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The power of declarations

I was at a loss. It felt like things were getting worse and no amount of good parenting seemed to make a difference. He was more and more anxious, he was overreacting more, acting more autistic, and just overall unhappy. I tried everything I knew, but kept feeling like I couldn’t reach him. I couldn’t reach down deep into his heart, into the place I knew was broken. It wasn’t just about behavior — he wasn’t behaving that badly, but something was off and I didn’t know what to do.

So I tried declarations.

Now, before you flag me as crazy, hear me out.

A friend handed me Raising Burning Hearts. I had never read a charismatic parenting book, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m only a few chapters in, but one thing that struck me was: The power of declarations.

At first I was skeptical — declarations? I pictured my kids confused faces as I stood over them with my hands on their foreheads, shouting out, “You are the head and not the tail!” It didn’t seem like that would probably be a good idea.

But I was still intrigued — the author shares about the power of our words, life and death are in the power of the tongue, and I knew that I had been struggling with harnessing my words, with speaking words of life. But then on the other hand, I always struggle with this area, because Dutch doesn’t respond well to verbal praise–that is not his love language and he gets embarrassed easily. Even as a toddler, if I praised him verbally for potty training success, he’d get angry and run away. So I have to be very careful with my verbal praise, and wasn’t sure how declarations would fit into that.

So I started silently, without him around. As I was out on my prayer walk, I began just proclaiming/praying over Dutch as many scriptures as I could think of. It was a mixture of saying, believing, proclaiming, and praying. I wasn’t so much petitioning as I was laying hold of promises that are already said to be true in the Scriptures. It was like waving a banner of truth over the whole situation.

I was amazed by how encouraged I was by the time I was done. Instead of my usual, “God please fix my sad situation somehow” it felt like aggressively believing, trusting, and calling into existence the spiritual realities that God says are true. It really felt like waving a banner of truth. I thought, “Man, I need to pray like that more often!”

But then I was really encouraged by that day. It was so much better. No tears and frustration, no anxiety over baseball, so much better. So that night at bedtime I quietly slipped a little scripture-declaration into my usual bedtime prayers over him. Each day I continued declaring scripture over him, my own heart and mind, over stressful situations as they arose, a little more each day. I found myself eagerly reading the scriptures, looking for more promises to lay hold of.  It felt like a way to battle, like each declaration of truth and scripture was a death-blow to the enemy who wants to steal, kill, and destroy.

And each day, he continued to thrive more. 

Now please understand: this isn’t a gimmick. I don’t mean: Declare your way to a new kid by Friday! But we are wise to proclaim the goodness of God, His truth, His Word, over our lives, and especially the lives of our children regularly.

Now the author had a specific, short declaration blessing she said over each of her 6 children every single morning before school. I don’t have an exact scripted version but I like the idea. So far, my declarations just go something like this …

Dutch, you are loved by God and me. You are a son, born again and adopted into the family of God. You are made in His image, you reflect His glory, you bear the fruit of His Spirit. He will complete the good work He began in you, He will sustain you to the very end and keep you blameless until the day of Christ. You are set apart for righteousness. He works all things for your good and His glory, and no good thing does He withhold as you walk uprightly. You were made for good works, prepared in advance for you to walk in. You are full of goodness, faith, humility, and love. You are patient and kind, you are generous and faithful. You can do all things through Him who strengthens you and nothing is impossible for your God. You have all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Jesus. You are chosen to declare His excellencies and display His goodness and glory. You work with all your might, as unto the Lord, and surely goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. You are blessed beyond measure because of Jesus Christ our Lord, who took our sin and sickness, who bore them away, forever, on the cross. You have spiritual gifts and a unique calling to fulfill as part of God’s glorious plan, for the redemption of all things and the coming of His kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. You are loved with an everlasting love, and nothing can separate you from the love of God, through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen! 

All of this is some form of scripture, and there are a LOT of scriptures to pick from, so you could create your own based on what biblical truths you most need to take hold of. Again, not saying this is some magic gimmick, but we definitely turned a corner last week and I’m convinced this played a part.

