Thursday, February 26, 2015

Why I Don't Want My Kids to "Toughen Up"

So, as in every elementary school in the whole entire wide world, there has been a bit of playground drama once or twice every year since we let these people out of the safe haven of home (although with the yelling that goes on here sometimes and the general lack of supervision we provide, I'm not really sure how safe a haven home really is) and we have made the girls handle it. 

Preston and I, both being teachers (ok, I'm a former teacher, but I can't separate) are determined to stay out of school. Not in a "it's the teacher's job so we won't ever darken the doors" sort of way, but in a "we know the teacher is crazy exhausted and has to deal with snotty-nosed-lunch-tray-droppers all the live long day, so we will give the benefit of the doubt to whatever is going on and assume the worst of our children because its probably true since they have been fallen from birth, no, since conception, and parents sticking their noses in and having pie in the sky visions about their naughty children just makes the teacher's job so much harder so we will only go up there to be helpful or in the event of an emergency" sort of way. 


But we had a bit of a situation where one child was feeling repeatedly mistreated and talked to the powers that be, who handled it.

This has nothing to do with anything, but isn't
she cute with this dog she bought from the
thrift store for $2 with her own money? She named
him "Pinkerson."


In a conversation I was having about what went down (and that makes it sound awful, and it so wasn't but it makes for a better story to say "went down") the overall feel was kind of a, "That's life. Buck up." kind of attitude. Honestly, that's often how we are, too. Get over it. Here's how to respond. Punch them back. Dry it up. Learn to deal with it.

Now, nothing is wrong with those statements. (Except maybe "Punch them back." Although I am not above that for myself. Ask my brothers.) It is life. They do need to learn how to handle it. There will always be mean people, even after first grade. Just look at all the adult bullies throughout history - Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, and on and on and on. If the girls are wrecked by one mean person they will be doomed to live in our basement well into their 30s, constantly tormenting us with the clickity clack of the air hockey table.

But learning to deal with it and toughening up are two distinctly different things. 

Toughening up makes me think they will be indestructible. Inoffensible. They will not feel things because it is too painful, and the only thing that really matters is Number One.

I don't want them to be tough. 

I want them to feel the wound when mean things are said, either to them or to a peer. 

I want the knife to go deep when they see stories of persecution on the news. 

I want their hearts to break for the hungry children of the world. 

I want them to feel a brokenness so deep that they are spurred to action...to defend themselves not because they got their feelings hurt, but because they are a creation of God and when we mock one another we are mocking the Most High God; to be active in the fight against evil because people have inherent worth as creations of the Lord; to donate money, to travel, to serve meals, to sacrifice their own creature comfort to provide for the needs of another, because that hungry child was created for God's glory as well. 

And most especially to pray.

Prayer is a mystery, but Scripture tells me to do it, and even directs how, and so I will do it and train my children up to as well. Because there will be days like today, when the number of kidnapped Christians seems to double every time I turn on my computer, when the number of children who are desperate and need sponsors grows every time I check the Compassion website, when the number of people dying in far off genocides seems too great to ever do anything about.

On days like today, I hope they are spurred to their knees. Because today, in this moment, I can't get to those captured. And even if I emptied my bank account and gave it all, it would not be enough to feed all the hungry people. And could we get there, our weapons cache (some nerf guns and a set of steak knives) is not enough to stop the slaughter of another entire town.

But I can pray. And God is there with the captives, the hungry, the lonely, the desolate, the hopelessly broken. And that is so much better than me being there.

And that makes the brokenness I feel today, and the brokenness I want my girls to feel, not a hopeless brokenness, which is so different from regular old brokenness. Because the Bible also tells me the fight is over. Jesus has won. 

And He will return

Please do not mistake my words. I do not want my children to be doormats to be trampled on by the bullies of the world. That is not Scriptural and does not bring glory to God's name either. I want them to rise up, put on the armor of God, and go forth in His name. I want them to share the name of Jesus not only with their words but with their actions - by defending, feeding, sharing, giving, donating, working, loving, and praying. And whatever else He calls them to. 

