I grew up without a clear understanding of the grace of God.

I knew God saved and that he forgave, but grace, this undeserved thing? It was like liquid through my hands.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I believe I began my journey to understand this vast part of God and I’m still learning every day. However as a mother, I want to raise a family who embraces a grace-filled lifestyle. I’ve been thinking about how we can actually do this in a church that still shoots it’s wounded.

Here are five real world ways that we can begin to raise kids who embrace the idea of a grace-filled God.

1.    Give our spouses grace

There is nothing more life-altering, I believe, than simply getting married and allowing that life partner to affect you in so many ways. The people closest to us have the ability to hurt us the most and also have the ability to heal us the best. When we show our spouses grace on a daily basis we teach our children what it’s like to live within a circle of grace with our spouses.

What that looks like: Grace for our spouses is a gentle, loving attitude toward irritating habits, toward sharp words and toward hurtful things. It’s a daily choice to offer gracious, loving care to our mates even when it’s hard. When our kids see this, I believe they begin to understand that a lifestyle of grace is possible.

2.    Practice grace in our female relationships

I don’t have to tell you that girls can be mean. And I’m not just talking about tweens or teens, but adult girls. Yes, you and me. Our daughters and sons watch how we treat other women. They watch it and they mimic it. They see how we treat our friends and it becomes a part of what they think is normal.  If we want our children to grow up in a way that they learn to be grace-filled and be that way in their own relationships someday, then we need to take the first step and BE grace to our girlfriends.

What that looks like: Grace for our friends is truly, honestly forgiving them when they wound us. Girls hurt other girls. It happens too much and when we truly forgive our friends, our children see this. They notice it. They won’t hear the grumbling we do when someone irritates us because that irritation will be covered in God’s grace. We don’t make “black lists,” we allow relationships to be renewed if they’ve been hurt and we take the first steps when things have gone awry.

3.    Show grace in our parenting

Our kids are people. I mean, they are fully formed souls and fully completed humans who are deserving of the respect that we give any human being on earth. That said, shame or oppression should never find its way into our parenting. When we parent well (with good boundaries and appropriate consequences for misbehavior) we show our children respect. When we allow their disobedience to be just that, disobedience, and not something that offends us personally, we show them grace. I believe that parenting must be a healthy balance of boundaries and grace (just like God does with us) and our children will carry that on into their own families when they get older.

What that looks like: For every family, this might look different. In my home, it means that once in awhile, after a conversation about why their misbehavior is wrong and both the spiritual and real world consequences of bad choices, I might give them grace. I think that coupled with good boundaries and regular consequences, a “grace” once in awhile is good for both my soul and the souls of my daughters. It also means listening to them (if they are old enough to verbalize this) when they explain why they made the choice they did. Everyone wants to be heard.

4.    Reject legalism

Legalism is the antithesis of grace. Legalism says that the law is still king and in essence, Jesus’ blood has not redeemed anything. Legalism says that grace is for the weak because “truth” is more important than anything else. Legalism takes “truth” and makes it into an idol. It’s important that our hearts and our churches and our groups of friends are free from legalism because it hampers a child’s ability to grow up in a healthy understanding of who God really is and how grand His love and grace is.

What this looks like: Choose Christian communities to be a part of that embrace grace. Choose friends and life-doers that embrace a grace-filled lifestyle. Analyze the why’s of rules in your home: if there are sufficient moral and practical reasoning behind them, then keep at it. But if a rule is there because it is a rule and no other reason, examine the necessity of it. Talk about the love of God with your children and daily, together, recognize the ways that He loves us and blesses in both big and small ways.

5.    Forgive even when there is not repentance

It would be a sad day if there was only forgiveness if there was repentance. God accepts us while we were sinners, before we turn around and walk the other way. A grace-filled life (and one that will trickle down toward your kids) is one where we forgive before the wound has been healed, we offer grace before the “I’m Sorry” has been said and we love that person back into right relationship with us.  What if they never apologize? I have realized that there are some wrongs that will never be made right. Do I then live my life in bitterness and unforgiveness toward the wounder? I can’t. It’s impossible. I forgive before the repentance and that is what makes my heart move forward.