The more we raise His Word as a banner over our lives, the better. So let’s proclaim His excellencies over every circumstance, and see what difference it might make.

{You are loved by God! Have a great week. Thanks for reading.} 

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His pre-planned mercies make no mistake.

I heard the scream from downstairs:

“MOM! Dutch put an ANT on my cookie!”

And that was when I lost my mind. 

It had been a day. No, a week. No, a few weeks. And after lots of talks and tears and training and all that good stuff, we’d had a great day, the to-do’s were checked off, the day was coming to a close, bedtime was on the horizon, and I had zipped upstairs to grab laundry while they finished their dessert.

And then an ant. On the cookie. And when interrogated, the boy’s response is,

“What? It’s good source of protein.”

And with steam coming out of my ears I ranted and raved and did all the wrong things, and put the boy to work scrubbing floors and washing windows and folding laundry. Eventually, he repented, I softened, and the evening was redeemed, of course, but that night I couldn’t help but feel the overwhelming burden of so many things weighing on my mind. His recent inner struggles (being 10.5 and seeing how big and strong the other boys are becoming, while he stays small and gangly), plus the pressure of school’s end and feeling the crunch to finish, then my mental laundry list of all my loss-of-patience failures and wrong-responses–I tucked them in, then came upstairs and sunk to my knees beside the bed:

Help me, God. 

I poured it out:

“Sometimes I feel like I’m ruining them. Some days I think I do more harm than good. Certainly someone else would take the extraordinary raw material of Dutch and make something so much better than what I’m doing. I don’t feel like I’m the right mom for him. But I want to be. Please help me.”

And so I fell asleep.

The next morning I shuffled downstairs, groggy-eyed, for coffee. Jeff had come home late the night before, and had brought in the mail with him, and stacked it on the counter.

On the top of the pile was a hand-written card, to me.

I tore open the top, pulled out the card, and out slipped two stickers — two bright red car-window decals:

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“DUTCH MOM.”

Tears.

You are the mom for Dutch. 

This faraway friend, the one I only see once a year at most, something made her (days before!), snag those stickers and write that long letter of encouragement for my heart, even though she had no idea how I felt, what was going on.

You are the mom for Dutch.

My mom had said it, before he was born. At my baby shower. She had said,

“Always remember that God chose you to be Dutch’s mom. No one else. So He will personally equip you to be the mom that Dutch needs. Never doubt that.”

And of course I have, because we do, and we all need that reminder that this is not a mistake.

This spot you’re in: No accident

This challenge you face: No coincidence.

This life you live: No mistake. 

Sure, we make mistakes, heavens yes! But you are not a mistake, and this situation you’re in, it’s not a coincidence.

He gently whispers,

“I haven’t cast the wrong girl for the role, you just need a bit more practice, Love.”

So, Despair–where is your power? Hopelessness–where is your sting? I stand in the sovereignty of God — the God who led a girl to mail stickers before I even needed them. The God who pre-plans His mercies so they arrive on our doorstep–on our countertop–right on time.

New mercies delivered up when we need them most.

So, my friend: Take courage. His pre-planned mercies will meet us in our time of need, and you’re not mis-cast in this role you’re in. Make no mistake about that.

{Praying for you this week! Thanks for reading.}

 

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Teaching kids to take initiative

When he showed up with our dinner, I could barely believe my eyes — this was a kid! What kind of kid does this??

Let me explain. My husband frequents a local coffee shop, and gets to know the baristas. He had often chatted with one in particular, a guy named Christian. Turns out one day Jeff had shared with him about a difficult season we were in. In response, (after asking Jeff’s permission), Christian took the initiative to coordinate—and personally deliver—dinners out to our house the following week.

Now, I was already floored that someone I had never met was willing to bring us meals (we live a long way out of town).

I was further floored that this person was a guy (sorry, but usually it’s the moms who think of things like meal-delivery!).

But I was completely floored when this guy showed up and looked barely old enough to drive.

