Tree Leaves and Grace.

Yesterday I wrote a rather scathing review of my failures in motherhood in my journal. We’d had a bad night while dad was away, and I had yelled and threatened entirely too much. After I finished scratching it all out with my pen, I left my writing nook (a little corner in our bedroom) and found the two middle kids downstairs to take stock on summer homework and organize some papers for their return to Japanese school on Monday. One child-who-will-not-be-named has done very little of his homework, along with misplacing the sheet of paper on which the homework requirements are written. After some cajoling and tears, we called two of his friends to ask what needs to be done — one was out-of-town and couldn’t remember, the other didn’t answer. My kiddo is just as shy as I am on the phone, and so he had reached his limit for daily phone chats. I sat next to him, sighing and trying not to say, “I told you almost every day that this would happen!” This being the overwhelming feelings of having too much homework to do and too little time to complete it, when you don’t take your mother’s suggestion to do a little after breakfast each day. It is now our third trip through this sad wilderness, our third summer, and I’m wondering when my little guy will be pushed by natural consequence into heeding my advice. (Never, perhaps? That is also a likely reality.) Since I am fresh off of my motherly repentance upstairs, I am cool as a cucumber and able to remember how coercing, yelling, and punishing does nothing for both the situation and the relationship, so I suggest we take the 5 minute walk to his school around the corner and see if any 3rd grade teachers are around. (The school building is open all summer, and teachers still come in and work.) Sadly, no one is there, but as we walk the halls and come up with ideas together, I feel at ease knowing he is learning something about how to handle a problem, what it feels like to be behind, digging down to find strength to do hard things, facing his desires to work and not work, etc, with someone by his side who loves him, who is supporting him, and who is kind to him in the midst of his frustrations. In that moment it is so clear to me how unhelpful and damaging any other response would be, so much so that I find myself wondering why I fall into patterns of threats and yelling in the first place.
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We exit the building onto the school grounds and decide to call one more classmate together when we get home, even though this classmate is not necessarily his friend. He enters a cluster of trees near the school gate to climb and hang from a branch, and the green leaves in the sun strike me in a peculiar way. This is how I love you. Is it, God? Really? Because I just spent the morning taking a hard and sharp look at my shortcomings as a mother, and there was no grace. Suddenly, I felt very sad for how I had written about myself, wondering what it’s like to have a kind, supportive God walking beside me as I sift through my failures. Does He love me like this? How much easier it would be to lay that love on my children if I received it myself.
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Grace is an overused word, but it is such a perplexing and contrary thing. How am I to strive toward betterment, yet experience the kindness of a guide who is simply with me for the journey, no matter how many times I must traverse a particular wilderness? I want to give my children this kind of life with me, and so I am setting out to experience it myself. I am God’s child, even when I doubt it, even when I doubt Him, and I want to know this love that is patient, gentle, and kind. I have a feeling that it is a wide circle that would envelop me the moment I step inside, I just need to go there. What keeps me from that?
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My kid climbs the fence and rushes for the gate, eager to get this calling thing over with so he can move onto bigger and better things (like gaming). I walk behind him, thinking about the mysterious power of tree leaves in the sun to impart such things.

1 Comment

  1. So beautifully written and just the reminder I needed today. Thanks for the humility and vulnerability as a mom to admit that it is hard, and for the perspective about grace.

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