Amber Haines // incourage.me

If your imagination can hold water at all, then I’m sure you can picture me well — this mama with four rowdy boys. I have tired eyes, but I’m smiling. I snap easily, but I laugh, too. I’m quick to dance. I forget my kids’ names. I fold, wipe, pour, scrub, and break up fights in an endless cycle, and everything feels like minutia. This is the stage of climbing a million molehills in a day.

I get overwhelmed, because if everything is minutia, then nothing is small.

One of my boys wears a pair of shoes that looks like we fetched them from a dumpster downtown. He is my precious Pigpen with a cloud of dust always at his heels. He somehow always has spaghetti sauce on his back. With him, there is always something to clean, but I know where he gets it. Last week in New York, my hat started to blow away, and as I tried to catch it, I dumped my cappuccino on my own head. This is our real life. We are a bunch of messy folks. Look at my kids; they are just like me.

In counseling, I was discussing my tendency to overreact toward my children. It was only a few weeks ago that I had calmly walked one of them to his room before locking myself in my own room so I could turn into the Incredible Hulk. The fact that no one saw my fit is a miracle.

Wisdom slinks back and refuses to be part of the picture when I let anger take over, and then after the anger comes the guilt.

Then another glass of milk spills, or someone hangs the youngest from a wedgie, or someone knocks the sliding door off its track, and the guilt that never left me becomes gasoline for anger. Guilt is a fuel. Guilt is the recipe for “quick to anger.” Without the truth, I spin in an endless reactionary cycle.

Let’s get real. I want my boys to obey, but I don’t want them to stop learning through a bit of pain. I don’t want these opportunities — to show them grace and mercy — to go away. I want my Pigpen to kick dirt in my yard for this too-short season, and I hate that sliding glass door anyway. So what is my real problem here?

I could write books about God’s grace toward you, but watch me at home, and you would see that I have a hard time receiving it for myself. After my counseling session, I didn’t go home with a new mantra about not being so angry. I didn’t give myself a pinnable quote about embracing imperfections. (I never seem to remember those quotes when Hulk takes over.) It’s like when you wake up and decide you won’t eat cookies today. You say to yourself: no cookies, No Cookies, NO COOKIES! And suddenly you are consumed with cookies and find yourself sitting in the pantry floor with cookie crumbs somehow in your pockets, bra, and socks. You have become Cookie Monster.

No, instead I woke the next morning to forgiveness. I spent the day recognizing all the places condemnation had crept in. I realized I harbored so much guilt toward my God-given job as a writer. I realized guilt in how I spent my money. I saw a thousand things that weighed me down that had nothing to do with my kids or who wrote in jelly on the wall. I saw things in my heart that needed to change, but when I did, I saw them through grace.

Repentance is impossible without grace.

I am making it a practice to gather up condemnation in all its sneaky hiding places, to just tell it No. I put it down and move on. The world on my shoulders becomes a feather this way.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” {Romans 8:1}

There is only grace, and when grace is at the forefront, there’s a light that shines in our eyes. There’s a light on the path in front of we who are in Christ, so we can see things for what they really are. Wisdom is there, along with an eternal scope.

Look here at all these molehills. I see them now. I can get past this one little moment. More than a conqueror, I am a mother; I am forgiven; I am covered in grace.

Let us not forget the power of remembering the cross. Let even the tiniest moments of grace, where the unexplainable peace takes over (and we don’t pinch the kids’ heads off) become a moment to celebrate resurrection.

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  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    Oh Amber,
    I laughed and chuckled my way through your stories of raising your 4 boys and trying to stay sane in the process. For anyone with more than two boys, I believe God has an extra measure of grace. All kidding aside though, as weary mothers, we are ripe for the enemy’s picking and he loves to infuse our failing and short fuses with condemnation. Not that we can be angry Hulks all the time, but I think God views us so differently. He celebrates the victories when we don’t pick our children’s head off and He fills in the gaps where we fall short each day. He just wants us to ask and His grace is ours. There is no condemnation, rather encouragement when we make it past each molehill. Weary warrior mom of 4 boys, let God lavish His love on you today…great post!
    Blessings,
    Bev

    • http://therunamuck.com amber@therunamuck

      Thank you so much for this, Bev.

  • Elizabeth Fisher

    And I only have one tom boy daughter… but this spoke to me today because I am drowning in condemnation and I lock myself in the bathroom and turn into the hulk.

    • http://therunamuck.com amber@therunamuck

      I already lost my temper today! Remembering grace with you, Elizabeth.

  • Sadiezoe23

    Thank you for your honesty and transparency. I can relate!!