He was 21. With a wide, bright smile, he was respectful and kind, talking at length with our kids, admiring our home, and hand-delivering a nutritious meal made by his mom. He was clearly a go-getter, working part-time while also going to school and pursuing his passion in a creative career while also serving in his church.

I soon discovered he was one of 7 brothers … all homeschooled.

Ah. As soon as he left, I looked at Jeff and said, That’s why we homeschool. I want to raise kids like that.

It’s remarkable to see young people who take initiative. That is, they don’t just follow the rules, do the least amount of work possible, wait for someone to offer them options, or live self-absorbed. They are proactive, looking for ways to grow, learn, excel, serve. They take responsibility.

They’re leaders. That’s what I want for my own kids, and probably you do too.

As parents, one of the critical transitions to help our kids make is from being merely responders (obeying our commands), to initiators (proactively seeking to do good). This had already been on my radar all year, and the interaction with Christian encouraged my efforts all the more.

So, here are 4 suggestions for teaching our kids to take initiative: {Read the rest over at Simple Homeschool…thanks!}

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To do today: Win their hearts

This Mama has had a crazy busy few months, and Friday was my last speaking event for the season and the sun is out and I am READY to get low with my littles and catch bugs and dig holes and play games and I was reminded again of this — playing with our kids, winning their hearts, is of eternal importance. Hope this encourages you this week: What you do matters.

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I plunge my hands into the muddy water, winning his heart in this imaginary world of war.

“I just destroyed your aircraft carrier, Dutch. You’ll need a way better design next time.”

He looks up at me delighted,  eyes dancing, sun sparkling in his blond hair. Soon, Heidi skips across the yard.

“Would you like to come to a party at my house?”

Her face is light, eyes full of anticipation. For a moment I marvel at her eager vulnerability. It is one thing to invite someone to your house for a party. That’s a risk.  It is quite another to invite someone to an imaginary party.

Every time a child invites you into her imagination, she risks.

I see it most clearly in Dutch. We had settled down into Heidi’s playhouse, seated in miniature chairs sipping water-tea from plastic cups. Dutch grew quiet for a moment then looked me in the eye.

“I got a new job, down in LA.”

He says the short statement and waits for a response.  It’s such a simple, mundane interaction–something most moms do every day. You play pretend, that’s what you do. But the enormity of it washes over me, as he waits for my response.

Will I take him seriously and play?  Will I accept this invitation into his innermost world? In just one sentence a child may open up her heart and world to us.  How do we respond?

“Oh? Down in LA? What are you doing there?”

A quick flash of joy comes across his face–and he continues in his deepest most serious voice. It’s a big job, overseeing all those aircraft carriers. Only two days off a year–Christmas and Easter. The pay is good though–$200/month.

We talk, like this, most of the afternoon. Heidi explains how her friend “lost her medical” and had to have her legs amputated. Then she had to go to DHS. (Having had Julie in our life informs their imagination in humorous ways sometimes.) Later, Dutch is a WWII veteran. He tells me detailed stories of his heroic escapades, explains the intricacies of the war when I dig for more information.

And I have to chuckle to myself, Too bad we didn’t do school today.  I could almost see their little minds blossoming, opening, like little buds of creativity, connecting and exploring and risking and learning. And what an honor–a privilege–to be allowed into their innermost world of imagination.

Before Dutch was born, my sister-in-law threw me a baby shower. Each woman wrote one piece of advice on a little card. My pastor’s wife, a wise woman I’ve known 30 years, wrote:

Win your child’s heart.”

She explained,

Win his heart, so he will never want to disappoint you. Love is a better motivator than guilt. A desire to please you will carry him through more temptation and struggle than all the rules and right answers in the world. Win his heart early on.”

There are many ways to do this. I haven’t mastered them. But entering our children’s imaginary worlds–with enthusiasm–is one of the most powerful ways to pursue their hearts when they are young.

Few invitations are more sacred than the invitation to enter the imaginary world of a little soul. 

When we enter in, we win

Go play. 

