As I was making my way up the dimly lit porch steps, carrying dirty paper plates and left over apples and popcorn, the remains of yet another harvest dinner ate in the car, I had a strong knowing wash over me that I needed to pray with the girls. We are far from a routine-oriented family, even on the slower days. We don’t have bedtime rituals of baths or stories or family prayer that we go through every night. Some nights we sit and sing songs. The girls taking turns choosing, or Dave and I suddenly belt out a chorus we know by heart from days gone by. Other nights we read a few pages from our Jesus Storybook Bible (My favorite!) or another book nearby. Many nights we’ve allowed playing or dinner time chatter to linger a little too long so we hurry them through the bathroom, wrap them up in blankets with kisses and quick back rubs and whispered good nights and hustle down to pack lunches and pay bills.
During harvest, I fly solo at bedtime. It’s a season where everything gets stripped down to basic needs. There isn’t time or energy for extras. I depend on the girls to get their pjs on and clothes put away by themselves while I clean up dinner. I quickly brush Sami’s teeth and we hurry to grab sleep caps and dim the lights. If we’re not too far from our 8:30 target, I’ll sometimes scoop up Sami, all cocooned in her pink blanket, and we’ll go sit on Cy’s bed to spend a few final moments of the day together. I knew as I was carrying in the last load from the car, I needed to make time for such a moment, tired and irritated as I was. There had been a barrage of poor choices from one in our party through the day. I knew praying over her could accomplish what no amount of lecturing could.
Once upstairs, I saw the clothes still strewn I had requested multiple times be put away. Sami was jabbering at a volume far higher than necessary for proximity, and managed to abruptly burp mid-sentence. Twice. The words “Just go to bed” were on my tongue. 13 hours and counting of meeting needs, and I was overdone. But something held them back. I sighed, desperate for the quiet of my room, but knowing only a few tiny minutes can sometimes make all the difference. The Kingdom of God is often revealed in a five minute pause at the end of a day full of faults.
We sat in the dark on Cypress’s bed. The Bible app read Psalm 23 audibly from my phone. A curly-haired head rested on each of my legs, bodies under a mound of blankets. After the second time through the Psalm, I began to pray. I prayed for them by name, for their individual needs. That they would learn to love truth and become trustworthy. That they would be strong enough to ask for help and not potty their pants. I committed them again to God’s hands, where not even Satan’s slickest schemes can get to them. I applauded the work God has begun in each, the dignity and strength he is continuing to perfect in Cy. The security and compassion he is so beautifully working in Sami. And, as has marked every prayer of mine for the past 3 years, I pleaded with God to affirm in their hearts how loved they are by me, even when I’m such a mess at showing it. In my most used phrase of motherhood prayers, I asked him to cover every sin I’d committed against Cypress, and against Sami with his grace. As I said the words, a phrase of scripture I hadn’t thought of in a while settled in my thoughts. “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound”.
I’d never known abounding sin until motherhood. As I quoted the line aloud, I had a vision flood the darkness behind my eye lids. I saw a pockmarked ground, barren white, marred with ashen holes gouged from screaming anger, from sharp words, from rough hands, from unrealistic expectations. Into each hole was poured this golden sand. It didn’t just merely cover the holes. It filled the black caverns and heaped up over each hole, making shimmering mountains where once was a blackened crater.
Tears poured from my face and onto the heads that were motionless on my lap, completely calm and quiet even though mommy’s prayer was getting some decent yardage to it. All this time I’ve prayed for my sins to be covered, which honestly feels like way too much to ask. To really expect a complete covering when I’m racking up errors faster than I can count some days is audacious. But the clear message to me in the dark was, “Carrie, I’m not just covering the mistakes, the wounds your anger and reactions have made in these girls. I’m filling them up and heaping them over. And not with cheap fill dirt, either. It’s gold. Glittering grace.”
“It’s too much, too undeserved, too good to be true!” I said. “But I’m opening my hands. I receive it.” To even say the words and weakly believe them validated this grace, scandalous as it all is. The goodness and mercy that have been chasing after me, even through the long months of darkness when I refused to accept I could ever be loved again and was too strangled by shame and depression to accept the forgiveness and affection offered me, they have cracked open the cellar door of darkness with their persistence, loosened the noose of shame.
And just for added proof, a tangible gift for my flickering faith, I looked down through my tears to two sets of adoring eyes. Two hands patting me, two voices whispering, “I love you, Mommy.” If that isn’t golden, glittering grace, I don’t know what is.
But where sin increased and abounded, grace (God’s unmerited favor) has surpassed it and increased the more and superabounded. ~Romans 5
If the cellar door still has you locked in darkness, if you feel like you’re too big of a mess, too far gone, too much of a wreck to forgive, please know that you are not alone. Let me remind you that there is nowhere you can go that quarantines you from God’s presence. His goodness and mercy are relentless. Will you hold on to even a spark of hope today? When the door to your darkness cracks, you will have light to share with someone else. The hope I'm speaking today I may need you to speak to me tomorrow.
And if you have a story of abounding, scandalous grace, will you share it with us?