What this looks like:  For our kids to learn this, I believe it is a life long journey for them as it has been for us. Is there a one of us, as adults, who doesn’t have a little twinge of unforgiveness toward someone? It’s hard and grace isn’t easy. But when we daily make the choice to forgive, and when we begin to use language of grace and forgiveness in our homes, I believe our children will come away from these 18 years with a foundation underpinning of grace and forgiveness.


Grace in our families looks different in everyone’s home, but if we are mothers, I believe that one of our jobs to raise children who love God and His grace as much as we do.

 What have you found that helps teach your kids about grace and forgiveness?

  • http://29lincolnavenue.com Stacey

    Sarah – I love this. I’ve been thinking a lot lately how my girls absorb my behavior and make it their own. I want them to absorb grace more than anything. I know first it has to be alive and well in me.

    This is a beautiful practical way to check to see where grace lives in my life.

    thank you!

    • http://www.sarahmarkley.com Sarah Markley

      thank you Stacey!

  • http://www.kimberlyanncoyle.com Kimberly

    Thanks so much for this, Sarah. I’m guilty of not showing enough grace to my family, and yet still expecting them to show unending grace towards me. I needed this reminder, and practical ways to live this out.

    • http://www.sarahmarkley.com Sarah Markley

      i’m right there with you. it’s so hard, isn’t it?

  • Andrea

    Gracefully written. As a mom, wife, friend, stranger……I know I could do better at this. Thank you!

    • http://www.sarahmarkley.com Sarah Markley

      thank you andrea!! just last week i was not so gracious with a stranger at the supermarket. yeah, not my best performance. i hear you. =)

  • Stephanie

    What a great article. I especially like the part about showing grace to our spouses. That’s a daily struggle for me (and yet he shows me SO MUCH grace). But I’m learning.

    I’m also struggling with showing grace to the kids. What helps immensely is practicing positive parenting. We don’t invent consequences or deal out punishments. We empathize and set limits, stopping unwanted behavior and reconnecting with kids. (www.ahaparenting.com). The more I practice, the more harmonious life is in our house. Sometimes it’s hard in a competing world of time-outs and groundings, but it really blesses my children and, I believe, is an investment in a connected, happy relationship for the long-haul. I also believe it will raise well-adjusted, compassionate, empathetic kids who eventually, with maturity, can set limits for themselves and ask for grace-filled help when they fail.

    • http://www.sarahmarkley.com Sarah Markley

      i love it. so true – we need to teach our children to set limits for themselves.

  • http://lauraboggess.com Laura

    I love how you describe what it looks like, Sarah. So many times I have the head knowledge but not the heart. Grace…grace can be so slippery in the middle of it. Thanks for this. I’m receiving it as encouragement.

    • http://www.sarahmarkley.com Sarah Markley

      yes! it is so slippery, isn’t it?? i love it laura!

  • Sherry

    Thank you for this. Grace is something I am daily trying to accept for myself and to teach my daughters. What you wrote about legalism saying that Jesus’ blood hasn’t redeemed anything and that legalism makes truth an idol really caught my attention. Especially as one of my daughters is a rule keeper and it has been challenging to teach her to choose grace or a person over a rule. I needed this reminder.

    • http://www.sarahmarkley.com Sarah Markley

      thanks sherry. i’m a recovering legalist myself. it’s hard though, when i had to realize that as a legalist, i’m putting the law (the thing that Jesus came to fulfill) as higher than God. one of my daughters closest friends is very, let’s just say, “justice oriented.” she is very interested in the letter of the law. i can see myself in her so often. thank you for being open and sharing a bit of your story! i appreciate it so much!!