{Have a wonderful week. Thanks for reading.} 

*Originally posted April 2014.

 

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Homeschool Nature Days {And the story of the Ark}

“Now I don’t have to die to go to heaven,” my son grinned. “It’s right here.”

We were walking along the trails zig-zagging through the wild countryside of the property we would soon call home. Towering trees, low-hanging limbs laden with moss, a pond and trickling creek, old-growth stumps — it was all so lush and green and vast — as far as the eye could see.

But even as spectacular as the scenery was, I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Seeing his wonder–rapture really–as he explored and discovered, head tilted back, gazing straight up, pointing here and there, “Mom, red-tailed hawks!”

I couldn’t believe this was where, Lord willing, our kids would grow up. … {Read the rest over at here Simple Homeschool! And if you’d like to read the story of this piece of property … it’s here:

The Ark pt. 1

The Ark pt. 2

The Ark pt. 3

The Ark pt. 4

Thanks for reading!

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My day-in-the-life …

Sometime around 7 they shuffle out, sleepy-eyed, their pajama-pants falling mid-shin, reminding me how fast they’re growing up. But we still snuggle.

They find me in my favorite chair, the big one with room for a little beside me and another on my lap. I slide my Bible to the side, set my coffee down, and gather them up, pushing back the blanket so they can crawl beneath. I kiss their cheeks, right next to their mouths so I can breathe in their morning breath. I’m weird like that, I love their smells.

Thus begins our day. …. Read the rest over at Simple Homeschool! Thanks!

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Low enough to see inside …

This lesson from last year came back to me in a fresh, profound, unexpected way. Maybe I’ll get to share more details later, but for now, this: …

I stood tall at the door, arms folded, that familiar wave of overwhelm sweeping my mind into hopeless thoughts. Sure, it was just a bedroom. Kids have messy rooms, I get it. But this. This particular kid’s quirkiness translates into chaos on another level altogether.

The intense emotional attachment to objects translates into keeping everything–wrappers, scraps of paper, tags off clothes. The passion for creating inventions out of boxes translates into cardboard contraptions cluttering every corner, wires attached, duct-tape holding them together. A fascination with science translates to a half-dozen bottles, various experiments, growing salt crystals and green things and jars teetering on the edge of the table. The voracious appetite for reading translates to towers of encyclopedias, right at arm’s reach beside the bed, covers torn with frequent use, dog-eared pages. The love of Legos translates to countless “creations” that cannot be stowed in bins, must be left out on every available surface. The typewriter, his new love where clicks out stories, means strewn papers with half-written plots. The fascination with flags and signs (?!) translates to another dozen or so papers taped to sticks, papers taped on the wall, door, papers taped everywhere.

Every time I address it, I can feel my blood pressure rising, anticipating the battle: he gets defensive, upset, I get harder, firmer, harsher.

Hence, the overwhelm. Maybe, you’d say, it doesn’t matter. Who cares if he has a messy room? But our responsibility as parents is to prepare our children for life. This doesn’t just fix itself. With all my heart I want to give him the tools to thrive, and that includes an orderly space. The ability to tidy. Not perfect. Not spotless. I don’t mind boxes or Legos or weird taped papers on the wall. But this was out of control.

So I stand at the door. Point. Bark. I bend to move a box, but fail to recognize its function, breaking off some antennae-ish thing and bringing him to tears.

*sigh*

Those weird irrational thoughts begin formulating in my mind, those ones we moms have in desperate moments. I could take everything away and make him earn it all back one item at a time. I could make him sleep in the hallway, on the floor. He could lose access to his room. Would that be severe enough?

It’s dinnertime and we all need a break, so we head downstairs. Earlier, he had said this was the best day ever. We’d been outside all day in the cold sunshine, we’d adventured and explored and played baseball with our housemates. It was one of those glorious childhood days.

But now he hung his head, discouraged, eyes red with tears. I picked him up into my arms,

“Ok, babe, we had the best day until 4:30. Then we had a struggle. Let’s return to joy, ok? We’ll figure out your room. Don’t worry. I love you.”

