Grace 101

Thursday night Adam had a choir performance.  I had carefully laid out his (brand new) embroidered choir shirt and his (brand new) khaki pants in our laundry room.  Ten minutes before it was time to leave, my three-year-old daughter (ever growing taller and surprising me with what she’s able to reach), somehow grabbed the bleach pen from atop the dryer. 

I’ll let you imagine what she did to the choir uniform.

This is where I would like to tell you that I handled this with complete grace.  That my first thoughts were for the fragile feelings of my ten-year-old boy, or that I laughed at the humor of it, or that I breathed a sigh of relief that she didn’t destroy more than just a shirt and pants.

I would like to tell you that, but I cannot.  I handled it terribly.  There was yelling and sighing and eye-rolling and overly-harsh elbow grabbing.  All from me. 

Generally speaking, when a "crisis" like this is past–when the mess is cleaned and the kids are quiet and the emotions are soothed–I usually can keep a healthy perspective.  But never, it seems, in the heat of the moment, am I able to respond the way I’d like, the way I hoped I might after walking this mothering road for ten years. 

It’s episodes like this one that most frequently drive me to my knees after the fact, asking, "Really, God?  Was it really a good idea to make a hot-head like me the mother of four children?  Will I ever respond with even a fraction of the grace you have shown me?"

He responds, of course, by pouring out more grace, reminding me that despite the messes I make, He’ll faithfully finish what He’s started.  He grabs me by the boot straps and pulls me back up off my knees, a little more humble and ready to make things right with the four little people He’s given me. 

There’s another "crisis" just around the corner, of that I’m certain.  Something will get ruined, or someone will be bleeding, or something terribly important will be forgotten.  Maybe I’m a little wiser– maybe next time I’ll be the mom I want to be.  Or maybe I won’t, and I’ll wind up right back on on my knees.  Come to think of it, it’s not a bad place for me to be.

Onward and upward, friends.

68 thoughts on “Grace 101

  1. The Dad Diaries says:

    My wife told me how her Father would sometimes lose his temper and unload his stress on to her when she did something wrong. That is not good however what he did do right was to go up to her later and apologise and explain that he had no right to yell like that and it was not something he was proud of. I think as long as you can learn from these things that is all you can do.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    I relate. I am working on learning new patterns, instead of just trying to stop – which seems impossible.
    I am ever grateful for being able to speak with my kids about my faults, to apologize – and to tell them I love them and WANT to be a better example. Something my parents NEVER did. It is their dad (my husband) that I blow up at more than at the kids – but still, in front of them… 😦
    God does love us – in all our weaknesses!

  3. Emily says:

    Shannon, thank you for posting this. I read your blog because A) you’re funny and B) you seem like a pretty great mom and I get lots of good thoughts from you. But it is nice to hear that even the good moms can have rough times and need God’s grace! Right now my toddler is in a defiance “stage” (I devoutly hope it is only a stage!) and I have yelled at him or been a bit too rough “helping” him into his room for a time out, too many times. But I’m working on it. Thanks for the encouragement and the reminder of the One who can help us.

  4. Amber says:

    Wonderful post. I think even the ‘best’ parents all know how it feels to experience that remorse after losing it. I love that God is always willing to give us new chances to use what he’s taught us.
    thanks for the encouraging reminder

  5. kelli says:

    Amen and amen.
    I’m the hothead in the family. And now I have a teenage girl pushing every. single. button she knows I have.
    At times I feel the only thing I can do is pray for her becasue opening my mouth will jsut make things worse.

  6. Stretch Mark Mama says:

    We were such Good Mothers before we had kids…and so proud of our Patience and Peacefulness and Kindness and Gentleness…
    But, for the grace of God, is there ANY good thing that comes out of me.

  7. MamaLee says:

    What a wonderful post. I can relate! I am not proud of my behavior some days as well.
    Just remember that we are never given more than we can handle. So we can handle this. Sometimes we just forget to breathe through those stressful times. I hope that both you and I remember to breathe the next time stress comes.

  8. Madridmom says:

    I can soooooo relate to what you wrote. Praise the Lord for his grace!
    My curiosity is killing me though ….. what did your son wear to his concert?

  9. chocolatechic says:

    I don’t know of any mother on the planet that HASN’T lost it from time to time.
    My mouth is constantly in motion before my brain screams “noooooooooooo”. I am always apologizing for something I have said, or the tone of my voice.
    I just wanna know when I will learn.

  10. Antique Mommy says:

    Been there. Many times. Oh that I could not give in to the extremely satisfying but short lived rush of the elbow grab and heavy sighs and other expressions of contempt… The good news is that I’m quick to say I’m sorry and I was wrong and Sean is quick to say, “I know. That’s okay Mom, I forgive you.”

  11. Heather says:

    You’re speaking right to me this morning. Ah, grace. I needed to read this after a very rough night last night and being on my knees this morning. Thanks, Shannon.

  12. Tami says:

    Oh, how many times I’ve said and felt he same way!!!! I admit it has gotten better over the years, but as the saying goes…”He’s still workin’ on me!!”

