Graceful or grace-filled?

How grace-filled is different from graceful

When I think of someone who is graceful, I think of a ballerina or a dancer who moves in fluid, smooth lines. I think of someone who seems to float more than walk. That person is not me. Not at all! And that’s not what this site is about. I’m talking about grace-filled lives. Grace-filled families. Grace-filled women. A grace-filled me!

A grace-filled person is someone who is so full of God’s love that they stop before they react out of anger to assess the situation and see if the person or situation is one that needs grace more than it needs anger. 

And a grace-filled parent is one who resists the temptation to yell or say mean things after her children misbehave when she realizes they are having a legitimately bad day. While she doesn’t let her children get away with bad behavior, she disciplines them with grace and addresses what the actual problem is instead.

THAT person is who I want to be. (Honestly, I wouldn’t mind being more graceful either because I am quite a clutz! But, I digress…) I know I can’t do it on my own. It goes against my human nature. My human nature wants to say mean things, raise my voice or slam a door shut. My human nature doesn’t want to extend grace, because I deserve justice. I deserve revenge.

But, I don’t. I don’t deserve justice or revenge. I deserve severe punishment, because I mess up over and over again. However, I serve a God filled with grace and mercy. I serve a God who sees the inside of me and why I’m misbehaving. I serve a God who stills loves me in spite of it all. In fact, He loves me so much that He sent His Son to die for me. Talk about grace!

So to be a grace-filled person, I’ve got to fight that human nature. The best way I know to fight it is to let more of God into me. My goal is to be more Christlike. And being more Christlike means keeping my focus on God. When I do that, I am more likely to let more of Him show through me. If I think of Jesus sitting beside me while I’m dealing with my children, I am more likely to act in a way that honors Him and helps them.

I am not saying that my children don’t need disciplined, because they do. God doesn’t give me grace and mercy and just let me have at life my way. He disciplines me. Sometimes it hurts, but every time I grow from it and learn another lesson and more about God. Every single time! That’s what I want to model for my children. I want to discipline them so they can grow up to be awesome people. I want to discipline them so they understand the right way to behave and treat others. And I want to discipline them so they are safe. But I don’t want to utterly crush them. I don’t want to respond only out of anger. I want to show them grace and discipline as God has shown me.

In the end, I want to be intentional about how I’m living my life and raising my children so that we are a Family with Grace. I don’t care if we are a family who is graceful, but I definitely want to be one who is grace-filled!

Looking for more posts about being grace-filled? Check out these posts, in particular!

11 ways to help kids deal with the death of a loved one

In May of 2016, our beloved family dog had to be put to sleep after a short battle with an aggressive cancer that couldn’t be treated. In May of 2017, my last remaining grandparent — my maternal grandmother — passed away after a few months battling varying issues. A couple of days ago, my uncle died after dealing with kidney cancer over the last year. While cancer makes you think we’d be prepared, we weren’t. His treatment had actually gone well overall. When complications started a couple of weeks ago, even those seemed to be resolved. Until overnight everything changed and within 12 hours, he was in heaven. 

Dealing with these loses has been difficult. Each time, in the midst of my own grief, one of my first thoughts has been, “How are we going to tell the kids?” Because grief with kiddos is hard, and they were very close to each of these loved ones. I want to protect them and shelter them from every hurt that can happen in this imperfect world. I want to make it all better for them. Yet, that isn’t one bit how it works. I know there are articles and books written on grief with kids. I know there are actual experts on the topic. I am certainly not, but I do know what dealing with grief looks like in our family. And from that experience, I offer some thoughts.

Give yourself time to process the loss.
I have found it’s important to not tell my children until I’m ready to have a conversation without sobbing. My husband and I need time to process the loss first before we can talk to them. This has happened in various amounts of time based on the situation. But usually, it has been within 12 to 24 hours. 

Use the right words.
Once we are ready to talk, then we sit down together as a family without distractions and try to be as straightforward as possible using words like “die” and “death,” so they understand what we mean. Little kids, especially, don’t understand or know euphemisms such as “passed away.”

Talk about heaven.
We talk about how our loved ones, especially in each of their situations, are no longer in pain. We talk about how they can run free. As the losses have continued to accumulate, we even talk about our loved ones interacting in heaven. We talk about how good it is for them there. We talk about how we can be happy for them but sad for us and that is OK.

Discuss different reactions and emotions.
My son is the youngest of our family. He was 3 when our dog died, 4 when my grandma died and now is 5. He processes things very matter-of-factly and doesn’t quite get all the feelings right away. My daughter was 6, 7 and 9 during these losses and understands them differently. She immediately tears up. We talk about how it’s OK to cry and it’s OK to not cry. We talk about how sometimes we feel like crying when it surprises us or sometimes we don’t cry when we think we would. There is no wrong way to have feelings during losing a loved one. Sometimes sadness comes out in tears and sometimes in other ways. My older brother, for example, was almost 4 when our paternal grandpa died and my mom said his first reaction was anger. And that’s OK, too.