Kind of a side note here, but Preston is currently at a citizenship ceremony for a dear friend of his from a far off land. They both started teaching at Fairview the same year. This man lives here from August to June, returning to his family at the end of the school year for the summer. He is bursting with pride over becoming an American citizen. He is working and saving to bring his children and beloved wife here. She gave birth to their fifth child and first girl yesterday. He won't meet her until he is able to go home in June. But for this family, the sacrifice is worth it. We are so thrilled for this man and so hopeful for his family. 

Never before has there been a wealthier nation in the history of the WORLD. People still see us as the land of hope. They make unbelievable sacrifices to come here. May those of us who are here be reminded of this by this precious family's story.

Also, if you are looking for a book to read, I cannot use enough words to recommend The Hole in our Gospel by Richard Stearns. 

Grace,
Martha 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Boy, A Girl, and Some Barrels

Once upon a time, nearly a million years ago in Summer 1971, a Girl from small town Ohio moved to Nashville, Tennessee with dreams of being a teacher. She got a job in an elementary school in a not so great area of the city and moved into an apartment with her sister in a bit nicer area of the city.

There was a native Nashville Boy who also lived in this apartment complex, and even back then he was always busy, busy doing projects.

One day he was outside his apartment painting a set of barrels he was planning to use as the base for a table. The sweet Schoolteacher strolled past this scraggly looking, motorcycle riding fellow, remarking casually, "I like your barrels." (a never before nor since used pick up line)

The Motorcycle Man was intrigued and offered to show the teacher the rest of the place. She declined.

A few days later, the Schoolteacher was at her apartment on the phone with a parent of one of her students and feeling rather frazzled after a full day of first graders when her sister came to tell her there was a handsome man at their apartment door looking for her.

When the Schoolteacher went to the door she hardly recognized the barrel-painter, what with his showered, clean physique and the flowers he was holding.

The handsome man confessed he had asked their apartment manager to reveal which apartment the Girl lived in and coerced the manager to tell him despite the policy against such.

Even though she probably should have been creeped out the Schoolteacher was convinced to go on a date.

The wild Motorcycle Man and sweet Ohio Girl dated each other, each still having the occasional date with another, for a while. Never seeing each other exclusively.

One cold Monday evening, at dinner, the Girl asked the Boy if he might want to get married?

"Sure." he responded. Oh, the romance.

So the Schoolteacher took a personal day on Tuesday, and the Boy and Girl went to get blood work done as was required back in the day.

Wednesday, the Motorcycle Man called the Schoolteacher he had wanted to marry the day before and let her know he had decided he really liked things as they were so could they just not get married? The Schoolteacher truly didn't care and said that was fine.

On Thursday, the Motorcycle Man called the Schoolteacher at her place of work, and said he had once again changed his mind. Did she still want to get married?

"Sure." she said.

She went into her principal's office and asked if she might have a half day off on Friday to get married? (She felt guilty taking a whole day since she took Tuesday off for the blood work.)

Her kindly principal heard her reason and said, "Oh, go on and take the whole day!"

The Schoolteacher called her mother to tell her the plan, who promptly burst into tears and told the sweet small town girl she would rather be attending her funeral than the wedding forever joining her to this wild man. The Schoolteacher stated her intent despite this.

Upon being informed of the news, the Girl's father called her from Texas where he was on a business trip and expressed concern as well, but she continued on with her plan.

On Friday morning the Schoolteacher's sister/roommate insisted the Bride needed a new dress and ran to the mall, returning with two options. The Schoolteacher rejected one as being too fancy and insisted her sister raise the hem of the navy blue mini one with white stars and rick rack a few inches so it would be shorter for this most solemn of occasions.

The Motorcycle Man borrowed a Cadillac in which to transport his Bride to the courthouse. And off they went.




After the ceremony performed by the judge on duty and witnessed by only 4 friends, the Schoolteacher's parents took the Newlyweds to supper. Because even though they did not approve of this wild man for their sweet Mennonite girl, the deed was done. And it was forever. Un-undoable. Sealed. So they would go with it and never say another word. (And they would come to love this man like a son, and the Motorcycle Man would admire his mother-in-law as one of the finest ladies of his acquaintance, even one day naming their daughter after her despite her protests against the old-fashioned name. She even refused to tell the name of the sweet baby girl for several days, giving the couple a chance to change their minds. But it stuck. And the legacy of this woman became so great, the child who was named after her named her own daughter after her again 27 years later.) 

