Ezra,  Messy Faith,  Motherhood,  Personal and Spiritual Ramblings,  Redemption Stories,  Special Needs Parenting

Easter Grace: how God shows up in jelly beans and covers my mistakes

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This morning I drove to church – alone, feeling guilty. Between working all week on moving things over to our new house and my having to play the piano for both Easter services at our church this morning, “Easter” activities for the kids got the short end of the stick…

By short end, I mean non-existent.

We don’t do Easter baskets, and I think we’ve only done one or two Easter egg hunts over the years. This is just the choice we have made for our family because we really want to focus on the Resurrection story. I don’t share this to be all holier-than-thou. I share it because it’s relevant to this story.

Unfortunately, I had done a really crappy job of doing anything of the sort this week. Ezra woke up this morning, and I told him it was Resurrection Day. We talked for about 2 milliseconds about what that means, and then I rushed off to get ready to be at church at 8:00 AM for practice.

I made some bigger-than-usual mistakes this morning during the early service – including starting the wrong song at one point and completely forgetting to play another. Not only this, but issues with the sound system caused a late service and a few others made some mistakes too. It was one of those everything-that-could-go-wrong-did-go-wrong services.

The kids and husband were pretty keyed up when they arrived at church – early, mid-way through the first service when I had to be paying attention on when to be ready to play again. This was a distraction that I didn’t necessarily handle the best way.

When I was done playing for the first services, Russ found me with a fussy Ezra in tow, threatening to take him home. But he couldn’t find the keys to his car, which I had had last. After searching a few places around the church, I remembered that I had set them down in the bathroom, of all places.

“It’s mornings like this that are why I take anxiety medication,” I told one of our vocalists.

I felt like I was failing as a mom – no Easter baskets for our kiddos, no cute Easter outfits, no coordinated Easter family pictures, no super-spiritual conversations about the Resurrection.

easter 2017

Heck, I didn’t wear a lick of makeup and couldn’t find even my colored lip-balm this morning. I felt like I had let the church down with my mistakes and absentmindedness. This wasn’t just any Sunday. This was Easter.

Thankfully, after yawning through Sunday school (I was up for a few hours in the middle of the night – another story for another post) and stuffing my face full of Munchkins because the other thing that got neglected this morning was breakfast—the second service ran smoothly. I returned home exhausted. Everyone was tense as it was medication time. I changed into sweats and a tank-top, and we ran off to the in-laws for an Easter dinner where I lay comatose on the couch until food was ready.

After dinner, Grandma offered Ezra jelly beans. I told him that he could have five. He chose five different colors and then announced that it was a “Life Pattern.” It took me only a moment before I realized he was attempting to pick the colors of the Wordless Book.

He sat there and explained the gospel to everyone at the table.

I do not share to brag on myself of my kid because my mothering skills had absolutely nothing to do with this.

I share this because, moms, you need to know this:

You do not need to be everything to everyone. You do not need to do everything. You are going to drop balls and make mistakes because you are only one person. And there is grace for that.

I do not say that flippantly, like, “Hey, give yourself some grace.”

I am saying that God is bigger than you.

God is bigger than your mistakes. He offers His unmerited, undeserved favor and spreads it abundantly into all of the cracks where you simply can’t and won’t ever be enough. He is there to pick up the balls you drop. He is there to put people in your life who can do what you can’t.

My faith hasn’t always been in the strongest place. I have been pretty upfront about that, not just here on my blog or my Facebook pages – but also in my “real” life. With my family, my friends, and my church family.

Because of that, teaching my own child about God is really scary for me. Not like kinda-scary. Really scary. How do you show God’s love and grace to your extremely-sensitive and emotionally-challenging child when you still have days you struggle to believe that God loves you? How do you talk to him about hard stuff like sin and hell when you wish you hadn’t been terrified of God and hell-fire when you were a child?

These are questions I don’t really have good answers to. Which is why I deal with spiritual stuff with my kid(s) with a lot of fear and trepidation. I know parents make mistakes. But this is too big to mess up. Sometimes it’s easier not to try.

