Grace upon Grace upon Eleanor

My daughter Eleanor has achieved many things in her three years so far. Mostly, these achievements are related to destroying various things around our home – countless rolls of toilet paper, completely unrolled and then shredded and deposited in various places around the home, countless baby dolls and carpet areas covered in bright pink nail polish that I still don’t know how she accessed, and, most recently, purple sharpie on my white kitchen cabinets.

Last night around 5:30pm, I was dealing with Comcast, who accidentally didn’t process our autopayment for the month of June, and is now charging us a late fee for not paying our bill on time. In case you aren’t aware, Comcast has the single worst customer service on the face of the earth, and Comcast solely exists not to provide internet and TV service like we all think, but because the Lord in Heaven knows that human beings need to be tried through the fires to learn patience (see Romans 5), and Comcast is a direct gift from God to learn these skills. Either that or the Enemy runs the world and likes to mess with us.

I was absolutely fuming at Comcast over the ridiculousness of this (I called and waited NINE minutes to speak to a human, which isn’t that bad in the grand scheme of things, but they informed me then that my husband was the sole person on the account, so they couldn’t communicate to me about it, so, of course, I just went online and logged in and chatted with an online customer service representative who communicated with poor English which drove my patience to the brink of insanity and I pretended to be my husband because WE ARE ONE according to GOD’S HOLY WORD and EVERYTHING THAT IS HIS IS MINE so there’s NO REASON WHY the DUMB CABLE COMPANY CAN’T JUST TALK TO ME but anyway I’m digressing so yeah the person wouldn’t refund the late fee because they had record that they had sent an email about the payment not processing).

So anyway, it is super hard when you are FUMING at COMCAST and their RIDICULOUSNESS to be patience and kind and loving. Jared wanted to play ball with me, so I tried desperately to put aside the firey ball of “IMMA KILL YOU” in my chest to enjoy some time with my son who was being delightful and sweet, but I was just still so, so mad. So about 5:30, husband gets home, and he comes in to talk and stops himself to say, “ELEANOR, NO.” This is always the alarming phrase in our house (see above about rolls of toilet paper and nail polish in two-day-old carpet and etc), so I immediately just x’d out of the conversation with the irritating Comcast person (it isn’t his fault, really) and walked into the kitchen to find this:

Ellie destroys the cabinets

Of course, my instinct, with the firey ball of fury still in my chest, was to yell at my daughter for the ONE MILLIONTH time about NEVER DRAWING ON ANYTHING BUT PAPER FOR THE LOVE OF PETE. But this was a whole new level. This is purple Sharpie. This ain’t no colored pencil or washable marker like it has been every other time. Straight up permanent Sharpie.

So I started my “angry mean scold.” “Eleanor, you cannot ever draw on anything but paper! We have told you this so many times, and you still don’t learn. This is not okay!” Of course, my sensitive, sweet little daughter gets her amazing epic pout face which I sorely wish I had a picture of and starts bawling her eyes out because she can’t stand to disappoint us even though she constantly does. Immediately, it was like the firey ball of fury in my chest was submerged in cleansing water, and all the anger was gone. In the middle of my scolding, I started busting up laughing. I just could not, you guys. It was all too much. I’m looking at little Picasso’s artwork on my one-year-old white kitchen cabinets in the middle of yelling at her about it, and I realize that she has drawn these truly lovely smiley faces on the middle area. Something about them being smiley faces (which I didn’t even know she could draw, by the way!), and there being three of them there, and her face being so distraught because she knew that once again, she couldn’t measure up…I have to tell you, it was the grace of God that I reacted the way I did, and it couldn’t have been anything else.

I’m so grateful that God softened my heart toward my girl in that moment. I was able to build our relationship instead of putting barriers in it. I was able to treasure the sweetness of her drawing our family instead of focusing on WHERE she drew it and WITH WHAT. I was able to remember that the real treasures are people, not one-year-old white kitchen cabinets. I can pretty easily paint over purple Sharpie, but I can’t as easily paint over mean, harsh words that leave scars on my tender daughter’s heart.

