Snack attack and a lesson in grace

Last week, we finished up soccer practice–kids running all over the field, parents lined up in travel chairs along the sidelines.

Somehow, our team had been double-booked, so we couldn’t practice on our normal field.  We shifted to the side into an open area and used cones instead of goals while a younger team practiced in our normal place.  They were a group of tiny, enthusiastic and sweet four-year-olds whose team shirts mostly hung down to their knees.

While our team took a water break, their team finished up for the night and headed off the field.  Their little arms were full of goodies–Gatorade bottles, Oreo snack packs, little bags of Goldfish.

I thought to myself, “Wow!  That is a bit much, all that snack after practice.  It’s not even a game or anything!”

One of our kids noticed the other players leaving with their armloads of snacky goodness.   (How could you not notice?!)

He wanted to know where our snack was?  Were we getting snack after practice?  How come we never got snack after practices?

Coach reminded him that we don’t get snacks after practice, just games.

Again, I had that silent little thought:  “Well, yeah!  Snacks after games is reasonable.  Snack at every practice is over the top.”

But then the coach filled in the blanks.  He said, “We did snacks at practice when you were that young because you didn’t have any games.  So, that way you still got a little celebration when you finished up playing.  But now you’re older and you have regular games, so we save the snacks for those days instead.”


It all made sense really and I felt that check to my heart to be less quick to assume I know everything, to assume I ever know enough to judge something as “foolish” or “silly” or “a bit much.”

I am not always careful with my tongue or my words; they have a way of escaping me in moments maybe of stress, anger, pressure or frustration.  But, even so, I have grown in this.  I am more gracious and gentle now with my words than I have ever been.

And yet,  there is  still that aptness in my spirit to criticize.  Even if I don’t speak the words aloud, my heart still sometimes sits in silent judgment.  The Bible uses words like “scoffer” and “mocker” and I don’t want that to be me.   I don’t want my attitude, my thoughts, my heart to be bent towards judgment and assumed negativity instead of grace, love, mercy, gentleness, kindness, and goodness.

And,  while I do need to be wise and discerning about what is evil  or wrong, in most of these cases I simply need to be more apt to consider the other side of the story.

Maybe there’s a reason a team of cute four-year-olds leaves soccer practice with some snack bags.

Charles Spurgeon  wrote:

“God’s people need lifting up. We are heavy by nature.  We have no wings…” (Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, April 15).

We are indeed heavy by nature.

Most of us as moms, as women, and as human beings are pretty adept at self-criticizing.  All day long, we’re generally just trying to do the best we can while others pile on their own opinions about how we’re falling short.

But we can choose whether to join in the all the noise of negativity or to  tame our own critically inclined spirits.

We can open ourselves up to the possibility that there’s more to this person’s story than we know or see.

We can take Paul’s challenge to  heart to:

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32 ESV).

James also says:

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law (James 4:11 ESV).

I feel like I tumble into this lesson repeatedly: that there is a difference between being spiritually discerning and having a critical spirit.

Help me, Lord, to clearly hear your voice, to yield to your wisdom, to be discerning about right and wrong, truth, holiness, and righteousness, but help me also not to add  to that my own voice of criticism or hurtful thoughts or prideful judgment.  May my heart be humble and may my thoughts be rooted in grace.



Be Gentle. People Break Easily.

proverbs 15

“Be gentle,” I told her.

My baby girl was four years old and on her way to show-and-tell day at preschool.

There she sat in the minivan, cradling this tiny wind-up caterpillar toy, purple with polka-dots, in her four-year-old hands.   She’d rediscovered it in the toy bin the week before and declared it worthy of a trip to the school to show her classmates.

I had slipped that tiny $1 caterpillar into her stocking two Christamases ago and he was a survivor, more or less intact after all this time with only one missing antenna.

But was he up for the trip to the school?  Was he hardy enough to face one four-year-old and her 19 classmates?

I tested him out on our coffee table.  Wind, wind, wind and then I let him go.  He inched across the wood quickly and my daughter giggled at the sight.

That morning, we had scrambled out to the minivan, and I said it to her because I’m a mom and I have to say certain things, “Be gentle.   He will break easily.”

She nodded like I’m such a worrier.  Silly mom.  As if I didn’t already know that. 

I heard that toy buzz, buzz, buzzing during the drive.  I heard her tossing that cheap plastic around in her hands.

And then I heard those words:  “Oh mom, he broke!”


I refrained from “I told you so” and mom speeches.  I chose grace.

We arrived at the school where we gathered up the pieces of her toy and I hoped my English-major brain could figure out the engineering difficulties of a wind-up toy.

Somehow I managed to snap those pieces together. Success!  And then I carried him into her classroom and set him on the show-and-tell table.

She flashed me a smile and I knew I’d earned my Super-Mom cape for the day.

Later, she told the whole story to her big sisters: How mom saved the day by fixing him just in time.  She paused for dramatic effect and then said, “Really, Mom did that.”

But she left out one little part of the story….how he broke in the first place.  How she hadn’t been gentle enough.

This gentleness with others, isn’t it what we leave out so often?

Paul writes:

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near (Philippians 4:5 NIV).

We can make excuses about how we’re just “honest” or we “just tell it like it is.”  That’s just who we are.

We can assume the worst, lose patience, rage, condescend and degrade into sarcastic mocking when others disagree with us.

Or sometimes we have this way of being gentle to strangers, but that harshness, that short temper, that criticism oozes out to the loved ones sitting at our own dinner table.

Our husbands.  Our children.  We are their protectors.  We should be the healing salve to the hurts, treating wounds with tenderness and grace, overlooking failures, encouraging strengths, applauding efforts.

When we’re hurt, angry, frustrated, impatient, though, we tend to stab where it hurts most, highlighting faults and bruising the same feelings again and again.  It’s our self-defense; we wound others when we’re wounded.

Yet, gentleness isn’t a God-request.

It’s not a Holy Spirit suggestion or an option for good days, but something we can ignore on bad days when we’re stressed, tired, overwhelmed, or haven’t slept all night because we are, in fact, moms.

Paul tells us in Colossians that gentleness is the garb of Christ:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12 NIV).

Gentleness is part of living Christ to the those around us, in our home and out of it.  We are to wrap ourselves in gentleness so others see Jesus in us.

“Be gentle.  People break easily.”

That’s the message I remind myself as I put that wind-up caterpillar back in the toy bin after his show-and-tell adventure.

A gentle tongue is a tree of life,
but perverseness in it breaks the spirit (Proverbs 15:4 ESV).

The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit (Proverbs 18:21 NIV).

The words of the reckless pierce like swords,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing (Proverbs 12:18 NIV).

Gracious words are a honeycomb,
sweet to the soul and healing to the bones (Proverbs 16:24 NIV).