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Shepherding Hearts: Being a Tool of Grace

Shepherding Hearts: Being a Tool of Grace

With three kiddos (7, 5 and almost 3 years old) and a life fuller than I ever imagined, I’ve had to learn the hard way just what matters in this crazy, chaotic, joyous mothering life!

“Children are NOT a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.” - C.S. Lewis

As a mom, I am see how many grace-receiving moments I need every single day. I used to want to show my kids (and others) just how “awesome” I was and how “together” I had it (ha, what a joke!!!). Through a tumultuous jolting of difficult circumstances these last few years, God revealed to me a foundational truth I had a hard time believing could be true: our failure-full moments can ultimately breed an abundant return of blessings, victory and redemption when you humbly invite our All-Sovereign Lord into the matter, offer up your “nothing” and turn in your pride (the great exchange)!

My incredibly wise sister-in-law, Mollie, recently recommended a book to me by Gloria Furman called “Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full.”  Could there be a title any more comforting in the life of a mom?

“When I look back at my mothering track record, there are more flukes and failures than fantastic feats of faith. What hope does a flawed mom have? Against the backdrop of this bleak outlook, the Gospel shines brighter and gives a more durable hope than the empty promises of self-actualization and the short-lived encouragement from glass-half-full optimism. The Gospel changes how we view our failures, and we see how God redeems our flaws for His own glory. I am learning firsthand how turning to the world for comfort and strength just leaves me dissatisfied and weak. God has used our family’s circumstances to point me to the one great permanent circumstance in my life – the Gospel of Jesus Christ!” (Gloria Furman, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full)

I’m not sure anyone ever learns from or is encouraged by a perfect, never-screws-up, has-it-all-together person. That isn’t reality, nor is it genuine or helpful. I want Noah, McKenzie and Graham to see humility and authenticity displayed by their parents’ admittance of their need for grace, and for them to witness genuine forgiveness and selfless service. It’s important to me to have a home environment that is reality-centered, Gospel-focused and grace-based. Our gracious Savior uses my screw-ups in front of the kids as a powerful, redeeming tool for them to see forgiveness and grace lived out! I want them to see that, even though I try my best, I still yell, get angry, forget, and am selfish, controlling, impatient and picky. Jesus came here to save us because we’re all inadequate of doing this life on our own!

Thank you Lord that you’ve changed me and that I can now come to my kids and with all humility say, “Mommie screwed up, please forgive me! I am so sorry!! Mommie needs Jesus so much! Every day, she needs Him!!” We’re humans who struggle and blow it and disappoint and are all in need of transforming grace every day. Thinking we’ve graduated from needing Jesus ever day is one of the most dangerous lies of all. I have no hope but to celebrate my deep need for Jesus!

"Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” - Ephesians 4:32

In Romans 2:4, God says that kindness has the power to soften hearts. “Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” - Romans 2:4

It is all so much easier written than done, however! As a mom juggling hundreds of balls, I still strive to have it all together and catch myself at times "counting on self!" I have scriptures taped to my mirror, fridge, inside my closet and on my wall at work (because clearly I need this stamped on my eyeballs) that say the opposite of how I feel in these moments of utter chaos:

"Boast in your weakness” 2 Corinthians 12:9

"His yoke is easy and His burden is light!” Matthew 11:30

"Fear not for I have overcome the world!” John 16:33

"We are more than conquerors through HIM (not through me) who loved us!” Romans 8:37

"When I am weak, then I am strong!” 2 Corinthians 12:10

Lord, please let me display this kind of woman to my kids! 

I am constantly encouraged by stories of families I read about throughout the Bible that didn’t have it all together. It’s like God is repeatedly saying, “grace, not perfection” and that it’s okay to not be okay. God fills in the gaps, He rights our wrongs, and He uses our testimonies to encourage one another and demonstrate His might, power, and glory. Seeing Biblical examples (lookin’ at you Cain, Abel, Noah, Abraham, Lot, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Saul, David and Solomon) played out gives me great hope for God’s redemptive and restorative plans for my family’s life and my children’s lives despite me and in spite of my failings as a mother. Tomorrow we get to wake up and try again. There is grace upon grace for parenting!

“His mercies are new every morning” - Lamentations 3:22-23.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’” - 2 Corinthians 12:9.

