I think God is showing off like a rockstar in our yard this month. Before owning a home I never knew I could feel such pride over the landscape we see everyday. When you live in Atlanta most of your life and get to experience the most brilliant seasons it becomes second nature to drive by dogwoods bursting of white in March, and Azaleas and their many colors painting the streets in April so I am ashamed to say that the Spring season has never impacted me the way it has this year...from the yard of our own little abode. I asked our oldest child to pinch me this morning to make sure I was breathing as we walked around the periphery of our yard looking for bugs. It baffles me that the flowers in our yards and the trees that are budding actually do just that - bud and grow. I don't do anything to them throughout the year and then all of a sudden we are bombarded with the most delicious colors and the perfect little shaped bushes all around us. There isn't a direction you could turn in our yard right now without a burst of color in your vision. It really is breathtaking! I feel very undeserving and it makes me uncomfortable. Like I should have taken more responsibility throughout the year in order to be able to enjoy something so much. I should have atleast put in a little hard work to have such a perfect product to adore every single day. Ive always been like this, you see. I can recall more conversations than I would like to admit where my husband (and dear friends at times) are trying to convince me of this kind of grace. God's grace. The kind that even shows up in the colors of Spring. Can it be true that I don't have to always struggle or sacrifice or work in order to enjoy the benefits of something? In our society today this just doesn't seem so.
This exposes something deep down in me doesn't it? Something in the way I was wired and shaped as a young lady I guess - that I have to work for everything and that there are no free gifts. I am the best Pharisee I know. Today during our unplanned nature stroll (which deserves a whole different post)this reality wouldn't leave my mind. Its like the lights turned on and I saw themes in my life and in my thinking that weren't ever so clear before. All in a sweet hike around the house.
Most of life seems that it's all about working endlessly, knowing the right people, putting in the hours and the sweat in order to experience the joy that comes from achievement. Sure, we all see little graces all around us but rarely in the big places in life. Most things need to be earned or attained and it rarely comes without a high cost. Isn't the saying - what you get out is what you put in? I am so wired like this and it is rather annoying. The other day I was telling my darling husband who endures these rants more often that he should that sometimes if I'm all alone during the day with the boys at home I start to feel like the work I am doing isn't valuable. And not because it really isn't valuable but because there is nobody to tell me that it is valuable. This whole idea came to mind after a beautiful saying was passed around my mom's bible study this spring. The leader who is so dear to me and is the picture of the genuine, intentional, graceful mother I will die trying to be, said that she would tell her children that "they have an audience of one." This motto came to play so often in her parenting - whether when her kids were young and their hearts were coming around what it felt like to share or to encourage a sibling or later in life when her teenagers were faced with those sneaky decisions that we all face when it comes to doing the right thing - the thing that we know deep down is right. So just like our leader said, I have repeated this phrase to myself often when I'm on my 5th day and 7th hour of mothering in one week and the only conversation over a 3 year old level that I've had is with the mail man. I do what I do for an audience of one. For me and my Maker. Yes, I want to do it for my husband to see and think how selfless I am. And I sort of want those people in the grocery store whom are often not so kind to a mother of 3 young ones to see my patience and careful instruction with my boys at home. I want my mom to think I am as good a mother as she was and probably somewhere in there I'd like a friend to think highly of the way I have chosen to discipline my kids. Or even to be thought of as the "expert." Who doesn't want their children to be known as the most well-mannered boys in the neighborhood? We are all searching for these little accolades. If you are like me, you like to see the fruits of your efforts.
But the reality is that my only audience is the Lord. And the other reality is that the world isn't really walking around wanting to put a medal around my neck for being a mom. Even without the accolades how can I know deep down that my efforts are worthwhile and that the work I am doing is a noble work? My beautiful bushes give me that answer in this very moment. The fruit will come. The buds will open and the color will burst. All winter did I look at those mute little plants and compliment them on the way they were preparing for the growing season? I actually never did. I didn't give them one ounce of a thought until they displayed their splendor and now I am just obsessed with them. I stare at them, I have taken umpteen pictures, and I have placed beautiful vases of their handy-work all over my house but they were pretty much dead to me a month ago. That's harsh. But it helps me to be a mother. The harvest will come. No, I may not raise a president or a navy seal (but I hope I do) but I can't imagine the quiet pride I will have one day as I watch my boys show respect to a lady or show honor to a senior citizen. These are the things I am teaching them in these four walls in these short years (but long days). We may not be the fastest toddler paper cutters in the Metro area and I am pretty sure we are still confused about green and blue but I know that even if no one else sees it or better yet - notes it - I am giving them all I have and I can be confident that they will be beautiful, full grown plants one day with a story to tell through their exquisite colors.
The bigger theme in this message though is that authentic grace that only comes from God. The most freeing thing I can ever know and teach my kids is that there is absolutely nothing I can do to earn God's love. He has already shown me that love and I couldn't have done a thing to make him do it. He just did because He loves me. Because he chose me first. Not because I deserve it. Because I don't. And not because I earned it. Because I can't. He just did it. He showed me his colors, He gave me real life and I had absolutely nothing to do with it.
Whew. That changes everything, doesn't it?
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