Chapter 2: The Truth Behind Grace

From Grace Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel:

On page 29, Tim Kimmel writes, “…if the bottom line of parenting is grace, then that should affect how you develop goals for your children, how you handle discipline, how you process their fears, how you deal with their quirks and idiosyncrasies, and how you respond to their fads. Grace keeps you from clamping down on their spirits when they move through awkward transitions and walk through the valley of the shadow of adolescence. The reason grace makes the most sense as a bottom line for parenting is because of grace’s eternal appeal to the human heart.”

I really appreciated this thought about grace affecting all of these areas – how to develop goals for children and deal with their quirks as well as the obvious handling of discipline issues and fears. I know children need to be children, yet it is so easy for me to apply my own quirks and frustrations as the standard to which their childish behavior must meet. When Kimmel says on page 30, “It’s hard bringing out the best in children when they seem committed to bringing out the worst in us,” I felt like he was finally “hearing” me. It is hard to be grace-based with someone who will not be reasoned with and someone who is towing their own black-and-white lined version of what has happened and what the outcome should be. I need to be less concerned about being right and more concerned about shaping their hearts in the midst of the discussion, though this is tricky, because as the parent, I am responsible to also guide them in what is right. And as children, they frequently do not know or are not able to see things from a proper perspective. So the line between grace and truth can be spotty sometimes. Oh, that this would be an easier thing to understand. It would help if neither of us were such committed sinners.

On page 30, Kimmel says, “…what is it about Jesus that inclines us to cast our lot with a simple carpenter from an obscure, ancient village? It’s because of His grace – grace He has shown us by first purchasing us from the depths of our lost condition. It’s His grace that loves us when we’re being foolish, or stubborn, or selfish, or mean-spirited.”

And there it is – I’m so busy trying to make my children into perfect people that I forget how foolish, stubborn, selfish and mean-spirited I myself can be.
Also on page 30, “Grace can also help you know what matters and what doesn’t. It helps you give kids a lot of freedom to simply be ‘kids’ and keeps you from living in a reactive mode as they go through certain stages. Without grace, you can turn high standards and strong moral convictions into knives that cut deeply into the inner recesses of your children’s hearts.”

Ouch. That may very well be my chosen style of parenting – that of the reactive mode.

Kimmel quotes Ephesians 6:4 on page 36 when he writes, “’Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.’ The Greek word translated ‘exasperate’ means literally to irritate beyond measure.” I distinctly remember having Ephesians 6:1 quoted to me once upon a time and I smartly retorted with Ephesians 6:4, as if I knew better. While I probably shouldn’t have done so then (I was probably 14), I should do so at myself now. This verse really does come to mind quite a bit, though, along with the one in Proverbs about a gentle response turning away anger. They are both true and advice I need to set before me on an hourly basis.

Using a lighthouse as an analogy, Kimmel says on page 42, “God places parents as a light on a hill for their family. It is our job to send out a clear signal that helps our children get their bearings and keep their wits. We’re there to warn them away from rocks and shallow shoals. We’re there to guide them safely back into the center of the channel when they’ve wandered off. We are a lighthouse, permanently established to show them the way home. Without us keeping that steady light shining, our children don’t stand much of a chance of making it through the turbulent years of childhood without serious consequences.”

A lighthouse. This is a good way to look at this because so much of the time I see myself as a tugboat, pulling my kids along behind me, sometimes in the path I think they should go and other times in just whatever path I happen to be on.

This could be the very reason I even started this second blog anyway. I recognize a serious need for deeper dependence on the Lord in my life. I recognize how I need to model this for my children. I’ve trained myself to be so dad-gummed independent over the years that I’ve forgotten how desperately dependent I really am. I want to learn that again. I want to feel that again. I want my children to see me recognize that again. I want to come to the Lord, with my kids, and beg Him for grace for us as a family as we navigate these murky waters. I need to be a lighthouse for them, yes, but I also need to be looking for the lighthouse for myself and for all of us.

From “AAAAAA” to “ahhhhhh”

We started school today and it was, um, shall we say, a less than ideal start to the school year. The printer I got second-hand to print school assignments off the girls’ PC is out of ink and this week Craig gave me the go-ahead to get a better printer with a copier function after I tested his mom’s new one out this weekend at the farm. I don’t want to buy new ink for this printer if I’m just going to turn around and get a new printer, so I couldn’t print their assignment sheets today.
No big deal, I just looked up the assignments on their computer and we were off like a herd of turtles.

Then the plumber came. And while here, told me he needed access to the underbelly of the kitchen, meaning I had to empty all the lower cabinets, while simultaneously trying to coach the girls in their respective assignments. Then he informed me that the siding had to come off a back portion of the house so they could gain access to some pipes, and siding removal wasn’t part of their contract with us.

I was almost in tears, googling “how to remove vinyl siding” so I could try to do it myself, when Dave, the bookshelf man, arrived to finish his project for us. Dave is my new favorite guy because after hearing what I was doing, and then spying my trying my hand at peeling siding off the house, came over and asked me which portion of the house had to come off. He then proceeded to do it right there on the spot, thereby saving me from a mild-medium emotional breakdown.

All that to say that we called school off early for the day which was defeating for me and relieving for the girls. They watched a movie while I paced back and forth from plumber to carpenter, watching, and feeling pretty useless.

Our plumbing woes are far from over, but we had one major triumph today. The bookshelves are finished now, and while not crucial to our occupancy permit being granted later this week (our 30 day window to get the inspection violations done is almost up), was definitely a moral booster for both me and Craig, as both of us have had our chaos thresholds more than reached in the past week.

So, with no further ado, I want to remind you of the old wall:

Wall Before Book Shelf

And show you the wall now:

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This shelving unit holds all of our fiction books along with one shelf of parenting books and one shelf of marriage books. What does that say about our view of marriage and parenting? Hmm. Anyway, we have more books to add, but I wasn’t in the mood to haul any more boxes down from the attic today.

I began stripping the wallpaper in that area where the shelves went and it felt good to finally do something in here in the direction of making the room look more like “us.” Hopefully over Christmas break we will paint the bookshelves, as well as the whole room. Until then, though, just having the shelves is a serious sense of “ahhhhhh” for us. Here’s a view of the living room from where I’m sitting right now:

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We’re getting there. Little by little. And school? Well, it is just August 11, so it isn’t exactly like we’ve fallen off the wagon yet. And Dave? God bless Dave. He saved my sanity twice today and I won’t forget that.