"When a child gives you a gift, even if it is a rock they just picked up, exude gratitude. It might be the only thing they have to give, and they have chosen to give it to you." -Dean Jackson
I caught my oldest son, Luke sneaking out our back door earlier this week with a pair of scissors in his hand. He had the hunched back crouch of a jungle cat stalking it's prey and I knew right then that there was trouble afoot.
"Luke Andrew! WHERE ARE YOU GOING??! You know you can't go in the backyard without permission; and why do you have A PAIR OF MY SCISSORS in your hand??!!! Come back here and explain yourself, Son!"
With his bottom lip trembling, he started to protest, and I quickly jumped onto him with some no-nonsense, authoritative-Mom action: "Luke, when I tell you to do something, I expect you to listen and obey IMMEDIATELY. DO NOT respond with excuses, Son. You have to come to me when I call you. PERIOD. Now.Come.Here."
At this point, his bottom lip had gone from trembling to quivering and huge puddles had formed in his eyes. He took a shaky breath, put on a brave face and replied as tears rolled down his face: "But, Momma. But, Momma- I was just trying to sneak outside and cut you some flowers. You always like when you have your pretty flowers out, and I just wanted to surprise you."
At that moment, my anger evaporated and my heart shattered into a thousand tiny pieces.
My face hot, I dropped to the ground and wrapped him up in a hug. My throat was tight and my voice was pinched as I apologized for snapping at him. I reminded him that there are reasons why he can't go outside without permission, but I also told him that I should have asked patiently first without immediately fussing at him.
I needed grace. I got it.
Still intent on his big surprise, I covered my eyes while he slipped away on his covert mission. He returned a few minutes later with a huge handful of the Black Eyed Susans that were blooming in our yard.
I got them into some water and asked him to pick the perfect spot for them: in our living room on a bookshelf my Dad made for me. I've passed them dozens of times this week, and every time I've looked at them, I've remembered that bittersweet morning.
It made me realize I need to slow down more when I parent. I've got to give out more leeway and fewer orders. I should dole out heaping helpings of grace- for my kids, for my husband, and for myself. I don't want to become a harsh foreman and forget to be a loving Mother. These childhood days pass so quickly, I don't want to be distracted by enforcing 100%-perfectly-perfect-behavior-protocol that I miss them completely.
Things get so busy and crazy and chaotic and LOUD here that I sometimes snap. I get overwhelmed and overloaded and overstimulated and in those weak moments, I can crumble. And I remembered that Paul did, too.
"And Jesus has said to me, "MY grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." -Paul, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
My flowers will stay fresh for a few days longer, but my prayer is that their lesson to slow down and get grace will abide in my house for much, much longer than that. Hallelujah.