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Day 5 meets Spiritual Practice of Parenting: Isaac teaches me Grace

November 5, 2013

What getting directions from Isaac is like.

Sometimes, my kids humble me.  Sometimes they humble because of  how poorly they behave.  Other times, it is because of how much higher they rise above than I could imagine.

Today, I am thankful for Isaac, in particular the sweet ways Isaac has demonstrated grace over the past few days.

A couple of nights ago, my poor John was losing it.  The time changed occurred, but his internal clock didn’t get the memo.  He was up before 5 am, after a busy few days of trick or treating, school, soccer games,  and a new babysitter.  He was worn out.  Then, this time changed and I was keeping him up an hour past what felt like his bedtime and he was exhausted.  I can’t remember exactly what transpired.  I do remember there was lots of weeping and gnashing of teeth.  By dessert time,  John had lost the chance for dessert, wailing on the couch about everything imaginable.

Enter Isaac.  As Curtis was dishing Isaac’s ice cream, Isaac told Curtis he wanted to give one of his scoops to John.  A short conversation ensued, in which Curtis told Isaac that John had lost his dessert and if Isaac wanted to share his ice cream that was fine, but Isaac wasn’t getting any extra.  A brief discussion about avoiding sharing germs followed, Isaac being concerned since he didn’t want any of my germs that had flattened  me that day.  Isaac asked for a second bowl and then with his sweet little four year fingers, gently lifted one of his scoops out of his bowl and placed it in a the second bowl.


John noticed nothing of what was going on.  Nothing.  He was too busy wailing.  I told John (I was sitting next to him on the couch) to go talk to Isaac.  John walked over and Isaac gave John a bowl of ice cream (after a brief internal struggle about which bowl to keep and which to give).  The crying stopped.  John couldn’t say anything and ate his undeserved ice cream in silence and solemnity.  When he finished, he looked at Isaac and said, “Thank you.”  John knew he didn’t deserve that ice cream.  He figured out quickly that Isaac gave his own ice cream to help John feel better.

Curtis and I sat on the couch an looked at each other.  Who was this sweet third child of ours?  Both of us knew we couldn’t take credit for what transpired.  It wasn’t our fabulous parenting that caused Isaac to share with his brother.  It was just Isaac.  Tears formed in the corners of my eyes as I told Curtis, “that’s grace.”  I saw a small demonstration of grace from my four year, a better example than I’ve seen or heard of recently.

The following day, it was still crazy in the Novinger house.  John had another morning of getting up before 5 and the afternoon craziness was amplified.  John and Madeleine were playing soccer in the backyard and John accidentally barefooted kicked Madeleine on the ankle.  She rolled around in the wet grass crying.  I asked John to help her up and he ignored my plea, walking the opposite direction.  “Do you remember when Isaac showed you great kindness yesterday?”  I asked John.  “We show kindness to each other in our house.”

John went out to help Madeleine up.  Isaac walked over to me, making supper in the kitchen.  He hugged my legs and I picked him up for real hug.  Before I was able to put him down, he put his finger in his mouth, and I must admit, I got nervous.  Who taught this kid to give wet willies?  I wondered.  Instead of going for my ear, he put his finger on my forehead and made a cross on my forehead, much like is done at church when we remember our baptism or get marked with ashes on Ash Wednesday.

We tried to get from Isaac where he learned to mark a cross on our forehead.   From church he said, after we eat.  I racked my brain and just now realized that he may be blessed like that (except not with spit) by his Sunday School teachers every week.Who is this child of ours?  I wondered.  He can’t be from us.  Our child are wild things, who are too often mean, I thought.  In that moment that I was marked with a cross in spit, I experienced God’s grace.  It wasn’t that I had just exhibited poor parenting (for a change).  It was that I was reminded that I am a beloved child of God, with whom God is well please.  Me.  In my kitchen, picking through almost beyond hope arugula and frying sausages for supper, I was a beloved child of God.  Grace was reminder of such.  Grace was the spit on my forehead letting me remember I am God’s.  These tired children of mine, they’re God’s too, and I need to remember to bless them and show them grace.

Today I am thankful for Isaac.  I am thankful for the Isaac who teaches me about grace and reminds me I am loved by God.  I am thankful for Isaac and his silliness.  I am thankful for Isaac in all of his four year old, unable to follow rules to play a game and always has to win glory.  I am thankful for the Isaac who pesters his siblings when he wants to play with them.  I am thankful for the Isaac who drives us all batty when he is tired with whiny.  I am thankful for every bit of our Isaac today.

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