Grace: Mommy Superpower

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I just finished reading I Timothy and started II Timothy in my daily Bible reading, when something hit me: Paul, the author, greets his reader the same way in both books.

“Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” (I Tim 1: 4)

“May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace, mercy, and peace.” (II Tim 1:2)

So, you know me – I had to research it. Paul literally uses a similar salutation at the beginning of all of his letters, and he ends them almost the same way. I Timothy and II Timothy end by saying, “Grace be with you all.” In the New Testament Paul blesses his readers with grace 26 times, peace 12 times, and mercy merely twice.

I could make light of it and say it was just a common greeting (which it was) – but I think it is more. I don’t think either Paul, or God the Ultimate Author, meant it as nothing but a flippant salutation. In fact, I would venture to say that because it is mentioned so many times – it is an important truth God wants us to grasp. God wants us to live in and live out His grace and peace.

I’d like to look at what it means to be given grace – as a parent.  (In my next blog post, I’ll do the same for peace.)

What is grace?

Simply put – grace is the unmerited favor of God.

Grace is often linked with salvation – salvation being a free gift from God.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Romans 2: 8 – 9)

So often, I stop grace there. God saved me because of His unmerited favor towards me. And that is awesome, and so hard for me to grasp – but it is not the only thing grace does – if it were, Paul would not have needed to tell Christians to have grace – it would have been redundant.

So what does grace mean to me on a day by day basis as a mom?

Mother 51) I am a Mom by the grace of God.

Jacob realized this. (Not that he was a mom – but that his children were given to him through grace)

“And when Esau lifted up his eyes and saw the women and children, he said, ‘Who are these with you?’ Jacob said, ‘The children whom God has graciously given your servant.’” (Gen 33: 5)

“Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.” (Psalm 137: 3)

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17)

My children are a gift from God to me, given to me not because I did anything to “deserve” them – but because he favored me and wanted to bless me.

Mother 62) Grace replaces my pride

My six year old memorized more Bible verses than anyone else in Sunday School; my four year old could sing the Books of the Bible – both Old and New Testiment; and my teenager went on more mission trips than anyone else in youth group – and of course, that is because I am such an awesome mom! Or maybe, I’m not so awesome –My sixteen year old son wore a speedo to the community pool; my five year old ate a stranger’s sock at the McDonald’s playground; and my four year old screamed so loudly at a local restaurant that we were kicked out for the sanity of the other patrons. Being a mom is my greatest pride – and what keeps me humble.

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (II Cir 12: 7 – 10)

My very loose translation of these verses: To keep me from having a big head – God gave me children who act childish – to keep my pride in check. I pleaded with the Lord to give me kids who always behaved and were better than their peers at everything, but He said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast in my parenting – not because what I have done, but because Christ has given me the power I need to parent. I am content with not being the perfect parent, because when I am unable to deal with messy situations (and parenting is messy) – I allow Christ to “deal” through me – and others can see Christ more clearly.

mother 93) There is grace for my failures

I don’t know about you – but I am hardest on myself in the realm of parenting.

I realize the gravity of the task. I realize I am not supposed to feed my child a donut and chocolate milk for breakfast; I realize I am not supposed to yell at my kid when he puts gum in his hair; I realize that I’m not supposed to promise my child I’ll take her to the park – then get so busy I forget. I realize all the things I am supposed to do and don’t; and the things I’m not supposed to do but do. I realize these things – but sometimes/often I fail.

Sometime, somehow, someone told me it is not ok to fail as a parent – ever. So I beat myself up when I do. I image that my kids will grow up and be in some recovery group saying, “Hi, my name is …”

I cannot forgive myself. Literally – I don’t have the power to forgive myself, God is the only one who bestows forgiveness of sins – through grace, His free, undeserved grace.

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7)

Christ takes my sins as a parent – forgives me, and exchanges my failures with his lavish favor. How incredible is that.


mother 83) Grace is my Mommy Superpower

My main ministry is to my family. God has called me to raise my kids for His glory. With a job – I may work 20, 40 or even more hours per week – but mothering is a 24/7 job. When I have “one of those days” – when the baby wants to do nothing but nurse, the two year old throws his spaghetti noodles on the wall, and the 5 year old just released the hamster from captivity – I dream of someone pointing at me and saying, “You’re fired!”

When Donald Trump is not around, when I can’t hand off the job to Dad, Grandma, or the sitter – God’s grace will give me everything I need to accomplish the task.

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” (I Cor 15:10)

“for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13)

God’s grace gives me the energy I need to hold and sing lullabies to my colicky baby when I’ve had little to no sleep; to clean the vomit after my child snuck into the pantry and ate the whole bag of Oreos; and to hug my screaming 5 year old when she believes she saw an ant at the grocery store.

Grace is my Mommy Superpower.

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Imitation: The Sincerest Form of Flattery – Unless it Reveals Your Flaws

 

Cheerleaders

My dad only wished my skirt was this long!

