On being forgiven (or subtitled: ‘Second chances’)…

I am ashamed to say it.  I became “that” mother today.  That mother that yells at her children, that puts the house ahead of her child, that cares more about shoes than her crying preschooler- and that finally strips her child down to her birthday suit on the front door step and carries her screaming to the waiting shower (that looming cavern of fear for most preschoolers I have encountered).  That mom who then slams shower doors and later on leaves the house in her husband’s care, all while muttering under her breath that “she is going to lose her mind” as she runs toward the doorstep.  Yup.   That was sadly me today.  I became that mother I despise- the one that is a basket-case and has one precious nerve left.   Of which, it just so happens that last nerve just got stepped on.  And so now she has none.

That woman, dear reader, is me.  I am sadly “that” mother.

I am standing beside the downstairs bathroom sink, watching a cleaning bucket fill up with sudsy soap bubbles.   The bucket has been prepared for the express purpose of keeping my floors free of the muddy river clay stuck to the bottom of my son and husband’s feet, by which they will wash off their feet in the warm water and then dry off with a towel.  The boys are just getting in from a boat ride up river, and have now towed the vehicle out of the water and into our driveway for safekeeping overnight.  Boating adventures are over for another day.  The pending rain has so far been kept at bay, but the sky looks ominous.  We had planned to go for an evening boat ride to cool off, but perhaps the rain will take the humidity away for us instead.  Here’s hoping…

As I watch the water rising in my red utility bucket, my youngest daughter slips into the house and calls me from the doorway. “I have to use the washroom,” she states matter-of-factly.  I hear no urgency in her voice, so I allow myself the second or two that it takes me to turn around and walk from the bathroom to the entryway where she stands.  As I walk out of the washroom and toward her, I see between us the six or seven bags of groceries I still have not put away, along with the four pairs of soccer cleats, the various shin pads, jerseys and soccer shorts lying helter skelter everywhere, and I silently remind myself that this room is next on the list for a complete end-of-the-day overhaul.

In that ten second interlude in which I walk from the bathroom to my daughter, she has decided she cannot hold it for one second longer, and when I reach her, she is peeing on the shoes.

All.over.everything.

All over her soccer cleats, my son’s Adidas sneakers that he bought with his own money in North Carolina (won’t he be impressed), and over top the various sandals and shoes that happen to be strewn everywhere.  I feel like things are moving in slow motion, and I yell at her to ‘stooopppp’ all while making a gigantic lunge toward her small frame.  She is in no condition to stop the process that is already underway, so instead I scoop her up, all while insisting that she stop in the name of time this poor decision to pee anywhere other than the toilet (or in dire situations, outside under the tree…which is what she should have done, come to think of it), and then we two proceed out the front door.

She is crying at this point, but I am in no mood to simmer down. I keep up the tirade.  I am merciless.  I strip her down to her birthday suit, carry her back into the house, over top the puddle that has formed on my entryway floor and on into the bathroom, where I shove her into the shower and turn on the water, full blast.

I move away from the scene to collect myself.  I am still fuming.  Not only has this little inconvenience added another job to my ever-growing list, but there is the small matter of my daughter to deal with.  And she is currently screaming at me from the shower.

“Mommy, mommy, mommy?” she yells out.   I assure her I am right here in the room next to her, but she is not appeased by the sound of my voice.  I start to sift through the various grocery bags with melting ice cream and other perishables within, and as I am trotting downstairs to the freezer, I hear my daughter calling me again.  She is no longer in the shower but running naked and dripping wet through the entryway looking for me.

I think I am about to lose my mind.

I am “that” mother, at this point.  It is not pretty, nor am I proud of my decision.  In fact, I will wear my shame like a trophy all evening and into the night, when I confess my sins to my husband and later still, to God.  And the next morning, I will try to make up for my grievances by cooking a big breakfast for everyone, complete with bacon and eggs,  which I will bravely endure even though I hate the smell of bacon in my hair for the rest of the day.   And as I calmly sip my coffee and survey the peaceful faces of my family, this is what my precious daughter will say:  “That’s funny!  Last night was the worst night ever and this morning is the best day ever,” as she happily eats her scrambled eggs on toast.  She will beam at me, and I will be unable to help but say thank-you to God for inventing forgiveness.  For Father, I have sinned and been forgiven all in one short stroke of life’s paint brush.  And for that I am grateful, oh so grateful.