Let kids see your emotions.
I don’t often cry in front of my children. I have times of getting teary or choked up, but outside of these losses, I’ve not really cried in front of them. I think it’s important for them to see my tears and be reassured that any sadness they are feeling is OK and they aren’t alone. My husband usually displays his sadness without as many tears, because that’s more his nature and that’s OK, too.

Let them ask questions. 
After we give them the information, talk about heaven and emotions, we also make sure to ask if they have questions. I have been surprised sometimes at where their minds go and the things they wonder about. We are also honest when they ask questions that we don’t know like “Why did God want them in heaven now?”

We also reassure them that if they think of questions later or just want to talk about it or whatever, they are free to come to us any time. And we keep that open. It has pierced my heart a couple of times as they have brought up things later on that brings that grief coming back fresh, but I want them to have the freedom they need to process it in whatever amount of time it takes them or in whatever way they need to.

Address their fears. 
Sometimes our kids have brought fears up, but sometimes we have brought them up first. For example, we are quick to remind them that the kind of sickness our loved ones had was more than just a regular sickness and they don’t have anything to worry about if one of us gets sick with a cold or virus. Since I’ve had a few surgeries in these last few years, we are also careful about correlating a surgical procedure to death. It’s a pretty quick and easy leap for kiddos to start thinking sickness or surgery equal death. 

Follow their lead. 
Kids are so very resilient. Each time we have dealt with a loss, I am amazed at how quickly they shift gears from being sad to wanting to do something else. While my husband and I still need to deal with our grief in different ways, we do our best to move on with them to another activity. We have learned to plan something as a distraction each time that we can offer to get everyone shifting gears, even if it’s just going out to dinner. 

Talk about ways to be proactive. 
We try to also talk about how grief is hard. We don’t diminish that, because grief is really stinking hard. But we also assure them that we will get through this and it will get easier. And we talk about something we can do. For example, when my grandma died, we talked about how my mom and aunt would be feeling sad and maybe the kids could give them extra hugs. This week we’ve talked about coloring pictures and making sweet treats for my aunt to remind her that she isn’t alone.

Don’t push; just be there. 
While I have been surprised by my kids’ resilience and ability to shift gears, I have also been surprised at various times they bring up the loss and how they are sad. It pops out at odd times sometimes, just like it does for grown-ups. While my daughter has been older and tended to cry a bit with the information, she has moved on pretty well during the day. But then bedtime comes and she tends to struggle more. Last night, she crept back downstairs and was feeling very sad. So we just sat snuggled on the couch for a while, neither one of us talking. Sometimes sitting together in silence is the best. And then I gently helped her think of some other things to help her be able to move forward into going to sleep. 

Know when they need grace. 
This one can be a bit tricky to assess sometimes, but my kids get extra grace for their behavior and words when we are dealing with a loss. I need extra grace for my behavior and words. I know I’m not at my best and that sometimes I get grumpier much more than I would usually. I don’t expect them to be any different. So sometimes when they do something that would usually merit a strict punishment, they get off lighter or get a reminder that isn’t how we are supposed to behave. If it keeps happening, especially in one day, we stop and ask them questions about how they’re feeling. They don’t get carte blanche permission to do whatever they want to without consequence, but they do definitely get some grace along the way. 

Losing a loved one hurts. Each time, I have wished I could take the hurt away from my children and told them as much. But we’ve also talked about how it hurts because we had so much love, and love is a good thing. We have talked about good memories and how we’ll always have those memories. We have mourned together and even found some laughter in the midst of mourning. I really do wish I could take the grief for them, but I also want to do my best to prepare them for loss since hurt and grief is a part of the world.

I don’t have all the answers and am not an expert at dealing with grief myself. Sometimes I’m good at distracting myself and pretending if I don’t think about it that it will go away. (That never works, by the way.) But I have learned more and more through the years that sometimes I have to just let myself feel all the feels and be broken down in order to start healing. I have shared that with my children to an extent according to their ages. I have also learned, though, that no matter how hard and painful this stuff is that God is always there. He is always ready to comfort me. He hears me when I get a phone call with news and can only pray “Jesus” over and over because my heart is broken. In the end, as always, Jesus remains the answer to grief whether it’s my own or my children’s. I pray that they realize that and see me living that out, in spite of the times when I mess up.

A parent’s prayer — FREE printable!

How to pray for yourself as a parent

About two years ago, a friend of mine shared a prayer for parents on social media. I really liked it, and I have been using it ever since. I’ve been curious about its origins, so I did a bit of research and found that a version of the prayer first ran in the Dear Abby column in 1971. A slightly revised version ran again in 1980. 

