The Undoing

October 9, 2009 | 33 comments

“Children … They undo us.
They show us how much
and how little we’re made of.”
— Author Leslie Leyland Fields

When day’s first light came, I rustled wee ones from quilted cocoons. I brushed lips against soft cheeks and fluttering eyes, and dressed little limbs in cotton and denim. These are the everyday Mountaintop Moments of home, the moments that swell this Mama-Heart.

But it happens sometimes, when I’m on the mountain: I don’t see the mouth of the volcano behind me, nor do I remember the eruptible lava within me.

The clock ticks. The morning pace frenzies. And between cutting off bread crusts, and the spelling review, and the search for the missing sock, these tectonic, volcanic plates within me diverge.

Unchecked, I erupt. With little warning, I spew lava and poison tones. I leave a home under mounds of ash and pumice — this little Pompeii here on an Iowa farm. Wasn’t it just a moment ago that I delivered the peaceful wake-up call?

Yesterday morning — somewhere between the rousing of sleepy girls and the harried steps to the back door — I lost it. Words rose up, burning the throat and letting go — covering wee ones in ash and lava.

“Shoes on, girls! Come on, come on!” And the lava rose.

She’s crying because she doesn’t want to wear the charcoal-colored coat. She wants the pink one instead, because the “gray one is ugly.” Someone can’t find their folder … and where’s the right shoe, Mommy?

It’s contagious. They’re erupting, too — and little lava streams join to make a raging river.

“Yes, you must wear that coat! It’s the only warm one you’ve got. You left the other in the locker, remember?” These words … they look harmless as I type them into a screen — but I remember how they sounded. They were accusing and crimson-red, dripping from a hot, angry tongue.

I can still feel the jaw tighten, the shoulders tense. Can hear the mama footsteps stomping to retrieve the backpack left by a table with half-eaten breakfasts. The bus is almost here!

I back the van out of the garage, and then she tells me she’s forgotten her bear. It’s “Letter ‘B’ Day” at school, and she needs that bear! I heave one last exaggerated sigh, stop the van and run back inside. Hands of this bristling mama grab soft yellow bear paws, and I run back outside.

I look in the rear-view mirror at reticent faces … and I know they know it, too:

I blew it.

Would it have been the end of the world if we’d missed the bus? Was it worth the ash I left them in?

The bus is late. I see it slowing to pick up kids a quarter-mile up the road. There’s still time to pray, to ask them and Him for forgiveness.

I had shown them how little I was made of — this volcanic flesh erupting in me.

And now I had a chance to show them how much I’m made of — not I, but Christ that is within me. He’s given me this grace of time and space to blow the ashes off this mess.

They drop to their knees behind me, and I reach a hand into the back seat to join the jumble of 20 little fingers.

“Can I start this time?” I ask them.

They nod.

“Dear God, This mommy is sorry. I didn’t need to yell.”

I beg Him for forgiveness … and I beg them, too. They open their eyes, and throw arms around my neck.

“We forgive you, Mommy,” she says. And the lava cools in this Grace Embrace. New heat rises, springing from tear ducts, running a warm-river reminder down my cheeks: I have been forgiven.

Our children reveal to us what we know we are:
beggars before God.
— Leslie Leyland Fields,
As I post today, I take this opportunity to tell you about a book written by Leslie Leyland Fields (quoted above). A few weeks ago, Leslie graciously sent me her book. She asked: Would I take a look?

“I hope you find some words of blessing, encouragement and truth in these pages,” Leslie wrote me. “I know God really changed my heart and thinking through this study.”

And Leslie? God changed my heart, too.

I’ve spent much time in this book over these weeks, underlining, margin-writing, pondering. These words have been life-giving to a mama prone to the minefield of guilt — especially after the volcano erupts.

Leslie, an Alaska mom of six, knows the insecurities of motherhood, too. In her book, she addresses what she calls the “nine myths that can lead to unrealistic expectations.”

Some of her book has – quite honestly — challenged my thinking as I try to divide between truth and myth. Through her book, God has awakened in me what it means to be called Mommy:

“We never replace Jesus in our children’s lives. We don’t even do the work of Jesus in our children’s lives. We do the work of parents, which is to point our children to Jesus,” Leslie writes.

You can find
Leslie at (Leslie divides her time between parenting, writing, commercial fishing and teaching. She and her family live on Kodiak Island, Alaska.)

Click here for her book on Amazon: “Parenting is Your Highest Calling: And 8 Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt.”

Photo: Lava, from stock.xchng

by | October 9, 2009 | 33 comments


  1. Anne L.B.

    There's still time to pray, to ask them and Him for forgiveness …

    Not that I excuse what you did. But in those instances are opportunities to model humility to our children with the words, "I was wrong. Please forgive me."

    And is there any better feeling than guilt wiped away by repentance, forgiveness, and restored relationship?

    I love you, Jennifer.

