Monday, February 20, 2012

Love and Grace and Messes

I don't know if anyone noticed (just humor me and pretend you did even if you didn't), but I wasn't around much last week. Adam and I have been trying to figure out some stuff, and I have been sitting staring at this computer screen for quite some time (since Valentine's day to be exact). . . I'm just not sure how to share, or what the best way is to respond and deal with the whole situation. And now I'm making it sound like a bigger deal than it actually is, or even than we think it is. Anyways, all that to say that I am sharing this with humility and hopefulness that you will be praying for us to demonstrate grace and love.
It's late afternoon on valentine's day, and I am attempting to get Caden to sleep in his crib, a painstaking and often unsuccessful task. I hum softly as I gently lay Caden down, just as I hear the front door fly open and kiddos burst in, a cacophony of laughter and loud and an unmistakable valentine's day sugar high.

I catch the door before it bangs and gently slide shut the barn door, hoping (in vain probably) that the double barrier will keep Caden's eyes closed for more than 10 minutes. I grin as I am immediately accosted by a dozen little arms, offering candy, giving hugs, telling me about their valentine's day. Jayci is in the midst of the bunch, her skin milk to their chocolate. She bosses them incessantly, reminding them all to "play nice," and calling them by their nicknames: boo-boo, daddy, maya, oj . . .

"Daddy" asks me to help with his homework, and he plops down in Jayci's small wooden chair. I sit next to him on a blue chevron floor cushion, impatient to grab the pencil and write answers for him, reminding me once again why I probably should never homeschool.

The sugar high is unmistakable in the especially boisterous crew today. They fight over Candyland, track mud through the house, and pull forty seven books off the shelves before I finally suggest they take the frisbee and football and go outside to work off a little steam. Minutes later, a few of the littlest boys tumble back through the door, offering me roses from the man on the corner.
My heart feels full as I snip the ends off the roses and arrange them in a mason jar on the counter. Finally, we herd the crew out the door, their hands and mouths sticky with the rice krispie treat kisses we made. I breathe a sigh of resignation as I go back inside and begin again the never-ending task of cleaning up. We make the kiddos pick up after themselves, but that inevitably means a candy-land-man left here, a domino there, the queen of spades under the table, and candy wrappers hidden in seat cushions. While I'm straightening piles and shuffling papers back where they belong, I notice: Adam's wallet is gone. Cautiously I ask Adam if he moved it, or if he had seen it anywhere else. We rummage through the entire house before admitting defeat, and acknowledging that one of the kiddos had probably taken it.

We knew who had done it. Or at least we were pretty sure we knew. Like 85% sure. Not sure enough to accuse, and not yet close enough or familiar enough to talk to his mom.  This particular boy is one I've been determined to befriend. He's a tough nut to crack, but I am relentless and stubborn. When we moved in this past summer, we would spend most evenings sitting in the muggy Georgia night on our front porch, swatting bugs, people watching, and drinking homemade peach milkshakes. I would sweat profusely, patting my rounded belly, propping up my hopelessly swollen ankles, and declare night after night that I was going to befriend that little boy. He was always out, regardless of the hour. His cheerful loud voice rang out as the lone child among the adults on the street corner. I was never sure who he belonged to, or why he was out with "unsavory" characters at all hours of the night. But in the stagnant heat of July, I dreamed already of next summer, when he would sit with us on our front porch instead. Eating popsicles and playing cards and enjoying being a kid rather than growing up too fast.

And so, even in this act, I am saddened but not particularly angry or surprised. In fact, if it wasn't for the fact that we want to take advantage of teachable moments, I would be tempted to just let the whole thing slide by, pretending oblivion. But I am convinced that someone needs to love these kids well. And sometimes loving well means disciplining, erecting boundaries, and enforcing them.

The next day, we leave the cheerful yellow sign off the door. Conspicuous in its absence, a few kids knock insistently on the door anyways (they always do), asking what is going on, why we aren't "open" that day. We explain that someone had taken Adam's wallet, and that we are taking a few days to figure everything out and think about how best to proceed. Quite quickly, we are inundated with kiddos calling and knocking and letting us know who took the wallet (the same kiddo we had suspected). We are flooded with offers of retribution, and begging to come back in. The flurry is exhausting. I am so ready, willing, eager to show grace. But I am at a loss as to how best to demonstrate grace to someone who doesn't acknowledge that he wants or even needs it.

And I wonder how often Jesus stands frustrated, ready to forgive us, arms open wide. While we ignore, cajole, deny. We put our walls up, certain of pain, unforgiveness. Divine retribution. And yet, still he stands there. Waiting.

