Grace Like Rain

Words, like raindrops, sometimes fall hard.

It was Wednesday, the fourth straight day of showers from a tropical storm, and we were already saturated when we left for the vet’s office. But the cat got in a fight, punctured in two places, and his wounds needed some immediate dressing. So my brood and I, the three that rarely leave my side, we packed up the cat in his crate, put on our rain coats and boots, and prepared to spend the morning in damp, cramped quarters inhaling antiseptic and dog treats.

The bickering began only inches past the clinic’s threshold.

“She looked at me funny,” whined one.

“She told me to shut up,” tattled the other.

Then the littlest one joined the fray with his stomping and wailing around the waiting room.

A half hour of this and all I had the patience to do was plug them up with complimentary lollipops from the cup sitting on the counter.

But finally, with cat shaved and shot-full of antibiotics, we checked out and headed for the door, dodging another downpour as we dashed through puddles in the parking lot. We reached the safety of home after hydroplaning on the highway, out of the rain but not the torrent of sibling squabbling.

“Mo-o-om! She won’t share her Pet Shops!” came a cry from the basement.

“Shut! Up!” cried another.

I looked out the window by my kitchen sink, wearily watching it rain like a few of the pets I’d seen earlier that morning, then dried my hands on the kitchen towel thrown over my shoulder. I called my daughters upstairs and handed them each a piece of paper and a pencil.

“For the next twenty minutes,” I instructed them, “I want you to write a love letter to your sister.”

Eyes bulged, then rolled. Shoulders slumped.

“I’ve listened to you speak harmful words to each other all morning,” I explained. “Now you need to make up for it by writing words that make each other stronger.”

Paper and pencils were snatched out of my hand with half-hearted compliance. Feet stomped to respective rooms. Then silence.

When the timer on the kitchen oven beeped, sisters emerged, quieter, gentler, and they came to the table with their letters. I told them to hold hands and read what they’d written. The youngest blushed then volunteered to go first.

“Sorry for saying shut up to you, like, a thousand times,” she read timidly. “You are pretty. You are smart. You are creative. You are generous. Yay for you. I love you.”

Her older sister smiled and read her love letter in return.

“I’m sorry for being mean to you. I think you are cute, funny, and creative. You make the best crêpes. Maybe we could snuggle and watch TV together.”

Her sister beamed.

“We could also make a big teepee and play games in it,” she continued. “I think you are pretty and sparkly. You are a princess. I love you. P.S. Here are some other words for you: loving, kind, thoughtful, graceful, fun, silly, special, amazing, unpredictable, priceless, adorable, sweet.”

Wrapped up in each other’s arms, they hugged their apologies then ran downstairs to continue playing together.

I stood for a minute by the table, peering out a wet window, anxious about the weather and what it might bring, and I thought how words, like rainfall, have both the power to give life and the power to destroy, and I hoped that that was the end of the destruction in our house.

Sadly, the worst was yet to come.

That afternoon, after divying out their daily school assignments, more bickering and bemoaning seeped in, and my anger bubbled up, flooding high. And that’s when the levy broke.

“Why are you making this so difficult for me?” I shouted. “Why can’t you just do what I say?” 

As the rain pounded on the roof over our heads, my words fell hard all around them, and like the Susquehanna River a quarter-mile from my house, I raged until my throat burned.

The girls sat speechless, shaken, and I stormed upstairs to check on the son I’d woken up with all my screaming. When I returned, a huge pool of water had collected on the carpet by the west wall of our newly finished basement. Quickly, I gathered every towel in the house and tried sopping up the mess. I was drenched, exhausted, and later, when reinforcements came, I retreated to my bedroom to dry off and pray.

But I couldn’t. I felt too bogged down by guilt, by how horribly I’d handled my children’s hearts that afternoon, and so I turned to my to-do list for the day and smirked at what it said:

 “Leave a sweet note for your children.”

Of course, God’s idea of déjà vu. And so I grabbed a piece of paper, a pencil, and redeemed the time lost by penning a letter of love.

In it I apologized to my children for deluging them with such hurtful words. I asked for their grace and forgiveness. Then I showered them with words I hoped would make them stronger.

To one I wrote, “I love your imagination. Your ideas take me to places I’ve never dreamed.” To another: “I love how you treat your friends. You are always willing to let them go first.” And another: “I love your bumblebee kisses, how you sting me with wet fingers and zap me with your charm.”

On and on I wrote, and eventually I, too, emerged from my room quieter and gentler. I read my letter to each of them as I tucked them in for the night, and they blushed forgiveness, sweetness, strength.

When I closed my eyes that night, as the rain continued to tap on my windowsill, I was finally able to speak to God, and this is what I said:

Thank you, Lord, for reminding me today that I am still Your child, never above the lessons I am trying to teach my children. Thank you, too, for accepting me as I am, a work-in-progress, and that You are the only Perfect Parent around. I am refreshed and strengthened by the Love you continually shower on me, flooding my heart. Help me to do the same for my kids. In your Name, I pray, Amen.

Comments

  1. Erin Richer says:

    Homeschool mom quote of most days: “Are you KIDDING ME?!?!?!?!?!?!?”

  2. I wish I was pretty and sparkly

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