He managed a smile and nestled his face into my neck.

We ate dinner and cleaned up.

“What should we do for family night?” I asked.

Dutch, as if suddenly remembering something, lit up:

“Oh mommy! I haven’t gotten to show you Hobbes’s room! Can you come see?!”

Hobbes (and Max) are his best friends, two well-worn stuffed animals who never leave his side.  I can’t turn down that light in his eyes, so I let him take my hand and lead me up the creaky stairs.

We come to his room and before the birds-eye view can overwhelm me, I lower down, with him onto the floor. I look past the scraps of paper, to where he’s curled up next to an upside down detergent box. It’s white with A-L-L spelled out bright, a low, wide opening in the front.

“Oh, neat, hon!” I smile.

“No mommy, look inside.”

I have to lie down all the way to be low enough to see.

But I do.

I peer inside. Oh!

Oh, he’s right! There is unbelievable detail, a place for Hobbes and Max to hang their stockings (!), a large piece of artwork on the wall, (“It’s a real Van Gogh, Mommy!”), a picturesque window, even a cut-out piece of flannel on the floor (“It’s carpet!”). It was a stuffed animals’ dream-home, to be sure.

He had poured his heart, his time, into creating a special room for his favorite friends.

We were both lying there on the ground, his face was right next to mind, peering inside. I turned and kissed his cool cheek, looking into his lit-up eyes.

Of course. Why hadn’t I seen it before?

I have to get low enough to see inside.

From the top, it’s trash. All I can see is cardboard-box chaos. I see garbage, mess.

I look down and see a lack of care.

Could it be that when he looks up at me he sees the same?

Not saying that solves everything, but getting on the floor is empathy-in-action and at least it’s good place to begin.

When we look inside cardboard boxes we see inside hearts.

{Praying we get low enough to see inside. Thank you for reading. }

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A Decade of Dutch

Today, I’m curled up under this blanket, and I keep glancing across the room, watching you, completely absorbed in a new book you unwrapped just moments ago. From the outside, it might just seem like an ordinary day. The day another kid turned ten. But my heart is soaring and I’m silently singing hallelujah because God has been so faithful. And our victories may not seem significant compared to others’, but they are ours and I will exult in God’s goodness to us.

Ten years ago today, Dutch’s birth forever changed my world. As every mother knows, your world is completely transformed in an instant. A wild, raging love pulses through your veins, a fierce, protective love, an intoxicating and all-consuming love. It’s usually mixed with exhaustion and tears, but it’s love.

Dutch, you captured my heart the moment you were born. But in those early days, I didn’t know how hard the road would be. How your uniqueness would challenge me deep down at my core, how I would reach the end of myself.

You would be the undoing of me. 

And I’m so glad.

I’ve said it before, in fact, I say it every year on your birthday: I’m so glad for how your uniqueness has challenged and changed me. And I’m still glad. But, this year feel different. This year feels like the quiet dawning of a slightly different era. Not that the future roads won’t be rough, but I’ve seen you grow so much this year my sweet boy. And again, our victories may not be much in the world’s eyes, but they are glorious in mine, so I will celebrate.

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This. This picture tells me that you played on your first ever sports team! You were brave, and joined a baseball team, even though you’d never played and this was all brand new and the first practice it poured freezing rain sideways, and you stood out in that outfield shaking and shivering and about froze to death.

