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Grace and Effort on MLK Weekend

Last week I cheerily encouraged all of us to move forward with our Asking, Listening, and Researching for the Family Compassion Focus we’ve chosen.  I admitted my family needed a January Checkpoint, too, because we hadn’t started either.  And then I shared my sunny, hopeful plan for a cozy family time of learning, something like Little House on the Prairie, but with the internet.

Wow.  That did not happen.  You guys, it didn’t happen at all.

On Friday my kids didn’t have school.  I don’t remember a lot of that day except for many loud children running around constantly asking for snacks and more screen time.  I struggled to show Compassion to the people I call my own.  It would have been ridiculous to suggest that my kids use the laptop for researching Haiti instead of playing another hour of Plants vs. Zombies.

This is me on Friday night.  Don't I look like a fun date?  My husband is so lucky!

This is me on Friday night. Don’t I look like a fun date? My husband is so lucky.

On Saturday I had a mini nervous breakdown from the nonstop noise, entropy, and expectations ricocheting all over my house.  So much Effort required.  So little Grace to be found.  There was a lot of misdirected anger and eating of Cheetos.  I asked Chris when we were going to do our Compassion Research and he said wryly, “definitely not today, Aim.” He suggested I might like to go to my favorite tea shop and get some space. I left, started a new book, and changed the channel in my brain.  I came home smiling, looking less like a caged animal, and took my girls out on a little date.

On Sunday Chris and I talked about when we would do this Compassion Research stuff.  We were going to nail it down.  But then he wondered aloud how the five of us were going to work on two laptops.  In the background our son was terrorizing his little sister.  The other child had slammed and locked her door.  The kitchen floor was crunchy.  I had a stomach ache.

On Monday the kids didn’t have school and Chris had the day off.  This was the day I was waiting for!  All of us at home with no plans.  Let’s research the heck out of this day!  Let’s go!

Then the tsunami of obligation hit.  We had cross-fit, swim team, 3 playdates, a meal to make for a family with a new baby, and a meeting after dinner.  Plus a week’s worth of laundry, kid homework, major stress at Chris’s job, and the still crunchy kitchen floor.  Forget it!  For. Get. It.

Who’s stupid idea was it to do this?  I felt so frustrated and embarrassed.  A little hypocritical.  My own family can’t do the Family Compassion Focus in the way I’ve recommended.**

After a few minutes of emotional fetal position I took a deep breath and set out to do the day, resigned that weren’t going to learn anything about our Compassion Focus anytime soon.  Every quick glance on Facebook offered pictures of and quotes by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, the World Changer we were honoring with a day off school.  I remembered that last year our family started to celebrate the modern day saint with our own version a Feast Day.

Last year Greta came home from kindergarten with fire in her belly about Dr. King.  She said, “Mom, Martin Luther King was a World Changer, and we love World Changers.  We should celebrate him.”  We made a plan.

We got our favorite gluten free chocolate cake mix (King Arthur’s is the best!), coconut oil, extra cocoa and baked together.  I asked her what she was learning about Dr. King.  She said, “People used to think black people weren’t as good as white people.  He had a big dream and shared it with everyone.  People changed their minds and now black people can drink water and go to school and get ice cream wherever they want.”  A pretty good summary.  (I chose to wait to talk about how we still have a longggg way to go.)

Greta singing while making a cake for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  January, 2014

Chocolatey Greta singing while making a cake for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. January, 2014

She was so proud of this cake.

She was so proud of this cake.

We love World Changers.

We love World Changers.  And cherry sours.

So yesterday, with the obligation tsunami already crashing, Greta bounded up to me and asked when we were going to make Dr. King his cake.  I simply said, “later” with a smile and hoped to find a sliver of time to do it.  It wasn’t looking good.  No Compassion Research.  No Dr. King cake.

I’m not an MLK expert.  I’ve read some of his speeches/sermons.  I’ve been to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, which includes the Motel where he was killed.  I often think of him when I read about Moses in the Bible, leading the slaves out of Egypt.  I know he was very human and made mistakes.  But he kept going.  He was not a complainer or a quitter.  Dr. King persevered with courage and grace toward the vision and hope God gave him.

That convicted me yesterday.  In my own world, in my little home that we call The Bluebird, I do a lot of complaining and quitting over very small things.  Such a small and dour way to live.

I lifted my head.

I pulled out the list of suggestions we’ve received about Haiti.  There are more than 30 discoveries to be made:


I said a quick silent prayer like, “God, help us learn about Haiti.  What would you like our family to do?”  I set the paper aside on the kitchen counter and started lunch.

The simple idea plunked down in front of me.  What if we just learned about one of these each day?  (Have you been waiting for me to say this? I can be slow.) We have 10 minutes during meals to browse a website or watch a video.  It would not be the same as previous years when I did all the research myself, spending a couple days scouring the options and presenting the winners to my family.  It would not be the same as my recent idea to have jolly study group.  It would be this new thing.  A new, very doable thing.  Grace molding Effort.

#1.  Livesay Family – –  I read paragraphs aloud and the kids soaked in pictures of this big beautiful world-changing family and their love/work in Haiti.

#2 Midwife Video – We learned in the first two seconds “in Haiti 1 of 44 women die from childbirth related causes.”  In America it’s one in every 48,000.  I paused the video and we talked about the math.  Watching this short video (there is nothing graphic) the kids got to see what the houses, streets, and hospitals look like in Haiti.

Day #1 of Research – done.  It felt good.

Then, somehow in the midst of the obligations, I made the 2nd Annual MLK Cake.  It was a sloppy mess, with the frosting melting off the uncooled cake, then one layer sliding off the other and cracking with big fissures, and then red lettering that suddenly seemed inappropriate when someone has been killed.  But – Grace. We put the candle in.  Chris turned on U2’s “Pride (in the Name of Love” and pulled up the lyrics.  We thanked God for the courage and sacrifice of Dr. Martin Luther King.

photo 2

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It was a hard weekend with too many expectations.  I needed grace.  Do you, too?

You are loved.


** Maybe you haven’t been interested in doing a Family Compassion Focus because I made it seem too hard.  Please reconsider.  Let’s do this one day at a time, learning as we go.  I took my own medicine and re-read the Family Compassion Focus Calendar. WE HAVE ALL OF FEBRUARY TO RESEARCH, TOO.  It’s never too late.

© Aimee Fritz & Family Compassion Focus, 2014-2015.


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