A week or so ago, I began to read and drool over my luscious copy of Little Women, a plump little book wrapped in a splendiferous cover by Rifle Paper Co. Marmee, the mother in the story, is the clearest definition of who I aim to be as a mama to my own little men. Her children adore and respect her, she gives them clear boundaries, and points them to Jesus when they are in need of grace and wisdom. But last week, I was struck into a stupor as I read and reread these words from dear Marmee: “I must try to practice all the virtues I would have my little girls possess, for I am their example.”
Commonsense, yet so profound.
Several days before I read this line in Little Women, I experienced a severe wake-up call to my life as a mother- one of those moments that begs you to be present long enough to allow a bit of self-awareness to wash over you. One of my dearest friends and I locked ourselves in her dreamily poetic sunroom where toys were strewn across the floor, the sun bounced off our hair, and we let our weary legs droop lazily over the arms of our chairs. Five energetic children had a dance party two rooms over. Time stopped when she told me that her own mother tells her that being a mom to young children was such a delight; one of her favorite periods of life. My friend was astonished when her mom told her this, mentally saying, “Really?! Then why the ef were you always so exasperated and annoyed with us?!”
Gulp. Exasperated? Annoyed? These words cling to my very identity, gnawing away at the ignorant idea that my children will not remember my annoyance or harsh tone.
The morning after I underlined Marmee’s words like I was feverishly underlining a textbook in preparation for a test, I cracked open my Bible to James.
“But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others…Those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.” James 3:17-18
Gentle. At all times. Even when paint is spilled everywhere. Even when one brother slaps the other in the face. Gentle.
Plant seeds of peace. If I, with ample assistance from the Spirit, could plant seeds of PEACE in my children, might they reap peace and plant seeds of peace into their own children’s hearts? Might they learn from an example of gentleness and share it in turn?
Friend. Harshness is a relentless battle in my life. My tone is quite often the opposite of patient. My face scowls at the slightest cause of contention, and then I wonder why my boys are scowling at others so. They are merely following my lead, looking to the mama and papa bears to show them how to navigate this cruel and captivating world.
As I immediately dove into my new quest to abandon harshness, my wise friend was kind enough to remind me that God is bigger than my shortcomings as a parent. Beauty and suffering are intricately woven into each of us, and even if I fail one hundred percent of the time, He will be there to catch them in their freefall; pointing them back to Him again and again. That, my friends, is grace.
Since my eyes were opened to my harshness, I have been taking three steps forward, two steps back all week. BUT…progress, not perfection! Our home has been calmer, sweeter, lovelier.. and I can only hope that I may plant seeds of peace in their tender hearts. By grace alone.