Heavy-handed humanness

It is very important to me (as I assume it is to most moms) that my children LISTEN to me. They will need to be able to submit to authority when they are older so it’s my job to teach them to submit to my authority while they are younger. Which I understand to be one of my roles as a parent based on verses like Proverbs 13:24, “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” All good things. Except when I get 100% focused on their submission to my will and marginalize everything else, you know, like their well-being, feelings, opinions, thoughts.

That single-minded pursuit of their submission to my authority had the drivers seat this morning. While we were trying to get out the door no one except the baby was doing what I asked them to do and, so, I lost it. Fully. My voice is actually hoarse from yelling so much. The problem I ended up losing it around? Noah was pretending to be a ninja and hiding in blankets, waiting patiently for me to notice him missing and come searching. He was being extraordinarily stealthy and another day I would have found his imagination funny and engaging.  However, since I was coming fresh from dealing with being smacked by a three-year-old for not “allowing” him to buckle himself into his carseat (which he is not even physically able to do at this point), I was not in the mood to play along. Suffice it to say, no one could have done anything right after I started in on the yelling.

We all eventually got in the car and most of us were crying and my eyeballs were boiling. We made it a couple blocks from the house, the volume of my voice and their voices getting progressively louder, before I whipped the car to the curb with a foot stomp on the brake and barreled out of the door, fully intending on berating Noah in his face for whining so loud. Maybe I’d even spank him. As I rounded the bumper of the car on my way to his door, full of righteous huff, God allowed me to walk into the fullness of shame in my actions. My insides were liquid regret. I was behaving like a child who was a lot bigger than all the other children so EVERYONE SHOULD LISTEN TO ME. I slowed way down as I opened the door and looked in at Noah. I was at a loss for words. Here I am, looking at the tear-filled eyes of my preschooler, and I have nothing to say. I had literally just yelled their ears off before stopping the car so we were all a little in shock I think. I heard myself ask Noah if I could say a prayer. He sniffled and said yeah. So I grabbed his little hand and reached over to touch Micah and I asked God to forgive me. Then I asked Noah to forgive me. He said, “Okay. I forgive you, Mom” (Oh man, to be able to forgive like a four-year-old).

I got back in the car and we went on our way. The intricacies of who had disobeyed and how and what needed to change fell behind us and when I looked into the rearview mirror I saw all of us chewing on grace.

I hate that I treated my children so terribly this morning. I hate that it’s a part of their story now. But I love that we got to talk about how Mommy let anger win in her heart, instead of compassion and patience. How Mommy raised her voice when she shouldn’t have and how Mommy was wrong. I got to see the wheels turning in Noah’s head and knew that the next time he lashed out in anger we would be able to talk about the time I lost it and had to apologize to everyone.

My humanness is so heavy-handed but God’s grace is so miraculous.

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There’s a Cracked Egg on My Living Room Floor

I opened my eyes this morning to the sound of my three year old losing the contents of his stomach onto my bedroom floor. I grabbed him under his arms and rushed him to the toilet but was met mid-hallway by my four year old who took my disheveled jumped-from-deep-sleep-to-panicked-running look as an invitation to tell me how he’s sorry he put an egg under the recliner and that it cracked all over the floor.

This was not at all how I pictured my morning going. But, whatever, “hope springs eternal,” I think as I start to clean up the sick one (who, I later discover, was not sick but had eaten a handful of cheese although he is ALLERGIC to dairy and has a body that violently ejects all dairy contents from both ends until everything is out). After he is taken care of I begin to get things ready for preschool drop off.

After getting the four year old’s backpack together, I discovered the little egg-cracker had shut himself in his room and smashed a mini pumpkin he had smuggled out of the living room. Did you know mini pumpkins actually have a surprising amount of guts and seeds? I didn’t. But the carpet in the boys’ bedroom now knows it. “Yeah, I’m sorry Mom, I just broke it open because I wanted to see inside,” he said with a shrug when he saw the incredible tightness of my face and eyebrows-to-the-sky response. He may be struggling with heart attitude and intention but the boy knows how to check a box (Do the thing I want to do even though I know I’m not supposed to – CHECK; find mom, say sorry – CHECK; get away with the thing – CHECK…he wishes).