Every Sunday I fill in for our church’s main pianist, people come up to me with praise. I tell them, “I love it.” Because it’s true. I tell them, “I would rather be up there playing then sitting in the pew singing.” Because it’s also true.

Last week, while driving to early practice, I realized why:

It’s really hard to leave my family at 7:45 AM – actually, it’s hard because it’s not hard. It’s easy. It’s kind of like an escape. Which makes me feel pretty awful.

Last Sunday, Ezra was on the verge of a meltdown; but I had to just walk out of the house and let my husband deal with it.

I remember distinctly thinking, “Maybe this was a huge mistake…maybe my family can’t handle this.” (This being agreeing to fill in for four Sundays in a row.)

Which is when I realized that going to play the pianos isn’t just an escape because I simply can’t be responsible for my family for the period of time I have to be on on the piano, but also because it’s something…for lack of a better word…in my control.

I talked in my last post about how I often go to bed feeling like a crappy mother. Even in spite of all the behavioral therapy and parent training we have gone through with Ezra, there are still so many times I really don’t know how to parent him. When he has a rough day in church and they come to me for how to help, sometimes, I don’t know what to tell them. I don’t know how to be Ezra’s mom, and that ache hurts me every day.

But you know what I do know? I know how G major to C major feels in my hands. I know how to ride the crescendo and decrescendo of a massive phrase composed to draw people in to awe of God. I know how to feel worship flow out of my body onto the keys. The muscle and auditory memory makes it predictable. It’s something I can count on. There’s a beautiful certainty in it that I don’t really get other places in my life. It’s something I can do where I know I will succeed. Yes, sure, I hit wrong notes and make mistakes but it feels right and beautiful. I am making something beautiful. I can sit back after I’m done and see something I’ve accomplished. It gives me immense satisfaction.

I’m still trying to figure out if that makes me a horrible person or just an artist who just happens to use her artistry in spiritual ways.

I guess what I am trying to say is that mom life is hard. Mom life is hard because it’s unpredictable – even more so when you are a special needs parent. Mom life is hard because you are pushed to your limit all day, every day. Mom life is hard because for every job you do, your kids create ten more. Mom life is hard because you can work your butt off all day and get to the end of the day and have your home not look like you have done anything. Mom life is hard because you teach and train and discipline and punish and love and cuddle and pray and talk and disciple – and you don’t often get to see the results of those things.

The generations before you tell you to cherish it because it goes by so fast. But when you are in the trenches, there’s monotony. There’s uncertainty. There’s those times you are pushed to your limit by the child who got out of bed for the 6th time at 9:30 PM because he wanted to be covered up again and you just wish he would GO. TO. SLEEP. but by 10:30 you are second-guessing (if not all-out regretting) your tone, your harshness, the prayers you didn’t say, the Bible stories you didn’t read, the teaching opportunities you missed, the mom-mistakes you made.

Lately, when Ezra is mad, he will say, “I don’t feel like you love me.”

I know what he’s doing. It’s a tactic like any other. But it cuts.

So, full circle, back to the jelly bean video. I had to share it because this week has drained me. I haven’t been on my A game in any area. I procrastinated practicing for Easter service and ended up practicing with two children literally climbing on top of me. I wasn’t on my A game for first service when I played the wrong song. I wasn’t on my A game when I left the auditorium before I was supposed to. I wasn’t on my A game as a mom when I didn’t take any time to make Resurrection Rolls or Resurrection eggs or do any Resurrection activities.

But that’s where God’s grace steps in. Because God doesn’t need us to bring our A game. He just needs us to show up.

Sometimes, He shows up in the sound waves coming off the piano as your team guides the people into awe-filled worship – in spite of every mistake. Sometimes, He shows up and you know it because no one in the auditorium can speak when it’s time to pray because… “His perfect love could not be overcome.”

Sometimes, He shows up in Sunday School and Children’s Church teachers who teach your son the Wordless Book and share the gospel with him in ways your heart simply isn’t ready or prepared to.

Sometimes, He shows up in jelly beans. Sometimes, that special needs child who you fight with all day and worry about his soul tells the gospel – so clearly, so explicitly, so poignantly that it takes your breath away.

Easter Grace: how God shows up in jelly beans and covers my mistakes
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