But you stuck with it. And what impresses me isn’t your batting average–it’s that you cheer for your teammates, that you love it when other people succeed, and that you show courage every time you step up to bat, even though you struck out almost every single time–you never gave up! That you never had a bad attitude about playing, that even as the smallest kid on the team, you did your best and cheered everyone on. You may not be on the elite traveling team, but you are my MVP! I am SO PROUD of you, Son. 2016-05-18-11-54-17-hdr

And this picture shows me that you got your first pet this year. And that you have such a tender heart for animals. That you care for them well. 2016-05-31-13-24-30

And this photo reminds me of that day you caught the hummingbird in your hand. How we were having such a hard day preparing for State Testing, and that that hummingbird reminded me what really matters and I was so proud of you for bravely catching that scared bird in your hands, and how you let it go free! And then, on top of it all, you went and practically aced that State Test — silly me for being so stressed about it! 2016-10-04-11-53-11-1

And this reminds me of picnicking in the Redwoods, how you love nature, and how of all the attractions in California, you chose the Redwood Forest as the one place you wanted to go. I love that about you, Dutch. You appreciate God’s glorious creation, and I love that you choose trees and rocks over all other options. It also reminds me of the special relationship you have with Daddy. You two are two peas in a pod, that’s for sure!2016-11-07-13-03-53

And this. This reminds me of US. Because what I am most thankful for, of these 10 years, is that we love each other. That even when things are hard, your heart is soft toward me, and I love that our relationship is strong, that God has knit our hearts together. I’m thankful that you still hold my hand, let me cuddle you under the quilt at night, that we still snuggle up in the morning reading our Bibles.

And finally, today we had a significant victory. You know the details, and I won’t share it here with the world, but you know the victory, and my heart is soaring. I’m so grateful to God for the ways you have grown this year, Dutch.

Happy 10th birthday, Son. I’m so grateful for a decade of Dutch and how it’s changed my life forever, for good.

{Thanks for reading.}

Previous years’ reflections:

Nine.

Entering Eight

Thursday’s Child,

My Own Christmas Boy

You Are Four

You are Three 

Happy Birthday Dear Son

My Son Turns One

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For hearts that ache for kids

{I had a moment recently where I felt this familiar ache, and then I found this. From last year. And I laughed because–glory!–he can tie his own shoes now! It’s so good to remember, as we commit ALL of our questions and futures to the only One who knows. He is trustworthy. Thanks for reading.}

“Mommy?” You whisper into the darkness. “Can I have a rock?”

It’s the middle of the night and it takes me a moment to realize what you mean.

I smile. “Of course.”

I pull back the covers, slide out of bed, creep across the room in the dark. Out in the hallway, I don’t see you, but I peek into Heidi’s room and there you are, arms full of snuggly animals, standing beside the rocking chair, waiting for me. 

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I slide back into the cool, hard, chair. It creaks loudly as I pull you onto my lap and ease back. You barely fit now, tall and lanky and almost 9-years-old. Your long legs hang off the side, your head rests up on my shoulder. I try to wrap an arm under you but can’t reach, so I just bear-hug you around the middle and lean down so my cheek rests against yours, so I can breathe your breath.

I close my eyes and can’t believe I’m rocking you. You! Almost exactly 8 years earlier, you weren’t even one, and oh! you wouldn’t sleep. I tried every trick. You wouldn’t sleep. And so I tried to rock you. Desperately I tried to rock you. I held you tight, leaning back and forth in that chair, praying you’d sleep. And you fought it. Screamed. Cried and cried and cried and cried for nearly an hour until we were both drenched with sweat and tears and … I gave up. And you just stared at me, and I felt so lost and whispered to God, “Help us.”

So many times, that prayer, through these years.

And tonight I’d whispered that same prayer to the Father. Just seconds before you slipped into my room, I’d been lying awake, unable to sleep, praying, thinking of you.  Tears, too, had slipped down my cheeks as I consider 9-years-old and all that’s changing and unknown and silly things like Will you ever be able to tie your shoes or light a match?

Will you make friends? Get married? Be a good father? Thrive?

What will you say, someday, when you look back on your childhood?

Will you love the Lord when you are 20, 50, 80?

We keep rocking. The chair is loud and creaky and you’re whispering to me how you like the sound, “It’s like a radio.” And we keep rocking, and I think how I would never have dreamed back then, when you were screaming at 11-months-old, that you’d be this walking documentary boy, an absolute wonderment. And I silently thank God again and again for this moment, that you want me to rock you, and how precious this is and into the darkness you whisper:

“Mommy?”

