Mercy for Today

I have talked to a bunch of moms this week and this seems to be the theme.

“I’m having a tough time with my kids.”

“My kids seem to be throwing a ton of fits right now.”

“This is just hard right now.”

“I have lost my cool this week and I feel so guilty.”

I have heard these things over and over, and every woman shared it with me carefully, afraid I would think less of her.

Can I just say, moms, that I don’t think less of you? That we are all with you? Summer is tough, for all of us. Routines are interrupted, kids are home more than usual, it’s too hot to be outside like they normally are. Tempers can flare and chaos can creep in.

Don’t let yourself be discouraged. Don’t let the enemy isolate you. Don’t be bogged down with guilt. If you have lost your cool, talk to your kids. Apologize, pray together, ask the Lord to help you both do better. Even if they are little, it’ll teach them how to be humble and show them how to correct when they sin.

ImageAnd give yourself grace. None of us were parented by perfect parents, but by God’s grace we’re here, (relatively) normal. 🙂 Go to the Lord, ask Him for more patience and love and ask Him to grant peace to your home. Curl up in your bed and imagine yourself curled up next to him. Know that He looks at you with love – not condemnation. He is pleased with you.

We are all – kids and adults – working out our salvation with fear and trembling. We are all in need of mercy. And we all have a God who specializes in saving and in pouring mercy on us.

If this week has been tough – you are not alone. And you are not a bad mom. What God calls us to do (motherhood), he equips us to accomplish. In you, because of Christ, is all you need to do well as a mom to your kids.

Breathe. Relax. Feel His grace. His mercies are new every day – and there is mercy for you today no matter what yesterday looked like. He loves you.

Alone but not Abandoned

It is 5 am and I am awake because my sweet Grace, at 4 am, had quite the meltdown.  Every once in a while Grace kind of spins into hyperdrive and throws a killer fit.  She can, if we let her, control our household for a long time in this mode.  In times like tonight, traditional discipline does not work.  But what does work, we have found, is isolation.  If I put her in her room, I can quietly hold her doorknob from the outside and force her to stay in her room alone.  For some reason this kind of resets her, and she will snap out of the cycle of arguing and crying.  For about 3-5 minutes, while I hold her doorknob, usually with tears streaming down my face, she will rage and scream and cry in there, but then she will begin to slow down.  I will hear her begin to quietly cry.  In that moment, I can go back in and find her reasonable.  I will hold her in my arms, speak to her lovingly, affirm our care for her and our love for her, and I can tuck her back in her bed where she will finally sleep.  When she is in this mode, this is the only thing we have found will work.

Why do I tell you this extremely personal part of our parenting?  Because I know, during the time she is in her room alone, that in that few minutes, she feels abandoned.  Out of control.  Unheard.  She doesn’t know that outside of her door is a mom who understands her exhaustion. Who knows her nature and knows that, for some reason, this brief time out is what she needs.  She doesn’t know how much I pray as I hold her door.  How I cry out to God to comfort and care for my child.  How my heart breaks to hear her cry.  How close I am, ready to come in and hold her as soon as she will let me.

Part of loving Grace means that, sometimes, my job is to show her that she is not the center of the universe and that she cannot, through violent fits or brilliant manipulation, control everyone around her.  It is not a fun part of my job.  I do not delight in it.  It terrifies me, frankly.  But I do it.

Psalm 44 is a passage where David talks about how he believes God has abandoned him.   He has felt, over time, the cooling of his relationship with the Lord.  I can relate to that.  I know that has happened in my life, not only in times with the Lord, but with important human relationships.  I am struggling through that right now with some people close to me.  I’m sure we have all had relationships that are vital, but for some reason, the person pulls away.  And it hurts.  We feel rejected. Like we are “too much.”  We may even, like Grace, rage a little.

But I wonder if sometimes, with the Lord, He has hidden His face for our good.  To reveal sin.  To reset us to realize we are not the center of our universe.  To show us we are not in control. If there is some reason He knows we need to walk (seemingly) alone.  I wonder if He doesn’t stand, just out of reach, feeling our pain, counting the seconds until He can hold us in His arms again.  If He loves us with a perfect love, many times more than I love either of my girls, then of course He could not just coldly abandon us.  The Bible talks about His discipline in Proverbs 3:  My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in.

I feel like parenting has helped me understand the Lord in such a new way – and this morning was another of those moments.  I understand the idea of loving discipline like I don’t know I did before.  And so I can only pray, in those moments where I feel rejected and, like Grace, want to scream and throw things, that I will turn to the Lord and, like David, pray:

Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.

Why do you hide your face
and forget our misery and oppression?

We are brought down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground.

Rise up and help us;
rescue us because of your unfailing love.


Sitting on the Stairs

I have had the most perspective-altering day today.

