One Good Phrase: Holly A. Grantham (You can’t always get what you want…)

Holly A. Grantham writes beautiful, rich prose that runs deep. And she does it without making it look hard. One of the things I love most about this series is the opportunity to introduce you all to the bloggers I love to read, in hopes that you will too. Add Holly to your list, will you?


In all respects, I should have been a spoiled child.

I was a surprise baby (child number five), with ten years separating me and my next oldest sibling. And if you’ve ever listened to the worn out tales of babies born into such circumstances you know the expected end-product: snotty nosed brats who lug around heavy doses of entitlement.

But God chose to place me in a family that doled out love by bushels and pecks and hugs around the neck and so the only things that came to be spoiled around our house were forgotten cartons of cottage cheese shoved to the back of the refrigerator.

Because, you see, love has never spoiled anything. Ever.

But I was a child once and, as such, I certainly had my moments–moments of selfish desire and impudent behavior, of unmet longings and unrequited wishes. And, being a child, I naturally looked to the givers of good things—my parents—for the delivery of said hopes.

So, as a child nurtured by way of arms flung wide and hearts burst open, the phrase “You can’t always get what you want” was a tad bewildering, at first. Not because I was spoiled or bratty or entitled but because, for so long, my parents’ love had been enough. Love and acceptance had been the standard upon which I grew and thrived and so, I had never really felt a lack.

And then I entered junior high and everything kind of flipped upside down.

I quietly observed the concept of cliques and was bemused by what was acceptable and what was unwelcome.  I became aware of “fashion” slapped across the backsides of popular girls and found in a triangle with a question mark inside. (The irony of the interrogative symbol is not lost on me today.) I began to struggle, every morning, with the curling iron, trying desperately and with disastrous results, to achieve the Mall Bang look.

I was quickly introduced to a world severely lacking:  my world.

Suddenly, I was deficient. And I was wanting.

And as I bent low at our kitchen table on afternoons made soggy by my belabored tears, my mom began to slowly share truth with me.

“You see, Holly, you can’t always get what you want.”

Through watery eyes, I stared at the face of love—love that had never left me empty handed. Yet, here I sat, vacant and unfilled, longing and confused.

What would take me years to begin to grasp was that it wasn’t necessarily the things that I “wanted” that I wasn’t getting, although that certainly seemed to be the case. Rather, I was confusing my need for love and acceptance with the hollow promises of a peer culture whose reputation would soon be sullied by what it could never really deliver.

I would also grow to learn that junior high was not the only place where lack reigned.

There would be adolescent crushes and competitive academics. There would be friendships built on empty premises and betrayals from those who knew me best. I would watch friends starve themselves, driven by a mad hope that less-of-them would grant them more-of-that. And loved ones whose hearts beat in tandem with mine would be snatched away by the evil of this world.

Lack would be everywhere.

But there was always that kitchen table. And like a weathered domestic altar, where my tear offerings and angst filled supplications were placed with fear and trembling, there was never any question. I always got what I needed.

What any of us ever really need.


Feelings of worthiness.



I began to grow into the understanding that what I want and what I need are really, if I’m deep down honest, one in the same. And, when I surround myself with people who love me and I keep my sails aright, open to spirit winds and gales of truth, then I will be satisfied.

And maybe, just maybe, a little spoiled.



Holly is a wife, very relaxed homeschooling mom of two boys (soon to be three), snapper of photos, coming of age writer and a soul drowning in grace. After years in Atlanta where she attended college, married the love of her life and lived in an intentional community, she found her way back to her home state of Missouri. She now lives in an antebellum stone house, raises chickens (sometimes) and pretends that she lives in the country.

Other places you can find her words are at her blog, A Lifetime of Days, and at SheLoves Magazine, where she is a weekly editor and monthly contributor.

Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.





On Writing: Ego, Insecurity, and the Life of the Beloved
Faith, Imperfect
One Good Phrase: Hännah Ettinger (You are held)
An Invitation to Serve Anyway
  • Shelly Miller

    Your family heritage of love and acceptance is so inspiring Holly. And in the end, God truly does give us what we need, not matter our circumstances sitting at that table, acceptance or not, His love is always present. You already know I love everything you write, this just adds to that wonderful collection.

