Grace in the Hall of Shame

December 4th, 2010

“I am always standing clothed in filthy garments, and by grace am always receiving change of raiment, for Thou doth justify the ungodly;

I am always going into the far country, and always returning home as a prodigal, always saying, ‘Father, forgive me,’ and Thou art always bringing forth the best robe.” ~The Valley of Vision

The past couple of weeks have in some ways been the toughest we have faced since the intense days of congestive heart failure, feeding tubes, and open heart surgery.

(Well okay, except for the week from Hades, when we tried to start the school year without being properly prepared for it!  That ended up being the catalyst to digging down deep and setting up a new household structure.)

Verity has gradually progressed with her eating in those few months, with some setbacks and victories along the way.  Her routine directly affects the rest of the family, because it directly affects how much I am present, available, and involved with the household function.  We all know this is a temporary sacrifice we are making in order for Verity to get this time of nursing.  Overall, the whole family has gradually progressed right along with Verity.  A little more of mom all the time.

This last week or so felt like a step backward.

Wake, make bed, pump while reading Bible, nurse Verity while little boys have towel time in my room, do some therapy with Verity, give Verity her supplements, nurse Verity, put Verity down for a nap, pump while finishing my breakfast, take a shower and get ready for the, uh, the day, which is now half over.  Then it’s time to nurse Verity again, then pump while eating lunch.  Now it is early afternoon and I ask one of the children to do some therapy with Verity for half an hour until I need to nurse her again and put her down for her nap.  Then I have a whole hour until it is time to nurse Verity, then pump, and so on through the evening until she is down for the night and I pump one last time before sleeping.

You see the problem.

We tried to just hold on, thinking that it would soon ease up again, but I discovered that when I was absent from the scene, too much would simply grind to a halt.  The rest fell onto the next most responsible members of the family, but without a functional plan, they would soon lose their grip.  We had expanded to fit the freedom we had, and when our freedom dissipated, the events stayed on the calendar.  We had adjusted to more of mom, and now mom was disappearing again.

We needed time to think and make a new plan.  But before the plan was finalized, last night…

The crisis came.  And I failed the test.  You are about to hear what happens when my SELF listens to lies and fails to fight back with the truth.

After pushing for days, fitting in the necessary feedings and pumpings between appointments and visits and other activities, yesterday I rested in preparation for Joseph’s birthday party last night.  All day, I focused on two things–being strict with Verity’s routine, and collaborating with Joseph on a new daily schedule for our household.

I missed the actual birthday meal, singing, candles and cake, but I made it downstairs to gulp down my tacos before Joseph opened his pile of cards and gifts.

As I sat eating, I finally got a good look at the results of a week of rushing followed by a day of resting.

My eyes first lit upon the table and highchair, not properly wiped.  If I can see it, they can see it.  Why do they think this is okay? The counter, unwiped and piled with various items, none of which belonged there.  That’s just irresponsibility. The stove, unwiped for what appeared to be a week but was probably a day, speckles of food splashed on the wall above it.  If I had trained them properly, they wouldn’t be so irresponsible. The pile of dirty shoes and boots tumbled at the end of the room.  Who did I ask to lay out a towel for the damp shoes that were left out in the rain? I never followed up on it; I am failing. The mixer that was used for making several batches of cookies during the week, unwiped.  They know that the job isn’t done until the cleanup is done. It’s self-centered to get the fun part for yourself and leave the hard part for someone else to worry about.  I am failing. The bookshelves with books piled and tilted crazily every which way.  Nobody is training the little ones to put these away properly.  I am failing.

And nobody else seemed to be bothered at all, or even taking notice of it.  Some of the children were even playing a game in the midst of the untidyness.  I put a quick stop to that and began barking out commands, I mean giving instructions.  Let’s get this place in order quickly, before…but…

Joe was gathering everyone in the living room for the gift-opening.  I carried my plate in and sat down at a desk, only to notice that a toddler had taken a pencil to it with vigorous force.  I am failing, failing, failing…

By now my ears and eyes were closed to all but what my feelings were telling me was hard evidence of my obvious failure to properly train my children.  Both my heart and my face had sunk to some level down below the basement.  Fruitless to try to figure out who did this now. All those years, all that hard work in training the children, where did it all go? I went for a scrubber and rag and began to work on the penciled desk.