“JUST. JUST please put some pants on!” This was all I could spit out without coming completely unglued. It took him twenty minutes to put pants on and I was like I’M LOSING IT GET IN THE CAR RIGHT NOW I DONT CARE IF YOU DON’T HAVE SHOES ON.

We may or may not have been late to preschool.

So, let’s talk about control.

I want it. I want control over my house. I want control over the cleanliness of my floors, the contents of my refrigerator, the amount of sleep I get, the amount of sleep my children get, the laundry, the toys all over the yard, the food that actually goes into my children’s mouths, their behavior, and the fact that they are suddenly tall enough to crawl onto the kitchen counters. I WANT CONTROL.

When sin entered this world in the garden all that was perfect became tainted with sin, including myself, my children, my house, my marriage. The devil came bearing down on all of us and whispered “control” into our ears.

“You can control this. You are enough to control this little thing.”

That expectation of control pressed me into a flat hopeless pancake this morning. Because I couldn’t. I couldn’t control my children and I couldn’t control my time.

But, thank goodness, I don’t need to be in control. All of the above, as well as the souls and well-being of my family, are in the hands of Christ and “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” (Romans 8:28)

So instead of remaining a flat hopeless pancake, I’m going to drink another cup of coffee, read another chapter of Romans, clean up the cracked egg, and mentally prepare myself as I pray over preschool pick up. Maybe I’ll listen to a gospel-centered podcast or audio book while I clean because what fills the heart is what pops out of the mouth in those moments of complete loss of self-control. So I’ll try to fill my mind and heart with goodness and grace and pray they bring me clarity in those “eyebrows to the sky” mornings.

Moral of the story: Never let your children go to bed without bells on, lest they wake up at 100% and rearing to go, without your knowledge.

 
 

We are failing at marriage

I have failed my husband. My husband has failed me.

And we are not alone. It is happening in every. single. marriage.

Failure.

When Connor and I were married three years ago, we included in our ceremony one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 14:4-7

I could not wait to share that kind of love with my sweet and wonderful husband for the rest of my life.

In the months following our wedding, we did everything we could to build a fortress around our marriage to keep evil out. We prayed together – over our marriage and each other. I felt so safe in our relationship.

Not to say our first year wasn’t rough. It was. Learning to respond with love and grace, regardless of our emotional state, was an incredible challenge.  But we really loved each other so, when those lessons of humility kept coming, we did our best to welcome them with open arms. Because, after all, love is not self-seeking. We made real progress. It was precious and beautiful progress towards maturity in our love and the ways we related to each other.

The scary thing, friends, is that all marriages are at risk of Satan’s influences. Even (and especially) the strong ones.

See, while we were “building” our marriage, I was still feeling “failed.” Things would happen between us that hurt me. Every time I would say, “I forgive you,” and would really want to mean it, but the hurt lingered in my heart and refused to go away. So I became passive in my love towards my husband. Eventually, I did not feel loved and I did not want to forgive my husband anymore. The trust we had on our marriage day had been dismantled.

I knew I wanted to repair our marriage to what it had been before the broken trust, but I kept getting lost. I willed my heart to forgive him. I prayed desperately for God to help me and heal our marriage. I thought I was making little steps of progress. However, there was still hurt and anger brewing inside me that quietly bided its time and built up potency – until one day, when it burst like an ugly pus-filled wound.

While driving myself to a meeting for work, I was overwhelmed with what had happened to my once beautiful love-filled life. I was MAD. I could not accept that my marriage was flawed and always would be. I could not believe that I had “chosen” to forgive my husband.  He needed to know my wrath, my disappointment, and my hurt in full force. He did not deserve to be forgiven. He deserved to know EXACTLY how he’d hurt me and to be punished. I had let him off too easy. Guys, these kind of thoughts are not unique to me. This is the human condition. Human nature longs, with an ugly bitterness, for retribution when we are wronged. So when all of these thoughts attacked my heart, Satan won a battle in those moments. I was seething and it was ugly. I was failing my husband. I had been offering him conditional love. “Mmm, I’m only going to love you completely if you do right by me, all the time. Otherwise, forget it.”

