Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mercy Me

Apparently on one particular day last week, my big girls were malfunctioning.

Shorting out.  Over-heating.  Needing to be re-booted.

Normally Norah and Ashley get along rather well.  With each other and with me.  On this day, however, we were experiencing all sorts of issues.  Whining, wimpering, warring and weirdness.  It wasn't pretty.

I put up with it for a bit, attributing their wonkiness to a lack of sleep, a need for a snack, too much time together or maybe needing some Mommy-time.  But then they each crossed that final line between "Maybe you're just tired" and "What's your deal?!"

As they barged into the kitchen, shoulder to shoulder, each trying to yell out their complaint louder and more plaintively, my patience wore out.

"That's enough!  Both of you need to pick out a job from the Great Learning Box.  Now.  Quietly.  If I hear one more squeak out of either of you, you will have another job.  Got it?"

Sniffle, sniffle, sniffle ... from them.

Grumble, grumble, grumble ... from me.

I turned back to the sink full of dishes and practiced my deep breathing, rolling my head from side to side like Rocky Balboa coming out of the boxing ring.

They sheepishly retrieved the striped box from the counter and reached in.  Norah pulled out, "Straighten the laundry room" and headed off to tidy up shoes and re-hang sweatshirts.  Ashley carried her folded piece of paper to me, lower lip pouting and eyes downcast with little tears still hanging on her eyelashes.

"Can you read mine, Mommy?"

I slipped my hands out of my yellow rubber gloves and unfolded her little scrap.



More than anything in the world, I wanted to tell my little missy to reach back in there and pull out a good one!  I wanted her to have to pay a little for her complaining.  I wanted her to experience a bit of a sting for her whining.  I want her to have a consequence that would cause her to think twice before she tattled again.  I wanted punishment, retribution and justice.  All because of a little five-year old's skirmish with her sissy.

But that little piece of paper has a big job.  It's there to remind me that God doesn't require punishment, retribution or justice of me when I make a mistake.  When I whine, complain or grumble, God is rich in His mercy towards me and in the same way He calls me to extend that same mercy to those around me.  Especially my brawling babies.

There is a specific verse from the Old Testament book of Micah that addresses this.  In chapter three, God instructed His prophet to write this:

8 He has shown you, O [Mommy], what is good. 
   And what does the LORD require of you? 
To act justly and to love mercy 
   and to walk humbly with your God.

(That "Mommy" reference is my addition, just FYI.)

Even though my little LeLe had broken a house rule (or two, or three, or four, or five ...), this was a teachable moment for me to extend to her mercy and show her a first-hand example of what God's mercy looks like when we come to Him seeking forgiveness.

God does not hang my mistakes over my head, punishing me every time I miss the mark.  If I come to Him in confession, He has a beautiful promise for me nestled in Psalm 103:

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
   so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
   so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
 13 As a father has compassion on his children,
   so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;

Because of Jesus' willingness to die for my sins, I am extended mercy in place of punishment when I do the wrong thing.  And He has compassion on me because I am one of His children who honors Him.  This is wonderful for me to receive ... but not so easy sometimes for me to extend.

I endured a fierce two-second struggle standing at the sink staring at that word: "Mercy."  Punishment or grace?  Judgement or forgiveness?  Consequence or mercy?

... sigh ... again ...

"Okay, Honey ... please go upstairs and play quietly.  And please try to be good to your sister when she's done with her job.  Thank you."

That was a tough one.  It would have felt more satisfying, perhaps, to see her spot cleaning the floor as her consequence, but it was a bit more godly to give her mercy instead.  And her teary smile and hug was a lot more fulfilling than a clean floor.

Of course, being a five-year old meant that before the end of the day she was back at the Great Learning Box and I still got my kitchen floor scrubbed, but not before she saw a little bit of God's goodness and mercy from her Mommy first.


  1. I needed that thought for the day. We are on day 2 of homeschooling for this school year and boy did we have a crazy day yesterday. Our house is too small and everyone has been 'short' with each other because of being cramped. Thanks for the thought!

  2. wow. this is a brilliant idea, and something I HAVE NOT BEEN PRACTICING.

  3. Hmmm... I'm thinking... WHAT'S IN THAT BOX??????
    In from SITS.

  4. This is such a lovely story. I love the box and might have to create one in my home!

  5. I love the idea of the Great Learning Box. My guy needs one.

  6. This is a wonderful way to incorporate beautiful lessons...

  7. Stopping by from SITS and I really love this idea, not only of the box (brilliant!) but also of the idea of mercy. Definitely something as a mom, I need to practice more. Thank you. :)

  8. Very nice. We ARE all children in God's eyes. And we all need help (mercy). Happy SITS day. Your blog is a great respite in a busy day.

  9. I need to have mercy with my 16-year-old :)

    Stopping by from SITS!

  10. Stopping in from SITS. Ah, there are so many teachable moments in a parent's life. Sounds like you are a compassionate mom - sometimes it is hard, but you are also teaching your child as well. :)

  11. Love the idea of the great learning box. Happy SITS day!

  12. Love the idea of a great learning box. Happy SITS day!

  13. Wow! What a wonderful teachable moment of God's mercy! Happy SITS Day!

  14. How lovely, and I love this idea.

  15. Love this. As a mom, I often need reminders to act as He would act. Especially when my kids are making me crazy. Thanks for this.

  16. Really love the idea of a learning box!! I loved the verses you shared too - I'll definitely be following your blog!! Very cool.

  17. Hi, I'm visiting from SITS! I really needed to see this today! Thank you for sharing that beautiful story. Happy SITS day!

  18. A Great Learning Box, what a fantastic idea! I'm definitely going to borrow this one! Happy SITS Day!

  19. Great idea! Something I'll have to start with my son when he gets a little older.

  20. Love the Great Learning Box idea...I think I'll have to try something like that! Thanks for the idea!

  21. Wow. Thank you. That piece of paper has taught yet one more person a valuable lesson today. I think I need to make my own box... Stopping by from SITS.

  22. What a great idea! And nice to meet someone else who uses the term "wonky" :) Visiting from SITS.

  23. I think what you did with ur daughter was beautiful!

  24. I LOVE the learning box idea! I am going to have to try that!!

  25. What a beautiful lesson for us all.
    I love the learning box idea, byt the way... And I love that "mercy" was on one of the tickets.

    Happy SITS day!


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