Practicing grace in annoying moments

For Mother’s Day, I got the book Glimpses of Grace, which I had been wanting since I first saw it.

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I began reading it last week.  It is gold.  It is full of wisdom and practical application for applying the gospel of grace during the in’s and out’s of dealing with sibling squabbles, spilled milk, and massive piles of laundry.

I’m not finished with it yet, but God decided to go on and test me on it early.  Pop quiz.  Today.  One mess after another argument after another crisis.  All. Afternoon. Long.

We went to Paducah today, myself along with my five oldest kids and my niece.  Walmart, Books-A-Million, gymnastics, YaYa’s Island.  Piece of cake.  Totally got this.  And it actually went very smoothly.  A few arguments over who sat where in the van, a few too many questions about what are we going to do now and when are we going to YaYa’s, but overall, a successful outing.

Then we came home.

From the moment we pulled in the driveway, it all fell apart.

I suddenly became the worst mom in the world because I said we didn’t have time to play in the hose.  World War 3, 4, and 5 erupted in my living over where each girl would sit during the movie.  The baby was asleep so I couldn’t pack bags for travels which I really needed to do.  Because of the World Wars, baby awoke.  As soon as I started packing needed bags, someone asked me if Elliot had gotten dirty outside.  I asked why, then discovered a white dog turned black with some tar-like substance that was now covering a corner of my living room about three feet square and six inches up the wall where he had been laying.  Texted husband to please please come wash Nasty Dog as soon as he could, while I decided to move Clean the Living Room Carpet from Eh…Sometime in August… to Right Now!! on my To-Do List.

While husband is in bathroom giving Nasty Dog a bath, I cautiously return to sorting laundry for packing purposes, when a daughter comes in the house and nonchalantly informs me that the one kid in the bunch with whom I have been entrusted for the week, the one that doesn’t actually belong to this chaos, “fell on her face and she’s bleeding and she says her stomach hurts.”  Picturing blood pouring from facial cavities and internal injuries, I race outside to find my niece sitting in the driveway with most of the skin from her knee now on the driveway and  some slightly skinned hands.  (She was bleeding, true, but her face and stomach were perfectly fine.)  Because the wound was so big, regular band-aids weren’t going to work, so off I went to Dollar General for the big guns.

Dog clean and wound bandaged, husband cautiously went back to the church for another hour or so, while I managed somehow to get one bag packed, and dinner started.  I told the kids that if they amazed me with their clean-up skills, I would make cookies, which they did, so I began.  After absent-mindedly dumping all the ingredients into one bowl instead of two and having to dump out a bowl full of ingredients and start over, I realized I had no butter.  Husband walked in just in time to be asked to hit up Dollar General for the 2nd time in 2 hours.  Sigh.

Cookies are done, supper is done.  By the time I sit down, everyone else is half-finished.  More squabbling, more ugly voices, consequences handed out and received with accusations of unfairness.  Pouting daughter refuses seconds out of spite, then realizes ten minutes later that this is foolish, she really is hungry.  Gets up to get her own, fills her plate, comes back to the table, trips over cousin’s chair, falls all the way down to the floor, dumping her food completely off of her plate into the floor.  That’s when another daughter informs me that baby has been systematically throwing her food one piece at a time in the floor.

How does grace have any application in moments like these?!?

I fought hard to figure it out.  Yes, I lost my patience.  Yes, I heard frustration creeping into my voice.  Yes, there were tears in my eyes.  But I fought so hard to try to figure out exactly how grace made any difference at all during all of that craziness.

So what’s the answer?  I don’t know, exactly.

But I think it goes something like this:  Every single one of those moments was an opportunity to die to myself.  Every moment was an opportunity to serve joyfully in the “right now” that He has given me, without grumbling and secretly figuring out the better scenario I would have painted had I been in charge of my life’s path.  Every moment was a chance for me to throw away any pretense of goodness in myself and cling to the righteousness of One who lived in a messy world among squabbling siblings and dirty animals and served them with perfect joy and zero resentment.  Every moment was a chance for me to rest in Him and His promises, and cheerfully clean up carpet and dog fur and spilled spaghetti and squashed grapes, because by doing so I lose nothing and gain everything.

I didn’t handle all those moments gracefully.  That’s where I’m resting on the righteousness of Christ, who handles every moment gracefully.  But I’m praying for the perspective to view more and more of these moments as opportunities to become more like Him.  And yes, I am seeing little glimpses of grace here and there.

Grace can be seen, when we have eyes to see it, in the mundane, in the irritating, in the painful, and in the devastating.  Sometimes, little reminders are necessary to help adjust our vision to see the grace more clearly, even when we know the truth of grace in our heads.  This book is serving as one of those reminders to me, and I would recommend it to anyone who is noticing a little near-sightedness and having trouble seeing those glimpses of grace.

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