I turn the last child’s light out and I slump down a door frame and I cry quiet in the dark.
The mother grief scalds the cheeks but what washes away the mother grime?
I’ve become the parent I knew as a child. The one I looked straight in the face and fierce vowed I’d never be. But my ears ring with the echo of my voice, that voice: Can’t you see what a mess this is? How many times do I have to tell you? What were you thinking?
How did I end up here and I want to muffle out me and the 24/7 forge of children that can liquefy the steely resolve.
I weep molten. I beg God to burn off the soul dross.
How can a mother be frustrated her child is not as she longs him to be, when she herself is not as she longs to be?
I run my fingers through my hair and I wail soundless. The clock ticks heavy.
When I find the pillow, my chest hurts hard and I know it: the only air non-toxic to humans is Grace. I try to inhale it deep. I sleep.
When we wake, we read, for there is a Bread that can break the fast, and it’s the way this version of the text expresses it that unlocks the hard places:
“When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need—words that will help others become stronger.“ Ephesians 4:29 (NCV)
I look around the table and into their eyes. Into them. I had held them in my one hand, them pinked and swaddled, and I had made them strong with the milk letting down and the love, and I had witnessed the stretching of the spine, the first tottering steps and I had squealed wonder and I had offered the hand. Mamas make strong.
When we finish the Bible reading, we reach for hands to pray, I feel little fingers again and couldn’t I do this again?
Just for today:
- Couldn’t all the words out of my mouth only be the strengthening words? Words that nourish their bones and muscle their hearts.
- What if I tried to change nothing in children but I focused on only this: Let the tongue speak only the words that make souls stronger.
Like oxygen, couldn’t just speaking strengthening-words change the whole of the atmosphere?
When he teases his sister and she rages, I grit-pray for grace and strengthening words: “Family’s a boat and the world’s rough waters and family is meant to be the one safe place where no one pushes anyone out of the boat. Let’s hold onto each other folks.”
I get in there too, embrace them, draw them up out of the storm. And we hug each other until we feel soul strong.
When an angry child spits a fiery temper tantrum, I remember, and when there’s a heated debate over who gets to practice piano first, I remember and when in the course of five minutes a finger gets jammed in a door and a lego creation gets stomped on and the house erupts wild, I forget and a stream of exasperation weakens these walls and He reminds and I circle back and try to renovate my own tearing down with the edifying words.
We breathe grace. This oxygen changes everything.
The tongue is the tail of the heart. And a lashing tongue is the symptom of an anger riddled heart. It’s always the heart that whips the tongue hard and breaks the backs weak.
And I think I am finally getting it: If Grace always pulses the heart, and love’s the blood coursing tender through veins, the tail of the heart, that tongue, it caresses and it strokes and it revives the soul until small ones stand up David-tall before Goliaths.
It’s a dark night weeks later. I turn out the last light and a voice calls through the dark.
I wait still in the black, hand on a light switch.
“Thanks…for the way you made me feel today.”
It’s the words, the strengthening words, the I-will-build-you-up-until-you-stand-so-tall-you-can-see-Jesus- here-and-in-you-and-even-in-me-words. I lean into a door frame and tonight I get to smile and I fill with the full life, light in the dark.
Grace words make the weak-us stronger.
by Ann Voskamp, A Holy Experience
Photo: us here with “By Grace Alone”, by DaySpring’s Blessings Unlimited
Q4U: So tell us — we’re all heart-ears around here — how are you feeling about the words in your family these days?Leave a Comment
Lynda Putz says
I want the words, but I do not know them. Please, tell me the words to capture a 16-year old’s manly heart. The heart that desperately wants to flee the home, the love, the mama. The man-in-the-making lion heart that collides with the mama’s lion heart. The one who wants to control but is not yet ready. The one who think himself wise but is just young and inexperienced. What are the words to tell him he is loved, precious, prayed for, anointed, on-his-way-but-not-there-yet? He pulls and tries to flee. I chase and capture in a net that he despises. He struggles to be free. I often ponder if I should let him go free. What will happen if I do not chase? I have tried that before. He simply flees further and further away. I just want the words. I do not know where to find them or how to say them without sounding like I am a bad actress in a B-movie. I want the words that will give voice to my heart.
Your question is valid and real, and I recognize my own struggle in your dilemma. This is where you need to take your concerns to God. Cry out to the Holy Spirit and ask Him to teach you the grace-filled, healing, instructive words that He would have you communicate. So often I would ask God to teach me/help me be the mom He wants me to be since without His instruction and help I have nothing. And I asked the Holy Spirit to communicate truth and instruction to my childs heart since in some ways it is impossible for me to do this. I acknowledged, and still do, that God made this individual. God knows and understands their heart and mind. God loves them perfectly. And this child/adult child is really His child and you are just an overseer and manager of all God has given you. So I would ask God to teach me to be a good and wise and faithful manager of all that He has given me, including and especially these children. Wisdom can include a lot of things; sometimes the right words, sometimes when to stay silent, how much freedom to responsibly grant, when to let go and trust God for the outcome, strength and a heart of love and grace through the process, etc. And I think Ann is right when she advocates for our own heart to be full of gratitude and thanksgiving (eucharisteo) through all of our earthly race. Focusing on all the gifts that God has given us and continues to give us every moment. Ultimately, we are only responsible for our own heart; our own choices to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Although my kids are now in their 20s, I’m still doing this.
I am striving to use only those words. I have a 4 year old, tender hearted, unconditional loving baby girl and a wild at heart 7 month old boy, and I find myself so, incredibly frustrated these days. I am tired. I am worn out emotionally, physically and spiritually. I want to change. I vow today to use strong words only. thank you.