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grace

Everyday Grace

Five Grace-Killing Lies Our Parents Told Us (and We Probably Tell Our Kids)

June 1, 2015

Here are five grace-killing lies our parents told us growing up that, more than likely, we are telling our kids as well.

1. “This is NOT a negotiation”

 

business_kidEverything in life is a negotiation, you’ve just decided to end the negotiation. Which is fine. But saying “This is not a negotiation” is all about power and impatience. Saying, “That was good; you almost changed my mind. Here’s why you didn’t” empowers a child and teaches discernment and, yes, negotiation. The key is to teach respectful dialog and that is done by example and practice. It acknowledges and encourages good reasoning in children that aren’t being insolent but care very much about the “whys” in life. Outside of safety issues (“GET OUT OF THE ROAD!”…”Why?”) negotiation shows grace to a child that your power as a parent isn’t something to be lorded over them and contributes to healthy development in the life of a discerning and thoughtful child. Continue Reading…

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Everyday Grace

Here is Grace for the Weariness

May 31, 2015

“The road is rugged, and the sun is hot. How can we be but weary? Here is grace for the weariness – grace which lifts us up and invigorates us; grace which keeps us from fainting by the way; grace which supplies us with manna from heaven, and with water from the smitten rock. We receive of this grace, and are revived. Our weariness of heart and limb departs. We need no other refreshment. This is enough. Whatever the way be – rough, gloomy, unpleasant – we press forward, knowing that the same grace that has already carried thousands through will do the same for us.”

Horatius Bonar – The Christian Treasury, 1868.

A Different Life

Children Are Like Countries

March 17, 2015

Children are like countries. Their disputes often rage over property rights and who has crossed whose borders. When they come together for a summit, aka playtime, they like to divide up into factions and plan war-games and other operations that can lead to both enjoyment and military action. When someone breaks the code of conduct and takes a toy (weapon) of the other team (coalition,) tempers flare and injustice needs to be remedied. In these instances, a small group of ambassadors is generally sent to the parents who, with a representative from each group present, act as a United Nations and hear the dispute. The UN, after listening to both sides, offers up the usual response of “if you can’t share then we are going home,” and the ambassadors head back to their countries to report the sanctions that have been laid on them all.

As a UN mom, I find it a political nightmare when these instances occur because, nine times out of ten, it seems to be my little country that thinks she’s a superpower able to do whatever she wants with the toys she has brought to the party. And the superpower expects everyone else better fall into place. So I am left with two options, I can consider her young age and inability to share well with others as a stage that I know cannot be broken with sanctions, and thus look like a permissive parent to my friends. Or I can crack down on her insurgency and make demands that will end in her humiliation and resentment of me for not, “being on her side” which then gains me points with the UN representatives of the other nations, aka Moms, but not with my own little country.

It’s a conundrum I face almost every time our summits happen. Do I side with my child or teach my child a lesson? Do I make a statement to the press about her illegal actions or do I save those talks for private chambers? Most of the time I opt for the swiftest end to the dispute so that I can get back to conversations with my fellow UN officials and so I say, “If you can’t share we are going to go home.” And then I save the lessons for the drive home.maggie0341 ditch kids

So when a few days after these particular peace talks had passed and my little country was sharing her feelings about the whole operation, I had to check myself. She was saddened about a particular situation that came out of that war/game, and it was that after the summit with the UN moms one of the kids said to the others under his breath, “Addy sure is bossy.”

Upon hearing this, many moms might jump to their child’s defense and say, “oh no you are not. What does he know!” but I’m a little different. When I see familial sin coming to the surface I want to nip it in the bud, I want to use this painful example as a reason why selfishness never pays off. I want to instruct my child and show her how to behave better the next time. And so in that effort, the first thing I want to do is to say, “well you are a little bossy with them. And if you keep acting like that they won’t want to play with you anymore.” Sounds like helpful and opportune constructive criticism to me. How else will she change if I don’t get on this stuff? After all, I know all about bossiness, it’s a trait that I have as well, one that has taken years and tears just trying to change. I don’t want my daughter to make the same mistakes as me, to burn the same bridges, so I want her to learn now how to die to herself and think of others first. With all that in mind I instead said this, “that’s too bad. I’m sorry he said that. That must have hurt. It’s not nice to hear things like that is it? That’s why it’s good not to talk about people behind their backs, or to say things like that at all. I’m sorry that happened to you.”

Screech.