  2. Shirley


  3. Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus

    Anne & Shirley — Thank you for being these first Christ-Friends to slip in here and stand beside me. It's scary to confess of our own undoing, isn't it? For me, it is anyway. … I'm thanking God for his ability to put it back together.

    ("In him all things hold together …" — Colossians 1:17)

  4. jasonS

    It is amazing how quickly it escalates, isn't it? 🙂 I'm so glad there is forgiveness and God gives us opportunities to grow and change. Thanks for sharing and the book looks really good too.

  5. isumom

    I can't count how many times I let my lava flow as my children were growing up…and as they are in college it still flows from time to time. But oh the joy to know I can ask and receive forgiveness from both them and God. And what joy to know I am not alone in this "mommy guilt" and I am not the only one who sometimes acts before I think. Thank you Jennifer!

  6. patty

    One of the best gifts my parents gave me was witnessing in them an authentic Christian walk which included asking for forgiveness when they screwed up. That example was life impacting to me & how I parent. It is hard to ask a child (and especially a teenager)for forgiveness, yet absolutely vital to learning to accept and experience grace! Thanks for sharing your very authentic heart, friend!

  7. Tabitha@ichoosebliss

    As a mama I am guilty of having moments such as this. I'm grateful I have a Father who is gentler on me than I am and a daughter who forgives in the blink of an eye.

    I truly needed this today.

  8. RCUBEs

    What a humbling thing to do: to ask for forgiveness at the nick of time. What a great example to your children…Great quotes from Ms. Fields. God bless…

  9. Rosario

    thanks for sharing. I confess that I often blow it with my children and husband too. Everyday there is rise of emotions within me. And it is rubbing on my children. They too get angry and say things to each other that hurt. I want to stop this ugliness in me to show on them. I need to get on my knees and pray and also stop and ask for forgiveness to them also.

  10. Bina

    "We forgive you, Mommy,"

    Ah, Miss J…you pull at my heartstrings today. As I make my plans to be gone for our ladies weekend retreat, I found myself already up the mountain while life was still needing to be lived here. Last night, my only son's voice: "Did you make me that cd yet, Mom?" A week overdue and I was rushed, finishing up writing for "my" workshop this weekend. "No, son, and I can't do it right now." It was the softness in the reply that was the arrow to my heart "Oh. Ok."

    I stayed up till midnight last night to burn it…and the smile in his eyes this morning as he sing-songed "Can we play it on the way to school?" was MY "I forgive you, Mommy"…and it soothed the ache after my own lava spewing.

    Thanks for the tears and for your heart.
    You are beautiful!

  11. Missy

    What a beautiful post and a wonderful reminder. I am a newer believer and still trying to find the path God wishes me to walk on. Through that, I sometimes forget that I need to be an example to my children on how to live my life in Christ.

  12. Steve

    How I wish that I had known Jesus back when my kids were at home, and going through some of the same. I knew not the love of God ,and when I lost it (I LOST IT)If I had of known him back then, maybe, they would seek for him more today. God bless

  13. optigrl987

    Interesting that I came here tonight. Two days ago, my volcano erupted with my youngest, who is 15. I apologized but I still sense I have damaged part of our relationship with the hurtful things I said. I pray to God that he will remember so as not to do the same to any children he has and that forgiveness will repair the damage I have caused. I think he is still upset because this is the first time my anger was directed with fiery words at him. I have asked forgiveness also of the Lord. And I believe He will somehow heal the path between us. Thanks for sharing your heart.

  14. Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus


    Bless you. Thank you for sharing. I pray with you, for you … tonight.

    We're only human, and what can we do but CLING to God? … He is good.

  15. Fridaydreamer

    Your volcanic morning sounds awfully familiar. Although my kids are 13 and 18 now, we still have those mornings and the plate tectonics of our family are subject to sudden lurches and grinding stone on stone too. Bless you for noticing, in the moment, the opportunity to pray, and put it all to rights in front of the watching eyes of your children, learning from their humble mama, how to follow Him. From one (former) Iowa girl to another, thanks for sharing your heart with such honesty.


  16. Jennifer

    I blew it earlier in the week, too and had to say I'm sorry. It's hard being a mom, hard to rush children who want to work at their own pace. There's nothing sweeter than the Father's forgiveness. But those little arms around my neck and the "I love you, too, mommy" sure come close.

  17. bluecottonmemory

    You are living my life, but with girls! We pray each morning. The 3rd grader leads THe Lords Prayer; the 5th grader leads the 23 Psalm; when the bigger guys are with us, one is SUPPOSED to share a Proverb, (and the little guy took over the Lords prayer for the other one who rides with his brother now. Then I pray.

    One morning, I explained to one of the older ones, because I felt guilty going into prayer when I had been so irritable, that God knows I am going to fail. However, I repent and ask God to forgive me. I ask you to forgive me, too. I keep trying, but sometimes I have to repent. Being guilty can keep you away from God. God wants you to lay that guilt at his feet and return to Him.

