Safe in our messes

It’s a dreary Saturday here, but in spite of the heavy clouds and soggy outdoors, Daniel said, “We should have cake!” So I stood at the kitchen counter, whipping up the batter as bacon and eggs sizzled on the stove. The table was being set by young helpful hands, and my mind was running in about 14 directions, until a horrible crash silenced everything.

I whirled around and saw my sweet helper holding a plastic pitcher, but surrounded with shards of glass. It took me a few seconds to figure out what the catastrophe had been. Then I saw it, the remaining rim of a mason jar, but far worse, the Chemex coffee carafe standing gaping lopsided on the countertop.
My daughter’s wide eyes were filled with horror.


I tried not to think about the fact that we use that coffee maker daily. Instantly I was wracking my brain trying to figure out how I would make our afternoon coffee.

My words came out calmly, but halting-
“Oh no, it’s so expensive!”
There was no anger, just stunned sadness.
She slipped off to her room to cry, and I warded curious toddlers away from the glass littered kitchen floor and swept the shatters into the dustpan.

God has been teaching me to hold my tongue, to bite back words of anger.
I’m trying to speak life and love and hope into my children. I’m in a group of women who are holding each other accountable to our choices, words included.
It has been so healthy, so revealing, so vulnerable, and ever so good.
But again and again I find myself sweeping my own broken pieces into the dustpan, cleaning up another mess of mine.

But I called her back and held her.
“Honey, I’m sorry I wasn’t more gentle. Mistakes happen, and you didn’t mean to do it. I made SO many mistakes as a child. It is just part of growing up.”
Her blue eyes looked into mine and she managed a smile.
She forgives so readily.

I wish instead of mentioning the expense of replacing the Chemex, I would have dropped to my knees and assured her right off that everything was going to be okay. I wish my first impulse had be to hold her heart safe. I didn’t lash out in anger, but I did say words that chilled her little heart.

I remember when I was about her size, one day I climbed up onto my mom’s bathroom vanity and was snooping around in her makeup. My knees straddled the sink bowl and I picked up the glass jar of liquid foundation, but in my wobbly balancing act, it slipped from my fingers. The next thing I knew, there was makeup and glass shards everywhere. I looked in the mirror and vowed I would never forget this moment. Perhaps a bit dramatic, but it stuck with me. I remember the chilling horror that flooded my daughter’s veins this morning.

30120882_10213300203331607_1683868524_nMy mom was a medical student’s wife. She knew all about needing to stretch pennies, and how well I know that balancing act now. But I don’t remember her being upset at all.

I just remember the shame
I felt at my mistake.

Today, I am reminded to treasure children’s hearts more than things.
To pause and swallow salty words, and choose to pull close and hug.

I remember that I have paved the way for these children of mine, shattering things and making bigger messes than they have.

Children need grace and safety in their mistakes.
And as the years go by, nothing changes.
As an adult, I still need grace and forgiveness. I mess up big.

But I’m struck at God’s warm hand on my shoulder, as He helps me sweep up the last of the glass shards, and shows me the true lesson of a broken Chemex.

He is here, He is safe, in our shattered pieces.


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