Cool fall breezes combine with my children’s laughter as they wrap themselves in the warmth of childhood. Swinging high enough to touch nearby trees they dream of flying. Kicking a soccer ball across the backyard they make up World Cup scenes. Dancing and singing they are actors on the big screen of life. It’s all so clear in their creative minds that haven’t been bruised by life’s realities.
With rosy cheeks and dreams fulfilled, they bounce into the kitchen searching for a snack. “What smells so good? I’m hungry.”
“It’s homemade chicken noodle soup. We’ll have it in about an hour. Why don’t you eat one of the apples we picked?
To read my post Apple Orchard Promises click here
My son whose growing body never seems full sits at the island crunching a red speckled apple. “Let’s play a family game. I’ll go get one.”
We sit on the family room rug where we almost always play games. It’s a place close enough to the fireplace in the winter to provide warmth and perfectly comfortable all year. It’s our special space of laughter, tears, fun, taking turns and lessons in winning and losing.
“You can start since you picked out the game.” The only boy rolls the dice talking to it. “Come on you can do it.”
We go around in a circle each one following the other. We watch, cheer and hope we can do better.
It comes back around just as it always does in a game. My son rolls the dice and almost makes it, but not quite. Suddenly I blurt out. “Do you want a grace?” A smile rolls from his lips all the way to his eyes. “Yeah, I would like a grace?”
“Hey, that’s not fair.” His sisters realize he’s getting something he doesn’t deserve.
Thinking quickly to avert our game night ending in tears and kid’s running to their rooms, I offer a solution. “Everyone can have one grace. You can pick it anytime you want.” Our game resumes with peace and laughter.
A time comes when each of us doesn’t get the roll we want. We ask for a grace. The others give it knowing their turn will come. Playing the game with one grace is much more fun than just playing by the rules. It doesn’t mean we throw away the rule book, but somehow knowing if we get into a really tight spot there is a way out brings freedom.
We count our cards which doesn’t take me long. “I just have three cards, but that was so much fun.” Somehow if Mom loses, the ones in between the winner and Mom don’t feel so bad. We laugh as we put all the pieces back in the box.
“Let’s eat dinner now. You’ll love the chicken noodle soup. I need everyone’s help to set the table.”
With steam from the soup rising into our faces we thank God for our family and the food He’s provided. We always give thanks, but some nights like this one I feel thankful. Our Father has given us beyond our needs and placed us in this carved out setting called a family. It’s amazing to not be alone in my own world, but surrounded by a husband and children where we belong to each other.
To read my post Celebrating Ordinary Days click here
With the kids in bed, I’m loading the dishwasher with soup bowls and spoons. It’s quiet in the kitchen except for clinking dishes. My hands move effortlessly from years of experience while thoughts of the day pour over me. Leaning over this sink God has conquered overwhelming fears inside of me, I’ve prayed for my family and I’ve organized the chaos of a day into palatable pieces.
Tonight thoughts of game pieces roll around in my mind. With just a little grace there was a place to move around a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. If we didn’t do it good enough, we still could go on.
Rules in life comfort me. I thrive on the security boundaries provide because I know just what is expected of me and everyone else. I can explain to my children exactly what they must do, and then there are no surprises. There are rules, rewards and consequences. It’s such a safe parenting package.
The only problem is it leaves out the amazing gift of grace that my heavenly Father unexpectedly gives me every day. After walking many years with Him, I know what He expects. I understand His Word with its promises and punishments, and yet I still make selfish choices or act in anger. Without any doubt there are consequences, but there are precious times when His grace shines into my heart. I don’t deserve it, but He gives it.
It’s hard for me to find the bridge between receiving grace and giving grace to my children because grace breaks through the rules. There isn’t a pattern or perfectly fitted box which holds the clues. Grace demands wisdom and not a written code.
Only yesterday my son casually mentioned they started selling ice cream at school yesterday. “I bought some. It was really good.”
Before thoughts could reach my mouth I began talking. “Why did you think you could buy ice cream?”
“Well, I had money on my account and I knew you would let me do it so I just bought it.”
I could feel my heart beating faster and I should have run into my room. Bible verses about being quick to hear, and slow to speak should have slammed my lips closed. But they didn’t and I began speaking in a rapid fire.
“You know you can’t buy anything without asking me first. The money on your account is not your money. It’s only there for you to use. Now that you bought ice cream I can’t trust you any more with your lunch account. I’m going to take all the money out of it, and you can’t buy lunch and anything else the rest of the year.”
“OK, Mom. I just thought you’d let me buy it.”
Wrestling all evening with it, thoughts of grace interspersed with needed consequences jumbled into a tight ball. Finally accepting perhaps I need wisdom beyond my own I prayed. With great peace my Father spoke grace into my life. “Do you really think buying ice cream deserved such a harsh punishment? You should give him another chance. Grace can give color to your very black and white world.”
Walking into his room to say goodnight, I started talking before I lost my courage. “I’m sorry I was so harsh today. I shouldn’t have spoken the way I did. I gave you a punishment that was too harsh. I’m going to let you continuing buying, but you have to promise me you won’t buy ice cream unless you ask me first. I love you.”
“Goodnight, Mom. I love you.”
Giving grace walks me to the precipice of control and forces me to trust the Lord to give me the wisdom and understanding I need. He knows everything about parenting with grace, and I’m just a beginner.
If I choose to parent with grace, I must listen to the Teacher more closely. My words must be guarded and spoken with insight rather than blind emotion. Searching the Scriptures for God’s wisdom in parenting must become a passion rather than an afterthought. Living with grace is much more than knowledge, it comes from a transformed life.
Grace is what I receive every day from my Father who gave His only Son for me.. Grace is what I want to give to my precious children so they will know God’s amazing grace.
Copyright © words and photography Jane Carole Stein