  13. Edi says:

    Oh my! I can well imagine how I would have reacted – and I’m ashamed to say, it would not have been good.
    I know exactly what you mean about how during the crisis it all seems like such a BIG DEAL (and since it’s a crisis it usually is to some extent) – but that afterwards in a time of reflection – you realize how you could have handled it differently. If only they could warn us they were about to embark upon a crisis and then we could be prepared with our perfect response.
    I had one of these situations (and it wasn’t even close to your crisis) where I overreacted and then had a long time to ponder it and wished that I could have taken back those 5 minutes. We all need grace. Doesn’t matter if we’re a mother for 10 days, 10 hours or 10 years – grace is needed.

  14. Laundry & Children says:

    I am totally living this post. It just gets so hard especially when I feel like I am dealing with the same crisis over and over. I find myself so often saying, “What was the thought process that lead you to think this would be a good idea?” I could definately use some grace when it comes to crisis management.

  15. maria says:

    This was what I needed after fight #4548967 with my oldest son, through his almost 18 years of life. I wonder why I didn’t handle it better…AGAIN. Then I wonder why he has to be so difficult, then I thank God the other 2 boys are no where near as trying. Then I cry. So thanks for showing me I am not alone in my inability to be graceful.

  16. AmyR. says:

    Well it may not be comforting to you, but to me this is very comforting, knowing that other Christian moms, really desiring to raise their children in the love of the Lord, mess up just as much as I do. Speaks of a loving and forgiving creator, and you’re right, he will complete the work on us!!

  17. pam says:

    Great post, Shannon.
    I smiled the other day as I thought of you while I herded my children out of a store with the words “onward and upward” dripping from my lips. : )

  18. Irene says:

    Boy, I can relate to this post this morning.
    I feel so horribly guilty right now as this morning I was an absolute bear, for something that was MY fault. I tried to wake my oldest for school, without waking her 2 1/2 yo little sister who was up VERY late and woke crying a few times last night. As I picked up my oldest, I accidentally knocked her pillow off the bed, which made a big enough “thump” to rustle awake the 2 yo. She woke crying and wouldn’t stop all morning. Add to that the fact that I haven’t been sleeping well for 5 days now, I didn’t finish cleaning the kitchen last night so it was still a mess (a pet peeve) and the cat was driving my batty.
    Needless to say, I didn’t handle the situation with ANY grace whatsoever. Now I am forced to deal with my own guilt and embarrassment for what I am teaching my children.
    I pray every night that I can be a more patient and understanding mom, but then these horrible days creep up on me and put me right back to square one.
    And the sad thing is, all the reasons I was irritable were completely MY fault AND they were such DUMB reasons to be upset. I know there are so much worse things that can and will happen, so why am I wasting my precious time with my little ones being angry and inpatient.
    Thanks for the post, like I said, I really needed that right now.

  19. fullheartandhands says:

    Thanks for posting this! I was on my knees this morning in awe at God’s grace. I had two episodes already this morning where I wasn’t even close to the mom I should be, but maybe next time and with His strength. Thanks for the honesty.

  20. jenny says:

    I’ve asked God that same question 15 or 794 times. I’m so thankful that God knows what he’s doing, offers boundless grace for my mistakes, and can work all things for the good of those who love him! Praise Him!! Thanks for sharing honestly.

  21. Ann@ HolyExperience says:

    We’ll just stay on our knees together, yes?… and He’ll bathe our messes in glorious grace.
    Father of Grace loves you, Shannon… and so does this daughter.
    Onward and upward, indeed!

  22. Veggiemomof2 says:

    Shannon, I have asked myself for years now, “Why in the world would GOD give me a child I cannot handle?” (ds has autism) I have learned through bible study that it was the only way HE could get stubborn ol’me to admit I NEED HIM. I really cannot think of another way HE could have gotten me on my knees like this!

  23. Nancy says:

    Thank you for such an honest post, I think all mothers have asked this same question at some point in time, only to have the reassurance from God that He knows best, & we will survive & so will our kids.

  24. Stacey says:

    This blessed me today in ways I cannot put to words just now. I have these moments, too, I am afraid. And I often wonder if I am the only mother who acts like this.
    Thank you for making me feel like I am not alone swimming in this river in need of his grace.

  25. Janelle says:

    Oh, I feel your pain. I get so disappointed/frustrated when my kids don’t learn something I’m trying to teach and yet, I’m as think headed as they come when it comes to learning the important lessons. I’m just glad God is full of grace and my kids love me no matter how I react in the moment. It’s good to know I’m not the only one who struggles.

  26. Jessica says:

    I just read the first entry by Dad Diaries. My mom would also sometimes loose her temper on me or my sister and she always apologized. I totally respected her for that. I too am a bit of a hot-head and have lost my temper on my one and only child. I am certain apologies will be often with me.

  27. Kimberly says:

    As soon as I read the words “Bleach Pen”, I was horrified for you.
    Your post this morning is reminding me that before I go let my boys out of their room (it’s still early on the west coast), I better get down on my knees for a healthy helping of the Holy Spirit. After that I will go hide the bleach pens. Thanks for the heads up!
    I don’t know if I’ve ever commented on your blog before, but I read you faithfully and you always make me laugh (and think). Thank you!