  • Amy Hunt

    This realization that we can’t get all of what we want all of the time in all places is a hard lesson, yet it’s so critical and a grace laced journey that in the end really is all about deliverance from expectation. When we learn that people will fail us and not everyone is in our lives for the same reasons, we can really begin to love people like Christ. It is a hard learn, yet perhaps the most important in our journey of surrender. (I’m saving this piece of writing of yours in my “remember this as I parent” collection)

  • Eyvonne


    Your voice in this is beautiful and wonderful and true. Such a comforting rhythm to this… and so beautiful.

  • Holly

    Yes, Shelly, I truly grew up in a wonderful family and I am so thankful. I appreciate your words here and how you never fail to encourage me.

  • Holly

    Thank you, friend.

  • HopefulLeigh

    Can I ever relate to those junior high insecurities and cravings, Holly. I’m so glad your family was there to remind you of what really mattered.

  • Linda Stoll

    Everybody, everybody, needs a well-worn and well-loved kitchen table, a place that’s safe and secure, letting us be exactly where we are … with no judgement. Just grace.

  • kelli woodford

    And we’re heading there now ourselves, aren’t we, friend? Back into those junior high years — only this time we sit on the other side of the table. The Parent Side.

    I can think of no better coping mechanism with which to arm our children than to create a culture like you have described here. A culture where they can cease trying to alter themselves enough to “fit in” and know that they already BELONG.

    Ruminating in this wisdom today. (And praying those Guess? jeans never come back … )

  • Lisa Kerner

    I’m laughing at the curling iron Mall bangs… I never got the look down either, but I did have some coveted big hair and…. and an ever desire to join that popular table.

    I’m grateful I figured out sooner, rather than later, that what I wanted (like you) was people who truly loved me.

    Now I see my girl going through the same process and I so want to shield her, but it is a lesson we must all learn… so I’m opening up my kitchen table.

    Thank you for this… for being able to see the other side, the grown-up side.

  • Holly

    Me too, friend, me too. Glad to know that I am not alone in my junior high experiences…

  • Holly

    May everyone find a place at a kitchen table somewhere…one where they are welcome to unload their burdens and be showered with grace. Yes and amen.

  • Holly

    Yes. I pray that we can grow into the “Whole-hearted” parents that our children need us to be in order for them to grow in the knowledge of acceptance and grace.
    And about those Guess? jeans…

  • Holly

    People who truly love me..such a gift.

  • Amy

    What a beautiful piece. I love that you were so honest about the struggles of junior high with your mom. I think I hid them from my parents. I didn’t want them to see that felt unfashionable, because it would have…I’m not sure what actually…but it seemed important then. Of course I wish that I could chat with my junior high self and assure that even if you can’t have it all, you can have the important things. But if I really could talk to her, I’d like to read her this! It’s so beautifully true.

  • michaboyett

    Love this, Holly. Don’t I know the feeling of that deficiency. That lack in me? Thanks for these words: “…what I want and what I need are really, if I’m deep down honest, one in the same.” True and good for my soul.

  • Emily Wierenga

    oh wow, Holly. THIS is what I want to be for my kids, for my family. this place of constancy and total devotion. knowing home is a safe place. just, beautiful. what a gift.

  • pastordt

    LOVE this, Holley. Love it. Beautifully done, as only you can do, dear friend. You are blessed in your family and that is not a small thing. And they, Holley, are blessed in you.

  • pastordt

    spelled your name wrong – so sorry, HOLLY.

  • Holly

    No worries, Diana.
    My hope and prayer is that I can keep a good thing going. It certainly doesn’t hurt that I now have that same kitchen table in my very own house.

  • Holly

    Grateful that this is what you want, Emily, but I *know* that you are already doling out bowl fulls of grace at your house, friend. Keep serving it up.

  • Holly

    Thank you, Micha. It is such a grace filled moment when our “lack” is replaced with love.

  • Holly


    The idea of going back and talking to one’s younger self is such an interesting thought–so much so that I did that in another blog post. I wrote as if I was talking to my sixteen year old self and I found the entire exercise completely illuminating.

    If you are interested in reading, here is the link:

  • Amy

    Thanks for passing that along Holly! I loved the line at the end “She needs to know that her mind is a beautiful place and that it doesn’t matter if everything isn’t all sorted out first” what a true word that I’m sure my 16 year old self (and myself now!) needed to hear. Last month I was on vacation at Yellowstone where I had visited at 16 and I recently wrote about what I would have told myself 16 year old self then. ( ). I am so glad that Micha had you write here! I’m looking forward to reading more of your work over at your blog as well.

  • Sean Russell

    Beautiful. Exactly what I needed to read this morning. Thank you.