Drowning, I cried out to God with an utterly broken soul. And when I was done, he spoke to me very clearly. Very. He said, “Dearest, this is not your burden. I am the one who deals out judgments in righteousness. It is not your job to make sure your husband ‘learns his lesson.’ I have you in my hand, sweet one, and you are loved. I have your husband in my hand and he is loved. Do not despair – all will be well. You do not know what Connor and I are working through right now. I am with him. This anger is not for your own hands. You can release it to me.”

Finally, I was able to unclench the fist I had been choking my heart with. I began to realize that my husband is and will forever be a human. All humans are broken and imperfect vessels. That is where the true beauty of marriage in Christ begins. I did not marry a perfect man – he will never be a perfect man. He did not marry a perfect woman – I will never be a perfect woman. Spouses will fail each other. It is unavoidable.

From that point on, forgiving him for the things I had held on to was something I chose to do over and over again, every day. You see, sometimes, true forgiveness is a commitment you must choose to act on with every thought in your head and word in your mouth. Forgiveness is WORK. One step forward, two steps back, rinse, repeat.

As Christians we are told to love each other like Christ loves us. Christ loved ME so much that he died for me. Regardless of the fact I have sinned against him and spit on that gift in more ways than I can name. That he loves me, regardless of anything, is a truth that I know to be infallible. I have found only love and grace from Christ, so shouldn’t that be what my spouse receives from me? No matter what wrong has been committed. The “big” or “small” of the wrong does not matter. Our choice to forgive though – that matters.

There is a blood that covers over all of our offenses and imperfections. Both of our slates have been wiped clean. Our marriage has been wiped clean. While we are imperfect – GOD IS PERFECT!!! When we look to our spouses to complete us, we fail. When we look to Christ to complete us and choose daily to love each other with grace and forgiveness because God loved us – then, our marriage is daily renewed, deepened, and made into something more beautiful than you can imagine.

I LOVE my husband more than when we got married. I have more compassion for my husband than I ever thought possible. We work harder at our marriage than most. We refuse to fail. Having been to a fragile place in our relationship, we know we never want to be there again. We are strong, in Christ. We are imperfect, but we are willing and eager to love each other unconditionally.

This is why failure is happening in every marriage: because we are human. We are selfish. If you feel that failure in your marriage, my heart aches for you. I want you to know that you can have your marriage back. I want you to know you can find healing. It is not easy and it is not quick, but you can get there. It starts with forgiveness. Long-term whole-hearted forgiveness, that only Christ can give you the strength to follow through with.

Do you have a story about forgiveness and marriage? Questions? I’d love to hear it! Leave a comment below or send me an email at thegracefilledhome@gmail.com

Hello, hormones.

I have spent the last couple of days in awe of those super mommies who have four kids in four years. Like. Major awe.

Yesterday my mother left the house for a half hour (which was my first time alone with the two kiddos) and it took everything in me not to ugly cry when she walked back in the door.

Inevitably, they had both woken up as soon as she drove off. And they both needed me. Right then. Noah didn’t understand why he had to share my lap with Micah (who I was feeding) and so, he started crying and trying to hit his little brother. Then Micah started crying. When Noah realized I was not going to put Micah down, nor was he going to get a larger piece of my lap, he jumped up and started walking around the living room sniffling and looking completely neglected. So my mommy heart just broke and I spent the rest of the day feeling bad for bringing another human into the world and interrupting Noah’s childhood. How can I love Noah the same way as before? How does Micah fit into this picture? I mourned the loss of constant one-on-one time with my child.