  28. nicole says:

    I definitely think God made me a mother so that I would be aware of just how much I need Him and how much growing I have to do. I think we all have a path to holiness and mine is definitely the motherhood path.

  29. MaryLu says:

    Wow, di I ever need to read this today. I had a pounding headache yesterday and took it out on my kids when they were really just being kids. Then at prayer time last night, (actually right after the episode) I felt so weak and deflated and unworthy of my task as a mother.
    Thank you so much for your encouragement. I know that He is faithful and will complete the work He has begun within me, I need His daily dose of Grace to make it through.

  30. Mary says:

    May our great God truly bless you for sharing this experience and for how you ended up handling it. Aren’t you thankful for His grace? It brought tears to my eyes and I remembered how it was for me when my children were young. If we were perfect, we would already be with God, not down here with our trials and temptations. Your children will rise up and call you blessed if you persevere, dear Shannon.

  31. Jen says:

    YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Thanks for the reminder!! In times like this, I am often broken by the forgiveness and grace, not only of God, but also of my daughter, who a few minutes later will tell me I’m the greatest mom in the world…

  32. courtney says:

    Boy, can I relate! My 3 year old sang in Kid’s Choir yesterday at church with Black Marker all over the back of his white shirt courtesy of his little brother who found the marker in the church nmursery and went to town! Surprisingly, I handled THAT situation OK – probably because I was at church and not at home. However, in the everyday things at home, I too find myself apologizing and repenting for my impatience, harsh words and unloving actions to my very curious little boys.

  33. Melanie says:

    Thank you for being candid. I think people, especially moms, read blogs and think everything in the writer’s world is perfect. We need to know that we are all a work in progress. I am so thankful that it is the potter who molds me. Aren’t you?

  34. Erin says:

    Glad to hear I am not the only one who had a bleach mishap today. My 7 year old curious daughter decided to “clean” the bathroom counter with a bleachy shower cleaner. My hubby thought the puddles were just water when he leaned on them to shave….and his new blue lounge pants have 2 huge red spots on them. I handled the situation much like you did, probably more yelling as my daughter lied repeatedly about it until she knew we knew and finally confessed. Parenting is exhausting sometimes…

  35. Carrie says:

    Thank you for sharing. It has been many times that I wished I’d been the portrait of a perfect mother, but 9 times out of 10 I’m not. I’m sure happy for that 1 time though!

  36. GS says:

    I completely understand. I teach 8th grade language arts & whilst in the midst of a major attack of hives I LOST IT with my 4th hour class who, because it starte raining in AZ had lost their collective minds.
    I raised my voice a bit (SIT.DOWN.NOW!). The icing on the cake was turning to the corner nearest me – about 5 inches – and throwing a roll of book tape into it. I feel guilty beyond belief, but amazingly today (Monday) they’ve forgotten it. I haven’t. To say I needed God’s grace at that point is an understatement. 😦

  37. Gego says:

    Normal, Dear Shannon. There are multitudes of words spoken, actions taken, and angry responses that I prayed to be taken back. All I could do is pray that each episode taught me to be more kind, gentle and not wish to kill one of my offspring and that they would someday forgive me for my actions. Even now, as the mother of two and the grandmother of four, I still have the same prayers.
    So, how did sweet, meticulous Adam handle this crisis?

  38. Amy says:

    Hear, hear! (Or is it here, here!?! I never know!) I believe that parenthood is God’s truest testing ground. I know it has been (and still IS!) for me. Thank you for being so honest in your posts. Beautiful!

  39. Gretchen says:

    There is no 2 ways about it: We need God. And…it stinks being the grown up sometimes. Let’s just say you’re preaching to the choir. They’ll forget about it long before you do. Hang in there, and put away the flogging tools. You’re forgiven. Now get up, and look up. (((hugs)))gretchen

  40. Bob says:

    What a great story. Life is what happens when you have other plans, right 🙂 Now I’m more convinced that God has an incredible sense of humor.
    I just found your blog and it’s awesome!

  41. Aunt Murry says:

    Don’t fret. It will happen when you have grandchildren. I watched my parents turn into the most graceful and philosophical cretures the minute they had grandkids. It was a truly amazing transformation.
    On the other hand, until such time as you are blessed with grandkids, you will probably need to invest in some knee pads. Mom says they are great when she needs to hit her knees.
    Just incase no one has told you, you are a good momma.

  42. Deanna says:

    It’s funny, I worte about basically the same thing on my blog last night…only not so many deep thoughts on grace came out. I mostly sound like I am complaining and pittying myself. But really, my sentiments exactly! Thanks!

  43. zoom says:

    This happens because it keeps us humble. It also keeps us going to the only one who can extend grace. Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
    I blow it more than I care to admit. More often than not I wish I handled things better. More often than not I need to ask for forgiveness. It also keeps my heart tender for others that make mistakes.

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