  • http://catherineannehawkins.com Catherine

    Everything you say here is good and true, but I’m struggling with the last part. I know that we are called to forgive, and that that will often happen when there is no repentance. This is hard. I’ve been struggling with deeply and truly forgiving for awhile now.

    My question is not about whether or not I SHOULD forgive. It’s more: What does forgiveness mean? How does it manifest itself in real life? Does it mean we have to talk? You write about “loving someone back into right relationship,” but what if that someone doesn’t really care to be in right relationship anymore? What does forgiveness look like then? It seems odd if it is only about the internal, because almost all forms of love have an external component.

    I would really appreciate any thoughts you have on this.

    • http://www.sarahmarkley.com Sarah Markley

      Catherine, thank you so much for your comment. i agree. this last point is the hardest of them all. several years ago i had a falling out with a very close friend. she did some things that wounded me and changed me forever. After a year of a lot of pain, i finally understood that there are some things and some events that will never be “repented” from or apologized for. Some people will never say they are sorry.

      if i lived in unforgiveness until the apology or the repentance was given, i would live that way forever. at some point we must move forward in the way that Jesus does and offer forgiveness before the apology comes.

  • http://www.natalietrust.com Natalie Trust

    Sarah, I love the heart of this post. I support most of what you’re saying. I also strive for a grace filled life among friends, family and in church.

    Yet, where I would disagree with you is in the area of forgiveness. Through the cross, God provided the way to forgiveness, but it is my belief that we must ask for it. In humility, we must open our hands to receive His gift. Unless forgiveness is asked then repentance cannot be known and therefore grace cannot be fully experienced.

    ” I forgive before the repentance and that is what makes my heart move forward.” Of course each one of us must act on our understanding of Christ, Scripture, and conscience, but for me to forgive someone prior to repentance is to cheapen the sacrifice that Christ made for us.

    • http://www.sarahmarkley.com Sarah Markley

      hi natalie, i gave some of my thoughts in the comment above.

      I guess i don’t see how forgiveness toward someone, the ultimate mirror of who christ is and what he has done, is cheapening his sacrifice. I guess perhaps my understanding of christ’s sacrifice is that he has done it before we accept it and that it cannot be cheapened in any way.

      I can’t live in unforgivness toward anyone who wounds, yet does not repent. if so i would be living in bitterness and unforgiveness for the rest of my life. there are many people that hurt or do wrong and never repent of it. i must do my part and forgive regardless of repentance. forgiveness must be the norm.

      • Penny

        I agree with Sara on this Natalie.

        I too forgive as I have never known not to .I have always believed that is what we are meant to do.


      • http://www.natalietrust.com Natalie Trust

        Sarah, thank you so much for responding to me. I hear what you’re saying, and I hope I didn’t come across as judgemental of your view on forgiveness.

        Again, thanks for exploring your thoughts further in both the responses.

  • Casee

    Forgiveness without an apology has been my rant of the week. I love synchronicity and I love this whole thing…a whole bunch.

  • Penny


    This was so well written, thank-you..


  • http://www.ordinaryinspirations.blogspot.com Traci Michele

    So good Sarah!

  • http://bubbaandlucy.com Traci

    Grace is my favorite – you hit the nail on the head in every sense! Thanks for your loving, truthful and grace-filled approach. I read a book several years ago called “What’s So Amazing About Grace” – it changed my life. To begin to understand and accept God’s amazing grace was the beginning of a life transformation that has allowed me to live more fully and lovingly each day! Loved your post!

  • Becky Jones

    This is so good. I am 71 years old and by the grace of God we had the oppurinity to go to CA and live there for 20 years. We were from a strait lace Baptist Church and I have loved God all my life ut we were brought in leglism and it can really mess you up.
    But Being in CA and working there in a chruch taught a little easier life style. Teaching your children about living a grace filled life is well worth it.
    Thanks for your teaching.