Back at the kitchen sink to rinse out the rag, I noticed spatters on the wall behind the faucet, and smears on the cabinets…and…and the flotsam and jetsam that needed to be put into the back trash, and…

Yes, one thing led to another, and I spent Joseph’s gift-opening time for his seventeenth birthday doggedly tidying up the house.  The younger children all went to bed and I stopped to kiss and hug them and went right back to scrubbing and reorganizing.  The others gradually went upstairs.  An hour afterward, I was starting on the last task when Daniel came down and offered to wash the few dishes for me.  Before I had finished answering him, Joseph came down and asked, “What else needs to be done before you go up?  I can do it.”

Why do I tell you all this?

Because I suspect that if I hinted circumspectly at a big failure on my part, some of you are such loyal and loving and sweet-natured friends that you would have thought, “Susanna?  Oh, it can’t have been all that bad.”

On the other hand, without the facts, some of you might have concluded that I need to be medicated before I endanger my children’s lives.  Or something equally drastic!

How could I have failed so badly?  Where was the grace of God?  Had it vanished along with wise perspective and good humor?

No, but to my shame, I ignored it until it was too late.  Instead of crying out to God, I listened to the lies my feelings spoke to me.  SELF feeds on lies.  It gains strength with each lie it consumes.

The boys stayed downstairs and finished the few dishes, then came up unbeknownst to me and overheard me pouring it all out to Joe with tears.

The most amazing thing happened.  My big young men listened.  They forgave me.  They said that they understood my failure because they have also failed.  They showed grace to me.

They spoke the truth.  They reminded me that parents can train, but only God can change a heart.  That immaturity in my children doesn’t mean that I have failed to train them.

They encouraged me by saying that with all their faults, they would have been unbearably worse if not for the training we had given them.  And gave me their vote of confidence by saying that they thought we were doing very well in spite of the intense pressure that was on the family for so long.

Then even more amazingly, they explained that they had both given it thought and decided that I was trying to carry too much of the responsibility, and that they knew there was more they could have been doing to keep the household on track.

I looked at these fine young men and wondered where in the world they had come from.  What grace God has shown to me in all my weakness, sin, self-will, failure.  This time He showed it to me through these young brothers in Christ, my sons.

We chatted for another hour while Verity nursed.  (I have finally gotten adept enough to use the nursing cover that a friend gave me before Verity was born.)

This morning when the other children were finished eating breakfast, I apologized to them for sinning against them by being impatient with the messy house and cleaning it instead of helping to celebrate Joseph’s birthday.  They looked at me with their sweet faces and said, “Yes, we forgive you.”

Tonight the house is clean and there is peace in our family.  We have a new weekday plan mapped out and waiting for Monday morning.  I’m going to go downstairs next, and cut eight heads of hair, and the bathing and showering process will begin.

We are ready for our day of rest.

Thank You, Lord.  You know that I cannot be happy unless I am holy.

Thank You for your grace, that makes me holy.


“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

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7 Responses to “Grace in the Hall of Shame”

  1. ((((Susanna))))  Thank you for sharing your heart and your struggles with us.  i ahve been once again inspired.  I have overwhelming days and I too, listen to the lies that quickly come up.  Thank you for sharing!!  I pray your next week goes well.

  2. allison (christianmomoflots) says:

    Thank you for writing this!! I soo needed to hear/read it!!!

  3. TracyMenard says:

    I continue to thank the Lord for the gift of knowing you, Susanna. This post spoke to my heart.

  4. LaurieP says:

    Once again, you have been a blessing and an encouragement!  You have also encouraged me to not miss out on playing with my baby even though I have a thousand messes all around me too.  Your post has also given me such perspective on my dc’s maturity and messes too.  Thank you!!!!!

  5. Joy Horton says:

    Precious, Susanna. Thank you so much for sharing this. I love you!

  6. Anna T says:

    ((Hugs))  I so understand, oh, that sinking thinking…it’s hard for me to “…take every thought captive to Christ.”  You don’t realize how similar my feeling and thoughts are as well.  My house falls apart so quickly when I’m not 100% around.  I’m glad that you were able to talk with your husband and ask for forgiveness from your children.  Yes, our children are learning and we’re all a work in progress.  I LOVE the pictures of Verity and her big sister, they’re so sweet : ) !! 

  7. Marilyn Osborn says:

    Thank you for posting this.  It blessed me.

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