The gift of starting over

I haven’t been the best 31-day writer, it would appear. But as this series has been an experiment in looking at grace, freedom, and the rules, it seems fitting that in the process, I broke the rules I set for myself about how this whole thing would go. I opted to leave the laptop behind when we went on a trip to North Georgia last weekend—and you can ask my ever-so-patient husband about how much I toggled back and forth over what to do about this writing challenge. In the end, I was grateful to be as free as I chose to be from my screen and the internet for those few days.

I know that no one was looking for an explanation as to why writing for 31 days straight is beginning to look more like writing for 20ish days here and there, and perhaps it’s a bit of my people-pleasing side that I felt the need to share this with you. But there it is, and I’m letting it go.


So I’m home now, sorting through the 500 photos I took on our trip (that’s not an exaggeration, it’s a real number), and reflecting. This is one of our favorite spots:


On last year’s visit, we only encountered one other couple, who offered to take what would end up being one of my favorite family photos. This place was quiet and peaceful, secluded. How wondrous to stand in front of something so beautiful and grand, and to be the only ones there. It felt like our secret. We made a note to ourselves that this would be a place we’d return in the future.

This year, we encountered a few other groups of visitors. They seemed as disappointed to see us in “their” spot as we felt seeing them in “our” spot.

No one offered to take our photo.

One woman complained repeatedly about the low water levels, as though the waterfall’s beauty was ruined.

As we tried to take a photo of ourselves, my 2-year-old’s feet slipped out from under her and she bonked her head and immediately erupted in sobs.

My camera wasn’t working right. (Or maybe it was user error.)

I got completely spooked by a gigantic black dog that came bounding up the trail ahead of its owners. (I thought it was a bear.)

I began to feel like I was coming untethered, the all-too-familiar experience of grand expectations slipping from my hands.

I had a choice to make, right then and there. I could have given a big, loud sigh and whined, “Forget it! Everything is ruined!”—and believe me, I was close to that point. My husband knew I was there, too. He put his hand on my shoulder and said, “You don’t need to take it that far.”

He was right.

Gratitude is a perspective-changer when my expectations don’t line up with reality.

So I called out to God in my heart and asked for peace and perspective (and gave my still-teary daughter a pack of fruit snacks, the cure-all), and the downward spiral that had begun came to a halt. I gave myself a minute to breathe, look around, see where I was and who I was with, appreciate it in all of its perfect imperfection, and pull myself back from the steep ledge of “This is not going the way I imagined it would go.” 

God shows me so much grace in those moments—through opening my eyes to everything I’m missing when I’m selfishly wrapped up in my own feelings of disappointment, and through the endless patience (and often, forgiveness) of my husband and children.

Grace hears us say, “Scratch that! Help! I’m ruining everything, and I need a do-over!” and responds without hesitation, “You got it. Fresh start happening in 3, 2, 1.”

I was given the gift of starting over, right there in the middle of the day. And it wound up being my favorite day of our entire trip—perfectly imperfect.

Click here to see all posts from the Grace, Freedom, & the Rules series.

{This series is part of the Write 31 Days challenge.} 

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