Yes, I realize the craziness of those feelings. I know my firstborn will be just fine, and that my life is even richer now that I have two perfect sons. But I definitely did not feel that way yesterday. Hello, post-pregnancy hormones. I also felt the need to wake Connor up in the middle of the night to cry and tell him what a great dad and husband he was, how much I appreciate him, and how sorry I was for not being a good wife and blah blah. I’m sure he doesn’t even remember, considering how late it was and how my babbling could have easily been confused for an incoherent newborn crying.

Change is hard for me. I thought the transition from a family of three to a family of four would be easy (because apparently, I’m crazy). But it’s okay that it’s not. This too shall pass. And I find a lot of hope in the fact that I am called to wait on the Lord for strength. I might not have a lot of emotional strength right now, but I am praying and waiting and I know that strength will come.

Soon, I will not feel like crying when left alone with my two little ones. But for now, I am overwhelmed. And for the moment, that is okay. I’ll just wait and wonder how those super mommies do it.

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Community Brew | He will provide

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I really enjoyed reading Madison’s opening words to this installment of the Community Brew link-up.

God DOES do big things. Absolutely. And I seek his provision daily and earnestly.

But Madison asked, was I seeking God with “open hands?”

Nope. Big negatory on that one.

I am a close-fisted seeker. What I have, I want to keep and have no intention of letting go.

I am devastated when He “takes” something away from me. Like a child. However, one of the the verses Madison shared got right to the heart of my emotional immaturity.

 

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9
 
 

God is not cruel. He is greater. Greater than me, greater than circumstance, greater than all things. He can see beyond. When He comes to me, and asks me to have open hands, He is not “taking” from me. He is making room. Greater room for greater things.

God has always provided for me. He has given me all I need and more. I have absolutely no reason not to trust Him when He asks for some things back. I should know better. Because HE knows better.

My greatest obstacle to seeking Christ with open hands is money. One of the subjects God is SO specific about in the Bible. Men and women who give their last pennies to God, without looking back, are praised and always provided for. Men and women who hoard their money are passed over and punished (Ananais and Sapphira, anyone?). That knowledge should be plenty motivating for me and yet, when it comes time to tithe I struggle. When I see someone sitting on a street corner, asking for help, I struggle. When I am asked to support a child in Africa, I struggle.

I have PLENTY of things I need to use my money on. “God-money” comes out last (and, as a result, usually has a $0 balance).

How unbelievably backwards and selfish is that?!?

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?”

Matthew 6: 25-26

 

Thank you Madison, for such eye-opening words!!

 

Linking up with Madison and Rachel. Thank you, ladies!

 

When your toddler drops your iphone in the toilet.

I did not have a super day.

Bleh. I don’t like admitting that. I’d rather post about how awesome everything is or how I learned this great lesson about parenting/marriage.

But today just wasn’t one of those days.

I woke up with Connor this morning, packed his lunch and kissed him goodbye. I am so proud of that man for working as hard as he does. I love waking up at the same time as him and squeezing in a few more minutes with him. So, despite the rest of the day, my morning was really nice. :)

Then Noah woke up and the day began, full tilt. I was loving life, feeding my little one breakfast, unloading the dishwasher, singing along with the sesame street radio station. After breakfast I put Noah on the floor to play and started cleaning his high chair. I turned to the sink to wash the removable tray off and then I heard it.

Clunk.

And I knew Noah had sprinted his little self to the bathroom and flung his hand into the toilet. He’s been doing that lately. And so, lately,  I’ve been gagging a lot. And washing his hands with soap for very long amounts of time. And keeping the bathroom door closed. Except I forgot this morning.

And this time, it wasn’t just his hand. It was his hand AND my iphone. Clunk. All the way to the bottom. I was not a happy camper.

It did not turn back on. And it makes me so sad to say this – but that totally ruined my day. And I was not the best mommy I could be. I felt like I was cut off from the world and OH MY GOSH  I couldn’t post anything to instagram! The phone is currently sitting in a bag of rice, but I don’t anticipate positive results in the morning. And I was a major grump all day. Patience did not flow freely.