  • Veronica

    Hi Amber, so appreciated your words this morning. Thank you.

  • onyxsta

    Grace is an ordeal but a learning curve nonetheless
    I don’t have any children. In fact, I’m still considered a child in my home, but can totally relate to this message. Thanks for sharing

  • Deena Marie

    Oh Amber, I had three girls and a boy, but the story is the same Thank you for sharing

  • Joanne Peterson

    Amber,

    Oh my word, you nailed this one. I only have two boys, but no place is out of reach, and I have boys who are up between 4 and 5 a.m. And we find evidence of what they have done that early in the morning. Clean, what’s clean? I have often said I can’t stay clean to save my life. My boys reflect that, but I still think dirt is attracted to them like attracting poles of a magnet. And if they can just keep from either taking everything apart, or breaking something…..Loud is their only decibel, or so soft I can’t hear them. And if I can’t hear them, then I know I have to investigate. Sticks are imagination fodder, they become anything and often use the anything as a weapon both outside or inside. Now while I haven’t used the phrase “pinch their heads off,” I have indeed thought similar thoughts and yes I can celebrate the power of the resurrection when I don’t do ‘that”.
    Really, these will make stories we’ll tell when they are older and laugh about them. But, for now, this mama needs grace too, and needs to extend it to myself and my boys. And just sigh and clean up another mess and mindfully try to let go of my unrealistic expectations and the guilt and with it the condemnation.

    Thank you for this post! This pointed out what I needed to do: laugh and let go instead of the alternative…..

    Joanne

    • Bev @ Walking Well With God

      ((Hugs)) to you Joanne,
      Each of your boys counts twice…sending extra grace your way…
      Love you,
      B

      • Joanne Peterson

        ((Hugs to you back)) Bev,

        LOL!!! yes it’s true. My boys can very well be counted twice. They are “those ” boys.

        Love you,

        Joanne

  • Mo

    Oh wow! Your devotion had me laughing so hard. I read it to my own son of 17 years.
    I work at a Bible College as secretary and the Dean of Students asked my son if he had to pick a cartoon character to describe me, who would it be. He told him,”The Incredible Hulk!” We all cracked up laughing. I too am so thankful for the love, mercy and grace of our great God. And for a son who knows how to forgive.

    • http://therunamuck.com amber@therunamuck

      That’s exactly right, Mo! My children will be the ones who forgive me the most. This love thing is like that. :)

  • Kathy

    Love this post, great humor! The song Flawless by Mercy Me is a fave of mine at the moment, it’s about Grace too.

  • jenny.marrs

    Beautiful. This post is so timely for me. The cookie reference made me laugh and shake my head in agreement. Yes! Praying to see the day through redemptive eyes of grace today. Thank you:)

  • http://in-the-battle.blogspot.com/ kwpastorwife

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could easily and naturally take the advice we so readily give to others? Thank you for this post! It is refreshing to know that I am not the only mom who turns into the Hulk…and that I am not the only one who still struggles with accepting Grace daily.

  • http://www.perceptionsandpassions.blogspot.com Kaitlin_Perceptions&Passions

    Amber!!! I feel you girl!!! 3 boys under 5 over here and 1 on the way (a DAUGHTER…or so the doctor says…I’ll believe it when I see it!). As I get more and more uncomfortable, I find myself more and more Hulk-y. She-hulk-y? You’re a mom of boys, apparently there’s a she-hulk. You get it. Anyways, I think you hit the nail on the head with this: I get overwhelmed, because if everything is minutia, then nothing is small.

    • Val Lecher

      So, was the Dr. right…was it a girl? ;) We have 4 boys and 1 princess (all 7 and under).

  • Abby

    Amber, as a mother of two boys (one who also has a pair of shoes that look like they came from the dumpster) I found myself laughing out loud at this post. Thank God for his grace in raising these little ones. It seems my kids always give me more grace than I give to myself. Thank you for making me smile today.

  • http://mrsdisciple.com/ Kelly

    I think this is my favorite Amber Haines creation. Thank you for your honesty about the Hulk side of mothering. Solidarity! There is so much wisdom, beauty, and reality tangled up in these words. Isn’t that just like grace, to be that juicy, shiny blackberry in the middle of the briars?

  • JeanneTakenaka

    Amber, as the mother of two boys, your post resonated. I’ve no clue how you do four, except to walk each step, clinging to Jesus. :) Thank you so much for the reminder that we walk this journey in grace, and asking for forgiveness. And knowing it’s offered by Jesus every single time we ask. And that grace? That’s what gives strength for each day on this mom journey. Thanks for the reminder to be looking for God’s grace in every day.

    Loved your post.