And my daughter, the clearest example I have of how sweet forgiveness really can be, is the one I have to thank for that.

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Joy found in second chances…

This past week, I read a note from a friend in which she stated she would not be allowing two former classmates from university access to her group of friends on Facebook due to the grief these girls had caused her in university.  She actually posted this note as her Facebook status, thus publicly denying these girls friendship with her in such a way that would allow anyone out there in Cyberville to be privy to this knowledge.  I was awed by her courage to publicly state her feelings in such a raw and open way.

I read the comments that followed her status update, much of it self-righteous spiritual jargon preaching that she forgive and love her enemies.  Some comments were combatitive and others were humorous.  One lady said it was all “much ado about nothing.”  I was not sure how I felt on the whole issue of holding onto and acting upon strong feelings that were born in the past with regards to how they play out in the future.  That is, until tonight when I was on Facebook myself.

I started thinking about my own Facebook friend list, as well as my real-life friendships, and I got to thinking: what if everyone I had hurt or offended in high school or university and beyond, for one reason or another, held those offenses over my head.  Where would I be now?

In particular, I think of one girl with whom I have been in contact with quite regularly, of late.  She and I were never close in high school, and I am afraid I may have not given her much of a chance back then.  I was too busy pursuing the popular guys and girls and trying to fit in with the cool crowd.   I look back and wonder: how many toes did I step on while trying to push my way up the social ladder?

I am grateful to have been given the opportunity of time and space within which to mature.  I am a different person than I use to be.  I think of how insecure I was back then, and I realize that much of the pain I caused others was due to my own feelings of inadequacy.  I did not feel good about myself, and there were times in the past that I acted thoughtlessly towards others.  Often those that belittle others have themselves been belittled.  Those who tease have themselves been teased.   Those who are careless in friendship have at sometime been tossed aside by another.  Those who bully were once the victim.

I would like to believe that in my own case, the times I may have been careless with another classmate’s feelings were few and far between, as I have actually never been denied any of my Facebook friendship requests.   And in real life friendships, I am constantly critiquing myself as to how I am present in each moment I now live.  We like to think the best of ourselves.  But if I were to ever receive the denial, it would be food for thought and good reason to offer a heartfelt apology to that one from which the message came.  I can relate to those on both sides of this story: both the bully and the victim.

I have three beautiful girls.  One of my girls created a book last week in which she drew pictures of girls she thought were weird and ugly.  She actually labelled one of these pictures with another girl’s name.  I was absolutely appalled.  I showed my husband and together, we had a SERIOUS discussion with her about why this was not acceptable and how it would not ever happen again.  EVER.   She cried.  I would like to think the message was driven home with her that nice girls do not treat people like that.  True beauty comes from within, and those who count themselves as among the beautiful must have a soul that exudes grace and dignity and acceptance towards others.  I want my girls to be this kind of beautiful.

We are all in this social circle that turns around and around, and “what goes around does come around” as the cliché goes.  We, ourselves, have times of feeling powerful and times of feeling powerless.  We can be kind and we can suffer pain from the unkind hand of another.  We can feel anger and we can feel joy, both at the hand of those we call our friends.  But so can they feel all of this and more, these ones whom we call friends, when the shoe is worn on the other foot.

When we walk in another’s shoes, we come to see that what they feel and who they are is not really that much different than who we are ourselves.  And it should serve as a reminder that people are more like us than we think they are.  We are all in this together.  Inside us all beats a heart made of the same stuff, of flesh and blood.  We come from the same darkness of a mother’s womb and emerge into light by the same struggle.  We are beauty from ashes.  We are body, soul and spirit.  We are a reflection of the image of God Himself.  And we are special and wonderful and rare.

And if that is all true, than most everyone deserves a second chance.  And so do we.  And so do I.