Connor came home to find Noah and I sitting on the doorstep, waiting so very very eagerly for him to get there. We sat down to dinner and I told him, while holding back ridiculous tears for a PHONE, what had happened and that we didn’t buy insurance on the phone and I didn’t think we would be able to replace it and I didn’t even get a chance to shower today and *pathetic little sob*. My handsome husband told me to go take a long shower and that he would handle all of Noah’s bedtime routines by himself. I resisted a little, but really, that was exactly what I needed. So I accepted my husband’s gracious generosity. And I took a reeeeaally long hot shower. I even tried to laugh at myself for being so upset over a phone…too soon though. ;)

And now I’m trying to figure out what I can take from today. Heres what I’ve got so far….

1) Do not try to compensate for your depression by going to Goodwill to look for a rocking chair for the nursery. A divine intervention on behalf of your financial situation will occur and all of the store’s furniture will be gone. Really.

2) Do not rely on instagram as your main social outlet.

2) Do everything in your power to love and teach your son well, even when he makes you crazy upset.

3) Do not try a new recipe for dinner on days when everything has gone wrong. Just. Don’t.

4) Do always be extremely thankful for a husband who is gracious and loving.

5) Do pray. Pray often and hard during those hard days.

Thank goodness His mercies are new every morning. 

I am going to set this burden down tonight with prayer and more prayer. There is no need for me to carry this awful-no-good day with me into tomorrow.

Goodnight, friends. Sleep sweet and wake fresh.

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Taking the time to be his mother

I was sitting down, resting my swollen pregnant feet. Checking my email, scrolling through blogs, and generally enjoying my quiet Noah-free time. My mother (Nana) was playing with Noah in another room. After awhile I realized they had both been laughing themselves silly almost the whole time they were together. Instead of investigating, I stayed where I was. I was pretty sure my me-time was way more important than whatever they were discovering together.20140729-224544-81944269.jpg

He was learning how to somersault. He would stand up and bend over until his little head was resting on the ground. Then my mother would roll the rest of his body over. His squeals of joy were endless. He LOVED this new activity. My mother and my son did this again and again and again. Neither of them growing tired of it. My one-year-old even somersaulted by himself at one point. It was the most precious thing in the world. And, he will never somersault “for the first time” again.

I know all this because, eventually, I did get up. I peeked my head around the corner and beheld that heart-warming scene. I didn’t need to participate. But I did need to watch. I will hold in my heart that memory of those two dear faces, nearly tear-soaked with laughter, playing together on the floor.

It was goodness.

It was beautiful.

It was priceless.

Sometimes, getting “me-time” is very important. It invigorates and focuses me. I remember my priorities, my God, my purpose. But lately, I have been focusing too much on my alone time. There are a lot of things quickly coming up in our life that are consuming my thoughts (like baby #2’s arrival in a little over a month…), and it has become difficult to live in the moment. I don’t think a life lived entirely “in the moment” is good – we all benefit from some  planning and preparation – however, a life too planned is no life at all, in my opinion. Lately I have been spending most of my time making lists and very little of my time just letting Noah and I “be.” 20140729-224545-81945138.jpg

If I had been watching Noah that afternoon, I doubt we would have somersaulted together. I probably would have been trying to figure out which store to buy diapers at most cost-effectively while Noah played with a race car.

As I was watching this sweet scene and my heart was spilling over with joy, I realized that I am going to fast and too slow at the same time. I am looking into the future almost exclusively and spending all my time in the present preparing for the future. Yikes. What a mouthful.
But really, God told me he clothed the beautiful flowers and he feeds the carefree birds – He has ALWAYS done this and He ALWAYS will. So why do I dwell so much on making sure things are prepared, perfect and “ready”? Human nature I guess.

But I am writing this to keep myself accountable. I don’t want to miss special moments with my son because I am wrapped up in my head. I want to be fully with him most of the time. If I have to spend a few minutes thinking about legitimately important things, I am completely fine with that. However, I am going to focus my efforts (especially in the next few weeks before we add another member of our family) on loving my son (and husband!) without borders and being truly present.

I can’t believe I get to be this little guys mother. It is the biggest blessing I have ever received. It’s time I started acting that way.

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