And also, once again, I couldn’t help but see myself in my children. So often, I ache to do what is right, and I just get it wrong. So often, I am in the middle of having a good ole time when I realize that I majorly messed up something important. And while there are consequences, my God always, always, always responds to me with tender love and grace. He wraps me up in his arms and reminds me that I can do better. He comes alongside me while I clean up my mess. Often, he cleans it up for me.

Oh, and I asked her about what she had drawn before I took to it with a Magic Eraser (and I’ll be trying several other tactics today before the inevitable painting over it that I’ll be doing when it doesn’t all come off). Those two medium-sized smileys are Jared and Ellie (Jared is open-mouthed because “he is very loud” and Ellie has a straight across facial expression which just made me LOL), and the teeny, tiny smiley with appendages protruding is Baby Grace. This sweet little image is the first drawing of all three of my kids, and it is so fitting that it is done by my sneaky, manipulative, sensitive, tender middle one. I just know she’s going to grow up to see people and include them and put herself permanently in the middle of that, just like she did with purple Sharpie on my white cabinets.

Ellie destroys the cabinets 2.jpg

Little Girl(s)

*photo courtesy of Amy Joy Photography – please check her out!*

On the first night that Ellie was born, just over 3 years ago, I was in the hospital having trouble sleeping at like 3am. I stood up and stood over her tiny little body, and I cried over the miracle and great fear of having a baby girl. Then I wrote her a letter.

Having another little girl a week ago, I’m in this crazy nesting mode. I’m about halfway through organizing all the paperwork in our entire house (mostly this is because I forgot to renew my teaching license and I have to track down 3 years worth of CPDUs to input into the system before June 30…whoops!), and I found the letter I wrote Eleanor that first night I knew her:

“Eleanor – shining light, Lynn – water, calm
[and I’ll add Grace – God’s undeserved favor, Olivia – olive branch, a symbol of peace and the truth of God’s promises]

Little girl[s]
I fear for you, because I know what it’s like to grow up as a little girl.
I know the fear of being overpowered
and the fear of being seen as too powerful.
I know the tender heart
and the hardness that comes from never being enough
But Christ is enough.
I know the heartbreak of being unloved
and the brokenness of being lusted after
and the healing of being fully known, fully accepted, and fully loved
because He is enough.
I know the disjunct of imperfect Christian parents.
I know the reconnection of fighting for togetherness
because He is enough.
I know the pain of expected perfection
I know the pride of being right
and the collapse of doing wrong.
He is enough.
Boast in Him – His grace is power and gentleness.
It is tenderness and firmness.
It is whole and exactly right.
It is able to overcome human mistakes.
It is a once broken cord that is stronger when reattached; it is healing stronger than before the break.
It is humility in correction and a covering when there is shame.
His grace is enough.
He is enough.
I only pray that your heart will ache and thirst for this grace – that you’ll be a shining light for His name.’

Sustained

I do not do well without sleep. I would say the average person is just slightly off-kilter when he or she is sleep deprived; I am a psychopath murderess assassin. I’m a “10-hours-minimum-per-night” kind of gal. My sense of patience and calm is completely related to how I slept the night before, not to mention that everyday tasks seem truly Herculean when I haven’t slept and I can’t drive a car or walk through a grocery store without nodding off. I mean it’s like a real issue – I don’t get some kind of awesome supermom power like some do; I just totally fall apart. There’s probably some medical reason, really, because it’s honestly debilitating. As you can imagine, with a 2.5 day old child in our home, sleep isn’t something I’m getting. So far, the three of them have been absolutely worth the sleepless nights (and I’ve taken truly Olympian [but totally healthy, loving, and careful] measures to get them sleeping through the night early in life so that I can be a functioning citizen and caregiver).

