Choosing Grace

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The past three months have been filled with adventure, blessings, and frustrations. As a family, we have traveled to many exciting destinations, dealt with multiple unexpected hardships, and experienced huge transitions. To name a few major moments: we went on a mission trip as a family, Brett traveled to South Africa, we’ve endured quite a few housing repair issues, I’ve entered into the third trimester of pregnancy, the kids have started public school for the first time, and much more. I consider us to be an incredibly blessed family and even as we face hard circumstances, we encourage one another to choose a good attitude knowing we cannot always control what goes on around us, but we can choose our response.

With that said, I realized recently that in the hustle and bustle of working through these major transitions, we may have unintentionally invalidated the level of stress and trauma we’ve actually been in. In the past 20 months, we have conceived three children, but lost two in late miscarriages. These were literally life and death events that rocked our world and broke our hearts. Each of us had to work through levels of grief and disappointment that, at times, felt crippling. Somewhere along the line, I believe I may have made a “point scale” if you will, of which traumas matter and which don’t. For example, I subconsciously decided that if you have a child die (or similar loss) that would be a 10 on the scale and worthy of pausing and needing to be dealt with intentionally. Sadly, I think I also subconsciously decided that all other traumas (leaking sewage pipes, fallen trees in the yard, pregnancy sickness, financial distresses, etc) all scaled much lower and simply needed a “good attitude” to be dealt with until Jesus provided an answer or time moved us past it.

It’s funny how when I consciously think about this “scale” I’ve created in my head, I see it as insanity, lacking all needed mercy and grace, and is absolutely unhelpful in the long run. However, I somehow adopted this belief enough to operate from it the past couple of months. So much so, that I have allowed trauma to build up and I have had physical manifestations this week in the form of a panic attack and multiple meltdowns (I also recognize that pregnancy hormones are probably contributing). By Thursday this week, I was able to acknowledge I needed to take some time to connect with the Father and work through releasing the trauma I have been carrying unintentionally all summer. Then our daughter had her meltdown…

All parents have been there: that moment when your child has the completely uncharacteristic public meltdown that makes no sense logically and everyone in the universe seems to be in attendance for the show. We got to the dance studio that Elle has been taking classes from for two years. She knows the teacher, has been excited for fall classes to begin, and loves to dance. However, as we headed in, we had the perfect storm of stressors that positioned her heart and mind in fear and frustration and when she made it to the door, the class was filled with new (slightly older) dancers, and she was paralyzed by fear and couldn’t enter. To start, I was shocked and harshly told her to “just go in”. Then the contraction I was breathing through intensified, her insistent “NO, I can’t!” got louder, and my patience disappeared. We went the rounds for twenty minutes. That’s right, TWENTY MINUTES! It evolved to her crying, me trying to force her in the room, Brett trying to intervene, and other dancers/parents trying awkwardly not to watch. I literally felt like I was in a bad movie scene of someone else’s life. The whole thing was foreign for all of us and completely uncharacteristic to how she behaves and we respond as parents. By the end, my contraction settled down, I was able to make eye contact and lovingly tell her that she may not run away but she doesn’t have to do this alone. We held hands as we calmly (but still upset) walked into the class and she hesitantly joined in. Once she was settled down more, we talked again and I was able to step back outside the class (per the studio’s policy of no parents in the classroom) and watch from the door window.

As I finished watching the final twenty minutes of class from the window, I could hear voices of condemnation pointing to how horribly I’d handled myself, that she had embarrassed herself in front of her peers, and I probably defiled her into the whole thing by not handling myself well recently to start with. The other moms in the hallway were avoiding eye contact and I began hearing how disgusted they must be. You name it, the shame began piling on. THEN- in one fraction of a clear moment I had the thought, “None of this sounds anything like my Jesus or something I’d ever want Elle to believe.” That one thought gave me the courage to pray and ask Jesus to help take those thoughts captive and replace them with His truths. Immediately, I started hearing a loving voice reminding me of how if this had happened to one of those other moms, I’d have been silently praying for them, extending grace and possibly even a verbal encouragement at the end. Jesus started reminding me that He suffered on the cross so that I do not have to live under condemnation and shame, but rather I get to receive unending grace and a love that casts out all fear. As I watched Elle, I repented for partnering with fear and control and began to forgive myself and receive His forgiveness. I allowed Him to remind me that I am not needed to be a perfect parent, but simply one who faces her mistakes and shows her children what it looks like to clean up a mess and walk out grace and forgiveness, cloaked in intense love. Right there, in the hallway, I choose grace for myself. I wasn’t excusing my poor choices, but rather allowing the Prince of Peace to come wipe them away and replace them with a peace that surpasses understanding. As I sat and dealt with what we call Kingdom Business, I watched Elle fill with confidence and peace on the other side of the door too. You see, as my daughter, under my covering of authority, she receives whatever inheritance I hand down. As I stood there choosing grace for myself, I watched Holy Spirit fill her with the same love and boldness that was pouring into me. Parents, when we choose to partner with His promises, they are not just for us, but all those within our sphere of influence.

I’ll be real, this was only one example of me falling apart this week (it happened way more than I’d care to admit) but it ended with a big win. If I can encourage another mom, parent or human to remember that they are loved regardless of their behavior and that choosing grace for themselves in the midst of blowing it is possible, then here you go. Great parents are not those who are perfect in public and who’s kids (seemingly) never act out. Great parents are the ones who can make mistakes, allow their kids to make mistakes, and continue to prioritize love and connection over public appearance. It would have been much easier to just give up and walk out, flustered and embarrassed. It would have been easier to hide in the bathroom as I give my child a piece of my mind or squash her into submission and show everyone in attendance that I am a parent who is in control of her child (not a real thing, by the way). Instead, I cried with my daughter and showed her that together we can face fear, hardships, and our mistakes. We can be bold and hold hands as we press into a scary situation that we’ve already embarrassed ourselves in. I showed her that we do not have to partner with shame but we can clean up our messes with Holy Spirit and each other.

At the end of the class, another teacher/parent we know came and asked me how I was doing and if Elle was okay. Because I was able to choose grace for myself, I was able to hear her question through a filter of care and concern, not condemnation. I explained what had happened, that I’d blown it initially but where I had landed and that Elle was now doing fine. Just then, Elle walked out and announced she’d made a new friend and liked the class. The teacher looked at me with kindness and sincerity and said, “Wow, you all have endured so much and yet you do such a great job of prioritizing love. Great job mom!” I was shocked and blessed to realize that is her perspective from the outside looking in on my chaos. I am so grateful I didn’t let the enemy convince me otherwise.

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