But it has evolved a bit and changed. I have tweaked it ever so slightly and now have this version that I pray regularly. I am a big fan of a prayer app. I know it sounds weird. It sounded weird to me, too, but then I tried it and fell in love with it. The one I use and love is called PrayerMate, which is available for free both Apple and Android users.

Basically, I utilize my prayer app for Biblical-based or pre-written prayers, like this parent’s prayer, as well as to organize requests from friends that I may forget to add into my daily conversations with God. I end up actually praying more for requests this way than I did before. And I have found I can also relax in my talks with God because I don’t have to try to scramble and remember ongoing prayers and prayer requests. I know my app will rotate through them.

I have also been blessed by God’s timing when a request comes up in my prayer app for a person or situation in the morning and then later that day I find out the person or situation has really needed extra prayer that day. I see that as more than a coincidence — it’s a God thing!

I also have my app set to remind me every morning to spend some extra time in prayer after my kids are off to school. I utilize it during my usual Bible and prayer time as well. It just comes in handy. You can set as many or as few subjects as you want. The app offers prayers to pick from as well. I’m sure there are other prayer apps that work well, too.

Of all the prayers I’ve come across, this parent’s prayer is one of my favorites. It reminds me so very much of my job and responsibility as a parent. It reminds me of what is important in parenthood. It reminds me to place all of it at God’s feet so that I can be a better parent to my children with His strength and direction. I’ve made it into a free printable for you to download, so you can join me in this prayer for our parenthood journey as well. Just click the image below!

More prayer resources from Families with Grace:

A little grace in marriage goes a long way to avoid conflict

Grace in marriage improves your relationship

Last Monday, I had to pick up my daughter from school early for an orthodontist appointment. Right after her appointment, we had to go back to school to pick up her brother. It wasn’t all that hard, because the orthodontist isn’t too far from school, but it was just a bit time-consuming. I certainly didn’t expect the afternoon would remind me how importance grace in marriage is.

It all started as I was working in our office on Monday morning. My husband came in and told me that when he drove my car the evening before (which seldom happens), the check engine light came on. I sighed. We just finished making repairs to my car — two rounds of them, in fact. But, a check engine light isn’t something to mess around with. So we decided I should drive his car for shuttling the kids around, and we’d take mine to the auto parts store later to see what the light meant.

That afternoon, I climbed into my husband’s car to begin shuttling the kids around. As soon as I started the car, the low gas light blinked on. I wasn’t exactly enthused about that. I knew I had a decent amount of driving to do, and I had timed everything precisely to have just enough time to do it. Planning a stop to fill up the gas tank wasn’t part of my schedule. Sigh.

Giving grace in marriage

For a moment, I felt irritated that my husband hadn’t told me his car needed gas. Then I realized he probably totally forgotten. While I am “fill up when the tank nears 1/4 fullness” kind of person, he is more of the “I know how far I can drive with the light on” kind of person. Moreover, I also realized he wasn’t intentionally trying to make me have a more frazzled afternoon. So, I gave him some grace in marriage.

I did call him to see if he thought I could make it, because he does know his car better than I do. He thought so. I also learned I was correct; he had totally forgotten it was low on gas. He got grace from me rather than an irritated wife who was mad at him. We didn’t exchange any harsh words at all. (By the way, I did have just enough time to fill up the car on the way to school, which made me feel much better.)

A couple of hours later, I had gotten back home with the kids, feeling hot, tired, hungry and grumpy. We had to make a second trip to the orthodontist after my daughter had a wire poking her mouth. The kids were finishing their homework, and I had just finished washing their lunchbox containers. As I thought about dinner, I realized I was just done with the day. Done. With. It. Nothing was going wrong, but I was over it. I couldn’t think of what to make for dinner or how to make dinner happen.

Getting grace

So, I went into the home office to whine — I mean talk — to my husband. I told him I didn’t mind to cook, but there was no way I could deal with dishes. Just couldn’t do a darn thing about it. I told him I needed him to be in charge. It didn’t matter to me what we did, but we couldn’t order pizza because our daughter’s teeth were sore, so she needed soft food.

And then I did the very mature act of putting my head down on my desk. My husband asked for my opinion. I told him I couldn’t even manage an opinion. It was all up to him with no help from me. I was having a bad moment. You know what he did? He didn’t get mad at me. (I’m sure he was frustrated/annoyed, but he didn’t say a word about it.) He gave me grace in marriage. He dealt with it.

Instead of shutting down like I was, he talked to our daughter about what she could eat and decided we’d all go get pasta, since the kids love it and she could eat it. He did not remind me that I’m the one who decided to use the re-useable lunch containers and Thermoses in our kids’ lunch boxes that require extra work or that I have agreed to be the one who deals with most of the cooking. He just saw I was struggling, gave me some grace and took over.

