Stripes and Polka Dots and Brown Shoes, Oh My!

I can remember when I was growing up, when my mother was super stressed out over her mothering job, she would say, “If anyone had told me how hard being a parent was going to be, I might not have done it.” Now in my mother’s defense, my brother and I didn’t make her job easy sometimes. And I am sure she’s not the first or last to have uttered or thought those words. Yet in reality no one could adequately warn any of us for all the struggles, pitfalls, stressors, and challenges being parents will bring, and if they could, the human race would soon become extinct. Who would knowingly, really knowingly, step up and volunteer for the hardest job in the world? None of us.

In our minds, as young women, we only envisioned holding that sweet bundle of joy in our arms that gazed back up at us and cooed lovingly. The bundles that need us, love us, and depend on us for their very existence. It is that vision that drives us into motherhood. Our minds are blinded to the sleepless nights, exhaustion, mess, conflict, and self-sacrifice. And it’s a good thing… or like my own stressed out mom shared, we probably would have said, “No thanks!”

But we didn’t. We had babies. Some of us had lots of babies. Our quivers are full. I can remember an older country preacher gathering Matthew and I in close to him as he prayed over us that our quiver would be full of children. My eyes popped open as well as my mouth. Matthew and I were not even yet married, and he was filling my house!

Well, I wish I still knew this man, there are some things I’d like to ask him to pray for today! The Lord answered his prayer and Matthew and I now have four kids. TEENS. Thank you, very much.

I have loved being a mother. Every stage. Except for a few days here and there, it’s been my greatest joy in life. Even the hard days. Even the days when I wanted to pinch their little heads off. Even on those days, I would step in front of a speeding train to save any one of them. It has taught me much of God’s love for me. It has taught me much about His grace and forgiveness, too.

I recently picked up a parenting book. I thought it might be a good resource for a small group I hope to lead in the fall. It’s called “Grace Based Parenting” by Tim Kimmel. I am only a few chapters in, but I’m hooked.

Kimmel challenges parents to raise their children the way God raises His, with grace. I think he’s right. I’m not talking about grace that gives kids license to do whatever they want whenever they want. That’s not grace and that breeds resentment. I’m talking about the grace that must be paired with truth if it is, indeed, that same grace offered to us through Jesus.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Farther, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1, 14)

Jesus came to show us how to live in both grace and truth. Grace is not grace without the boundaries. Conversely, truth without grace is just a set of rules that points to how much of a failure we are.

For instance, take my daughter’s Sunday outfit. She came skipping out to the car on Sunday morning wearing purple polka dotted skinny jeans, a white and black striped shirt and brown shoes. Brown.

My fourteen-year-old daughter has a unique sense of style, for sure…. But didn’t I teach her that brown shoes just won’t get it with a black and white striped shirt? And what about stripes and dots? Oh my.

Now in that next moment I had a choice to make. I could have made her go change. I could have. But I really couldn’t make my preference issues spiritual ones. Nowhere in scripture does it say you can’t wear dots and stripes, or brown shoes with a black shirt. I’m disappointed about that, but it’s not in there. What is in there is how females should adorn themselves.

Nothing Laura was wearing was going to cause any boy to sin in his heart. She was completely covered. In no way was her outfit going to draw the wrong kind of attention. It might have caused some to wonder if she had gotten dressed in the dark, or by a kindergartener, but that was the extent of it. She had followed the spirit of the law if not the letter, and that’s just what Jesus came to show us.

So I let her wear her odd pairings to church. And the world kept turning, and there was not an argument over her choice of clothes.

If the whole parenting gig is getting you down, or you feel like there’s just something missing, maybe you’ve forgotten to pair grace AND truth together. We want to raise children that will grow up to understand the kind of love the Father has for them. To do that, we have to raise them with that same love. So that one day, when we are dead and gone, no matter what they face in life, they will know of His great love for them.

So what do you think?

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