Friday, September 5, 2014

Birthday Woes and Amazing Grace

It's funny how God sometimes uses the worst in us to bring out the best in Him. To teach us, refine us, and mature us. To bring clarity and understanding to concepts that we thought we had a pretty good grasp on, but actually had barely scratched the surface of.
Let me back track. Tuesday was my 29th birthday and I know it's silly, but I'm a birthday person and even though I've had thirty two of them (oops, I mean 29), I still had grand expectations for the day. It's not that I need extravagance, just perfection and bliss (is that too much to ask??) Well, I dad my day planned out to a T, and I was going to have the perfect birthday with my girls, even though Brad had to work a long day. The only problem was I guess I forgot I was planning a flawless dream like day with two toddlers. And as it turned out, those two toddlers woke up in monsterous moods that only got worse as the day went on. I'll spare the details, but they include mass amounts of screaming, tantrums, fighting (as in pulling each other's hair, hitting each other with xylophones in the head, pushing, shoving, the works), arguing and major disobedience in general. They didn't seem to care one bit that they were ruining my birthday. It was not their finest day.
Nor was it mine. Nope. Not at all. I lost my temper, was snappy, impatient, and unkind. I decided I didn't need to deal with it at one point, since it was, afterall, my birthday. So I put them to bed. That's right. They pulled the last straw and I put them down for their naps two hours early. Then I sulked instead of doing something productive. Honestly, when do my kids ever nap for three hours? I can think of a thousand things I would do with those hours any other day of my life, but on Tuesday, I was bored. I was frustrated that my plans of walking down town and getting ice cream and going through the little local boutiques and sitting in a shady park drinking a pumpkin latte (me) and enjoying cake pops (them) wasn't going to happen. By the time they woke up, my mood was dark and the day was shot. Um...obviously I was having an extremely selfish day. Embarrassingly so.
It got worse, even though on the outside it appeared better. Brad got done with work and we headed to dinner for sushi. The sushi was the best I've ever had. (sidenote: Lily grabbed the entire ball of wasabi while we weren't looking and popped it right in her mouth. It wasn't funny at the time, but oh. my. word. Hysterical looking back a few days later! The owner even came over to offer condolences...and laugh) The girls were happy and we had a great family dinner out. Then I had drinks with a few friends to end the day, and that was great too. But deep down, I was wallowing in guilt of how selfish I had been all day. It honestly made me sick and kept me up for awhile that night.
Then. I woke up and made coffee and opened the Bible and started my devotions for the day. It was still dark out. It was quiet. And there in that little space where I was quiet enough for Him to speak: Grace. That was the days devotion in Hebrews.  And that night as I picked up my book I'm currently reading (Christ in the Chaos)...Grace. Grace on a whole new level. Maybe it was just explained better. Maybe God likes to reveal things to us like an onion...a little at a time, and maybe he pulled a bunch of layers back for me this week. Whatever it was, I have a whole new view of the implications of grace. It's not crystal clear yet, but it's a firm rock I can hold on to and trust.
I realized I have been striving for as long as I can remember...probably forever. For example, when I struggle with something in particular, I find a verse that speaks to that sin or struggle and beat myself over the head with the verse, trying to memorize it, and usually at the end of the day, forgetting it and feeling like I failed again... Only to try harder the next day, staring at the verse, waiting for it to magically change me and make me 'do better.' Then I read this verse:
" is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace..." Hebrews 13:9
And something clicked. I am strengthened by His grace...not by my perfection. Not by my 'doing' better and trying harder, but by grace alone. Instead of focusing on my failures and flaws, I need to constantly look up, look to His grace and realize that it covers me...and that is when change will happen. When I stop striving all together, and let Him do the work in me. This lifts a HUGE burden off of me, and not only that, but...(and this "but" is the scary part; the part I don't want to screw up)
This has massive implications for my parenting as well. I'm not sure where the balance is between giving them grace and disciplining diligently, but I'm trying to find it. I know this: that I am to be a reflection of Christ to my kids. And this is Christ:
(portions of a paragraph from Christ in the Chaos by Kimm Crandall, p.  52)
He can only love his children perfectly. He doesn't lecture us nor does he withhold good things or send us away because he can't stand the sight of us. No...our Heavenly Father calls us over, lifts us into his lap, gently corrects us, and lavishes us with his love. He tells us how much he loves us and how what we just did has been forgiven...Then he sends us on our way--not with a command of "be good and try harder or else I will be angry," but with tenderness, calling, "Remember who loves you! Remember the one to whom you belong"
What grace does is make you long to be with the Father and walk in obedience--not because you are afraid, but because you are loved.
I don't see much of that picture when I look at my parenting. I mean, my kids definitely know I love them. We are a lovey huggy family and I show tons of affection to them, and even do hugs and love after disciplining them--usually. But I lecture and withhold good things because I'm angry, I'm not gentle all the time, and I often forget to tell them they're forgiven. I also am guilty of telling Addison she needs to do better at obeying or being nice to her sister...with threats of more discipline (which probably translates in her head to mommy being angry) YIKES. But because I now see His grace for me and he's given me a deeper understanding, I pray that I can turn around and show that grace to my own family. That I can learn to discipline when necessary, but always full of gentleness and love and kindness and as the years go by, hopefully I will have shown them just a glimpse of His grace. birthday was a wash, but lessons were learned and Wednesday was a new day, and we've had a pretty good week, all in all! And Wednesday wasn't all bad...I got beautiful flowers from Brad, sweet cards and birthday calls, food and fellowship with friends and family, and yes, I did have that pumpkin latte I was determined to have. I even painted my nails dark, in honor of fall being around the corner:)
It was a lame day for photos, but here are the one's I did take...
This is evidence of an obviously glamourous day, showing that I did prenatal pilates using a towel as my yoga mat and giant cans of pumpkins as my weights. It was pretty hard core.
(Actually I was super sore the next day so don't knock my methods!)

 Taking a picture of your pumpkin spice americano with cream while intentionally showing off your new nail polish and trying to make the whole thing look artistic is almost as shamless as an all out selfie. I said almost. But hey, I realized this was going to be about the only birthday picture I was going to take, and plus I was still in the 'wallowing' stage of my day, so I thought staging a picture to show what a 'relaxing perfect day' I was having would help and look cool. And because I'm a dork.
Happy Weekend!

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