Thursday, August 23, 2012

A "What am I doing wrong?!" sort of day.

My rough mothering days follow a pattern.

Kid acts up.
I discipline, correct, encourage, etc.
Kid acts up again.
Repeat mommy skills. Add incentives.
Kid continues to disobey or disrespect or manipulate the situation.
Skills crumble.
I feel discouraged.
I feel defeated.
I close my eyes and think in my brain, "I must be doing something wrong...WHAT am I doing wrong?"

That's what happened this afternoon. I think it's post-vacation crash and burn, honestly, with a touch of jet-lag mixed in. But I walked out of my son's room after sentencing him to remain there, shaking my head, wondering - again - what I'm doing wrong.

I put a little time and space between us before returning to his room to chat with him. After an afternoon of compromises on his part, he had finally chosen to lie to me, and lying, in our house, holds the greatest sentence: having to stay in one's room for the rest of the night. No family time, except for eating dinner. At least for my kids, the best rewards are quality times together, and so the worst consequences involve separation. (Nothing extreme, people. Just "go sit in your room and lose your privileges" kinds of things.) My kids know that trust is everything in our house. And when trust is violated, it is no small deal.

When I went back to his room, I talked through his mistake with him using gentleness but gravity. I could see he felt really sorry. He knew he had crossed a serious line with me. And then I took a risk. I said, "You know what your mistake was, right? But what's the good news?" It was a little test I was giving him, to see...just to see...(a quiet pause...)

"That I still get to go to heaven?"

I was looking for something like, "I'm forgiven," but close enough. Even though he asked it like a question, I beamed a smile of relief, "YES! And why is that?"

"Because I asked Jesus into my heart and I love him?" A question again, but nonetheless, right on the money. Yes, my love. And I reminded him that despite his bad choices, he is forever forgiven. We talked about what God sees when He looks at him. We talked about how none of us deserves to go to heaven, not him, or me, or daddy....We can't make enough good choices to earn a life with a perfect God. When we accept His gift of forgiveness, He sees Jesus in our place.

My son said, "And when we go to heaven we'll do perfect?" Right again. I love that. We'll do perfect. And my own broken spirit echoed, "Come, Lord, come," on the inside, yearning for the same, eternal, total healing. (Should I be surprised that my 7 year old feels it too? That the human heart is fallen and far from home?)      

It occurred to me that even though I may be doing twenty things wrong as a mother, I'm doing one thing right, sharing the gospel of Jesus with my children in their brokenness.

Tonight, I'm letting that affirmation from the Lord simplify my job. It boils down to the gospel, friends. That's all. Even if you never read a single parenting book, or never feel quite like a "good" mom, you really only need to communicate one thing. ONE.

There is a Savior who loves us, and boy do we need Him.

* * * * * * * *

Hold on. I thought I was done with this post.

I wrote the above, put my computer to sleep, and went to do my final check on the kids. My son was fast asleep, but I felt compelled to pray over him. I knelt by his bedside, something I don't often do, and thought I needed to pray for his issues with shame. He has a hard time getting past his mistakes. He can receive others' forgiveness, but he struggles with that lingering condemnation. It's the enemy, already getting his claws into my little one's heart. I know it all too well.

I was grieving in my own heart from the events of the day, and I thought it was for my son. I saw him wrestling with shame today. I knew I needed to pray against the enemy's lies in his life...

But when I knelt there, God shook His head at me and smiled. "Oh no," He said, "That grief you feel is your own. For your mistakes. For the parenting failures that are haunting you. The enemy has his claws in you too.

A few tears squeezed through my lashes.

It was true. The Lord saw what was really going on inside when I couldn't. In His presence, it all was exposed. I'm the one who needs the freedom, I realized. Romans 8:1, the verse "There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus," began repeating in my head. No condemnation. No condemnation.

I prayed those two words over my son. I prayed it over myself. It chanted in a whisper through my heart, chipping away at the grief.

Lord, let my son know freedom from condemnation more than in his head. Let him know it deep within, and let him walk in it and set his face like flint against the lies of the enemy. And Lord, forgive me. Free me from the guilt of my sin. (and then two lines from a song I love) 'But there be a victory; would you sing it over me now?...'

The Lord's song, this chant of freedom is still over me as I type. I knew I needed to add this chapter of the night to my post. Every mother I know battles the shame of her failures to the degree that she allows herself to face it. We all have failures as mothers. The enemy is keeping track and seeking to condemn us every day. He speaks shame over us at every turn.

And my sister, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

The gospel is for me.

And you.


{the beautiful song to which I refer is here}


  1. This was so powerful. Definitely something I need to keep in my backpack. As always, thank you for your transparency.

  2. How perfect and real. I don't have children, but a brother-in-law living here and he's like our child, even though he's older than I am. And we butt head, and move on..but this; this is perfect. Thank You!

  3. Beautiful and honest. It is so wonderful to hear that other mothers have the same struggle. Thank you so much!

  4. So so beautiful. I read this post & cried because I am reminded that I am nothing without Jesus. And with Jesus I am forgiven & free & covered in grace and so is my son! I get so bogged down in doing things "right" that sometimes I forget the most important and really only important thing I need to to do is point my son to Jesus! girl, you convict me like no other, God is using you! love you & your heart

  5. Nailed it!! Such a great post, Leslie!! I want to print this one out and save it forever! : )

  6. oh girl. we have been in big discussions at our house too about how the enemy has strong holds and where. it's all of us. i have been on my knees too this week. hard stuff. i am so thankful for the grace over our parenting. and for the forgiveness. and that we can change! there is hope. thank you Lord for giving us that hope.

    i love that you came back and wrote more!

  7. I had a similar day yesterday. It's nice to know I'm not alone:))

  8. leslie, i delight in you and how yo parent. leading your child in ALL truth. may God's Spirit continue to lead you.