After supper the newly wedded couple returned to the apartment the Motorcycle Man shared with his brother after stopping to get medicine for the wife of the owner of the Cadillac, who could not get to the store himself seeing as his car was occupied.

The next morning the Groom got up and kept his Saturday golf appointment with his cronies. And the Bride called her date for the evening and had to tell him she needed to cancel because she was married.

And the Motorcycle Man and the Schoolteacher lived happily ever after.

You see, they knew (even though they didn't know the depth of this at this time) that they were now ONE. That they had been two whole people but somehow, supernaturally, come hell or high water (and come they did) they were now all tangled up in each other and could no longer be apart without becoming a ragged half of who they once were.

(Even though the Schoolteacher did phone a lawyer she found in the yellow pages three weeks into the marriage to see if possibly, hopefully the marriage wasn't valid since his ridiculously difficult last name was misspelled on their license. The lawyer didn't think so, and their license is wrong to this day.)

And the Motorcycle Man and the Schoolteacher went on to have beautiful children (especially the youngest), and to experience years of happy times, and tragedies, and changes, and devastation, and new homes, and reconciliations, and comings home, and grace poured out without measure.

February 25 marks 43 years since that day at the courthouse. And though no one would describe their wedding as anything epic, their marriage and the example they have set certainly are. 

Grace,
Martha

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Snowpocalypse, Southern Blizzard, Snowmageddon, Snowed in FOREVER

A brief glance at our week. Do not mock the "Southern Blizzard" title. We have two inches of ice under an inch of snow, so while this may not be epic in your town, this is just about the best thing to ever happen to us. It also doesn't hurt that Preston is a PE teacher and is home for the week to help bear enjoy some of the fun. And I do have another post started I feel will be downright hilarious, particularly if you are a DIYer, but as evidenced by what our week has become, I cannot gather my thoughts. Maybe there aren't any left. This synopsis is all I can manage. 



We used to drag babies in this sled. 

But it worked for 8 year olds, too. 


Sledding is exhausting!!! (And so is walking back up the hill on a sheet of ice after you have gone down it. I have fallen more times than I can count. But Preston has fallen more. Which I think is hilarious. )



I really wanted to be thankful for the snowplow

drivers, but then I noticed this. 


Waffles and wine for supper. 

Grains and fruits. 

Win for Momma.


It was rather magical...


...until we noticed the Gigantor Mastiff 

pictured here was eating a deer leg (not pictured here).


So we went on a walk and found this. 

(Deer leg still not pictured here.) 

((Because the dog ate it.)) 

(((In case that wasn't clear.)))




Rednecks...




...beget rednecks.
(click here to watch video)





This...





...and this




have made this...




...bearable. This is their new game called "Opera Competiton." The first one to step back is the loser. Mommy and Daddy are the real losers.


And a few bonus texts from the week, just to get you through:

I'm losing the will to even try.

#Jesustakethewheel

I am trying to remember when I last washed my hair...

I need a chance to miss my kids.

I'm not going to drive in this but I'm not above calling on neighbors in a wineless weather crisis.

I had to make a kid apologize to the other kid for growling in her face.

I won't be driving anywhere. I've never lived anywhere but here and this is a freakin' blizzard!

School is closed for tomorrow, too.....You are lying!!!

I told the Lord and my kids that I was D-O-N-E and went to take a shower.

Survive and advance, Ladies!!!!

(Need more texts? You MUST read this old post. Desperate for alone time? Read this one. Ready for your kids to get the heck back to school? Click here.)


Grace for the entire season of winter,
Martha





Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Unexpected Twist

This is going to sound straight-up crazy, but I am convinced if I say something out loud in regards to my kids, it will come true in short order, or they will do the opposite of what I said they always do or always don't do. I don't believe in being jinxed, but I almost do. Or I don't. I better say both things so nothing bad happens.  

For instance, one time I bragged we were on our third child and had never had someone throw a fit in a store. Sure, we had someone just haul off and go to the bathroom in the middle of the aisle in Hobby Lobby, but never did one of our children throw a fit!

