I cherish the idea of my children helping in the kitchen, decorating the tree or arranging a bouquet. Yet, I struggle to let go of the idea of perfection. In the kitchen, I've done well in just letting them create and take over. However, today we're making Christmas truffles to give away and I want perfectly round balls of peppermint filling dipped in just the right amount of chocolate. Not too much, as to lose their shape.
Expectation runs high.
I allow the children to help. I want them to. Yet I'm on edge, snapping left and right. And then Alexa sneezes.
And I lose it.
"Turn your head! What are you thinking?!" She steps back and turns away ashamed. I know I just blew it.
I eliminate the tray in front of me, then walk to find her in the corner of the mud room, whimpering. I sigh regretfully , "I'm sorry, Alexa." She runs passed me to hide from me again. I breathe a helpless breath and walk back to the chocolate needing stirred over the low heat, my son piling up more white balls ready to be dipped. I coat one more truffle.
How do I take something meant to be fun and memorable and coat it with anxiety and regret?
I walk out again to find her under the dining room table. I know what I need to do.
"Alexa, will you come dip the balls in the chocolate for me?" Her head perks up. She slowly crawls out and I give her a hug. I show her how to coat a ball, dropping it back and forth between two chocolate-filled spoons. Then I watch her as she does it, just as I show her.
What pride to think I could attain perfection – that perfectly round balls would be better than small hands shaping an oblong or slightly flattened truffle, skirted with hardened chocolate.
I begin speaking life words to her – how she dips those balls just right.
And I apologize to all of them for snapping.
"Of course we forgive you, mom," the oldest says, without a flinch.
I don't deserve this gift that comes so freely.
And our day continues. And it's full of preparation and expectation still.
Later in the afternoon, Drew and Madeline get into it over a toy and Drew reaches his capacity and pushes her off of the bench.
And I lose it.
I contain myself at first, as I escort him to his room, and then I give it to him.
"Never. NEVER hurt someone weaker than you are, especially your younger sister. We PROTECT those weaker, not HURT them." I say this as though he is no longer in training. As though I don't know the sin that wages war in each of us.
He tucks his head under his blankets and whimpers – the second child who has hid from me today.
For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want – this I keep doing. And I know how wretched I am.
But after a few minutes, he forgives me, too. He understands his wrong and my wrong. He understands I was serious and he apologizes to Madeline and she is quick to receive him with sweet words and a hug – that he doesn't deserve.
And through all the rough spots throughout our day, through those moments I plead with God to protect my children's spirits, to protect them from my imperfection – beyond those rough edges, we find something far more valuable than perfect truffle-making or perfect discipline can afford:
The free gift of grace, through forgiveness.
Forgiveness that offers peace in chaos and grace that offers hope in despair – peace and hope for the undeserving – which we all are.
And the grace comes, not just through my children, but by way of friends. A day of fighting this evil ends sitting with a group of ladies where I share that I am rough around the edges and I desire a more gentle spirit and they understand because we're all rough around the edges. Not one of us is perfect. Where good is, evil also resides and we do the things we don't want to do. And when we realize just how wretched we really are, only then will we realize, over and over again, how much we need a Savior.
And all this grace that I'm showered on this one day is possible only because of the cross – Christ's saving grace.
A room of a half dozen ladies laugh. I laugh. I laugh so hard I cry and it's medicine to my soul. An acceptance that I am not perfect. An acceptance of the grace freely given me.
14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging waragainst the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:14-25