Pinches and Grace

I wanted to pinch the two girls sitting on the front row of our Christmas Eve service. Pinch them I tell you. But they were five rows ahead of me and my arm couldn’t quite reach.

Since I couldn’t physically get their attention, I prepared my “look.” You know the one that says a thousand corrective statements with just a cross expression and a raised eyebrow? Yes, that one.

The minute one of them stole a glance in my direction, they were gonna know exactly how I felt about their wiggling and obvious lack of attention during the service.

Oh and I might should mention, these two girls belonged to me. Well, at least one of them did. The other was my daughter’s friend who sometimes goes to church with us.

I don’t think anyone else really noticed them. They weren’t being disruptive to other people. But they weren’t acting the way I wanted them to. I wanted them sitting up straight, drinking in the message, and taking pages of notes.

Thank you very much. Have a nice day.

Suddenly, an annoying little thought started to tug at the corners of my mind. “You want your children to act perfectly because it makes you look good. Let that go. They don’t need to be sitting up straight furiously taking notes to hear God’s message. This is a beautiful time for grace.”


I don’t much like the Holy Spirit speaking the kind of truth to me that hurts. I was in the mood to pinch somebody. Two somebodies. Give grace? Now?

It wasn’t what I wanted but it’s exactly what I needed to do in that moment.

Soon my daughter’s friend peered back to look at me. Despite my feelings, I made the choice to smile, wink, and give her a little wave.

Then this wiggly, usually not very affectionate, middle schooler got out of her seat. She walked down the aisle, five rows back, and made her way to me. She threw her arms around me and gave me a hug that preached a thousand sermons right then and there.

Indeed, grace was exactly what was needed in that moment.

And that’s what makes this parenting thing so stinkin’ hard.

There are really no textbook answers.

It’s such a moment by moment balancing act between loving, shepherding, disciplining, extending grace, molding, modeling, loving some more and a maybe having to give a few pinches along the way too.

Only God can prepare me with the wisdom and discernment necessary for each and every parenting moment. So I must stay close to Him- ask Him- rely on Him-cry out to Him- and make Him the basis for my parenting.

My goal should never be to raise kids that make me look good. (Oh but how my flesh craves this!) My goal should be to raise kids who love God and spend their lives making His goodness known in their corner of the world.

Blessings to you as you ever so delicately search for that balance between pinches and grace as well.


  1. says

    Good words Lysa! I’ve had similar thoughts through the holidays and actually discussed this topic with my husband last night. Thanks for adding to my thoughts and I pray God continues to guide each one of us down this parenting journey! Thanks for your constant encouragement!! Blessings, Jill
    Loved your following post as well!! Thanks for bringing me a message quite often!!

  2. says

    Oh, Amen, sister!

    Parenthood keeps us humbly at His feet. You summed up a Christian mommy’s desperate heart so well!

    And truly…there is no greater joy than to know our children are walking in the Truth…and shining His light in their corners of the world!

    Depending on Him and His perfect love in this delicate balancing act of motherhood!


  3. says

    My husband tells me this all of the time, darn it, and now the Holy Spirit! Shoot! I'm always getting on to my boys for being boys in public. Hubs always gives me the line, "They're just being boys." Then at home he gives me the, "it's all about you looking good speech." Hello, I've read Dr. Dobson's book, why can't it sink in. Thanks for helping me see the plank in my eye today!

    Paula G.

  4. says

    A friend of mine asked me to start praying with her for our children. And man, oh man was there some conviction in my heart when she prayed that we are raising our children for His glory and not ours. Ouch. I am seeing more and more how prideful I am.

    I need to give my daughters the grace I so desire to receive. And I don’t want them to grow into perfectionists…a stronghold that I am still battling.

    Puttin’ my pinchers in my pockets (the pinchers I use on my girls and on myself),
    K ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. says

    Lysa, I smiled as I read this because I have been there!

    When my son was about 8 years old he was sitting in the front row with two of our Pastor’s younger sons and their family during the ordination service of another one of our Pastors. Things were going well and my son was making me proud UNTIL a time came in the service for ALL the Pastor’s and their wives to go forward and lay hands on the new Pastor and his wife. Oh no…this left three little guys alone in the front row. That’s when it happened. The two younger ones began entertaining my son – who laughs easily. This was taking part during the prayer time! I was dying. I was nudging my husband to crawl past the long line of people to the end of the aisle and march up there and do something…anything. I’m sure I heard my sons giggles as if a megaphone was broadcasting his every sound. It seemed like the longest prayer in history as I sat sweating in my seat. (Don’t ask me what was spoken in the prayer – I couldn’t concentrate. Do you know what your message was about that night? I think Satan gets double joy when he not only delights in our children “being children” at an inopportune time, but distract us from hearing God’s Word as well.) Anyway…finally my husband quietly managed to make his way to the front row and silence reigned. We heard afterwards that the people in the balcony were getting quite the ‘show’ – but really…why weren’t their eyes shut during the prayer anyway!!!

    Thanks for reminding me of God’s grace. One day when my Mom was ill when I was a little girl, my sister and I went outside and plucked the flowering tops off all my Dad’s prized tulips. We brought them in and gave them to my Mom. When Dad came home, let’s just say he was not happy. We admitted to our actions and Dad told us never to do it again. Then he took us out for icecream! When we asked him how come we were getting a treat for doing something wrong, he said it was because we promised to never do it again. He was offering us forgiveness and grace. I’ve never forgotten that example – one that mirrored the love and actions of my Heavenly Father.

    “My goal should never be to raise kids that make me look good. (Oh but how my flesh craves this!) My goal should be to raise kids who love God and spend their lives making His goodness known in their corner of the world.” May this be one of my goals for 2009 as well.