Less than one week later, I had all three girls, ages 4, 2 and 11 months, at the grocery store with me. Bad move. I usually tried to get groceries when they were with my parents or when Preston was home, but we were having one of those "we MUST see other humans, or Mommy will take her own self down to the loony bin" kind of days, so I buckled everyone in and drove two miles to Kroger. It took longer to buckle them all in than it did to drive there. Then we had to get a cart that was practically as big as the Durango (pre-minivan days...when I still had pride) due to the toy police car attached to the front, complete with dual horns. What psycho invented that? Someone without kids or someone with mommy issues who was looking to get revenge on the entire mommy species. Got the older two in the police car, sat the baby in the seat in front of me, and set out for the free cookies. Everybody knows that's where you have to go first if you want to survive the grocery store.

Got the girls settled with cookies, (Chocolate chocolate chip...again, WHO puts dark brown cookies out for kids??? Never mind that I had a couple, too.) and I began my list. I wasn't too far into it when things took a serious unexpected turn.

Looking back, I have never been able to figure out what started the fit. She had some cookie left, no sister was messing with her, her pacifier was securely clipped to her shirt well within her reach. All I know is The Youngest started screaming, and got crazy red, and chucked her cookie down and then tried to throw herself after it. I literally caught her beelining head first for the concrete Kroger floor. I wrestled her back into the seat and started to walk a little more quickly, hoping to distract her, but she just tried once again to dive out of the cart. I strapped the disgusting little strap around her waist and hoped that would hold her. Nope. It was ridiculous. I had no idea what was happening or how I could soothe her. I was humiliated. I LEFT MY CART OF GROCERIES SITTING IN THE CEREAL AISLE, gathered my herd and walked out. We didn't leave the house again for a month.

Another example is from a few months ago when I was talking to my friend in carpool line, and she mentioned how one of her kiddos had thrown up. It got me thinking, and I said, OUT LOUD, "No one has thrown up in our house in about six months. It's probably about time." Laugh, laugh. If I just hadn't said it OUT LOUD. It's ok to think it, but if you put it out there, it's gonna happen. And sure enough, within the week, a stomach bug of epic proportions hit our house, taking its sweet time and going through all the girls once and then back around for a second time through. It was a full month before we were in the clear.  

Or how I was talking to this same friend this week and she said how cute The Youngest looked in her paint clothes she was supposed to wear to school instead of her uniform. I told her I had picked those pants because Painting Child hates them, and it wouldn't matter if they got covered in paint. Guess which pants that child has wanted to wear every single day this week?

When they were babies I didn't dare brag about how long of a stretch they were sleeping, or I was guaranteed a night of awakening every hour. In fact I was inclined to talk about how poorly they were sleeping hoping somehow this "out loud phenomenon" would have its magic effect of the opposite occurring and making them sleep longer.  

And I have learned to make it a point not to say the word "never" because sure as I do, people will throw themselves out of grocery carts.

These people the Lord has given me for now are totally unpredictable in every way. One child in particular changes her mind almost as soon as the words come out of her mouth about everything from her love/hatred of peanut butter, to her love/hatred of school, to her love/hatred of Disney World. 

All I know about this life is the Lord has planned my days and the days of the ones I love most, and I have to go with that. (even though it seems like my words have a magical effect on what happens) Two dear friends have suffered staggering losses this week, losses my brain cannot comprehend, and rivers of tears have been shed, and really, this is the comfort: He knows. Before the beginning of Creation my days and the days of my children were written in the Book of Life. The Bible tells me in Revelation that before the foundation of the world, He knew our names and had them written down. Before He created the first leaf or water droplet.


The Ones I Love the Most...


...whom He has given me...


...to care for...


...for now.

In times of such deep despair as these two families I love have been asked to walk through this week, I know of no other comfort.

And while trivial in comparison, it's also comforting when the walk of everyday life takes turns you weren't expecting, such as sick kids, an impending snowstorm, a big medical bill when you thought you had met your deductible, or people throwing a fit in Kroger. The Lord Jesus knows...even though you were blindsided.

Grace for the unexpected,
Martha

  


Monday, February 9, 2015

Pride Goeth Before Motherhood

Let me tell you, you cannot be a mother if you have any pride. At all. You have to check it at the door the moment the pink line shows up. For lots of reasons.