  • AN

    I love this post, and especially the practical application suggestions! I will be working on some of those.

    I want to offer my slightly different perspective on #3. For me, I think it is important not to associate the concept of God’s grace with an alleviation of consequences. I think as parents every bit of discipline we offer our children, and that God offers our children and us, is grace. Anything that draws us closer to God and teaches us to walk with Him is grace from Him, including consequences for sin or inappropriate behavior. I love and draw on Hebrews 12 for this idea, as well as the Old Testament example of Israel in general.

    I work with Christian college students, and I can’t count how often I have been asked for “grace” or accused of not giving “grace”, for student conduct violations – minor and major. There is this idea that those in authority are not giving grace unless they are waiving consequences entirely. I find that concept of grace to be offensive, considering the lengths to which God has gone to give us true grace. I think we can and must see as grace anything by which God brings us to himself and holds us there, ultimately expressed in the life and death of Christ, which was costly beyond imagining.

    Now mercy is another matter, and I am not saying I don’t waive or intervene to spare my children (or college students!) consequences sometimes. I just think it is important that I don’t call it grace explicitly, and thereby cheapen the richness and dynamic reality of what God is doing in all of our lives!

  • Elizabeth Jones

    Thank you for this Sarah. I too didn’t learn much about grace until my 30’s. Think we’ll continue to learn about it till we’re on the other side of glory.
    #3 about legealism stands out to me. Can be a struggle as I used to see things only in black and white and no greys.
    Amazing Grace….

  • http://www.jeansblogs.com Debra Bacon

    Thank you for this post, Sarah. I love the way your break it down-living grace in everyday life. Then offer what the application of grace in certain circumstances “looks like.” I took away some great nuggets to learn and live by. Blessings

  • http://www.bethjcolvin.blogspot.com Beth

    Sara, I love reading your blog. Your honesty and transparency are both inpspiring and encouraging. This topic of grace has been heavy on my heart lately as well. I have been listening to Chuck Swindoll’s series “The Grace Awakening”. It is fantastic!!! If you haven’t heard it, check it out. His website is http://www.insight.org. Blessings to you!

  • Carissa

    Teaching children grace can be especially difficult. I have a pastor who recommended a very practical demonstration that I use every once in a while. It allows for an opportunity to talk about grace with kids, provides a wonderful example/demonstration, and always manages to bless me. When my child is behaving poorly, instead of punishing I tell him, your behavior is unacceptable come with me. And I take him to the kitchen table and fix him a bowl of ice cream. And I then tell him how we are all sinners and Jesus died for those sins because he loved us, even though we may think we didn’t deserve it. That is grace. Just like I am showing you grace by rewarding you with ice cream for you inappropriate behavior. And I drop it. If he talks about his behavior and chooses to apologize I thank him. But I don’t demand anything of him.

  • Carissa

    I have a pastor who recommended a very practical demonstration that I use every once in a while. It allows for an opportunity to talk about grace with kids, provides a wonderful example/demonstration, and always manages to bless me. When my child is behaving poorly, instead of punishing I tell him, your behavior is unacceptable come with me. And I take him to the kitchen table and fix him a bowl of ice cream. And I then tell him how we are all sinners and Jesus died for those sins because he loved us, even though we may think we didn’t deserve it. That is grace. Just like I am showing you grace by rewarding you with ice cream for you inappropriate behavior. And I drop it. If he talks about his behavior and chooses to apologize I thank him. But I don’t demand anything of him.

  • Carissa

    I have a pastor who recommended a very practical demonstration that I use every once in a while. It allows for an opportunity to talk about grace with kids, provides a wonderful example/demonstration, and always manages to bless me. When my child is behaving poorly, instead of punishing I tell him, your behavior is unacceptable come with me. And I take him to the kitchen table and fix him a bowl of ice cream. And I then tell him how we are all sinners and Jesus died for those sins because he loved us, even though we may think we didn’t deserve it. That is grace. Just like I am showing you grace by rewarding you with ice cream for you inappropriate behavior. And I drop it. If he talks i listen, but i don’t demand anything of him.

