13 Sep Grace in a Campfire
I love a good campfire. It’s my favorite part of any camping trip. And once in a while, we have a campfire in our own backyard. It’s lovely. The scent of woodsmoke wafting in the breeze. The crisp fresh air growing cooler as the sun sinks low. Roasting marshmallows and squeezing them between two graham crackers and a section (or three) of chocolate bar. Perfection.
The only problem with this scenario is that the sun goes down and I want to stay and watch the fire, but little people need to be put to bed, and once that’s accomplished the fire will have burned too low to make it worth going back out into the yard by myself. Sigh.
Last time we had a campfire at home, the moon was full and beautiful. I was taking photos of the kids and my husband and the fire. I was not successful at photographing the moon at all, because even though I have a DSLR camera, I haven’t made any attempt to use it in a professional manner. Professional photographers make fun of me. They say I’m still in the green box. I just leave the camera on full auto most of the time. I don’t really care, except when every shot I take of the moon makes it appear there were three moons in the sky that night. In spite of this, I was enjoying the evening so thoroughly, I told the kids to go in and get ready for bed by themselves. I was very clear in my instructions. I asked the biggest to help the littlest. The three of them went inside. Lights came on upstairs. All seemed to be going as I imagined it should.
This was the only campfire we’d managed to have this year. It was the end of the summer and doggone-it, I was going to savor this fire! I deserved it, didn’t I? This was one of my favorite things, after all. I was going to breathe that crisp air as night fell around me. I was going to snap imperfect photos of the moon, watch the fire in its glorious asymmetrical beauty, and assume that when I finally meandered indoors, I would find three children in their pajamas, teeth brushed, all ready to be tucked into bed on time.
What I did find was three children, fully clothed, playing in a very messy bedroom.
Mama was not happy.
I’ve written about my struggle with yelling at my children. My attempts to master my temper. My vows to walk away, to give myself a time out, to breathe and tackle the behavior in a calm manner.
It’s hard. And I’m still not good at it. I still have neural pathways worn so deeply in my brain that I jump immediately to anger. I react instead of responding.
I’m grateful to be able to say that I do better than I did when I wrote those original posts four years ago. I know it’s only by the grace of God. All my efforts to never, ever yell again, though? Sometimes I feel they are futile.
There is no magic pill to make me a perfect mother. There is no formula to ensure my children are respectful and obedient. No course that eliminates all the whining and complaining. No class that takes away my desire to scream.
Some days the best I can do is ask God for His forgiveness and ask my kids for theirs.
I can pose questions to myself, too. Why was I so angry anyway? Was I truly angry at their disobedience? They need to learn to do what I ask, yes, but maybe I was actually angry about the lateness of the hour. At the realization that things won’t go as smoothly if I’m in the yard taking something I believe is my right to enjoy. Maybe I’m angry because I’m not in control and everything doesn’t fit neatly into my preconceived notion of how things should be. Perfectionism is my nemesis.
I want to learn, instead of beating myself up for my poor parenting methods, to turn to the cross and receive grace. No mother is perfect. No parent raises their children without messing up. I want to do better, yes. I want to lean on God for strength when I don’t have the patience I need. Turn to Him for answers when I don’t know what to do.
But I realize all God’s work in our hearts won’t come to completion here on earth. My inclination to sin won’t be fully eradicated in this fallen world. I pray that, rather than damaging their hearts, my weaknesses will help my children understand a God who loves us and saves us from ourselves. This is not an excuse to continue in sin. But it is the hope that God uses my sinful nature to demonstrate His grace to the world. Even, perhaps, to my family.