First of all, there's the whole childbirth thing. If you are a modest person, you will die. Or at least wish you could a billion times throughout this 9 month process, with 8.5 billion of those wishes occurring during the actual 24 - 72 hours you are laboring (hopefully it will be more on the 24 hours end, but don't count on it). 

Modesty...gone.

Then the baby is there, and you are exhausted. In addition to the bleeding monster eyes I described here, I was actually so tired after all three births I got black eyes. Not like some dark circles because you stayed out too late. Like, someone-punched-me-square-in-the-face-black-eyes. Only no one actually punched me. You just can't go all those days in a row without sleep and keep your sparkling baby blues. I remember sitting in the nursery thinking, "I have never been this tired. No one in the history of the world has ever been this tired. And no one ever will be again. And I look ridiculous." And then I sobbed.

Vanity...gone.

Then this sweet baby does things like cough while you are changing her diaper causing poop to spray out on you. (OK, I'm sure that's TMI but, as they say, poop happens.) Or spits up into your hair. Or onto your face (I do not advise playing "airplane" until your kid has been on solid foods for a loooong time.) And the worst part about these incidents is that you actually debate whether or not you need to change clothes. What's the point? It's going to happen again in an hour or two. And no one is around to care. 

Cleanliness...gone.

On days when you won't see anyone except for these babies who drool all over you and the man who helped you make these monkeys, you have to really consider whether or not to use their naptime minutes to shower and put on some deodorant, which is the extent of the beautification routine even on days you are feeling fancy. The kids definitely don't care as long as you keep the graham crackers and apple juice flowing, and by the time you get the kids in bed, the Father for sure won't care, and plus that's how you got in this situation in the first place. A book we studied in our small group titled When Sinners Say I Do had a line in it saying something to the effect of "Nothing makes you feel less sexy than small children." Testify. Witness. And Amen.

Sexiness...gone.

And one day, when these people start to be able to form sentences, they say things like, "Why are you so dressed up?" when all I did was put on jeans instead of yoga pants. Or "Your tummy is squishy" which initially provoked me to anger and the desire to rage about how THEY are the reason my tummy is squishy, but eventually I came around to this response I posted as my status on Facebook back before I started this blog:

Mom, your tummy is squishy!

Yup. I could probably go off carbs and get a sweet flat tummy, but then someday you'd think you need to as well, and if you ever place your worth on how well toned your body is, I will be so sad. Also, I like chocolate, so there's that.

I could work out vigorously every day, but honestly when I have free time between my part time job and my full time mommying I want to read a book. (Or watch KUWTK but that is a secret)

My tummy also has lots of stretch marks, which I could make go away with various expensive creams, but it just doesn't seem important when people are being slaughtered and my money might get them some clean water or bread or something I have free access to.

I'm not stupid, and I want to be really healthy and be here for a long time for you and your sisters, but even if I'm not, we have FOREVER together in HEAVEN! What more can I ask for?

So my tummy will likely always remain squishy, but your Daddy thinks I'm smoking hot, and I am a daughter of the KING, so it's ok. 

And someday when your daughter points out your squishy tummy, I hope you think it's ok, too.

But then a few more things like that came out so I thought, "Well, maybe I should go off carbs!" But then I made cornbread and there was honey and butter, so I went back to, "Nah."

Rock hard abs...gone. (But I never really had those, so no big loss. And let me tell you, most people don't. Put down People and forget it. Seriously. Don't let yourself get on the news for having to be hauled out of your house with a crane, but eat you some cornbread every now and again! And then go for a walk and forget it!) 

I can totally see the football 

playerness of this dress. 

But what's wrong with the colors?

Then there are the moments like this past Sunday when I pulled out a dress I don't wear very often because I don't really like it, but I also despise shopping and spending money when I have clothes hanging in the closet. After I took it off, one girl said, "Mommy, I'm glad you put on normal clothes (which happened to be leggings and a Fairview Basketball sweatshirt - high class stuff) because that dress made you look like you had on football player gear. And the colors!" Like I said, I don't like this dress either and have some of the same feelings, but it stung a little to have it said out loud. 


Sense of style...gone.