I can count on one hand the times I’ve seen my dad cry. The night I made the high school cheerleading squad was one. He knew how much I’d dreamed of it, how obsessed my practice had been and how I’d babbled for years about being a cheerleader. My sophomore year, my cheerleading coach told me I had to quit debate so I could devote more time to cheer. I cried. Then I quit cheer. It was one of those decisions in life that defines you as a person. Somehow my fifteen year old self knew that my soul would be more satisfied in research and rhetoric than physical excellence and social notoriety.

Thirty (and change) years later, I would still rather feed my mind than my body. I much prefer researching educational philosophies to planting rose bushes. I’d rather read a book than bake bread. Words are my favorite art medium.

Thus the challenge. Rose would rather play on the phone or the computer than do handwork or play outside. It dawned on me that she wants to be like me. She has at least ten good years left before she decides if she wants to be a nerd like me.

All dressed up

Like mother like daughter

Her life and learning revolves around imitation. Joop van Dam in his article Understanding Imitation through a Deeper Look at Human Development wrote, “Imitation lives and moves in the child with these two legs or wings: that which opens to the world inwardly from the body and that which opens to the world in trust…Whenever children have the chance, they will eagerly watch a craftsman at work. They see the blacksmith, for instance, and drink in his gestures, and, later, they will play them out. These work gestures build the body. When a child has the opportunity to do many kinds of work in the first seven years, then she is able to build up her body in differentiated ways. Her body becomes an instrument with all kinds of tones and colors. This is a body the individuality can enter and live in for a lifetime.”

Imitation, according to Waldorf education, is the second law of childhood. It is also Biblical. The apostle Paul wrote, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.”

So, I need to be and do what I want Rose to be and do. I need to remake myself.

climbing tree 2

Maybe we’ll wear more appropriate clothes

I need to get in touch with the me I was before the Debate vs. Cheerleading decision. The me that built Barbie Dream houses on the branches of trees I had climbed. The me that was excited to eat Swanson Chicken Pot Pies because I had a new tin for creating mud pies. The me that ran races with the boys – and won. The me that created swimming holes from beaver dams. The me that spent hours searching river banks for the most beautiful rocks for my collection. I need to play more.

I also need to be a me I’ve never been. I really don’t like “meaningful work.” In fact, I don’t like anything that has the word “work” attached to it. I need to work more.

To work more, I need to:

Repent. God commands us to work, “For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. “(2 Thessalonians 3:10-12)

Change my mindset. Work is not a bad word – in fact God told Adam to work before sin entered the world – which means God saw work as good. We were created to work. Work glories God. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24)

mother daughter

Mind-blowing: Rose wants to be like me!

I must be ever mindful that what I do is being seen and imitated by a growing young mind and body. “’Imitation’ is the magic word in the child’s education until the age of nine or ten, when it is gradually replaced by other forms of learning. The child’s habit of imitating us—filled with great trust and equally great expectations—exhorts us to be worthy of that imitation. Not lectures, but meaningful actions meld a ‘brain’ which is capable of thinking meaningful thoughts. Inconsistency has the opposite effect.” (Dr. Helmut von Kügelgen, The Laws of Childhood)

Now that I have been convicted, repented, and am changing my mindset on who I need to be and what I need to do, I must do it. Here’s my game plan for this year:

  1. Have a house cleaning routine. I set this up last fall, but haven’t really worked it. I’m going to be more consistent.
  2. I’ve already began loving to cook. I love the smell of chopping fresh herbs, and garlic and onions sautéing in a skillet. I truly feel happy and fulfilled when I serve a wholesome delicious meal.
  3. This spring, I’m learning to garden. This is a huge leap of faith, as I kill even indoor plants, and gardening is a lot of work (Ugh)
  4. Do more handwork. I am currently hand-making two quilts for my new grandbabies. I actually like this job. There is something so relaxing about feeling the texture of cashmere in your lap, and the melodic rhythm of hand stitching.
  5. This summer, I am going to teach myself to knit – so I can teach Rose next school year.

I’m a little scared – scared of falling back into comfortable patterns, and scared of failure, and mostly scared of not being worthy of Rose’s imitation. But I’m also excited about this new adventure and the changes God is making in me. Don’t think I’ll give up the old, book-loving, research-obsessed, want-to-be-writer, me – I will just save the nerdy me for after Rose goes to bed.

Feel free to ask me how it is going – I need the accountability.

Thanks – More than a Facebook Post

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“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” Winnie-the-Pooh

In a lecture given by Rudolf Steiner and recorded in The Child’s Changing Consciousness, Steiner said, “If, during the first period of life, we create an atmosphere of gratitude around the children, then out of this gratitude toward the world, toward the entire universe, and also out of thankfulness for being able to be in this world, a profound and warm sense of devotion will arise . . . upright, honest, and true.” Waldorf teachers are trained to teach gratitude.