Wait. What? That’s not what I meant to say. I meant to tell her all about her selfishness and to use this as a lesson. Darn it! What just happened? I tilted my head, squinted my eyes and thought, ‘is that the right response to sin? Aren’t I supposed to correct that out of her? Did I just miss an opportunity to instruct or did I just take an opportunity to share grace?’ The conclusion I came to in this instance was that if I corrected her at this moment, when she was sharing her pain with me, then I wouldn’t be a safe place for her to go with her pain. I’d be the enforcer, the corrector, the bossy one, not the safe one. But if I empathized with her pain and bit my tongue about the sin, I could rely on her Father to work out the sinfulness. I could go to him and ask him to do a work in her and to capture her heart. After all, I cannot do that: I cannot change her sinful nature by my sheer will. I can instruct her in his ways, and teach her his precepts but I cannot make her believe or act in faith and love.

I don’t know when my daughter will learn to share more consistently. I pray that it will happen soon, but if I am honest I pray that so that I won’t be embarrassed anymore by the absence of this particular fruit in my child’s life. But I don’t want to think of her sinful nature as a reflection on me because then my goal is a selfish one, to make myself look better. I have to start thinking of her sinful nature as a reflection on the veracity of God’s Word, that there is no one righteous, not even one. And that it is by grace that we are saved from that nature, not by parental might or perfect childhood compliance. It’s my sin nature that she has running through her veins, and I know the prescription for that nature in her and me is him and him alone. So I’m learning as I go, how to offer that grace to my child, and to trust him to change her heart and her spirit into one that turns everything she has, even her Nerf gun, over to him that he might be glorified.

How I respond to the sins of others is a continual challenge for me. Do I choose empathy or correction? When is the right time to teach and the time to shut up? I’m learning as I go, making mistakes, reassessing and getting some things right. My prayer is that even though I don’t know it all, that I would somehow always trust him and always side with love, kindness, and grace.

A Different Life

Let Them Eat Junk Food

February 17, 2015

Tired of spending more time in the kitchen than in any other room in the house? Sick of the never ending pile of dirty dishes? Why not stop the insanity, get rid of the plates, and give them a sumptuous TV dinner? Now you can have homemade, nutritional, gourmet meals in minutes. No work before. No dishes after. But what a meal!

0601f9c2-ed23-4490-96a5-40ae4193cf06_centered-50s-adThis ad from the 1950’s made TV dinners look like a healthy alternative to homemade and people all over the country began to pull out the TV trays and get to the important business of watching TV. My mom was a single mom, so TV dinners made sense with her busy schedule. She didn’t always have time to cook from scratch and sometimes the quick stuff is actually cheaper than scratch. In fact, try throwing together a TV dinner style meal on your own and you’ll spend much more than the manufacturer asks for his “nutritious” meal. I can still remember the taste of the fries and chicken. They had their own distinct flavor, nothing like homemade, but the quickness and ease somehow made up for that.

There is something in me that can’t see giving my family a steady meal of food that’s fast. Sure, it’s great not to have to do dishes. In the time it takes me to make one meal from scratch, I could have the entire house clean and have my feet up watching my favorite show. Still, knowing what I know about nutrition and the importance of a healthy diet, I can’t give up the time it takes to cook homemade meals for my family.

And while I don’t do a lot of frozen dinners, I can say that I have been known to frequent the drive thru a time or five hundred. In fact, my daughter Addy grew up going to McDonald’s almost daily, while some of my friends kids have never even been. In order not to be seen as the bad Mommy, we called McDonald’s by a code name, that way when A would ask me to take her to “M” after playdates, no one had any idea what she was talking about. I was saved the humiliation of having to tell other mothers that “yes indeed I was serving my child food with so much preservatives that if left out on the counter for three yearshappy-meal-day-day-126[2] it would still look the same as the day I bought it.” Eeek! What can I say, sometimes speed takes precedence over health.

Yes, I’ve been known to take the easy way out. In fact, I’d say I do that more often than I take the more laborious but beneficial way. Mac N Cheese? Great! But give me ‘Easy Mac’ and shave of 4 minutes of cook time and I’m feeling giddy. How many times at the end of the day do I look back and say, “Wow, all she had today was carbs, did I miss the mark! But hey, tomorrow I’ll try to take the time to cut up some fruit or something?” I’m serious. I have conversations like that with myself. My daughter would eat pasta for every meal if I wasn’t more diligent about taking the time to give her something from the five food groups at least once a day. Why can’t there just be a pill for that? Something that takes care of all that nutritional stuff and let’s us get on to the more fun parts of life than cooking and cleaning up after it all?

Yes, speed is often my Achilles heel. Doing the right thing just takes so much time! Even in conversation, responding to my family in love and kindness, in self-control and gentleness, takes so much more time than just shouting out what needs to be done. The whole listening thing, waiting for them to do what they were in the middle of doing before I tell them what I need done, it all gets in the way of my rapid pace and my to-do list.

