In Her Shoes is a series written by readers to give us a glimpse into their lives – what it is like to walk in their shoes. Today I am excited to introduce you to my friend Jennifer Bisek. Jen is one of the warmest and most creative people that I am blessed to know. She is a wife, and she is a homeschooling mom of three incredibly cute kids. Today she is sharing with us how grace and second chances have transformed her heart and her family. Let’s join our friend as we learn what it is like to walk in her shoes. ~ Ginger
When our daughter was born, we named her, then we changed our minds and named her something else for ten minutes, then we decided that the second name “didn’t fit her,” and then changed her name back to our first choice. Her middle name is Grace… I didn’t know it then, but her name foretells the biggest lesson I will learn on my parenting journey.
Motherhood did not come naturally for me. I kept reading in the mainstream baby magazines and mom forums to go with my “mom instinct,” but my instinct seemed to be drowned out by first-time mom fear. The solution for my lack of mom knowledge was to parent “by the book” for everything. How could I wrong now?? Ugh… Talk about stressful. A cookie cutter book does not work for a non-cookie cutter child.
We welcomed our first son into the world two and a half years after my daughter was born. This time around, I was going to have mom instinct. I was going to make sure of it. This time around, I had attachment parenting on my side. I did all sorts of research, and if there is anything I know about attachment parents, it’s that they are all about relying on their natural instinct.
I did all the right things to form attachment with this baby. I nursed him. He slept in my bed at night. I wore him in a wrap, then a ring sling, then a Mei Tai until he was three years old. Pretty much everything I did with my firstborn daughter, I did the opposite with my son.
This lifestyle change brought out a ton of guilt for not raising my daughter up this way. I worked on repairing her attachment with me. I began letting her sleep next to my bed while I held her hand. I would buy crafty activity sets for us to do together. But mostly, I would just regret all the stuff I didn’t do with her.
When she was five years old and my son was two years old, I found the missing link to our relationship. The part that I was missing had to do with discipline and grace.
See, I thought I was doing a good job of discipline. My kiddos do something wrong, I correct them. We repeat that fifty times a day. Easy peasy. Truth is, we were all frustrated and angry. It just wasn’t working. I was frustrated because I had to stop my wifely duties of cleaning/organizing, laundry, cooking, and domestic research/inspiration (achoo, Pinterest!) fifty times a day to tell my two children all the things they are doing wrong. They were frustrated because they wanted me to play with them, they wanted to help me clean, they wanted to ask me questions, mostly they just wanted to be near me… But I was too busy being a maid and a cook, that I didn’t have any time to spare for them… Unless I was forced to stop to correct their behavior. It was an awful cycle of punishment, not true discipline.
Last year, about the time I became pregnant with our third baby, I became aware of another aspect of Attachment Parenting in what’s known as gentle discipline. This isn’t just about no spankings and no time outs. It’s definitely not about being permissive. It’s about taking the time to really focus on a genuine relationship with each child and to guide them into adulthood, while understanding and respecting normal childhood development and setting realistic boundaries. It’s not about making our kids into perfect little adults. Gentle discipline is a reflection on how God disciplines us.
God invites all of us into a relationship with Him just as we are, as children who only know how to behave the way we always have. He pursues us first and our hearts turn towards Him. We realize that we cannot go through life without Him. We fully trust Him to know what is best for us because He has shown us how much He loves us. It’s the same way with our children.
As a follower of Christ, I am supposed to live out His love towards others as an example of who He is. I’m the one that needs to invite my children to me. I need to stop the busyness of cleaning and play with them. I need to give my undivided attention when they talk to me. I need to prove to them that they can trust me with their hearts. When that happens, then we can have true discipline. They will let me guide them without feeling like I just want to control them.
This is where the other part of our relationship with God comes in. It’s about grace. Unmerited favor. It cannot be earned and is not deserved. This is the main focus of our discipline. When the adulteress was caught in the act of her sin, Jesus had every right to judge her according to the laws. He chose not to. Instead, He gave her grace. When my kids mess up, I have every right to judge/punish them according to the laws… Or do I??
In John 8:7 “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Jesus still disciplined (guided) the adulteress without punishing her. He gave her a second chance (grace) to redeem herself and move forward with her life in a better direction.
I’m not without sin. Very far from it, in fact. So, I have no right to punish them… But it is my job to guide them. When my kids see me repent because I’ve messed up, they see that none of us are ever good enough to be without a Savior. I am able to discipline them by showing them God’s Word, and then helping them see where they’ve fallen short. That helps them grow without punishment. They can see what the punishment for sin will be through God’s Word.
If I’m constantly trying to change only their behavior by punishment, then I’m undermining the fact that we need Jesus as our Savior. It causes them to think that if only they are spanked enough, or given enough time-outs, then they will have perfect behavior at some point. Instead of punishment, grace is the basis of discipline our home. God gave mankind an untold number of chances to redeem themselves before He sent His Son to die for us. Each time we mess up, it’s a reminder that we will never be good enough on our own. Our family motto is: “In this family, we love and we give second chances.”
When I began to understand grace based-discipline for my children, I was better able to accept the grace based-discipline God has for me as well. As a mom, I mess up numerous times a day. I have grown-up adult tantrums when I yell at my kids for their behavior. I complain about not wanting to do my chores. I sound a whole lot like the behaviors I don’t want my children to have. So, I have to stop myself, sometimes mid-sentence, apologize for my tone of voice, and start over with my request instead of demand. I have to live in the grace of second chances all day long.
When our third baby was born, we thought we lost him. He was limp and purple, and he was whisked out of the room immediately so that the NICU doctor could work on him. All was silent as I was being stitched up. I looked over to my steady-as-a-rock-hubby, and he had tears in his eyes. We both were preparing to hear the worst. I asked him if we could pray together. He kneeled close to my ear and we began praying for God to be with us no matter the outcome. Then one of the nurses shouted to us, “Do you hear that??!!” That’s when we heard our son from the other room begin to cry oh so very wonderfully loud.
About an hour later, we were trying to decide on a name. We went through a few name combinations, changing them every few minutes, when we decided on Grayson. It fit every part of him and his birth and his coming into our family.
Grayson’s birth symbolized so much to me. His birth helped me heal emotionally from my firstborn’s birth. His life was given a second chance when we thought we lost him. His childhood is my second chance at parenting with grace. Grace for my children and especially for myself as I walk through this crazy journey of motherhood.
Jen, thank you so much for sharing your story with us today! The reminder of how gently guiding and disciplining our children is a reflection of how God cares for us is a wonderful thing to remember. I know that I am going to look at how I engage with my children a bit differently after reading your story. I love knowing that I am not alone on this “crazy journey of motherhood,” and that there are fellow moms learning about grace right alongside me!
To read more stories, or if you would are interested in sharing your story, please go to the In Her Shoes tab near the top of the page. I love learning about the people in this series. Connecting with others seems to make the world feel not quite as big and scary. We’re all in this together. I can’t wait to hear from you, to read your stories, and learn more of what it is like to walk in your shoes. ~ Love, Ginger
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