I don’t know about you but despite my best intentions, the holiday frenzy tends to wear on my nerves. Perhaps it is my introverted tendencies or my stoic Scandinavian roots that rebel against the togetherness and emotional baggage (both good and bad) that comes with the holidays. Or, the unreasonable expectations that are marketed directly to my insecurities. All I know is come mid-December, I often find myself reminded of a gift that I’m working hard on giving myself and others year-round—grace.

Grace comes in many forms. Right now, it means taking a very deep breath when someone cuts me off in a crowded parking lot to grab the last open spot (so much for Minnesota Nice). It is recognizing that the self-check-out kiosk will not respond to my frustration, if anything the scanner will revolt and work even less if I flail my arms around cursing it under my breath. While that’s obvious, the not so obvious is giving one’s self grace.

Grace is often defined as an act of clemency – to grant someone a pardon or leniency on their sentence. There are numerous religious connotations to this four-letter word that I don’t fully understand. It is elegance or beauty of form. It is also the ability to forgive others and forgive yourself for being human.

Yep. Being human. I hate that. Despite my attempts to channel effortless perfection like a modern-day Martha Stewart (minus the prison sentence), I fall short and find myself being well human. The difference now is how I react…at least 50-75 percent of the time.

Life is hard enough without feeling less than because my tree isn’t perfectly symmetrical.  Instead it is adorned with mismatched ornaments and haphazardly strewn lights. My Christmas cookies resemble that of a 4-year old’s art project while my present wrapping resemble that of Bigfoot. Slip-ups around eating, exercising, sleeping, and any other form of self-care inevitably happen. One drink turns into two, happy hour extends into dinner time and mom guilt wins out with extra presents (and a Christmas cat) for my 9-year-old even though I’m bound and determined not to spoil him.


Beth’s son waiting for his Christmas cat.

The holidays are packed with reasons to come up short. I’ve come to learn in these moments that grace goes a long way. It doesn’t happen without purpose and intention – both to give grace and to receive it. As always, it seems that sometimes forgiving others for their shortcomings is easier than forgiving one’s self.

Here’s the thing. When you grant yourself the grace to be human, the frenzy turns to fun. Holiday hugs aren’t that bad. Fueling up on the occasional extra espresso provides temporary super powers. Spoiling your child by giving in to his endless demands for a cat is priceless while also teaching him responsibility. Missing a work-out to laugh with friends means something. Binge watching Hallmark movies with a bag of popcorn and box of Kleenex will not actually destroy your life.

‘Tis the season to give and receive grace. When one does, I find myself reminded of the infamous words of Bob Marley, “Don’t worry. Everything is going to be alright.” This too shall pass, so why not enjoy the holidays by granting yourself the gift of grace.