Monday, February 6, 2012

The Practice of Breathing in Grace

There is tremendous, life-giving power in being enjoyed. But it is difficult to lay hold of sometimes. How many of us are still struggling to believe even now that God actually enjoys us? How easy is it to water down our perception of extravagant love to mean He tolerates us? I want my children to know they are enjoyed. Loved AND liked. Even that I delight in them, so that they will believe in their heart of hearts that their Heavenly Father delights in them, too. So that they can know the height and breadth and the depth of Christ's love for us.

Shame is ugly. It preys and gnaws on our hearts. So in the practice of enjoying my children I must guard against becoming the voice of shame that will whisper to them thirty years from now that they are disappointing. The rolled eyes and exasperated sigh at yet another mess to clean up. The pursed lips, flared nostrils and accusing gaze. I have been so guilty. And it breaks my heart because some days, despite all I want to be and believe, I still hear the voice of the Accuser in my own. Those are the days when I must deliberately apologize, acknowledge to them that I was wrong and speak Truth and Life over their hearts, to do my best to help heal the wounds I inflicted with a hard focus on temporal things instead of that which is eternal.

I am learning to breathe in grace. To inhale a deep lungful of tenderness. I'm not as consistent as I want to be yet, but these are my baby steps:
  • Surrounding myself with voices of grace. Making sure my newsfeed is full of encouragement for gentle parenting. Avoiding punitive, shame filled sources.  I find that the things I read stay with me, regardless of my conscious thoughts about it.
  • Self care (I get reeeeeally grouchy if I don't get enough protein).  Also?  I self-medicate with copious amounts of coffee and chocolate.  I am OK with that.
  • Silent talk my way through old recordings.  You know the ones.  Those phrases that automatically playback, maybe even from your own childhood.  "You know better than that! I can't believe that you... Do you understand me?!"  Force yourself to be silent while those thoughts pass through your mind, and once they are out of the way you can focus on productive ways to respond. 
  • Stop, look, and listen.  Stop playing with the phone or computer (ouch!).  Look at their eyes. That's a big one for me. If I can hold eye contact long enough I start to really see them. Listen.  Closely enough to be able to repeat it and ask questions, not just nodding and Mhmm-ing.  They always have something to say that is worth listening to.
  • Go someplace. Just getting out of the house helps sometimes, especially if it means a guaranteed 15 minutes of calm driving time without anyone climbing on me. By the time we reach out destination I am usually recharged. (And yes, I often play a CD, either soothing or loud enough to drown out any fussing).  Sunshine is always a plus, but any change in scenery is usually good.
  • Change your perception. I used to look at the clock every time the baby woke and start calculating complicated formulas of how much sleep I had gotten or could possibly get. If x = the number of minutes it takes to get back to sleep, and y = the time when I have to get up....argh! I don't even like math! Once I started reveling in that peaceful time as the quietest time of the day, a moment to breathe in the scent of my baby's head as she nursed, to pour out my soul to God and listen to His heartbeat, it transformed the resentment and frustration into moments of rest and peace. 
  • Be silly. Let loose your inner goofball! Sometimes (Always) it is a little corny, but it is still fun. I am not especially creative.  And I am a dismal failure at craftsy stuff.  But I can sing nonsense songs off-key, do silly voices and funny faces.  Also?  They aren't super critical, yet.  If I indoctrinate them early, maybe they will always appreciate my Bill Cosby wannabe attempts.
  • Focus on what you want to be, not fear of failure.  Remind yourself of what your long-term goals are, not just how you feel in the moment.  20 years from now, what will matter?  Not the carpet.  But what I taught her about handling mistakes--her own and others'-- will.
  • Make it a practice to speak words of blessing over them daily.   And when you talk to them or about them, assign positive intent--instead of imagining evil motives, think of how you would approach a dear friend in the same situation.
  • Make amends when you do mess up.   Apologize specifically and work on ways to restore connection and relationship.
My kids are enjoyable.  In fact, they are full of awesome.  It really isn't hard to enjoy them.  But I do need to be mindful of how I parent so that they will know how much I enjoy them.  So that the voice they hear inside as adults isn't one of sighing or shame, but one of delight, affirmation, joy and truth.


EmergingMummy.comThis post was written for the Carnival of the Practices of Parenting by one of the most inspirational, brilliant writers out there, Sarah Bessey at Emerging Mummy.  Her posts always are filled with the fragrance of grace.  Please visit and read all of the other linked posts!  I know you will find chocolate for your heart there.


Marcy said...

Today was supposed to be the day I poured out grace and delight and presence, and it's still morning and I've already left the bathroom in aggravation telling her she can finish rinsing her own hair and dry herself off.

Some days, some moments, it IS hard to enjoy her. Some of her behavior IS annoying.

I need to remember that I love her not because she's so winsome all the time (even though she often is), but simply because she IS -- God made her, and she's mine (relationally, not property).

dulce de leche said...

Marcy, that is so true and so beautiful. Thanks so very much for sharing! <3 <3 <3

Theresa said...

What a good read and a great reminder! I can't count the number of times during some days where I just have to stop, close my eyes, take a deep breath and allow myself some grace.

Anonymous said...

Protein is KEY! As is light, for me. I noticed during church that I was suddenly just barely keeping my voice from growling, I was angry and really experiencing rage issues. Then it hit me - our church was dark and dim, the nursing room was even dimmer, and I'm not getting enough light as it is. Sure enough, as soon as we got out into the brighter foyer, all my patience came rushing back.

Oh, how important is self awareness!

Mike and Christie said...

What a lovely post. Thank you for this. :)

Sarah Bessey said...

A beautiful post - so practical and yet spiritual. Love it, Dulce! Thank you so much.

Anonymous said...

Chocolate for your heart - what an awesome line. Thanks for these important reminders about grace!

Momma in Progress said...

Love all of these reminders. Thanks for sharing. I'm working on the "stop, look, listen" as well as the self-care, and trying to remember the long-term. Most of this won't matter in 10, 20 years . . . these things I get crazy about now.

Kath said...

this is great. bless you for sharing.

dulce de leche said...

Thank you all so, so much! I am loving all of the posts I have read in this Carnival. Finding so much encouragement and blessing from all of your comments and posts is like so many long-distance hugs. Thank you! <3 <3 <3

Amanda E. said...

I really needed just this tonight. Thank you, dulce <3

Angie said...

Ouch! Convicting. Very practical. I needed that.

Angie said...

Very convicting. Very practical. Thanks I needed the reminder.

Plogette said...

Responding to 'old recordings'....I should really be doing this. I imagine it is quite a task.