    How beautiful! How encouraging! I'm going to pick up the book you recommended. I've been a mom 23 years, and I constantly need tweaking, still!

    Be blessed!

  18. Carol

    I remember VERY vividly these lava moments I had when my children were growing up. It seemed most often while they were very captive audiences, unable to flee from my rath, as they were strapped in the van on the way to some activity. I would really let them have it! I pray that they have forgotten these times. I best ask for forgiveness now. Never too late! Love-

  19. ~*Michelle*~

    Oh Jennifer… I know exactly how it feels. I just talked about how God teaches us the ultimate lesson on forgiveness and being humble when we need to seek it from our children.

    And it also goes for yourself….sometimes it's the most difficult to forgive ourselves, isn't it?

    I love love love that you prayed right there with your children. So awesome!

    You rock!

  20. eastkentuckygal

    I just found you blog and I'm so very glad. I too am a mother of two little girls and can be very prone to eruptions especially in a rush. I'm working on it with the help of God and seeing the blessings of His work in me. I am also interested in this book. I'll have to start saving now to get it.

  21. Laura

    I am reading Leslie's book right now, Jennifer! She has much wisdom, doesn't she? I am afraid I've fallen prey to a few of those myths a time or two in my life. Her book is affirming what my heart has always known…He must come first.

    I love the description of your morning…sounds familiar!

  22. David Rupert

    leaving behind "mounds of ash and pumice — this little Pompeii here on an Iowa farm" is very graphic (and well-written my friend.)

    Its tough with kids. They know the buttons to push. But the better parent is the one who recognizes the source of the lava…and returns to mop it up.

    David Rupert

  23. Andrea

    I felt so moved by your post. My children are grown now, but how well I remember my own similar episodes and regrets.

    Thank God for His mercy! Where would I be without it? I cringe to think. But, God. . . .

    Jennifer, I appreciate your beautiful words and your honesty. Thank you.

    Blessings to you.


  24. Beth E.

    Oh, you bring back memories of some similar mornings for me! I actually wrote a poem about it several years ago,when my boys were young.

    Perhaps I'll share it with you, sometime.

    Thank you so much for your kind words about Aunt Edna. She's such a sweetheart!


  25. Kee

    Jennifer, have you bugged my house??? I can't sleep because I lost it today. I yelled at them, I'm afraid that I loose it a lot lately. It makes me think that I may scar them for life.

    Your posts always seem to hit home. It's not just a coincidence, God is using you. Thank you sharing such beautiful stories and being honest about it all.

    Also, thank you for praying us. We are back home. My father in law is better but he is having problems keeping his diabetes under control and he still has small blood clots in his legs. I will post about it soon.

  26. Faith Imagined

    Ugh! You have me crying! I can so relate to your story!

    BTW, the book sounds very good!

  27. Deborah Ann

    Thank you for being real. Your words are like feather down pillows to my soul. Somehow they found a way into my heart…

  28. Evette

    Were you peaking through my windows :). How many times have I done the same thing, and been left with guilt. Grace and Mercy, Grace and Mercy. This was just so on time for me. Your blog is such a blessing!

  29. Chrissy

    so wonderful how God and the little ones can give us forgiveness when we deserve it the least huh? Honestly I've been there too 🙁 I think we all have.

  30. optigrl987

    I needed to return here to update you on my last comment. I could not get rid of the turmoil I had caused by my hurtful words. Today, at work, God whispered, 'you need to fix it.' And so when I picked up my son from school, I told him that I had not felt good or forgotten the words I had spoken and how sorry I was for allowing them to be spoken. I told him I never stopped loving him and I wanted him to know how much I liked the fact that he knew alot about things. (In my hurtful words, I flung, "You are such a know it all!!!!!!") I cannot take them back but after my apology, my son turned towards me, his sparkle once more a light in his eye and love in his face and began telling me about his day as if nothing had ever been wrong between us. I am not perfect by any means but I am lucky to listen when God speaks, to not ignore His nudgings and to have a child who is able to forgive. Thank you for your prayers…He heard…

  31. Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus

    Oh Annie ….

    I'm speechless.

    Our children teach us, don't they? They forgive so easily.

    You. Are. Precious.

    Thanks for returning tonight to share your story. I'm touched deeply by God's stirring within your heart. This blessed me immeasurably.

    Thank you.

    And that goes for all of you. Thank you for sharing, for giving me this safe place to be real and vulnerable, … and for holding me accountable.

    What an incredible bunch of folks you are ….

  32. Arianne

    Wow, so me. I'm a volcano more than I like to admit I am. The lava is hot and seeing the looks on my boys' face breaks me every time. I recently got this book, but haven't opened it yet….going to do that soon!

    God bless,

  33. sharilyn

    i love that you did this…the admitting to your children, and to God in front of them, that you were absolutely wrong. and then you asked their forgiveness. what an example that will remain with them far after they have forgotten the emotions of the morning. thank you for your humility and vulnerability in sharing this, jennifer. you bless my heart beyond measure!


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