Of ballrooms and kitchens. And letting it begin with me.

I sit on the edge of my bed, tears squeezing past closed eyelids. I’m rehashing a conversation that went badly, replaying my words in my head, wondering where I goofed, how my gently-intended words were so misunderstood, how an evening went from peace to a snarl of unhappiness that I can’t shake hours later. Was the fault mine? Was there overreaction on the other person’s part? I don’t know.   I just wish I hadn’t spoken.

There’s a ballroom scene I’ve seen in a dozen movies, dancers spinning briskly around the room, couples moving different directions, none colliding, choreography picture perfect. Not even in my most idealistic moments would I expect family life to resemble that picture. Of course in the family dance, there are collisions between dancers now and then. Moments that bump, resulting in tears and apologies and direction changes to avoid future insult.

Really, though, family life isn’t a bit like a ballroom. It’s more like cramming the whole crew into a small kitchen, opening the dishwasher and the silverware drawer and half a dozen cupboards, and then assigning everyone a different task. It’s hot and crowded and everyone’s in a hurry and when you’re not getting kicked in the shins, you’re banging your head or your hip on a door.  And danged right you’re irritated at the person blocking the knife drawer, because how the heck are you gonna cut this onion if you can’t even reach a knife?

That’s why we all desperately require grace. I need to give grace to the one who just jabbed me in the ribs, so that he can go on to give grace to the one who kicked him in the shins, so she can then pass grace to the one who just growled threateningly. Because in something as tight as a family, the dynamic is all about reactivity.

Yeah, sometimes usually always that means forgiving someone who doesn’t deserve it.   It means biting back retorts richly deserved.   It means forgiving thoughtlessness and smallness of heart and emotion-fueled stupidity all in the interest of peace.  Because if I spew frustration, no matter how justified, that frustration is going to spill to the next person, and the next, until the whole family is one big snarl of unhappy emotion. We’re all swimming in the same stew after all.

But if I can model grace, if I can strive to not take offense, I can be a part of the best kind of chain reaction there is, where one kind act leads to another.  Where love and grace are spread by people conscious they’re being loved better than they deserve.  It’s a hard, hard thing to do.  One that can only be done imperfectly, and only by God’s power.  But, oh, how I want that atmosphere to permeate my family.

Let it begin with me.

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  1. This is beautiful, Mary. Passing it on.

  2. Thanks for this post today. It was just what I needed.

  3. amen.

  4. It’s something I struggle with often. Thanks for sharing it so eloquently.

  5. Sue from Buffalo says:

    You’re singing my song. Boy, can I relate!

  6. What you say is such truth! Thank you for putting into words so well. I needed to read this right now in my life. Thank you.

  7. Hello Mary,
    I just stumbled onto your site two days ago & I’m now hooked. I was just having this conversation tonight with my husband. Then I log on here & you’re talking about it. Thanks for a beautiful, honest, vulnerable & thought-provoking post.

  8. Boy, did I need to read that today…
    And every day.

  9. So good. Thanks.

  10. I feel convicted by this post.

  11. Oh, yes. Thank you so much for sharing this. We all need so much grace!

  12. We should all strive for that grace…yet, so often…we fail. Thankyou for this reminder & I will keep you in my prayers. Your family is quite bit bigger than mine (I have 4 children) & I know how tensions can run high in this house…I can only imagine what it is like trying to orchestrate peace in a group your size. You are amazing & awe inspiring. 🙂 We do serve an awesome God,huh? 🙂

  13. I know this feeling.

    This is something I am working HARD on personally. I am the adult. I should maintain control. I should extend grace and mercy. So hard when your child or husband has done something so incredibly rude. It’s self control at it’s best. That Fruit of the Spirit I struggle with so much. Control of my mouth. Control of my emotions. Control of my temper. Control of my reactions. All things God is refining and working hard within me.

    ((hugs)) my dear friend….((HUGS))

  14. Love this a ton. So true! Thanks:)

  15. Thank you for your post. I truly need this in my life right now. We took in my now 16 year old niece almost a year and a half ago, and it has been perhaps the hardest road I have ever walked upon. Grace to your family!

  16. This was beautiful and so true. I often don’t hold back the cutting remark or the dramatic sigh or mean and hurtful words that erupt like a volcano when my mind can’t take another thing after juggling work, dinner, kids, clean up duty, and the other billion things on my plate, just like everyone else’s plate! And when I’m lying in bed it all replays and I feel so badly especially since I’m so blessed – my family is healthy, we have jobs, we have a home, we have food, and we have each other. But frustration, impatience, unhappiness overshadows our home lately and this is going to be my inspiration to change it – because I truly believe one person can change this mess – hopefully it will trickle through and we can all rise above this grey mist of unhappiness. Thanks for showing us this side – you always seem to have it so together that I can’t imagine disharmony in your home – its nice to feel you are as real as the rest of us!

  17. This is a really good post. Sometimes I get tired of always being the first though when it’s my husband rather than the kids.

  18. Mary, I put up a review on your book “Family Feasts for $75 a Week”. Hope you like it.

  19. Chrystal says:

    Just what I needed. This is something I am working on in my own life. I have a tendency to speak out of frustration, especially to my husband. I am trying to find that balance between saying something before I am angry/frustrated and being a nag.

  20. Very nicely said Mary! Do you mind if I share this when I speak publically to homeschool moms and mothers of many? I will give credit to you and direct them to your blog.

  21. Sure, Jill, you are welcome to share it! Would also hugely appreciate a mention of my books….

  22. I <3 you. 🙂 And not just because you're honest about what it's really like to be a mom.

  23. I read this yesterday morning, and it stayed with me all day. Yesterday was a very trying day, but each time I wanted to snipe or gripe, I thought of you and this post and made an effort to be graceful and patient. And it really made a huge difference.

    Thank you!

  24. yes….yes….YES…you always put things just the right way. thank you mary! xo

  25. Wow. I had the same experience last night. Grace. Indeed.

  26. I agree! Too true! It is so hard to follow those “unmarked rhythms of Grace”