[box] When I “met” Jeannie Cunnion via email for the first time, I knew we would be fast friends. Her authentically sweet spirit testifies to the grace she writes about. When I opened her book and began to read, the highlighting and underlining began. I felt she was living my life. Her book is a gift to parents to let go of the expectations of perfect parenting and embrace grace instead. I’m so thrilled Jeannie is sharing with us here today! [/box]
by Jeannie Cunnion
With three young boys who would rather play tackle football in the kitchen than get ready for school, mornings can get a bit challenging in our house.
And from the moment my boys woke up, I could already tell this particular morning would be harder than most.
I’ve heard it said that the average woman speaks about 20,000 words in any given day, but I can assure you I came close to hitting that number before 8 a.m. – mostly with words of training and correction. And I was quickly running out of patience and grace.
When it was finally time to leave for school we huddled together for our morning prayer, which, on this difficult day, was mostly about how much we need Jesus and how thankful we are for His forgiveness, and we headed out the door.
But things only deteriorated during our five-minute walk to school.
Brennan, my middle son, who is usually a bundle of joy and wonder, began to downward spiral. (I know you know about the downward spiral!) His list of complaints was long – He didn’t have a play date scheduled after school, he didn’t like what I’d packed him for snack, and he definitely didn’t want to go to T-ball practice that evening. It was one of those mornings when he felt like the world was his enemy.
When we arrived at school, I gave my oldest son, Cal, a big hug, whispered “I love you, God bless you” in his ear and sent him on his way.
And apparently, Brennan saw this moment as a fine opportunity to kick me (albeit gently) in the ankle.
I turned to Brennan, shocked, as he’d never done anything like that before.
I was fully prepared to address his actions with corrective words, but before I opened my mouth, the unexpected happened.
Grace found me.
And different words, words that were not my own, began to flow from my mouth.
I got down on my knees, looked Brennan in the eyes and I said, “Honey, you have to go to school now. There isn’t time for us to talk about what’s happening in your heart that’s causing you to complain and show such disrespect to Mommy, but before I send you into the building, I want you to know this very important thing: I have a feeling that when you get into your classroom, and you sit down at your desk, you are going to be sad and feel bad about the way you just treated Mommy. I know this because I know your beautiful heart and I know you love me and don’t want to treat me this way. So when that sadness hits you, I want you to remember that I love you and I have already forgiven you.”
Then I prayed in his ear, “Jesus, please bless my beautiful son today, whom I know you love even more than I do.”
And when I was done praying, my son immediately melted into my arms.
Grace found him too.
His hard heart was broken with grace, and no more words were spoken.
I held him for a moment while tears streamed down his cheeks, and then he walked into the building, but before he turned the corner, he turned to show me his face. We smiled at one another. My heart was full. We were both thankful for forgiveness and restored relationship.
As I walked home, hand in hand with my three-year-old son, Owen, I was overwhelmed with the goodness of God. With His faithfulness. He’d answered the prayer that we just prayed at our front door for more of His heart of grace and forgiveness.
Please trust me when I tell you that more often than not, my sinful and fallen nature wins. This was only Jesus in me, allowing me to be a reflection of His heart for His glory.
I stumble through parenthood, and make mistakes daily. But then there are these precious moments. These moments where God reminds me that He is still at work in me and He is not finished with me, with us, just yet. (Phil 1:6) These moments where grace breaks in and surprises me.
And what I’m learning, what God is teaching me, is that the more I reflect on my own brokenness, the more compassionate I am toward the brokenness of my children.
Brennan Manning says, “To be alive is to be broken and to be broken is to be in need of grace.”
We are all in need of the extravagant grace of God – His love that has no limits and no breaking points.
And showing one another this kind of love and forgiveness is only possible when we reflect on our own need for grace and the great mercy we’ve been shown through Christ. (Romans 3:22-24)
The more honest I am about my own flaws and imperfection, the more amazing God’s grace becomes to me, and the more able I become to give it to my precious kids.
His grace is more than enough for both of us!
Jeannie Cunnion is the author of Parenting the Wholehearted Child. She has a Master’s degree in Social Work, and her background combines counseling, writing, and speaking about parenting and adoption for organizations such as Bethany Christian Services and the National Council for Adoption. Jeannie also serves as the Council Co-Chairman at Trinity Church in Greenwich, CT, where she enjoys leading parenting groups and Bible studies when she isn’t cheering on her boys at one of their sporting events!
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