But the idea of living a life of thanksgiving predates a waldorf education by thousands of years. Verses are sprinkled throughout the Bible instructing God’s followers to be thankful. My personal favorite, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

So how do we as parent-teachers teach our kids to be grateful?

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  1. Develop a Thankful Heart

We are not thankful because of what we have, but because of who we are. Gratitude is not dependent on circumstances.

The Bible tells us to be thankful in ALL circumstances. James 1: 2-4 tells, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith  produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” We can be thankful even in the worst of circumstances because we know that there is a purpose for our suffering, and God is in control and at work in our lives.

Our kids need to see us being thankful in good times and in bad – but how do we replace the angry, hurt feelings with an attitude of thanksgiving? In Ephesians 5:4 Paul writes, “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”

John Piper explains, “The key to unlocking a heart of gratitude and overcoming bitterness and ugliness and disrespect and violence is a strong belief in God, the Creator and Sustainer and Provider and Hope-giver. If we do not believe we are deeply indebted to God for all we have or hope to have, then the very spring of gratitude has gone dry.”

We are thankful just because we exist – and that very existence is dependent on God. Only Christians can have gratitude ingrained in their hearts and pour out in their speech and actions – no matter what circumstances may be.

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  1. Model Thanksgiving

Gratitude is caught and not taught.

When I verbally thank the stranger who lets me cut in the grocery line, or the waiter who pours my tea, or my child when she picks up her toys – my child sees and hears it. When I thank God verbally, both in head bowed prayer and eyes wide open exclamation – like thanking God when I get a good parking spot at Walmart, or praying and thanking Him for my food – my child sees me.

Steiner lectured, “An atmosphere of gratitude should grow naturally in children through merely witnessing the gratitude the adults feel as they receive what is freely given by others, and in how they express this gratitude.  If a child says “thank you” very naturally—not in response to the urging of others, but simply through imitating”

The greatest means of teaching my child to be grateful is to be grateful myself and allow my child to see that gratefulness.

  1. Practice Thanksgiving

Waldorf pedagogy can be implemented in the intentional teaching of thankfulness.

Recitation:

We can recite thanks throughout the day – for the new day, for play outside, and for the food we eat.

The important thing to remember as Christians who use waldorf methodology is who we give the thanks to is as important if not more important than the thanks itself.

Colossians 3:16–17 states “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

We are not called to a vague thanksgiving, but to God himself. Many waldorf verses thank the created instead of the created. For example:

I thank the earth beneath me

For there I stand and walk.

I thank the air around me

Which helps me breathe and talk.

I thank the sun so warm and bright

So far away in Heavens height

To keep me safe ’til morning light

God warns of this in Romans 1: 21 – 25 “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Here’s some verses which thank God:

Thanks 4Start of the day:

This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Ps. 118:24)

For this new morning with its light,

Father, we thank Thee.

For rest and shelter of the night,

Father, we thank Thee (Emerson)

I thank Thee, Lord, for sleep and rest,

For all the things that I love best,

Now guide me through another day

And bless my work and bless my play.

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Playing Outside:

For flowers that bloom about our feet,

Father, we thank Thee.

For tender grass so fresh, so sweet,

Father, we thank Thee.

For the song of bird and hum of bee,

For all things fair we hear or see,

Father in heaven, we thank Thee. (Emerson)

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For Meals:

For health and food, for love and friends,

For everything Thy goodness sends,

Father in heaven, we thank Thee. (Emerson)

God is great and God is Good,

And we thank God for our food;

By God’s hand we must be fed,

Give us Lord, our daily bread. Amen.

thanks 8Bedtime Prayers:

The day is past and over,
All thanks, O Lord, to Thee!
O Jesus, keep me in Thy sight
And save me through the coming night.
 

All praise to Thee, my God, this night
For all the blessings of the light:
Keep me, O keep me, King of kings,
Beneath Thine own almighty wings.

Prayers from your heart:

Repetition is great for small children, but remember God wants us to just talk to him. Pray aloud – just talking to God and thanking him – and your little one will do so too. At bedtime, we pray and thank God for all the major things we did during the day. We thank God for all the people in our life that we love. And we thank God for being God and for loving us.

Stories:

Children learn through stories – so don’t forget to pepper your story selection with stories that teach gratefulness. Here’s a few tales:
King Thrushbear  
https://www.gutenberg.org/files/37381/37381-h/37381-h.htm#Page_152

Androcles and the Lion  http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/type0156.html

The White Snake  http://www.authorama.com/grimms-fairy-tales-36.html

Story of Ruth and Naomi (adapted from the Bible) https://www.gutenberg.org/files/45114/45114-h/45114-h.htm#Page_143

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Let’s remember: Gratitude is a lifestyle, not a 26 day countdown to Thanksgiving on Facebook.