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Parenting with Grace

 

 

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“Sorry, Mom. I’m sorry,” Nora must have said it for the umpteenth time just since she got home from school.  This time I caught her in bed combing her hair with a Barbie brush long after she should have been asleep. I didn’t yell at her or even act upset because I wasn’t, I just took it calmly, kissed her forehead, told her I loved her and said goodnight again. Earlier in the day she came to me with that solemn expression on her face and uttered the same words. When I asked her what exactly she was sorry for, she shrugged and said, “I can’t remember,” quite pitifully.

This has become quite an issue in our house. The words “I’m sorry” are slung about so flippantly that it’s as common as saying “hello”. It’s just something that we say.  Some of you might be asking why this is an issue.  Just a couple of years ago I was lamenting about how Nora especially never apologized for anything even when threatened with no ice cream and other such “wise” parenting strategies  until she made things right with the offended party.  She would forego many, many things before her ego would let her admit to any wrongdoing. Now, two years later, I’m wondering how we have gotten here, to the point where the words have become meaningless.

This past year of school both girls have been caught numerous times stealing. They have taken things out of desks, classrooms, and most notoriously out of lunch bags. Their teacher is constantly sending me texts and notes about their deviant behavior. Being that they are in the same class, they give her a run for her money.  Today, when some items from the classroom went missing, suspicion immediately fell upon our girls. Short of shining a light in their faces and poking them with pins, we interrogated them thoroughly, but no one was copping to it. Their teacher texted me well into the evening to find out if I had gotten anywhere with them. Sadly, still, I have not.

Ask me how our day went.

Well, even if you aren’t asking, I’m telling.  They were sent to bed for afternoon naps without books or a movie to watch (yeah-I know-harsh) because they had both talked back to the teacher during the day. When they got up, I got the note about the stolen items. I interrogated and got blank stares and denials, each one throwing the other under the bus. I was calm. I was collected. I was seething internally. Then apology letters needed to be written for talking back. Then came the abundance of tears. For an hour. Letters were done, more texts were sent. I searched backpacks, lunchboxes, jackets, pockets, under the bed, even the booster seats and came up with nothing. Nada. Nil. Zilch. More texts. All the time, the frustration and suspicion are building. I can’t prove it, but even as I write I am sure that one of my girls took the said items and stashed them at the school.

When I tucked the girls into bed tonight, reassuring their teacher again (an incredibly patient woman!) that I would try to get to the bottom of things, I wanted to cry myself as another, “I’m sorry, Mom” was flung my way. The poor child didn’t know what she was sorry for, she just knew I was disappointed and she wanted to make it right.

I have a hard time trusting anyone, not just my girls, who have a reputation for getting into trouble and stealing. I fear I too often live by this creed: “Accuse first, ask questions later.” See, if I just don’t trust them now, then I won’t be disappointed later. Makes sense, right?  So it begs the question-if I don’t trust anyone, will anyone ever be trustworthy? If I always expect my kids are going to be the ones who steal something, will they always be the ones who steal?

These are the questions that keep me up late at night. These are the questions that spill onto my cheeks as I’m hiding in the bathroom with a bar of chocolate. These are the questions that torture me as I look into their faces searching long and hard for some truth.

Recently a very wise friend made this very profound statement: “I have never regretted showing grace, but I have often regretted not showing it.”

Then I remember. It is a taste of sweet freedom, a drink of water in a desert: Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13).

Showing mercy and grace is always better than condemning. With parenting, especially, it’s a difficult balance, because they need to be disciplined in love. My children need to learn that they can’t steal because not only does it harm the ones they are stealing from, but eventually their sins will catch up to them and they will live with the harsh consequences of them. I MUST discipline them because I love them. I must teach them that they can’t choose to harm someone else for their own selfish gain, which will, in the end, end up harming them as well. Still, I can still discipline with grace not judgment, right?

Judgment says, “How dare you?!” where grace says, “I’ve been there.”

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Isn’t it true, though? Isn’t that what, as humans, we are saying when we extend grace? We are releasing them and saying” I’ve been there. I understand. I know the temptations you wrestle with. I get it. I’m here to help.” And in that, we offer them freedom; freedom from guilt, freedom from condemnation, freedom from wrath. Because, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, when we don’t offer grace aren’t we forgetting the grace we are given each and every day? Aren’t we forgetting the freedom that is so willingly and abundantly given us each moment of each day with each breath that we take? And when we cling to the Truth of grace, the Truth we find in our salvation in Christ, it will truly set us free. (John 8:32)

And if you don’t know Christ as your Savior, if you have never tasted that freedom found in the grace of God alone I encourage you to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8).