Or this morning, when I had on my glasses which I have been having to wear pretty much all the time because my eyesight has tanked (thanks, Middle Age) and one girl said, "Why do you wear your glasses all the time now?" I told her that it was because being pregnant ruined my eyesight. I'm going to blame everything on pregnancy forever and make them rue the day they decided to be born.

Youth...gone.

All the things that used to be things I took pride in, things in which I found my identity...gone.

But I also know I would give up my pride over and over and over again to be a mom. It's why the human population hasn't become extinct. Because the good outweighs the bad. Sometimes they say things like, "Mommy, I love you so much I just wish I could hold your hand all day everyday." Or leave notes for me to find in my calendar. Or tell me with awe in their eyes, "Mama, you look like a princess!"  

Those moments make the others worth it. I will buck up and soldier on. I will pull myself up with my out-of-style boot straps. Because I AM MOM. That is my new identity. And I love it.

It's ok with me that they think I look like a linebacker. Or that my glasses make me look old. And that they ruined my body. And my eyes. And killed the romance and stained all my clothes and suck me dry of energy and rational thoughts and are needy and are the reason we can't have nice things and never pick up their stuff and complain about supper. 

Because one day, before I can even believe it or am remotely ready for it, they will be...gone. 

Grace,
Martha







Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Kindness Wars


Warning: I am deep today. I know I proclaimed my non-deepness, and here I am again, being deep. But I promise, this is the deepest I go. I have a great post started for next time about DIY projects and how they have ruined my marriage, so hang in there with me.

I recently read a fantastic blog post about how moms all can understand each other if we choose to, because we are all moms. I loved it. It talked about ending the "mommy wars" which really resonated with me. Get off Pinterest, already. I wish there was a Pinterest for people like me. My crafts suck worse than your crafts. My snow day activities do not involve building a whole snow family. I do not want to make homemade finger paint; they sell it at Target. I do not believe my children will come out better or worse based on how early they learned to read and with what amazing program. 

What would life be like if we were all willing to freely admit when we had really screwed up and possibly ruined our kids forever? Or truly rejoice with each other with no hint of envy when we have a momentous success, like our kid being "student of the month" and plastering it on our car and knowing the mom behind us is beaming with pleasure for us instead of shopping for one of those bumper stickers that says, "my kid beat up your honor student?" What if the competition was a kindness competition? (I can feel you rolling your eyes. I am too, cynic that I am.) And yes, I believe that it is Scriptural to run in such a way as to win the prize, and I'm all for keeping score and rewards when earned, but Scripture does not say "be the best at all costs." 

That blog post got me thinking...what if all Christians were like that? Not just moms, but all Christians. What if we looked at each other and said, "You understand. You are a human." What if we chose grace (which I looked up just to be sure I'm using it correctly, and the definition is "free and unmerited favor" which I LOVE) over and over and over all day long? How would God use that to change the world?

Because it isn't just the Mommy Wars. It's all humans.

On my way to drop off two of my three darlings at school this morning, I got in a line of traffic, and then I got behind a car doing maybe 35 in a 45. The horror of driving slowly. But this lady's blog post was fresh on my mind, so instead I thought, "What if that guy up there was in a car accident, and this is his first time back on the highway, and he's a nervous wreck? Or what if her husband was killed in a car crash, and she now drives with such caution because she can't bear to think of anyone else going through that pain and figures they are better off late than dead?" 

Grace for the Slow Driver.

What about the child who was mean to my sweet daughter on more than one occasion, causing weeping and gnashing of teeth from both me and my child for whom I would die a thousand deaths? Why haven't her parents taught her any better? Why isn't she kind? Why is it so hard to NOT be mean? What if she doesn't have parents, but instead has a Grandma who is sacrificing her golden retirement years to raise this child? And sometimes she is completely exhausted, so she turns on the TV and falls asleep not knowing the girl then changes the channel to a show spewing filth that really isn't appropriate for anyone, much less a babe. 

Grace for the Bully.