Ellis and I are currently working hard to create an environment of honesty and openness, where shame doesn’t breed dishonesty. We want to call it out where it starts small in our home before it becomes monstrous and destructive. For example: My 7 year old, Noah, and I were playing Bible Bingo the other day when halfway through the game, I realized he was cheating. I asked him, “Noah, are you cheating?” His posture immediately changed, he hunched down and sunk into the chair with embarrassment. He couldn’t look at me. In that moment, God gave me grace-vision to discuss the reality of both of our hearts with Noah. Instead of getting mad for his cheating or throwing down a harsh punishment, I admitted to him, “Noah, I get it. You aren’t the only one who cheats. Mommie would sometimes like to cheat at games to get ahead and win too!” Sharing the ugly places of my heart with my son was a really cool moment for us. He looked up at me twinkling with a smile – light bulb – it was as if for the first time he realized he wasn’t alone in his sin-desire.

Sin tells us to be ashamed, hide, and bow up with pride. It has the power to isolate us and keep us from living in the freedom that Jesus freely gives us. An environment of trust is grown when you admit your failures—share that with your kids! Tell them they’re not alone and show them together how much we collectively need Jesus and where to go from there (forgiveness, grace, reconciliation, communication). Sharing shatters the illusion of aloneness and the real delusion of “I must be the only on who has ever….” There is so much power in identifying with another person! What we all desire is true intimacy—to be known fully and to be loved unconditionally on our best and our worst days.

While we are here on this earth, sin is our condition. It’s not something we ever out-grow, no matter how long you’ve been a Believer. You never graduate from needing Jesus. Certainly we know right from wrong, and have tools from the Holy Spirit to help us, but our issue isn’t behavior problems, it’s matters of the heart. Jesus didn’t come here to modify behavior, He came to radically change and transform hearts and revive lives! If the law (rules of right and wrong) alone could save us or help us to never make a poor decision again, then Jesus would have never needed to come! We need an “ANCHOR for our souls” (Hebrews 6:19) because we are prone to wander!

Perfection isn’t the goal, but surrendering, abiding and anchoring ourselves to the Savior daily is. Before we can ever be effective tools of grace in our children’s lives, we first have to personally be rooted in and in accordance with the Word. He must be on the throne of our hearts so that we can produce fruit. 

“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” - Luke 6:43-45

“The LORD will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” - Isaiah 58:11

He is your water. The well that never runs dry. Others run dry, others fail you, others disappoint. Counting only on yourself leads to dry, desert, scorched-like places - bearing rotten fruit and death. But treasuring Him will ALWAYS result in life, harvest and flourishing!

We’ve come to find out this spring that Noah is a great little baseball player. I truthfully do not care if he even plays sports, much less be good at them. I just want him to have fun and do his best (and be safe!!)! But I am an encourager by nature and have caught myself complimenting his performance more than his character these past few weeks. It’s amazing how something with only good intentions like “great hit, bud!” or “I’m so excited y’all won!” can be the underlying message to a childhood wound of feeling the need to seek out love through performance and success. The last thing I ever want to do is feed the lie that “only when you excel and perform well do you get praise and adoration from parents/authority.” Ellis and I had a come to Jesus moment and made a commitment to shepherd his heart by celebrating who he is (which is not sports, but the tenderhearted, compassionate, thoughtful boy God made him to be!) way more than what he did. The last thing Jesus said on the cross wasn’t “go and do,” it was “IT IS FINISHED!” 100% complete all based on His performance and not mine!

“My children, although they probably cannot articulate it yet, are relieved that when I treasure Jesus, they are freed from the burden of being the center of my world. No child should have to shoulder the weight of her mother’s glory and reputation” (Gloria Furman, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full).

Ellis and I desire for our kids to know that everything in our life is subject to change, except God Himself. We cannot put our hope (or find life and lasting contentment) in our achievements, status, people, money, toys, jobs, etc. because they are not guaranteed tomorrow just as much as we aren’t. He is the only thing in their lives that is unchanging and the only place we will ever find comfort, lasting peace, joy in all seasons, and “life abundant” (John 10:10)! God is the “same yesterday, today and tomorrow” (Hebrews 13:8). That immensely takes the pressure off yourself and those around you to be able to supply everything you’ve ever wanted (and to respond with grace when they fail). 

Praying our kiddos recognize and embrace this truth much earlier than I did!

As you can tell, I do not have this all figured out and I need “manna” from the Lord and His wisdom every day to make it through! I love mothering, but it is the hardest job in the world! Praise God it’s not solely on me to be perfect at it! We were gifted these precious kiddos by our God and commissioned by Him to be a tool of grace in their lives, not instruments of perfection!

Celebrating the joys of motherhood and this beautiful journey that continues to unfold. We’re all in this together, ladies! Please feel free to share your own wisdom in the comments below. It truly does take a village!

Praying you are cherished this weekend, find hope and encouragement in this post and have a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend!

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