“For the wages of sin is death, but the (FREE!) gift of God is eternal life through in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

 

 

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You Can Have All This World

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It was one of those days; you know the kind I am talking about. The sun was shining brightly through my bedroom morning to greet me with a cheery hello; Spring birds were chirping merrily outside the window. My husband, Sam, greeted me with a sweet “good morning” and a kiss on the cheek.  How could a day that started out so gloriously beautiful turn sour? I can’t tell you how naively I believe this every morning when I get up to pray to God, petitioning Him to turn my “tests into a testimony” and seeing every trial, frustration, or painful moment as an opportunity to point other to Him. Yep. EVERY. SINGLE. MORNING. This is my prayer. And guess what happens EVERY. SINGLE. DAY? Well, He answers my prayers for sure.  As I got out of bed, the incessant pounding from the room down the hall and the high-pitched shrieks had a way of drowning out my morning serenade and my thoughts of “glorifying God in every situation”.  The sunshine was quickly overshadowed by feelings of irritation and discouragement.  My girls are both five and a half now and they have never been “easy” children.  When people tell me about how their kids took a tantrum in the middle of the store “for at least five minutes” or wrote on the wall with crayon, I laugh. Let me give you a little insight into my two bundles of joy (and they really are!). One of them as a baby would make herself throw up when she didn’t get her way; she ate a puzzle piece at three rather than put it away like I told her to; it took me a full year to potty train her just because she refused to do it; at four we had a 7 hour stand-off (yeah!) just because she refused to settle for a nap; and she still throws tantrums for two hours some days until her nose bleeds and the house literally shakes and the dishes rattle in the cupboards; she rips apart or destroys things for spite when she is mad at me;she will take about 45 min to get dressed in the morning just to make the rest of us wait for her.  My other daughter used to scream for about eight hours a day straight for the first seven months of her life and would not settle down until about midnight every night and would still be up two hours in the middle of the night; she would throw fits for an hour or two, but thankfully, has since settled down; she has scribbled on, torn up, ripped apart, or just destroyed lots of things in our house just for fun or mischief.

Now, I am not trying to just complain about my girls, just give you a glimpse into our every day life. I pray for, over, and with the girls every day that God will use their strong wills for His glory, and I have complete confidence that He will. If they can use their “powers” for good, look out world! I have taught elementary and preschool classes, as well as have worked with teens a lot over the years and few can rival my girls in spirit and determination. But, every morning, every day is a challenge.

Yesterday was one of those days. We are down to one vehicle and my husband needed to get to work, I needed to run errands, the kids didn’t have preschool, we had people coming over and I didn’t have dinner planned or the house cleaned and I had orders to fill…..Do you see where this is going?  So, I will say it again: it was one of THOSE days.  The kind where I wanted to rewind the whole day and go back to birds chirping, sun-shining, husband snuggling, and optimism for the day; and I wanted to stay there.  I wanted to take back my prayer for God to use those trials as opportunities. I wanted my optimistic prayer to sound something more like, “God, please, let my kids behave today. Let my house be magically clean when I get out of bed.  Let me be “I dream of Jeanie” for one day where all I have to do is scrunch up my hose and nod my head and everything will magically be okay.”  I can’t tell you how many times after I say “Amen” that I hear the kids start screaming, or jumping on their beds, or yelling at each other down the hall.  It’s like magic.  It really is.

I will spare all the gory details of what “that day” was really like, I will just say that there were lots of tears, yelling, screaming, pouting faces, dirty looks and tantrums that happened, and I would like to say it was all the kids who did those things.  Sadly, it was not.  I got to the point where I was hiding in the bathroom, door locked, trying to count backwards from ten and remember the prayer I had prayed, “that all trials would be opportunities to point others to You”.  I often forget that I have a mission field right here in these four walls. One of my girls seems to rebel against the things of God just like she rebels against everything else.  Her main goal in life seems to be to do things her way and the complete opposite way of everyone else.  The verse in Philippians two that says, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” popped into my head.  I can admit to you, quite ashamedly, that I had most definitely NOT conducted myself in a manner worthy of Christ.  I had failed miserably in showing my girls the grace of God that He shows me EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

While I was huddling in the bathroom I asked myself why I was doing what I was doing.  As a mom sometimes I ask myself this question, “If no one notices or cares what I do, why am I doing it?” I know that question comes straight from the Enemy because every time that question slithers through my mind it is like a deadly poison; it is the time I want to throw in the towel and have my hand on the doorknob ready to walk away from everything I have.  Then, just as the Enemy is quick at my side with lies to discourage, my God, my Rock, Savior never fails to remind me of Truth.

For our Easter service we had listened to an adaptation of Christ’s journey from the Garden of Gethsemane to His crucifiction. It made me sob, remembering what Christ had done for me; what Love, beyond all human comprehension, it took to take away my sins.  The narrator talks about how every person who spat upon Him, who pounded a crown of deep thorns into His brow, who lashed Him repeatedly until He was too weak to walk, and drove nails into His wrists and ankles were given the ability because of Him. In a word, He could have made it all go away.  He chose not to; for me. For ME.

It puts things into perspective for me a little bit. Here I was, ready to throw in the towel for tantrums, nasty faces, and disrespect; He didn’t turn away from me for doing ALL of those things a million times over and more to Him.

So, you can have all this world; a perfect life, perfect children, a perfect home- but give me Jesus.

 

Here is the link to that narration.  I urge you to listen to it whether you are a believe in Christ or not. Make sure you have tissues on hand.

http://www.sovgracemn.org/_files/2010_04_02GF.mp3