Things were getting rougher the closer we got to Christmas. Lies, anger, bitter words. Each day had a half-a-dozen mini explosions. We were dropping everything to deal with issues—which meant the dishes were piling up in the sink and the bedroom walls in the new house weren’t even built yet.
I kept reminding myself that this was the testing period. This is when our children decide if we’re trustworthy or not. This is when they will see Jesus in us, or will believe the lie from the enemy that they are not worth the time and effort to be loved.
But the reminders only lasted so long. On the night we went to finally get the walls built, we had our biggest-yet-issue and my husband and I ended up in tears. In my effort to keep my anger from the children, I had turned on him. The moment the words flew from my mouth my whole heart cringed. It was ugly.
I repented with tears and he embraced me. It was a snotty, redeeming mess. A reminder of my own broken sinfulness. The shock of my own lack of trust and my own sinful core was exactly what I needed. I was forced to grasp the bitter cup of humility and spend some time down-on-my-knees before God. It also required me to sit down with my not-so-angelic little angels and admit that Mommy was sinful too and she needs forgiveness and love, just like they do.
I love using do-overs with my kids.
My daughter takes it so seriously, her eyes wide and solemn when she realizes that she messed that one up but is getting a chance to step back and try again. She repeats the correct phrasing, with the correct attitude, 90% of the time. The other ten percent she’ll spend being obtuse, but it’s usually a few swift consequences and then we’re back on track.
My son, he’s a little different. Either he’ll fight defiant (the best quote ever: “You’re making me feel like I did something wrong!” to which we laughed and said, “Well, son, to be honest, you did.”) which may extend the issue out for an hour or so— or he’ll giggle and send me a giant grin, “Oh, oops. Sorry, Mom.” And then jump-hop-skip, on track we go.
Either way, do-overs are wonderful things.
But I mostly love do-overs because I believe they are inspired by the way God works in our lives. So many times when I screw something up, God’ll pop me back in the same situation and say, “Here, Love, try that again.”
So when the next day arrived and we were back ready to build the bedroom walls and the exact same issues spilled out of our children—we ended up with the chance to redo the previous night’s fiasco.
But this time we saw it for the attack it was on our family.
Oh, thank you, Lord, for the gentle and patient parenting you do in my life.
They were the exact same consequences as the day before that my children faced, but this time I was able to kneel in front of them and speak calmly and gently. This time big sister sat right beside her brand-new little brother and used her incredible God-given leadership skills to encourage him to listen and focus and obey.
In one hour we accomplished what it took six hours to never finish the day before.
The kids came over to us with excitement on their faces, and as I praised them for taking responsibility for their mistakes and correcting their attitudes and behaviors, I felt the Lord’s grace cover me once again.We serve a God who forgives. May I never forget that truth.
We built the walls for our son’s bedroom. We stood and watched as our two children (TWO! We have TWO children! Oh, God’s goodness astounds me.) with their hammers and smiles, driving in the nails. And since it was the 23rd of December, we sang Christmas carols.
We lifted the wall into place to the tune of, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing and nailed his new door into place to Away in a Manger and cleaned up the mess to O Come All Ye Faithful.
That night, when we arrived home, my husband looked at me. “Let’s have Christmas tonight,” he whispered. “We’ll have so much in the next few days—and who knows if the kids will be at the right place to handle opening gifts tomorrow or on Christmas. Let’s just do it tonight so they won’t miss out.”
We had already warned them that we have no problem packing up the gifts and saving them for another year. There is no law anywhere that children have to get gifts on Christmas and if they couldn’t handle opening gifts without fussing or carrying on, we’d just pack them away for a day when they could. They had been exceptionally careful to not touch the gifts and to only talk with tampered excitement about them. “Mom and Dad aren’t kidding,” I overheard our daughter say to her brother, “if they say they’ll do it, they will!”
My husband called the kids down to the basement for a few minutes after dinner and I hurriedly stuffed the stockings and pulled the gifts out from under the tree.
When they came up, their eyes widened at the sight of a doll and teddy bear sticking out of the stockings. I smiled, “Merry Christmas!” and the girlie went squealing and running around the kitchen a few times. I think our son was just in shock. He stared at me with a little hint of a smile on his face.
“We’re going to be traveling a lot over Christmas,” my husband told them, “but we wanted to have our special family Christmas together.”
Our two children, who both struggle with extreme selfishness (fueled by fear), sat right down on the floor by our feet and said, “We don’t want to open our stuff yet! We want to give Daddy his gifts!”
We don’t allow even hints for Christmas gifts (it’s not a gift if you order it yourself) so I know they were incredibly curious about what was in their packages—but in that moment, they didn’t even care. They were just SO excited about giving Daddy his gifts.
After he opened them they both sat there with huge smiles on their faces. The flashlights that our son had worked and saved money for and carefully picked out. The travel coffee mug that our daughter had seen and thought, “Oh, Daddy would love that!” and quietly planned for a chance to go and buy it without him seeing.
They didn’t even think about their gifts for a bit. They just wanted to talk to Daddy and make sure he loved what he got.
When they were busy with their new books a little bit later, I looked over at my husband. We were both wiping tears, just like we had the night before, but this time it was good. So, so good.
Despite my failures, despite how many times I royally screw up… God is still good. He is still here. And this is the true Christmas miracle:
That God, Himself, came to be Emmanuel. The Word became flesh and now dwells in us. And through Jesus, we have the ability to be washed clean from our sinful broken mess, and He redeems.
He redeems even my sinfulness.