We left the restaurant with me feeling so much better. He gently teased me about it and said maybe I was just hangry. (He may know me super well!)

I tell you all of this not to make you think we are perfect. We aren’t. We struggle and don’t always keep quiet when we should. But we are far enough into this marriage thing that we know each other and when the other one needs some grace in marriage. I knew he deserved grace about the low gas issue, because he certainly wasn’t trying to inconvenience me. And he knew I needed grace for feeding the family that evening or else everything was going to go really far sideways. We had two grand opportunities to argue that day, but we applied grace and let them slide. In the big picture of life, both were such teeny tiny blips on the radar.

A little bit of grace really does go a long way!

More than just an umbrella

Last week, I was picking my kiddos up from school and it was pouring the rain. The way their school is set up, I have to walk up to the building to get them and then walk them back to the car, parked across the street. It’s a bit of an ordeal on rainy days, because with our varying heights, we end up each using an umbrella. We got outside of the building together, moved over to the side and started work on getting all three of our umbrellas up so we didn’t get soaked walking to the car.

I barely had my umbrella over my head when one of my daughter’s classmates came over and joined me under it, asking if she could stand with us until her dad arrived. I could tell she was feeling anxious. So, I worked on chatting with her to help keep her at ease. I assured her that some roads were flooded and that may have been what was making him late today when he usually wasn’t ever late. My kids both did well talking with her. We moved to a different spot for her to try and see him. In the end, he came out of the school building where he’d been talking with an administrator and his daughter had walked by and missed seeing him. All was well and she was off with her dad to go home. My kids and I used our umbrellas and started the damp trek to our car.

I have to say, it was a bit surreal for me that she just clung to me. I was a familiar face when she needed one; she wasn’t using me just for my umbrella to shelter her from the rain. She knew my face from being at school for pick-up and volunteering in the classroom a few times. This is their third grade year, so we have a little history, but our families aren’t close.

However, she saw a mom. And I realized that aside from being a mom to my own kids, I am a mom in general. I’ve known this before like when I have automatically reached for a toddler running by me who tripped and was about to fall. Or when I’ve stopped a friend’s little one from getting into something she shouldn’t. The whole mom thing is ingrained so fully into us and into who we. Moms can be trusted. Moms are there to take care of kiddos. 

Nearly nine years into this motherhood process, I didn’t think anything could make me feel more like a mom. I’ve been through so many motherhood adventures. I no longer bat an eye at helping someone else with their bodily functions or excrements. And, yet, this little girl made me feel even more like a mom because I realized that other kids see me that way just like I did with moms of my friends growing up. That leaves me feeling an even bigger responsibility to my children’s generation. I just hope and pray I don’t mess up too much!

Team marriage

Last month, my husband and I celebrated our 19th anniversary. I have been thinking about the girl I was 19 years ago. I have thought about what I would go back and say to that 20-year-old girl who was finishing all the last-minute tasks. And I’ve decided, I wouldn’t say much more than just enjoy every minute of it! Because, not much else matters on a wedding day — or at least it shouldn’t.

In the years since then, my husband and I have been through many things. Our hearts have been shattered and broken into millions of pieces together. We have mourned and wept together. We have comforted each other through the darkest of nights. We have sat in silence just being beside each other in times when there were no words to express the hurt and pain.

But we have also cried tears of joy together. We have welcomed two babies into this world. We have celebrated with our friends. We have enjoyed playing games together. And I couldn’t even begin to list all the times we have laughed together. Through all of the ups and downs, we have done our best to keep our sense of humor. It has sustained us. Many times when left with the choice to laugh or cry, we have chosen laughter.

Photo by Ben Rosett on Unsplash

We were young when we got married and people loved to tell us how hard it would be. Looking back, I’d say they are wrong. We have had hard times, but being married didn’t make anything harder. In fact, it is quite the opposite. We are a team together. We hold each other up when we can’t stand otherwise.

Still other people told us that being so young, we still had a lot of growing and changing to do, so we should wait. And they were right in one sense. We are not the same people today that we were back when we were 20 and 22. We have changed and grown together. I am a better person today than I was then because of my husband. He knows me better than I know myself sometimes. He not only makes me want to be a better person but also makes me a better person for his love and the accountability he brings. I’d like to think I have helped him be a better version of himself as well.

I have no idea what the next 19 years will bring. Just like 19 years ago today, I thought I knew what might be coming. But life is unpredictable. We’ve had experiences I would never have believed on my wedding day. And I’m guessing the next 19 years will include some of those types of things again. That’s how life works. But, I know that whatever life brings, we will face it together. We will be a team. We will laugh as much as we can. We will keep our eyes and hearts focused on each other and God — and that’s what matters most.