So tomorrow, after much prayer and family time, and wise counsel, we will hang the yellow "hello" out beside the door. And the kiddos will come in. And we will risk, once again, losing things. Having toys, or cans of Sprite, or snacks, or even our wallets stolen. But they are just things, and hearts are always always always more important than things. So even when we are saddened or disappointed. Or when we lose things we think might be important, I will grit my teeth to show grace. Pulling it out again and again, its edges worn smooth from use. But Grace only grows more beautiful with use, changing us and dazzling all those who encounter it.

Still, I am stubborn in my pursuit. Because I know that is how Jesus pursues us. Stubbornly, unendingly. Forever.  And we will pursue reconciliation, while erecting boundaries and expecting more from him. But always, always, we will point him back to the Truth. I will paint with grace-graffiti over the lies he has learned about who he is. I will tell this little boy that he is more than the things he does. That stealing our wallet doesn't define him as a thief. Because we refuse to define him by anything other than what Jesus tells us he is. Beloved. Adopted. Chosen. Forgiven.


  1. As soon as you started describing that little boy it reminded me of a little boy I taught in Boston... and then I got to the wallet stealing part--my little boy also stole my wallet. :( It broke my heart. It's so so hard to show them you love them and break through to them. Thanks for sharing, and I'll be praying.

    I blogged about it a while ago...

  2. A very moving post, Becca. I am praying for you guys, as always. Your words always move me to tears, and show your own unbelievable grace in the middle of mess. :) Thinking of you.

  3. I'm reading this in my car coming home from a dr appt with Trey because he won't stop screaming. They think it's still the stomach bug he had last week. I talked to my parents to figure out a place to meet for dinner (they have the other 2 today) and listen to my eldest have a tantrum that he doesn't want to eat.

    I just have one question - will you just adopt me? ;-)

    What a great post. You are an extraordinary family and I just wish I could do half as much good as you're doing. I do realize too though that I'm doing ok and blog world is a little fantasy - I just read the "good" parts. But wow, just feeling defeated this week. I though things would get easier the more Trey healed but its just a different kind of hard right now. Still can't get my head straight.

    Thanks for your post. They really lift my day.

  4. Been reading your blog for awhile now, but this is my first comment. This post is so beautifully written, it brought me to tears. I know you aren't looking for praise, but I'm going to give it to you anyways. You love people like Jesus loves them and I am in awe. I was forgiven in my adult life for a major pitfall and it was the biggest life changer. True forgiveness and grace are so powerful. I will be praying that this situation turns into one that brings God even more glory than it already has. Thank you so much for sharing!!!

  5. Hi there,
    We don't know each other, but I find myself checking and rechecking my Google Reader to see if there is a new Stanley Clan I noticed. ;) You are an amazing, inspirational family, and your faithfulness amidst hardship and trial reminds me to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus. For that I am very, very thankful.
    Stephanie Bullock

  6. I am so sorry that has happened. I hope that this child will be won over by grace. I will pray for him tonight as I fall asleep. I have had my purse and wallet stolen 6 times during my 'career.' Every time I feel so sad and lost. Like I don't make a difference at all.

  7. Thank you for loving these kids and for not giving up on them!

    "The people I love, I call to account- prod and correct and guide so that they'll live at their best. Up on your feet, then! About face! Run after God!" (Revelation 3:19 MSG)

  8. I just love you. You have such a way with words and a way with your heart and how you let those kids who need you in your life and your family's life. Thank you for sharing your ministry with us.

  9. wow, this post moved me to tears. you guys have such amazing hearts.

  10. I think the only words I can offer you today are " Although I've never met you, I Love You! I'm praying for you and your family. God will show you the way. The Highway to Holiness! It's God's Way!

  11. You and Adam are inspiring to me on so many levels. Truly.

  12. I was just telling a friend of mine last night to follow your blog. Then I thought, "She hasn't posted lately. I hope everything is ok." Then this. I am so sorry this has happened. Your family is such an inspiration! Prayers your way...

  13. Hopefully you will have a breakthrough with this child someday... and if not then hold dear all the ones whose lives you have changed. I gave Carla a plaque that says.." To the world you are one person... but to one person you may be the world." You have already touched so many lives and you've only just begun!! Love to you and your family.

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  15. Thanks so much for the reminder of God's grace and forgiveness....wonderful post!

  16. Holy cow, this is an amazing post! So encouraged. Thank you for being so open.


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