Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Please Pass the Grace!

Oh the irony of it!  I headed for the back door to tell my boys that they could stay outside and play for the afternoon, instead of coming in for a rest, because they were playing so nicely.  As I opened the back door I saw my 8 year old, adorned with a grumpy face, holding his shoulder and claiming that Luke hurt him.  "He kicked me!  He did it on purpose!"  Luke, dragging his feet behind Jaden replied, "No I didn't."  I began to ask Luke what happened and if it was an accident.  Jaden interrupted me and fussed, "He did do it on purpose!" not even giving Luke a chance to explain.  "Okay!"  "In the house and up to your room for naps; if you can't play nicely or extend any grace to one another, you don't get to stay up!"  And that was that. 

After everyone had washed their hands and was in bed, I laughed a bit.  Just a bit.  Ten minutes earlier we were all outside and it was delightful!  My girls were running through the yard, jumping on the swing, jumping off, and running to the other end of the yard giggling away.  My boys had been working in their construction site (a.k.a. large sandbox turned into large dirt box complete with a boy-made 2.5 ft quarry in it).  They were so cute working together.  At one point Jaden said to Luke, "Luke you are such a great pal for helping me out!"  My mama's heart was full and smiling.  Ahh, but this smile doesn't always last...for kids will be kids. 

I still don't know if Luke kicked or hit Jaden on purpose; or if it was a careless accident; or if it was on purpose--but instigated.  I probably will never know because frankly I don't feel like digging it back up after they nap (or lie awake on their beds for the 45 min. that I require of them).  I can't always get to the bottom of every squabble or tiff.  Moreover, I don't always have the best answer or strategy when these situations arise.  I don't always know what to do and I don't often have time to deliberate.  And it's likely that I react wrongly or inappropriately from time to time.  But, there is grace!  I am given grace from God because He surely knows that parenting is tough work.  This isn't my second go at having an 8 year old and a 5 year old boy.  They didn't come with complete play by play instructions.  I am learning as I go.  So are you!  So, thankfully we have a God who offers us His grace over and over and over. 

Not only am I thankful for that grace, but I choose to offer it to my children daily.  Yes, there will still be consequences, direct and implied, but I will offer grace.  They are imperfect children just as I am a very imperfect mom living in an imperfect world.  That's the imperfect beauty of it.  So, today there won't be any rehashing of what went down in the backyard.  There will just be grace.  There will be a second, third, and fourth chance to try and work out disagreements.  Surely, they will fail again.  But just as surely, they will learn and succeed at working out their problems with one another.  Just as I receive God's grace...just as they receive my grace...eventually they will extend grace to one another.  They will.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Memory Lane...With a Twist

Today has been one of those glorious days that we moms get to experience with our children every once in a while.  Not often enough, in my opinion.  So many days are full of chores, errands, discipline, or even sheer monotony that it becomes difficult to remember how truly blessed we are.  Just last evening I was telling my husband that the dinnertime hour is my least favorite time of the day.  Even declaring that makes me sad because I have such fond dinnertime memories from my childhood.  Good food, laughter, stories...being together!  But, with 4 children still so young (and most of them still picky-eaters) we are not at the wonderful, relaxed, dinnertime hour...just yet!  Even while I am busy preparing delicious and healthy meals, I know without a doubt, that someone will complain, whine, or ask if they have to eat what I've made.  Then, we enter the actual sit-down-to-dinner-together meal and the work of being parents is in full-force.  Manners, messes, arguments over vegetables, a whining toddler who won't eat and instead tries to throw her plate (good thing this mommy has mad-reflexes!) and the list goes on.  Not to mention the cleanup in the kitchen, the dining room, and under the table following dinner!  Okay, you get the point!  Not my favorite hour--though I hold high hopes for the future!  So that's how parenting is so often--diligent, tough work--but now and then you have glorious times!

Back to my original thought!  This morning was one such time.  We headed to one of our favorite parks right away after breakfast and brushing teeth.  My oldest son, now 8, has become such a helper, so he headed to the garage to get the blue stroller (not the small purple umbrella one) and opened the van doors for the other kids.  I envisioned playing, walks, stopping for a snack, a coffee for me on the way--a good time!  As Jaden pushed the stroller to the side of the van where I was getting my little one out, I realized he did not get the blue stroller with the storage space for my backpack and drinks.  He got the umbrella stroller.  No room for drinks, sunscreen, snacks, or diapers!  And I had pants with no pockets!  The backpack has a broken strap!  I then realized we would have a much shorter visit at the park, right?  No, that's not what happened at all.  We had a long, glorious morning at the park! 

The weather was cooler than it's been and the mosquitoes were not out.  No one was at the playground for our first playtime.  We had the equipment and space to ourselves.  My 4 year old, who has a tendency to become quite whiny, did absolutely no whining!  Really!  None!  We decided to head off for our usual walk down the boardwalk bridge to the creek where the kids love to throw rocks, leaves, and sticks through the slats of the covered bridge.  Usually the walk ends there and we head back the way we came.  But today everyone, including my inclined-to-whine-Ella, was happy to take an even longer walk.  We strolled and took our time--it was so nice and leisurely!  It was glorious!  We all enjoyed each other's company as well as nature's beauty. 

It got even better for me.  We headed to the lovely garden beside the historic manor house we've visited before.  I began to tell the kids (although maybe we've told them before) that this was the very place Mommy and Daddy came to have our pictures taken when we were married.  They've seen our wedding pictures.  And I'm pretty sure they've walked through that garden before.  But suddenly, such a wave of emotion came over me!  Amazement.  Thankfulness.  Awe.  I was walking down my own memory lane...with a twist.  An amazing, beautiful twist!  As I pointed to one of the gazebos where Ron and I had posed for a picture, I thought about some of the dreams, hopes, and visions that were inside both of us on that beautiful day.  And here I was, back at that same magical place, with four of those dreams right by my side.  Awestruck!  Completely overwhelmed with the glorious, miraculous magic of how our lives unfold. 

I'll tell you what:  if God never does one more thing for me in this life, I'm overwhelmed with thankfulness for that which He's already done.  I realize that every parent may not have a similar opportunity--to walk with their children in the specific place where their union became real.  But, I do believe if we are willing to slow down once in a while; to stroll leisurely; to purpose to take our time enjoying our children, we will have opportunities to be overwhelmed with the realization of the miracle that they are.  Further, I believe that all of us can experience such moments of deep and grateful realization, even if we do not have children.  Life is so much more precious when we take the time to slow down, enjoy it, and treasure simple moments.  The magic for me was in the simple moments of this day.  Dinnertime may continue to be a bust for a few years, but I aim to slow down and enjoy more and more the four beautiful gifts God gave me.