I want to be open to people and not jump to conclusions. I want to give people space to be themselves, to accept them for who they are and ride the journey with them as they discover themselves.

I want to give without expecting to receive. I want to help more than I am helped. I want to show mercy to people who hurt me, and not in a way where others notice and give me credit. I want to love for the sake of loving, give for the sake of giving, believe for the sake of believing. I want to love people for who they are, who they may become and who they are trying to be.

I also want to be gracious with myself. I want to give myself the space to be ok with the fact that I can’t keep up with things as well as I did before. I want to learn to love who I am as my body goes through this constant rollercoaster … even in the times when I look in the mirror and I am nowhere to be found. I want to be gracious enough to let others help me when I need it, and not tell myself that I’m being a burden. I want to make sure my hand is always open in giving to others, and also make sure it’s not closed when others want to open their hands to me.

I think it’s too bad that the third definition is listed as obsolete. Gracious should be defined as fortunate or happy, because I think both are by-products of giving grace. The less I think about my life as my own and instead think of it as means to be gracious to and for others, the more fortunate I feel. The more happiness surrounds me. The more joy is the key component in my life.

This year, my focus is on being gracious.

What’s yours?

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