Or a newborn gets a horrible disease we thought had been eradicated, but because of a recent slew of parents choosing against vaccinations new parents are now in the NICU with their precious, defenseless child who was too young to receive the inoculation. But what if those parents who chose not to vaccinate had watched their previously healthy child retreat into himself after a vaccine they had been assured was harmless, becoming a shell of the vibrant child he once was, never to laugh his silly laugh again despite their best efforts and all the therapy money can buy? And even though the President is preaching shot safety and maybe it was a coincidence, they just can't do it again, so vaccinating their second healthy child is not an option for them.

Grace for the Parents Who Make Different Choices.

Or someone was rude to me in the grocery line by making eye contact and then making a sharp right turn almost overturning his cart just to get a spot ahead of me in line. No one has ever told him he is important so he learned a long time ago to look out for Number One because no one else will.  

Grace. 

Or the girl who can't get her day going without knocking back a swallow of Jack to stop the shaking. She never used to drink, but then the abuse got so bad, and it helped her escape, and now she can't escape the shaking.

Grace.

Or the father who can't pay his rent but there sits his big screen T.V. He bought it on a 6-months-same-as-cash-plan before he knew his landlord was going to raise his rent, but all he can see is his mistake and the judgment of the people who think he actually wants to take the handout. "You must like being on welfare if you spent your money that way instead of investing it in a Roth IRA," but he never even heard those words before in any of his high school classes that focused on test scores.

Grace.

Or the mom who gives her child a Tootsie Pop and the iPad, even knowing what everyone is saying about sugar and screens, so she can somehow get through the next fifteen minutes because she just got the phone call that her husband lost his job, and needs a minute or thirty to process, but three year olds don't understand that.

Grace.

Or the woman riding my bumper making me livid. Remember the time The Oldest was throwing up blood, and I ran all the red lights trying to get her to the ER in my frantic state? Maybe she is in the same situation, so I'll just move over instead of slowing down and antagonizing her like I really want to. 

Grace.

The only reason I would ever be able to make the choice to extend grace and not get on my high horse and scream for justice is because justice has already been served. 

In all these instances, God extended grace to me first by having Someone Else take the just punishment - when I was impatient...Jesus died for that...when I desired revenge for my child...Jesus died for that...when I judged the parents, when I thought the alcoholic should just have a little more will power, when I considered myself more responsible and therefore better than the family needing assistance, when I silently chided the mom with the cart full of unhealthy groceries, when I mouthed off to the bad driver from behind the protection of my minivan windows. Jesus died for all that. He took the punishment. And I got the grace. I got the grace. I don't know what is behind the slow driving/the vaccines/the non vaccines/the alcohol/the welfare/the unhealthy choices/the rude behavior/the bullying. But I believe people are doing what they can with the tools they have.   

Please don't think I am saying I want to be loosey goosey, anything goes, no consequences, do what makes you happy. No, a big part of grace is understanding that sometimes there are consequences along with the grace. Sometimes grace looks like consequences. Like, I love you so much I will not let you participate in that destructive behavior because later on it will cause serious problems for you. I will not let you run out in the street because a car will hit you and kill you. I will help you find the help you need. I will allow you to be different from me, and I will be your friend. Contingent on nothing. The best tool I have to share, and the only one He asks me to share, is Jesus.

I always, in all situations, want to seek first to understand, and then, if necessary, to be understood. To listen without formulating my response while the person is still talking. To extend as much grace as I can, however that looks.

I would like to point out my failure in this so you don't think I am being preachy preachy. I routinely yell at my children, say mean things to my husband (or really, send him mean texts), fuss at poor drivers, am selfish with my time, my money and my possessions, and judge the people on the local news. I say ridiculous things like, "I would NEVER do that!" when in reality, I would. I am capable of anything given the right circumstance. 

In a conversation recently I was reminded of what the pastor in the church I used to go to would often say; "Cheer up! You are so much worse than you think you are!" Tomorrow, or probably two minutes after I put this post out there, I will be faced with a moment where I can, only by the power of God, choose grace. 

And it just happened. The Oldest, who has been sick and is moping around and feels just good enough to whine, is hanging over my shoulder wondering what's for supper. I am trying to understand she has been sick, and is hungry, and wants some mommy love instead of yelling about leaving me alone for just five more minutes so I can finish this post.

God will allow me to choose grace.

I just wish He'd let me choose it from the beach.

Grace,
Martha