Judging Her

I looked at her with her slightly baggy jeans that had given up on life a while back and yet she just kept wearing as if she did not realize that they were barely hanging on. 

Her tummy pooched a little, the pooch of a woman who had gotten pregnant again before quite regaining her former shape after the first baby. The pooch of a woman who now realizes she probably won't ever be quite exactly the same again.

I looked at her hair... Not quite short, not quite long, not quite brown, not quite blonde, not quite straight, not quite curly. It was scooped up in little twists and bobby pinned into submission far from reaching grabbing baby hands. 

I looked at her, like I had looked at so many others like her, and to my surprise, I found that I had no judgment for her this time. I did not mentally criticize her clothing, or her lack of makeup, or her obvious unenthusiasm for sit ups. 

I thought abought the dishes that piled dirty in her sink, and the tupperware and pans piled haphazardly in her cupboards, and felt only kinship, and even pride in her for choosing to play with her kids or kiss her husband or even just be without worrying that for this moment in time, the dishes remained unwashed.

I noticed the toys scattered about the floor, the spilled juice from her toddler's breakfast, her kids state of undress as they were all still in pajamas at this hour of the morning, and I did not feel condemnation. I did not compare her to all the other moms who surely had it all together this morning. I only smiled at her in the knowledge that sometimes... Life is just chaos, and that is just fine.

I thought about how I sometimes disagreed with her choice of sleep training methods, about how I had so many times in the past secretly blamed her children's misbehavior on her inability to stick with cry-it-out for more than two minutes, or her tendency to feed the baby every time she cried in the night because it was just easier and she was so tired. 

I thought about how I had passed quick judgment on the times she used too sharp of a tone of voice in scolding her son, or the times she let things go she really shouldn't have because it was just too much work to correct this time. I had looked down on her for her lack of that holiest of grails of parenting: Consistency.

But this time, to my surprise, I found that the judgments had, somewhere along the way, faded, leaving me with a sense of understanding. A sense of the faultiness and brokenness of all of us. A sense of grace. 

I stood there, contemplating this turn of events, and wondered when I had stopped criticizing her so sharply. 
When I had stopped judging her and all of her fellow women who did not have it all together. 
When I had stopped mentally comparing her to the ideal which we all surely strove for. 
I wondered when I had decided to just let her be. 
To appreciate her.
To smile at her, with no underlying castigation.

I wondered when I had started extending grace to her. 

I wasn't sure. 
I felt perhaps it had to do with a day when I realized that judgment is contagious. 
It does not stay neatly confined to the one I would like to be judging, but spills over until I am judging everything I see.

Perhaps at some point I had come to realize that I could not contain judgment. 
That in allowing it to flow through me to others, I had deal with it flowing back to me. 
That judgment is not picky.
It sticks to everything in its path, washing away the colors of joy and peace and thanksgiving.

At some point, I had started choosing grace instead. 
I had taken the judgmental thoughts, one at a time examining them and choosing to cast them aside like refuse and choosing instead to clothe myself in grace. 
To extend grace to every one I met, adorning them, too, in priceless pearls of acceptance and love that saw their faults and made them beautiful.
 The grace which flows around all of us, pulling us in closer instead of separating and pitting us against each other. 
The grace which forces me to see the humanity of the women around me, how we are all in this together, how I am not above or below any of them.

The same grace which I found myself extending to the one in front of me now. 
I smiled at her, a smile full of grace and joy and knowledge that she is beautiful and loved and an amazing mom and wonderful wife and that the dishes and tummy pooches and spills and baggy jeans just are the trappings of chaotic, joyful life right now, and are made beautiful by grace. 
She smiled the same smile back at me,
And I turned from the mirror to face the next moment of life with grace. 

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