  • coco

    Love this post, Sara. I’m often amazed at how little people, Christian or otherwise, understand or even think about grace and forgiveness. Not that I have all the answers, of course! But fortunately, I’ve had some good teachers.

    If I could add one more thing to your exchange with Natalie; I have a friend whose best friend throughout high school and the first 2 years of college was brutally attacked and killed by her boyfriend. He was tried, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison. My friend refused to forgive him for almost fifteen years. She believed that his actions were indeed, unforgiveable (except by God) and that if she did oforgive him, that would be like she was betraying her friend’s memory.

    In the meantime, my friend cultivated a hard shell around her heart. She boasted about her independence, stating often that she did not need a man, or any other person in her life. She gained so much weight that clearly (in her mind) no man would be attracted to her, and often drank too much to numb the pain she was in.

    A few years ago several of us, including my friend, had a long conversation about forgiveness. I think I was the one who eventually asked her the question, “Do you think he (the murderer) cares whether or not you forgive him? Or if he even thinks about you?” She couldn’t say that he did, and that realization opened her eyes to the toll it had taken on HER.

    Since then, she’s not only lost nearly a hundred pounds and cut back drastically on her dr,inking and other destructive behaviors, she has a gre at relationship with a man who cares enough to have waded through all her muck and armor, and she’s considering accepting his proposal. I know, but old defenses die hard, right? :)

    The point of this incredibly long story is that the only person my friend’s hard heart was hurting was her own. As for honoring her friend’s memory, she realized that she wouldn’t have wanted her to live thatway! It ill.isn’t as if her friend had sacrificed her life , I understand, but I also don’t think Jesus wants us living in unforgiveness – for His sake or anybody else’s.

    • Dea

      “…I also don’t think Jesus wants us living in unforgiveness – for His sake or anybody else’s.” Amen. COCO

  • http://oldjesusguy.blogspot.com dad

    wow…dearest daughter…
    again, you’ve said good, hard & challenging things to us all!
    it is good that john 3:16 does NOT read,
    “God was so angry that He sent His only begotten Son…”
    instead, we find out that the basis of ALL things…
    from the Creation act of God onward
    is the LOVE OF GOD!
    in LOVE, God created…
    in LOVE God cast the man & woman out of Eden…
    in LOVE God chose abraham, isaac & jacob…david…
    all of them messed up people…
    yet in them, God displayed His LOVE & His GRACE…
    WOW…how does HE do it?
    maybe a better question is how does God NOT do this?
    in the His Exodus 34-encounter with moses,
    God names Himself full of mercy, compassion, long-in-suffering-our-sins…
    maybe that last word should get our attention:
    long-suffering is a beautiful word…because…
    to the “forgiver”…to forgive, to show grace & mercy is
    to suffer grief, loss, pain…without reprisal or revenge.
    Jesus told us, then showed us how to do this…
    Jesus’ all-powerful act of
    was & is & will always be rooted in His amazing LOVE!
    it is NO accident that ALL of God’s highest commands to the human race
    are centered on the word “LOVE”…
    in our every act of love, no matter how small…
    we begin to look more like Him…like Jesus,
    our older brother Who showed us the Way!
    Jesus’ blood shed washes away the sin of the whole world…
    so, what is left to us
    is the choice of bowing to Jesus every day…or not.
    love you SO much…

  • Katie B

    Wow… so convicting and so beautiful – all wrapped up together. I want so badly to have a grace-filled family but right now am not even doing that with my husband. Thank you for this reminder and the hope that it is never too late to start living more GRACEfully. :)

  • Beth Williams

    Beautifully written! I try to show my hubby grace on a daily basis@ For I know that I do things that annoy him & yes I want his forgiveness also@ If God can show me immensely more grace than I deserve I can do the same toward others!

