Thursday, December 1, 2011

{People Before Things}

"Jonah, I am helping Ben with spelling.  Can you just go find something else to do?"

Something besides repeatedly sending matchbox cars across the floor, flying with a loud smack into the wall.  I wince each time.  Ben can't concentrate.

"Ok!" he's off and I relax a bit, finish up spelling, load the dishwasher.  Only then do I think hmm, what might he be up to?

Paint.  Blue.  Of the poster variety.  Smeared all over the coffee table.  MY coffee table.  And on the rug, my favorite wool braided rug.

I snapped.  Snatched it all up, and sent him tearfully packing up the stairs.  I scrubbed and mumbled and generally gave into bad behavior that is so hard for me to shake.

As I scrubbed and it seemed that yes, the paint was coming out, I recognized my mistake.

"Jonah?  Can you come down here please?"

He cautiously approached, eyes pathetically tear filled.  My heart shattered and I scooped him up onto my lap and looked deep into those warm brown eyes.

"I'm sorry, babe.  I shouldn't have yelled."

"Did the paint clean up?"  He's worried still about that stupid coffee table, that unimportant rug.  I cringe when I realize its me who has taught him this - that things matter most.

"Yes, honey, but it doesn't matter.  I'm sorry.  Will you forgive me?"

Its so humbling to apologize to one's children.  I'm asking him to set me free.  This Mama needs a full measure of grace.

"Ok Mom.  I love you so much!"

Its only then that I catch a glimpse of his jeans.  His bright blue, wet with paint jeans.

I peel them off, and 10 minutes later I'm vacuuming the rug, thinking I'm done and then - I see it, the rest, all over the couch.

"People before things.  People before things.  People before things."  Its my mantra and my lifeline.  It keeps me sane, it keeps me seeing what matters and what doesn't, the self sermon that just might stick if I say it enough.  I get the upholstery cleaner and go to town, but ghosts of the stains remain.  Bright blue.  I just keep chanting.

Maybe it is easier for me, with my second hand furniture, to let it go.  Its still hard.  But even if that $150 second hand couch had cost me $10,000, really, does that matter more than this little heart I just squished like gum under my shoe?

If I really put people before things, before all things.  If I had a heart that loved even in the messiest situations. If I could see once and for all that my anger and uncontrolled tongue is much much uglier than blue smears on my couch.

Maybe then I wouldn't have to chant it loud.  Or write it on the chalkboard.  Or keep that snippet of paper in my pocket, words burning into my fingertips.

People, ALWAYS, before things.

{And later on, I see it - paint blue, the color of Advent.  Perhaps the best way to celebrate Christmas is in putting people before things.}

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  1. You cannot know how timely this was! Children were all peacefully coloring in the kitchen. Time for me to run and get dressed. I grab my iPad and check email. Pop into your blog for a little momma inspiration and then I hear, "mom! It's all over her!". I had not even finished reading your post when I found my two year old covered in white out!!!! My six year old got bored with the markers and crayons set out and dug though my office supplies... Oh my... Well, my two year old is still covered in white out as it won't come off for a while but having read your post, I was reminded before my temper flared at my six year old for getting things out they are not allowed to touch, that people go before things. I loved reading your post. Even read it to my children. It helped me during a critical moment that might have set the tone for the day. I too though, many times have blow it in my humanness. Begging for grace and forgiveness from my little ones. So, we carry on. Seeking grace in every step we take.

  2. Thank you for this. I have been there...much too often. I think I need to chant your mantra, write it on the chalkboard and keep in on paper in my pocket...maybe write it with sharpie on my arm too.

  3. Powerful words and writing.
    So often we learn that things come first then people and it is hard not to value our pretty things isn't it? people first... what a mantra to start out the new year with. thankful and wise words for all to remember.

  4. A wonderful, thoughtful post and one about which we all need reminding on a regular basis. Thank you.

  5. This is such a wonderful reminder; not just for messy children but for other people as well...perhaps a husband who leaves messes and forgets; instead of getting mad at him for always forgetting, I could instead use that time for loving him and building him up. :)

  6. Lydia, thank you for this reminder. I sat and read this post in tears as your words hit me with the reminder of those times I too have recognized the pain I've caused in my children. It is so awful to realize we have the ability to wound our children's tiny, tender hearts, and as you said, they are then learning these hurtful things from us.

    I love the mantra, and shall use it often.


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