A brown sign?

IMG_1869The struggle is real people. Real hard but real good. Giving thanks for a brown sign.

A brown sign? Why did I feel compelled to blog about a brown sign on Thanksgiving Eve? Well friends, here is a glimpse of what a brown sign has taught me over the past two days. This past Monday I was feeling super encouraged by the beauty of perfect timing.   That morning I found out our exterior sign at GraceFull was going to be installed late that afternoon. This was the same day that I was coordinating the community cooking effort for a free Thanksgiving meal that our former church sponsors with Denver Inner City Parish at College View. We plan in anticipation of sharing a meal with 400 and it has filled my heart with much joy over the past 5 years to be part of supporting this community building event from a place I love – the kitchen. I had made the hard decision that this was going to my last year in this role to be able to focus on GraceFull’s community going forward. It felt so perfect that this outward symbol of the beginning of GraceFull was coinciding exactly with saying goodbye to an important community in my life.

The anticipation in my heart of what GraceFull could become helped ease the sadness associated with this goodbye so late that evening after a full day with this event, I decided to drive by GraceFull to get my first glimpse of the sign that symbolized my new beginning. It was dark, but the outline of the sign was visible and that was enough. My heart was content with hope for the future. The story obviously doesn’t end here. The next day Avery and I drove over to the café late in the afternoon to rake the last of the leaves before the predicted snowstorm, and to be honest, being able to see the sign in the daylight was the biggest motivator – not the leaves.

We drove up and I was anxious as I rounded the corner to our parking lot. It was a big moment that I had built up in my head. The official announcement of GraceFull to our community. And……….. it was completely the wrong color. It was brown.

I have nothing personal against brown. It just wasn’t supposed to be brown. And it was definitely brown. So, Avery in her typical positive spirit said, “Mom, it looks so great!” I just took a deep breath, picked up the rake to distract myself from crying and said, “its not supposed to be brown.”

I won’t go into the whole back story of sign choice, but the color I chose was a shade of gray (see the color we painted the posts in the picture) to match the accent color we are using in the interior space.   So, I made a phone call and sent an email to the vendor in my best “I really dislike conflict” mode. At this writing, I don’t have resolution. My gut instinct was to ask them to take it down as soon as possible – I didn’t want people thinking I had no sense of taste. Their first impression was going to be a sign that had clashing colors and obviously didn’t match our logo.

Here is where I started to identify the lesson that was meant for me through this experience. It is the lesson that has hit me smack in the face multiple times over the past few months on this journey. I have a lot of growth to do around the ability to be vulnerable and fearing judgment in that process. It began with our Kickstarter campaign – I had to ask people for financial help. What if they felt like I should be able to do this on my own if it is that important to me? Why would they think this was worthy? Then it continued as my chef and I began digging into the work of food and coffee vendor selection, menu planning, etc. The obvious realization sunk in that at GraceFull each and every day I would be presenting food to people that have many opinions on what is good and what is not. Why would they think our food was good enough to spend hard earned money on? I was beginning to feel moments and even days of panic around opening myself up to judgment everywhere I turned.

Add to that the confidence it demands to make the level of decisions I have been having to make day in and day out almost every day these past 6 months. I do not naturally have that confidence. It has taken a lot of hard work and soul searching to begin to develop this belief in myself to not second guess every small decision, as I simply don’t have the time. Just a few weeks ago my husband gave me a beautiful compliment in conversation with friends that he has seen me grow so much in this area to be able to trust in myself compared to back when he met me over 20 years ago when I couldn’t even decide what to have when we would go out to eat. Now, here I stood, taking what felt like a HUGE leap backwards. I had invested a lot of hours in this sign design, even though it looks like a really simple thing. And it was totally wrong. It was brown. What did this say about my abilities?

Well, here I am just two days later able to be thankful for my brown sign. Here is what is so good about the brown sign. It has reminded to think about what the sign says instead of focusing on the color. It proudly displays our GraceFull name. There was so much intention in choosing that as the name for this vision. We are all about extending grace to each and every person that walks through our doors – whether we have known them for years or whether it is the first time that we have ever seen them. We will welcome, invite and love them whether they have the appearance of coming from an average middle class family or if they have been unable to wash their clothes for an unknown amount of time; whether that is due to lack of financial resources or simply mental challenges.

If I am going to be capable of extending grace to all people, how can I not extend grace to a brown sign? Really? And my fear of people judging me for lack of visual taste and as a response wanting to take the sign down immediately – well, how tempting is it to judge people like this? Judging is easy.   Not judging is hard. I needed to do the hard work. I wanted to do the same thing with my sign that I often want to do with all the judgmental thoughts that creep into my daily mindset. I wanted to just hide it. I didn’t want people to see this fault that reflects poorly on me (or so I thought). Just because I could physically hide it didn’t mean that my internal fear of judgment was gone.

I still have so much personal work to do around the fear of judgment and being “good enough,” but for now the brown sign is still standing. Feel free to drive by and take a look at its bright brown beauty. I wanted this part of the story to be perfect and had it all planned to post the perfect picture on Instagram announcing the official beginning of GraceFull. This much anticipated external moment definitely wasn’t perfect, but I am beginning to realize it is better.  I can’t be perfect every day; if we’re really honest – most days. Our food won’t be perfect every day at GraceFull. Every person that walks in our door will not be perfect. And this is all ok. This is what grace is about. We believe that together as a community we are perfect, in all our flaws and strengths.

Maybe this blog post will go viral and I will even have to leave the brown sign. Highly doubtful, but regardless, the brown sign is part of our story and that is why I wanted to blog about it here. It is an accidental symbol of what we are about at GraceFull and what I am striving to try and live out every day in my own life. And boy is it hard, but it is good hard.

Don’t get me wrong. I still have a long ways to go. I am in the process of trying to fix the sign. We will see how that goes. Sometime you can also ask me about the odd brown chair that sits outside our house on our front porch. I’m beginning to wonder what it is about brown? Maybe next time my lesson could come through something purple. I really like purple. Until then, feel free to drive by and enjoy our brown sign and I hope it can be a little reminder to take a moment to be thankful for the grace that people have extended you in your own lives and the potential impact you can make in other’s lives by showing them grace.

2 thoughts to “A brown sign?”

  1. Great post, Heather. Love your point about judging is easy, NOT judging is hard. Ouch. Good reminder for Thanksgiving. Really cool to watch this come along. Sorry I missed the recipe challenge, but will send you something soon. Maybe the pumpkin pie recipe I made tonight–tradition for 23 years, now!
    Happy Thanksgiving to all the Greenwoods.

  2. A Story About Brown
    During my years of teaching 4, 5 and 6 year olds, many (if not all) of my children were a beautiful shade of brown.
    Every year we learned about colors and mixing them to make new colors. I used glass baby jars so they could see blue and yellow turning green, red and blue turning purple and yellow and red to orange. When we were finished, we had 6 of the colors of the rainbow–way cool! And then one year, one of the children wondered what would happen if we poured them all together. So I got a larger pint jar and poured them all together and stirred it up. It was BROWN. Beautiful Brown!!! And the smiles that my brown-skinned children had on their faces was unforgettable. Ever since then Brown has been the most used and most beautiful color in my classrooms! And I always reminded the children that brown is beautiful because it is made up of all the colors in the rainbow!

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