    We both want God to say “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”

  • http://n/a Liz

    I believe that when our family and friend relationships with others unwilling to live kindness ended we were demonstrating protecting and loving our child. Some places can be so physically, secually, emotionally or verbally demeaning that forgiveness and grace are hard to plant and grow there, others are open to creating healthy and respectful community. I now see how our forgiveness and grace are interior and can create peace and happiness, a letting go of hurt, stress, regret but we may be forgiven by a gracious God who wants love for us and our children. We cannot beat ourselves up and mull over everyone not yet being ready to live in support and kindness. We must learn to live our faith and keep our hope that God is working in hearts, in society.

  • Gwen

    I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately on forgiveness because I have the gift of having been born into a highly dysfunction/abusive family. Something I’ve read several times in circles that deal with abuse is about forgiveness only with repentance. Or maybe to put it this way, God might want to forgive everyone, but the only people who have been fully forgiven and reconciled are those who have repented. If this is the way God does things, then why are we trying to forgive when there isn’t repentance? I want to teach my kids about forgiveness, but also about the different varieties of forgiveness. I might not fully agree with what I’ve been reading because I’m still seeking understanding about this topic, but at the very least I will teach my children that they can forgive in their hearts and move forward with their lives, even if forgiving a person face-to-face isn’t an option because it could cause further harm (this is a topic I will hold off on probably until they’re older, but we’ll cover the basics of forgiveness when they’re young). This might be one of those moments where there’s different ways of viewing the same issue, and no one side is wholly right, and we can just extend mercy to one another!

  • Robsbabe

    First of all, your Dad ROCKS!! Love his reply.
    Your words regarding spouses”… have the ability to hurt us the most and also have the ability to heal us the best” brought the sting of tears to my heart and eyes. YES how true this is. I’ve experienced it in my very own life. Something I NEVER thought would EVER happen in my marriage, the unthinkable. Adultry. Now I can honestly tell you, and everyone else, that I have experienced the Grace of God. I understand how He feels when we mess up so bad yet He still loves us so much. He longs for us to restore ourselves to Him and each other. Infidelity SUCKS but redemption ROCKS!
    Thank you for your real account of life. I totally relate to your language, your expression and your perspective. Thank you for being bold enough to use your gift of writing to speak truth and realness into the world ( well, at least the social media blogasphere)!

  • Doris

    Hi Sarah,
    You are such a beautiful heartfelt writer. Thank you for this practical and grace-filled article … it reminds me to be more conscious of how my actions and words can bless or wound my little girls (thank God for grace!!).
    Some things that we do in our family to try and teach our girls about grace is to make sure we apologize to them when we have had a “grace-less moment” and to try and model what it looks like to have grace on ourselves.
    Thank you again! I look forward to reading more of your blog!

  • Kathryn

    Gwen – I appreciate your honest question.
    I am working through this also. I don’t think that forgiveness and reconciliation are always the same. God wants to forgive us, but we have to actively choose to accept Jesus to be reconciled to God. I can forgive a person by recognizing my own sin, praying that God give me strength and show me how to forgive. I always feel like it’s a good sign when I trust God with that person and don’t feel like I need to punish them. But sometimes healthy boundaries are the consequence of sin. When I was single, I might forgive my boyfriend but break up. A healthy decision. I might forgive a family member, but not allow them to have contact with my children unless I truly believe that the person is safe. Without repentance, healthy boundaries in serious situations may be more firm.

  • Pingback: Bo Lane – Six Lessons Parents Can Learn From Miley Cyrus()

  • Pingback: » Day 18 :: Graceful Weekend Links Rockin' What Ya Got()

  • Pingback: » Day 19 :: Graceful Weekend Links Rockin' What Ya Got()

  • Pingback: Fun Friday Favorite Links | Lindsey Bell: Faith and Family()