Recently I’ve started to notice that my daughter and are fighting a lot, usually after I tell her quickly what needs to be done quickly so that we can quickly move on to the next thing. And my quickness meets her meanderingness like a head on collision between two locomotives.trains In my effort to take care of things I just want to say what needs to be done and then for it to well, be done. But now I’m starting to see that this Easy Mac approach to communication, meant to save me 4 minutes, actually ends up taking ten minutes and sets the mood for a lot more bickering as the to-do list falls apart because she won’t cooperate with my junk food approach to communication. The junk food of selfishness, complaint, conflict, impatience, meanness, disobedience, unfaithfulness, harshness and self-indulgence is more a part of the diet I feed my daughter than the healthy fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control ever is. As the branch that is meant to grow the fruit of the Spirit to feed those around me, I feel like I’ve taken to producing imitation fruit [junk fruit] that serves up quick but rots the teeth and the gut when consumed. If it’s true that no good tree bears bad fruit, and no bad tree bears good fruit, but each tree is known by its own fruit (see Luke 6:43-44,) then I’m more often a junk food tree than a good tree.

I confess that I have served the people I love too much spiritual junk food, the exact opposite of the healthy fruit of the Spirit I am meant to feed them.

And I’m sick of it.

The unhealthy relationships that junk fosters is repulsive to my spirit. I want to be done with speeding through life. I want to allow the fruit of the Spirit to grow and to blossom, producing all the fruit that my family can consume so that they can taste of the Spirit and reproduce the fruit themselves. I’ve known this for how long? And yet I fail to do the very thing I know to do. Thank God for his grace, for his relentless return to forgiveness and to mercy, without it I would be lost. And because of his kindness I am moving forward today with the prayer that his Spirit would nourish my family as I speak to them in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

A Different Life

My Little Sinner

January 27, 2015

My daughter is a little sinner. Don’t get me wrong, she’s very sweet, she loves deeply, she is discerning, and looks for ways to be kind to people, but there’s no way around her sinful nature. Like the rest of us humans, she isn’t perfect. So why do I take it so personally when she messes up? Why do I assume that her sin looks bad on me? It’s bad enough that my own sin is an embarrassment, why does her sin have to be an indictment on me as well?

In my old age, I’ve gotten pretty good at hiding my sinfulness, pretty good at making light of it, or applying the soothing balm of grace to myself, thanking God that he forgives me hundreds of times a day for my failures. But when my daughter acts in a way that is more selfish than loving, the first thing I want to do is to fix her. And that makes sense, we have to teach our kids right and wrong, but when my motivation is saving face, or proving to my friends that I won’t allow for any of that sin business in my household, I sense that I’m not so much concerned about the state of her soul as I am the state of my reputation. Embarrassment trumps grace when her selfishness sticks out for everyone to see. Forget about my selfishness in not wanting to have a transparent moment where people see that I can’t and won’t perfect my child, I’ve got to discipline the selfish out of her in an attempt to make up for her failure. Ugh. That’s the gospel according to Hayley.

While I do want a child who loves others well, I don’t ever want my reputation to be the energy behind my discipleship of her. In other words, I want to see my child the way God sees her, as a sinner saved by grace. Just as important, I want to see myself as a parent saved by grace, not condemned by the sinful nature of my offspring. My child is a lot like me. She’s prone to teach, correct, lead, to be liberal with advice, be selfish, and speak before she thinks. Her flesh is continually at war with the Spirit and she’s only been on this earth for nine years. So, why again do I take her sins personally when her sins have already been taken by another?

A Different Life

I Love the Law

January 7, 2015

I don’t know about you, but I love the law.

I just love it!

It makes sense. It puts things into order and it helps me to know what to do. When I was a kid I learned to use the law to get attention. While some girls were breaking it to feel freedom, I was busy using it to my advantage: proving my goodness, my smarts, my talents. Straight A’s, 4.0 grade average, saving myself for marriage. I obeyed the heck out of the law, and I got all the glory for it. Doing great at what people tell you to do is, well, great! But girlfriend it can mess you up!

First, there’s the nasty problem of having to constantly prove yourself. When proving yourself by your ability to obey the law, you end up in a continual frenzy of action, stress and worry. And the few laws that you start out to conquer become a few more and a few more. Pretty soon if there’s a law you hear about you want to get in step with it, to tic it off of your list of “I can do it!” So when I first became a Christian I was in heaven, heck, there were more laws then a girl could know what to do with. ‘Thou shalt not’ was my favorite phrase. The lights just kept going on for me. “I didn’t know that!” I’d say with an excited smile on my face. “Now I can get things right. This will change everything.” And so I devoured my first Bible. Read it from cover to cover in three months and set about to change my life. And I did, by my sheer devotion to the law, change. LAS-Law-January-1And since the law proved to be so valuable to my growth, I wanted everyone else to hurry up and change too, so I became an evangelist. Yes, of the amazing love of God, but more importantly, I thought, of the law, the glorious law that sets it all right.