“Yes, love?”

“Your titanium scissors surely aren’t make of titanium. They are just steel. Titanium is used more in name than actual substance. People just like to think things are made of titanium.”

I smile. I love you, son. 

Eventually we tiptoe past sleeping sister and back to your room.

“Will you snuggle me?” 

“Of course.” I slide in next to you and pull the down comforter up, around us, under our chins.

“I can’t believe they use tiger and lion bones in Chinese medicine.”

I smile and touch your cheek.

And in a few seconds, you’re asleep. I watch you for a bit, and commit all my questions to the Only One who holds us in the palm of His hand.

Your Father and mine. 

I love you, son. 

{For hearts that ache for kids, for prayers and sleepless nights. We serve a God who knows and hears and answers. Thanks for reading.}

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My Charlie Brown boy: Look for the heart

We weren’t going to get the tree tonight, but at 4:15pm, just 15 minutes before the sun would set, Dutch saw our housemates pull into the driveway with their freshly cut tree in the back of the truck.

“Can WE get our tree?!”

And so the boys climbed into the truck and took off in search of a tree. They came home, all smiles and flushed cheeks, having conquered. While Jeff outside was getting the tree ready for the stand, Dutch came in and quietly and asked if he could have a strand of lights. I said sure, gave him a strand, and he disappeared.

Ten minutes later, Jeff came in, grinning. He slipped off his boots, and said, “Hey, Heidi. I think you better look in your room.”

We looked down the hall and saw that the door was closed. So we crept quietly to the door, and cracked it open. There was her own tiny tree, with a little wooden stand, and all lit up with lights.

Her face lit, her eyes wide. “My own tree!” 

“Merry Christmas!” Dutch jumped up from behind her bed, his face beaming. “I picked it out for you and set it up so you’d be surprised!”

“Oh, I love it! Let’s go get our ornaments!”

And as they turned toward the door, Dutch stopped. His face fell.

“Oh no. I wore my muddy boots in here.”

Well, yes. Brown muddy footprints tracked in on Heidi’s white carpet. *sigh*

Of course he knows better. Of course he knows not to wear his boots in the house. But as I saw him standing there, face fallen, looking at the muddy smears, I saw my own Charlie Brown boy.

I saw how so often, even when he tries to do it right he does it wrong. I saw that how he’d conceived this Christmas-tree idea, a special way to bless his sister. And I saw his face fall at realizing he’d managed to mess it up.

I thought of my own experience polishing the silver. With shoe polish.

I leaned in close, took his hand, kissed his cheek.

“It’s ok, babe. It’s just carpet. We can clean it. I love your heart to bless Heidi. That’s what matters most.”

He smiled.  Soon they were lost in their little world of pretend, decorating, setting up stuffed animals around the tree in their own little Christmas scene.

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My heart was so happy, they could’ve lit the carpet on fire for all I cared.

And I thought back to how many times I wish I would’ve been able to see the heart behind so many actions, that–as my mother-in-law told me this weekend–when people are being difficult, it’s because they’re having difficulty. Sure, we don’t excuse mis-behavior, but if only we could look for the heart.

Sure, the muddy footprint situation was minor, and easy to see the innocence behind it. But can I do this on a larger scale?

Can I do this this Christmas? Can I honor Christ by giving His people the benefit of the doubt? Can I believe the best? Can I pray earnestly to see them as He sees?

When someone tramps into my life with muddy feet, and maybe messes things up a bit, Can I see past this to what good there might be

Can I squint the eyes of my heart to see Jesus in disguise? In them?

That’s my prayer, anyway.

We’re all Charlie Browns, right? We’re all trying to love and serve and lead and give and we wind up making a royal mess out of things more often than not. Yes? I know I do. And so I need to receive grace and give grace to all my fellow Charlie Browns out there.

They say that the Apostle Paul always writes, “Grace and Peace” in that order because you need grace before you can have peace.

So true.

Grace-extenders are peace-receivers. 

…Surely He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace…

Thanks for reading.