  • Anna

    I love you, this made me laugh and nod with agreement. You write so real. Thank you I needed to hear this at the moment, baby steps are still steps and its ok “there is no condemnation” but boy do I feel it sometimes. If there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus, the condemnation I feel cannot be coming from Him.

  • http://ChasingHoliness.com/ Brenda

    This phrase of yours speaks to me: “I am making it a practice to gather up condemnation in all its sneaky hiding places, to just tell it No. I put it down and move on.” Working toward joining you in that practice…one day at a time.

    Just this afternoon, God reminded me again that: “It is for freedom that Christ has set you free.” (Gal. 5:1) No condemnation, only freedom and power.

    Lovely post, thank you for sharing. :)
    (From another boy-mom) :)

  • Kimmygirl

    Amber,
    I read your post and said, yea, been there; read a little more, yea, been there too……I’ve got to tell you, as a mom of 3 grown sons, you are so right about our guilt and self- condemnation. When I think back on my own ‘Incredible Hulk’ episodes, (possible justified, though, just sayin’!) I still cringe. Two out of the three said they thought I might levitate one day, I was that mad.
    Now that I’m a little farther down the road, I have found my own grace for those memories, and bless their hearts, the guys say they really don’t remember most of my cringe-worthy times! They have all grown into impressive men, (I’m not biased at all! :) and it’s only by God’s grace and forgiveness that I have been able to get over myself, and grow in Him.
    You will look back on this season and wish for it again many years from now! But only for a bit, because when they are grown, and ask you for advice because of the relationship you have built, that’s a really good day too!
    Blessings to you, Mama of boys!

  • Shauna Viele

    Amen, sister!!!

    • Shauna Viele

      Also: as a mom of 2 daughters who are now 22 and nearly 18, I still relate strongly. ..I have my “Mama Hulk” moments too. And their ever patient Daddy is a reflection of our heavenly father in this house full of female hormones. He has put up with me for 24 years today. :)
      Very timely post!

  • Beth Williams

    Amber,
    I laughed my way through this post! Weary people are definitely fuel to Satan’s fire! He loves to make us believe we can’t anything and don’t deserve grace and mercy. He loves nothing more than to see us fail or turn into “Incredible Hulk” in anger over stuff. I have often gotten upset over seemingly minute items only to realize later that it wasn’t worth it.
    Thanks for the honesty!

  • Karen Bradley

    My situation is kind of the opposite of yours, not my kids but my 89-year-old father with dementia, who I am living with and caring for. I so often hear the accusing voices . . I wasn’t patient enough, I don’t do enough . . . I shared this in a Bible study recently and the leader said, You know that isn’t from Our Father, don’t you. Well yes I do but it’s amazing how often I fail to receive the Grace my Father wants to give! I appreciate your post today!

  • http://www.preceptsandlifepreservers.com/ Christine Duncan

    I think I’ve exhausted every shareable option for this post Amber, it’s been tweeted and pinned and…. and….
    Your honesty is a gift for the rest of us who hope we’re not the only ones who are a sweet mess… and are still cherished by the One who is Grace personified! Thank you… and have a nap… or something. You totally deserve it ;)

  • http://eileenandjesus.blogspot.com Eileen Sanfilippo

    Oh Ladies, I was a mom of 2 ADHD boys, and now a grandma of 7. (With some girls, thankfully) I’m here to tell you that you will live!! Just hold Jesus hand, and tell those boys frequently that you love them. Never let a day go by but what you don’t tuck each in with an “I love you!!” Both of them are now wonderful mature Christgian men, and great family men. I am blessed to have an excellent relationship with both! It helped that Dan and I have had a solid marriage, but most all the credit goes to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! LOTS of prayer, from us and from friends and family! Hang in Girls, and God bless you

  • http://www.corneliaseigneur.com cornelia

    Beautifully written Amber- I GET this as a fellow mom of four boys including twins in the mix!!

    Man, I too need so much grace as I go through feeling of inadequacy and being overwhelmed and then there’s yet again so much love in the crazy chaos of all the spilled cheerios of life.

  • Val Lecher

    I SO needed this tonight – as a mama of four boys and one girl (all 7 and under) I feel like snapping is my second (or perhaps first) language. I long to speak to them with grace and calm – and I can be daydreaming about this and in the next breath be snapping again. I just recently read “Grace for the Good Girl” and I definitely had a couple of days (why is it so hard to hold onto) with a light in my eyes and bounce in my step as I ponderd his love for me instead of my overwhelming weaknesses. Now, I’m trying to give myself grace for not recieving grace – don’t know if that makes any sense. Anyway – thank you for being so real. Blessings, Val