But what I found out was that the love of the law makes you an uncomfortable companion. “What?! You mean people don’t want to be continually corrected? Or told what they should do in order to make their lives better?” That makes no sense to me. If I have the cure for cancer why wouldn’t you want me to share it with you, or so I reasoned. Isn’t part of love sharing the burdens of one another? And if my burden was (allegedly) lifted by obeying the law, why wouldn’t you just obey your way to freedom too? Ugh, that’s it, that’s it right there; the root of my dysfunction. In my pursuit of God, I got caught up in believing that the law was meant to save me, that it could save me. I fell so in love with order, direction and purpose that I missed the Savior. I missed his kindness (grace) in setting me free from the law.

It’s so ironic, because for years after Catholic school, I tried my hardest to prove myself to God; to do things all right. But I failed, I really failed. 20100304_do-you-love-the-law_poster_imgAnd then I read about myself in Galatians 5:4 and another kind of change started. It said, “you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” These simple words started a decade-long wrestling match with this idea of grace, the concept that destroys the power of my beautiful law that says: the law doesn’t save you, his grace does. Those words don’t taste very good coming out. Frankly, they offend me. I’m a do-it-yourselfer. I enjoy my to-do-list. I feel good when I get things done. But grace, grace just comes in and reveals the mess that lies underneath and says, ‘that’s okay. Life is messy. But you’re covered.’ I want to run around after grace and clean things up. Sure, grace is necessary, especially for those times when I can’t do it by myself, but let me at least try! Let me put my life, my house, my relationships in order, and then if I fail I’ll come looking for grace. I treat grace like a safety net. But tell me that I can’t be justified by what I DO get right and I’m all kinds of confused.

Grace is something I fear I’ll never truly understand. And as I look around my house, the desire to put things in order, to straighten my life up and prove my presentability to you all is ravenous within me. IMG_0777My flesh cries out for my daily dose of the law, but in resignation, today I’m going to walk by the Spirit. Being resigned is better than nothing, right? So what’s life like when you aren’t under the law? Today I’m going to try and see, but if I fail, I guess my safety net is still there. Ironic huh?

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:18). Gulp! Here comes the mess named Hayley…

 

A Different Life

I Sinned at Church

December 29, 2014

As I ponder telling you about the inner workings of my mind today, my stomach churns. If you could take a tour of my mind, would you be disgusted? Would the continual din of discontentment, criticism and judgment lead you to put both hands over your ears and shout out, “shut up! I can’t take anymore!”? Or would you sit beside me in my mind and co-miserate? The answer to that question scares me.

As I sat in a church recently, I couldn’t stop the thoughts from entering my mind. I wanted to turn all of me over to God. I wanted to worship Him honestly and not just in song, but my mind wouldn’t sit still. It was like a child asked to sit through a four-hour sermon, and this was in the first five minutes of the service! I kept grabbing it by the collar and telling it to sit down and be quiet, but it refused: it just kept grabbing at things, “What is she wearing? Why did he say that? When will they turn off the air conditioning; it’s 32 degrees out!” As my eyes followed the lyrics on the screen, my lips moved and sound came out, but my mind was busy with other things, until I finally reached up and smacked it upside the head.

Now, one might call that brain abuse, smacking your grey matter around like that. After all, I’m only human, and human minds are prone to wander, right? True! So true. But the wandering has got to stop, it’s ridiculous. The cacophony of my thoughts drown out any and all of the reason we were there in the first place; to worship God. I love going to church. I love corporate worship, but so many times my mind is too distracted to worship anything other than itself. And that bums me out. No, it makes me sick. And so I decided to do a little house cleaning by getting rid of all that noise through confession. After all, I reasoned, confessing a sin is the first step in walking away from it.  And so I sat down in my seat, while everyone else stood. I told my brain to quit worrying about what they would all think, and I confessed. I confessed as many sins as I could count from the moment I woke up that morning till that moment in church. And I counted eleven. That’s eleven sins that I could remember, that I could identify. Ugh! Who does that? Who sins eleven times on the way to church? Me! That’s who. What a freak. But thank God for his even more freakish grace and the reminder of Romans 8:1, that “there is therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ.” What glorious news, cuz my mind’s a mess! And the more aware I become of God’s goodness, the more vividly I see my filth, and so need his grace daily.

The honest truth is I probably sinned far more than eleven times that morning; I’m just blind to it. But in my disgust for the eleven, I am overjoyed that the Spirit gave me eyes to see my sin. But not so I could get out the bleach and Brillo pads to start feverishly scrubbing away at the stains in my life. That’s the old Hayley’s desire. My desire now is to be different. To realize God’s amazing grace in the moment when God reveals my sin to me, even in church, then rest in the peace that he is enough.