This morning, I had the chance to sit down with a dear friend and catch up. She is a light in my life – I doubt she knows the impact she has had on me through the years. She knows quite a bit about our situation, and she was telling me about her times of difficulty in the past and the faithfulness of God through those times. She encouraged me to not be afraid of the humbling work of God. In fact, she encouraged me to walk in it. She used examples from her life and the life of her kids to show me the value in what I am going through. Little did my sweet friend know about the day I would have.

Early this afternoon, my sweet Grace had a very public meltdown at the end of her tumbling class. It began as a moment of defiance, and escalated into a full-out fit at Keller Pointe in front of about 40 people. It was one of those times we all love as parents where we are carrying a screaming kicking child out of a public place and we see people staring at us and we know they are thinking, “Why can’t that woman control her child?”

She was the recipient of a spanking, and when we got home, I sat her on our bottom step and got on my knees in front of her to ask her why she had gotten a spanking. She looked at me, and her little face crumpled as she struggled to tell me, through tears. “Gracie didn’t listen to Ms. Jeanie. Gracie was disobedient.” She then continued and told me why she didn’t listen – that she didn’t want to do the crab walk but wanted to come rest with me. I don’t think I will ever forget that little face crumble. I looked at my sweet girl’s face, as she struggled to keep it together, and I began to cry. I thought to myself, “I never realized that obedience is such tough work.” She threw herself in my arms and held onto me tightly, crying. I held her and carried her upstairs, telling her over and over that I loved her. I can’t even begin to explain my love for this baby girl or how proud I am of her. I know how much she tries. Her meltdowns are occasional tiny bumps in the road with our wonderful joyful child. But I also know I have to discipline her when she does disobey. I am commanded to and I know it is good for her soul. But there is nothing about spanking my child or watching her fall apart that gives me joy. In fact, it breaks my heart. Even writing about it now I am crying. I love her with all of my being – likely more than she will ever be able to understand, at least until she is a mom herself.

I carried her upstairs and tucked her in and prayed for her before her nap. I said something like “Dear Jesus, thank you for our Gracie. We are so proud of her. Please continue to help Gracie learn to be obedient and let her know how much mommy and daddy love her.” As I was praying, Gracie interrupted and said “and help Gracie listen to Ms. Jean and not get spankin’s.” I laughed to myself because I knew then that she understood. I hugged her and told her I loved her. She fell immediately asleep and slept for over four hours. She woke up renewed and was wonderful the rest of the day. My sweet baby was just exhausted – that was what was behind the rebellion in the gym.

I, on the other hand, have been tearful all day about it. I just couldn’t shake it off. I love her so much. I don’t want to see her humbled, certainly don’t want to be the instrument of it. But I know the truth that she can’t be allowed to wreak havoc in public (or private) uncorrected. I have a role to play in her development that isn’t always pleasant. But I do my role in love because I also know her weaknesses. I know that she really only has these meltdowns when she is tired or hungry or not at her best. So I understand. Her meltdown today didn’t make me love her less, or make me feel she is less worthy of love. In fact, I don’t think I could love her more than I did today during this whole episode. I am overwhelmed with my love for Grace.

I thought my lesson on humility was over, but tonight I had to do something pretty humbling. I had to basically ask for mercy from a debt. I had good reason to ask, legitimate reason, but it was still incredibly difficult. I shook as I made my request. Afterwards, I laid in my bed, tears pouring down my face, and I prayed. I needed to talk to my Father. So I came to the Lord in humility. I confessed to the Lord how weak I felt – how much I felt like I was failing. I confessed the sins and shortcomings that He knows so well (even better than I do). I asked Him for grace. For protection. Provision. Forgiveness. In that moment, I felt small. And then He reminded me of my day. I couldn’t help but remember how I felt when Grace’s face crumpled before me on the stairs. How much I loved her in that moment. How proud I was of her. How thrilled I was to be her mom. How much I hurt for her hurt. How much I love that sweet heart that was broken in front of me. And suddenly I saw myself sitting on the stairs in the place of Grace, sitting in front of my Father. I wondered if that is how the Lord felt about me. Did my prayer and confession of weakness make his heart break for me, as mine broke for my tiny girl? Is He overwhelmed with his love for me? Does He hurt when I hurt? Does he understand my weaknesses and love me despite them? Does it hurt Him to see me struggle to understand and obey? Would he do anything for me? Would he give His life for me?

He would.

He did.

It was a pretty powerful, perspective-altering thing. To put myself in the place of Grace – crying on the stairs – in front of my Father made me see myself, and Him, in a totally new way. I don’t know that I will ever come to Him in prayer quite the same.

Tonight I am exhausted, frankly. Physically and emotionally spent. I needed to write this and process it, but now I am going downstairs to go to sleep, just like my tiny girl went to sleep after I prayed with her. But it is kind of amazing to think that my Father, who loves me, is going to have me on His mind all night, just as Grace has been on my mind all day. That He is planning good things for me and my family, and wants to bless me because He loves me. I am forgiven and free. I am His child. I am loved. I can rest.