But last night, the reality that I will not get to sleep more than a few hours at a time at best until at least the month of AUGUST (😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱) when I have to start working a 12-hour-per-day musical season and interact positively and meaningfully with hundreds of 12-14-year-olds for 8 hours a day – well, the reality hit me, and it was a little much to take. There were tears. There was nausea. There was crying out for deliverance.

These are the times when I’m grateful for the Holy Spirit, who said, “Mel, she ain’t sleeping tonight unless she’s in your arms. You made it to 5am. Go make a cup of coffee and open up my Book and remember that you are allowed to eat sushi again now.” Perspective is powerful. So anyway, I’m going through some Psalms that others have claimed are their favorites, and next on my list was chapter 8. I know it’s a stretch, but I’m so comforted to read that “out of the mouths of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and avenger.” David had, like, actual enemies. I have sleep deprivation. But still, in the “first world” of it all, I am so thankful that my God established his strength and gave power to me.

I believe that God speaks through His word. Sometimes it is big and profound and tear-jerking. Sometimes, it is “Melody Kay, your tiny daughter’s very existence proclaims my unending power. Can you just take a little chill pill for a hot minute and remember that I have this? Remember that you are tiny, and I’m mindful of you. Remember that I made the stars, but I care about you. I have given you some of my power, and you can do this.” Even though I imagine him being a tiny bit sarcastic to me, He is establishing the truth in my heart again and again with love and the same grace we named our daughter after. He says, “Darling, precious child, I have this. I have this. I have this.”

Thank you, Jesus, for this precious gift named Grace Olivia. Thank you for “having this.” Thank you for your Word and your mercies that are new every morning. Thank you for coffee. You are so, so good.

Slowly Softening Heart

So I don’t know…this may be a bit of an overshare, not sure…but, my master bathroom is really the only remaining room in our home that is still gross. We flipped the whole house, but that bathroom needs a bit more effort and we prioritized the kitchen (which I’m not sorry about). We did do the floor and the sink in there, but the shower is horrible and the walls are some kind of gross plaster deal. Also there are two doors – one leads to the front entry of the house and the other into our bedroom. 🤷🏻‍♀️ Unfathomable to me from a design perspective why someone would sacrifice that much square footage in a master bathroom, but I digress. We’re going to have to take out all the drywall, tear down a small wall next to the toilet, seal off that extra door, move shower piping, and replace the shower and all the drywall (bye-bye, money! 💸💸💸).

Anyway, we had these ugly, totally rusted, beige-ish vents everywhere in the house (see top photo for reference). The one in the master bath sat directly in front of the toilet, so literally every time I’ve had to use the restroom (which is a lot, as you can imagine, since I’ll be birthing this child in #sixdays), I had to look at that ugly vent cover. It always bugged me, even after the pretty floors were redone. Ryan replaced it today, and he’s been replacing each one, little by little, much to my extreme delight. We’re noticing as we finish flipping this house, little by little, that the details really make the difference. We did all the big, expensive stuff first, like appliances and flooring and sinks and counters and cabinets, and now we’re in “baseboard-crown molding-vent covers-artwork” mode. These little things add so much to our look as we slowly finish them up.

It may seem silly, but I like to think of this flip as a metaphor for my heart. As I was growing up, the Lord worked on some pretty big stuff, like self-obsession and self-righteousness and lack of compassion or mercy. Now, he’s working each day in smaller ways, in the details. He softens my approach toward my kids when they are driving me nuts – just one little word said in a kinder tone is his doing. He reminds me to see the beauty in the work of others instead of responding with my go-to jealousy. He helps me think of the heart/life-circumstances of that obnoxious person who is driving too slow in front of me. These are little things that I wouldn’t have cared about before, but the Holy Spirit has softened my approach toward people as I’ve learned how to love them a little better. I’m finding that loving people well is in the details – those little things in little moments. And I’m grateful that Jesus can use something as mundane as vent covers to remind me of himself.

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Phil 1:6