I recently told a friend that marriage has most refined me in the area of grace. Grace for my husband. Grace for myself. Grace for us. Marriage is just one big grace party - with less confetti & cupcakes and more tears & eye rolls. Sometimes the eye roll is the most grace I can muster, thankyouverymuch. But parenting. OH MERCY ME. Parenting. Parenting has most refined me in ALL THE AREAS. Grace and humility and patience and forgiveness and tough love and letting go and I'm even being refined in my sleep. How? BY NOT SLEEPING.
It's not a party at all except the physical evidence makes it appear like there was a party, sub sippy cups for red Solo cups.
And by the grace of God, it's worth it. It's all so beautifully worth it.
Take my Henry dude. While my six year old has graced my motherhood journey with fewer refining moments than his younger sisters, his tender spirit has refined me in a way that is unique only to him.
Whereas the girls are quick to bounce back after discipline, Henry's recovery requires a bit more salve to his brokenness. While already understanding society's norm that boys should be thick-skinned (as he shows me the bloody scratches he suffered from playing outside, "Mom, check this out! Yeah, it doesn't even hurt."), Henry's young soul requires a label that reads, "Fragile. Handle with care."
Earlier this week I treated my sweet boy to a small Lego set from the bookstore. Following the bookstore, we went to lunch and instead of running around with his sisters on the indoor playground, he sat intently putting together the 100-piece battle pack. The Lego laser canon and troopers never left his hands the rest of the day, and he woke up the next morning clutching his engineered creation.
And that might have been the end of the story of the $12 Lego set except for one of the other refining characters in this act.
The 2-year-old sister.
It wasn't that Greta was even that interested in playing with the Legos, but when Henry was so brave (or dumb) as to leave them sitting out on the coffee table in the FAMILY ROOM which is the room for the FAMILY, her blooming curiosity got the best of her.
Watching his temper rise and witnessing a few blows swung toward the pesky toddler, I fussed at him, warning him that his actions would result in a consequence. Instead of removing himself and his new prized toy from the presence of a two-year-old who acts like a two-year-old, he allowed her to embed herself so annoyingly under his skin that the brewing volcano blew its top.
Without a hint of hesitation, he chucked the Lego set and all its tiny parts across the room and straight at his sister's face.
Except every single one of them missed her and hit the face of the one sitting squarely behind her.
Realizing his tragic mistake, his eyes widened and I felt every inch of mercy leave my bones.
"Room now. And these Legos are going in the trash."
The tears instantly burst from his wide eyes, and I listened to his trail of sobs as he approached his bedroom, the thunderous slam of his door leaving me shaken and encircled by a tiny Lego army.
And because I had said it, and he needed to know that I meant it, I picked up every plastic brick and just like that watched $12 trickle into the trash alongside last night's half-eaten noodles and this morning's leftover toast.
It killed me to do it. But I knew in my heart I had to.
As my spirit cooled, I sulked upstairs to mend the brokenhearted. I found him completely buried under his comforter, his dart blaster guarding his side.
I talked. I prayed. I stroked his back. I kissed his head. And by God's grace, he received it.
With our spirits heavy yet softening, together we walked back downstairs. I remained skeptical at how he would respond to his sister, the perceived instigator of the still-fresh tragedy. Though Henry had expressed a changed heart under the nurturing care of momma bird, I wondered if he might still blame his sister for the events that had just transpired.
I found Greta whining by the back door, impatiently begging to play outside like a dog with a full bladder. I opened the door allowing her to go, and only a few seconds later I heard her whining at the door again, typical of our fickle Greta girl. I ignored her, thinking that if I gave her a minute, she might become distracted and engage in playing with her sister who was also outside.
Henry, who had witnessed Greta's wanting out-and-now-in behavior, looked at me and said, "I think she wants to come back inside."
"I know, but I'm gonna let her stay out there for now."
He paused, and then said, "But what if she runs away?"
With little concern on my face or in my voice, I replied, "Oh well."
Unable to gauge my dry response, Henry reached for his shoes, and in one sentence proved that the heart shift I witnessed upstairs at his bedside was not merely lip service for his Lego-trashing momma, "I better go outside to be with her. I don't want her to run away."
As I watched my now soft-hearted son open the door and coddle his fussing sister, I began to muster every ounce of willpower within me to stop my heart from digging 100 buried Lego pieces out of the trash.
Humbled and heavy-hearted, I thanked Jesus for my son. I thanked Jesus for refining my son's heart. And I thanked Jesus for refining mine.