    Love ya,

  6. says

    My eyes welled up on this one Lysa, just a little to close to home. My first born was nearly perfect and so of course I was the “model mom.” But my 2nd duaghter is wild, full of life and well, suddenly I think my skills are lacking. Note to self, it’s not about me!

    Thanks for pinching us moms today! I needed it!

  7. says

    I struggle with this all of the time. Not only how they act but how they look. My oldest daughter age 20, shaved her head to about 1/2 inch. She used to have waist long beautiful hair. I have focused so much on how this reflects on me that I can’t see past this to her true inner beauty. She says she is making a statement on how the world treats people differently based on their “looks” Oh Lord help me!!!

  8. Anonymous says

    Ditto to all that’s been mentioned. Each age and stage is precious and challenging at the same time. Dealing with each child according to personality, temperament, etc. is indeed a balancing act.

    As a homeschool mom, it is easy to internally give yourself a “grade” based on your child’s/children’s performance(s), behavior(s), and even choices because after all they spend a lot of time with you the mom/teacher who should have trained and taught them appropriately. I say that sarcastically because it’s a struggle I have, but I realize the more I’m trying to “control” situations the more it back fires.

    Learning to let go and let GOD in the Northeast

  9. Anonymous says

    That’s exactly how I felt on Christmas eve until our pastor mentioned this same thing. He warned us not to do this and just let our children enjoy the evening! Boy did that ever speak to me! I guess I’m a little to hard on them much of the time and I just need to lighten up, pray in these moments and let God do his work. My scolding and mean looks aren’t exactly what God wants from me. Great point Lysa!

  10. says

    “My goal should be to raise kids who love God and spend their lives making His goodness known in their corner of the world.”

    Lisa, this touched me deeply. I am a mom of 3 very spirited, passionate little girls, 10,8, and 5 (she turns 5 today!) ๐Ÿ™‚

    I remind myself of this all the time…every morning when they pick their own clothes, at a resturant when they are being really loud, and when they are giggling in church. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks for reminding me to remind myself of these things.

  11. says

    I remember my mother clearing her throat and when I heard that (even from the choir loft) I knew I was in B-I-G time trouble when I went home!! There are definitly moments when grace should be extended like a warm blanket.

    Hopefully our new year will be filled with grace-filled moments.

  12. Wendi says

    Wow! Convicted! I need to print this out and put it in my Bible so I can be reminded every Sunday I am in church with my kids. Boy is it difficult. Thanks for the words of encouragement. ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. says

    I will be very transparent and tell you that I have ruined more than one Christmas in my diligence to make myself look good through my perfectly behaved children. No matter that I stifled their exuberance and suffocated their fun. It pains me to think back on it, but fills me with joy to realize how much I’ve grown in this area over the years. And, of course, that growth has been a direct result of His grace…and a pinch or two from above! :o)

  14. says

    Brava, Lysa! I love the message in this post. Extending God’s grace instead of not making minature “us’s” – awesome! There is a time and a place of course, but I’m so glad God spoke to your heart here and you shared it with us. Oh, to have learned this when Kristyn was young…

  15. says

    Oh my! good word and one this Mom needed to hear!…this will be one of the new lessons for me to take into the new year!


  16. Kathryn says

    Wow…that’s what I needed to hear today. In my time with the Lord these past few mornings, I have been praying over my children….praying they would grow to love and know the Lord, despite me! ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you for the words of encouragement.

  17. says

    Funny how God some times turns up the amplifiers in our head when we are being so righteous in church.

    During graduation time our HS graduates come to church in thier cap and gowns. One girl was giggling and acting up and I was asking the Lord if I should tap her shoulder and say something. But instead he said “Luanne if you were paying attention to me you wouldn’t be noticing her.” Oooh that stung!

  18. says

    Thank you for this practical example of the challenges of parenting. There are many times I want to react/discipline in a way I think is best, only to have "that thought" rush through my head saying to offer love & grace instead.

    Thank you for sharing!
    ~ Leanne

  19. says

    How beautifully you put that! I struggle DAILY with wanting my daughter to act “perfect” so as to make me look good…I’m a teacher and I do the same thing in my classroom. If they are good in line then I look like I’m a good teacher, if they are misbehaving then I must have no control…this child-rearing thing is quite difficult at times. I’ll pray for you and you pray for me… :0)

    Kim P.

  20. says

    Love the story.

    Maybe unbeknownst to you, you were sending out a silent prayer for them and your daughter’s friend ‘felt” it. Norman Vincent Peale wrote about “shooting” prayers at people, silently. I’ve done this on the metro here in DC and its amazing how many people turn around and smile at me as they are getting off the train.

  21. says

    Oh, how true, how true!! My 8 year old son has taught me this lesson recently.
    We were in church one Sunday morning and he was being very “wiggly” and what I thought unattentive to the sermon. However, on the drive home, my husband and I were discussing something the pastor said during the sermon and our son chimed in with his thoughts on the subject. Needless to say, I don’t question whether or not he is hearing the sermon anymore.
    You know what they say, “out of the mouths of babes.”
    Thanks for this post – great reminder.
    Bless you!

  22. Sherrie Baldwin says

    I have no children of my own at home(I have 2 in heaven) but I can surely relate to what you are saying. My husband is a pastor and we have a little girl who is 2 years old that runs from her mother to her grandmother,who sits across the isle from her mother. She does this all through the service. It is very disrupting sometimes and I want to say something but I just keep quiet and pray about the situation. Recently her mother has been taking care of the situation. I enjoy reading girlfriends in God very much. May God continue to Bless and keep you!