Because of the Lord’s faithful love
we do not perish, for his mercies never end.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness!
Lamentations 3:22-23 (CSB)
As we ate our takeout and queued up our shows on the DVR, my husband and I caught up on the business of the week. We talked again about our daughter’s behavior, and I confessed something I’d realized about the situation. “I can’t start fresh,” I whispered. “My frustrations just keep building and building, and there’s no break, no relief, no blank slate.”
The conversations about our daughter’s disobedience and disrespect began bringing other issues to the table — namely, our tempers. We realized that our short fuses were contributing to the problem, but we didn’t know how to fix it. And I knew that this fresh start thing was part of it.
Without a fresh start, there’s no forgiveness. And without forgiveness, I couldn’t find my way out of the garbage heap of anger. I couldn’t see the light of grace.
Of course, everyone says that admitting your problem is the first step — and it is. But even though this realization — and the courage to describe it out loud to my husband — felt huge, it wasn’t enough. I needed to make a change for our family. I needed to do something different.
I wish I could say that difference happened naturally, on its own, that somehow I magically learned how to forgive and forget and shower my child and myself with grace. But that wouldn’t be true.
What happened instead was that I kept feeling angry and frustrated; I kept losing my temper with my disobedient, disrespectful little girl. And I kept remembering that I am part of the problem. I would put her to bed, so mad at the latest argument and so glad to be finished with the day, and then I would cry because I didn’t know how to stop feeling that way.
But then as I lamented our struggle to her first-grade teacher, something did change. My daughter’s teacher suggested we use the same color-coded behavior chart at home that they use in the classroom. I knew several months into this school year how important the color chart was to my daughter.
Every afternoon, her response to my question, “How was your day?” was what color she was on: A green day was good, average, normal, nothing to see here. A yellow (or even red) day meant she was crying before she even got in the car. A blue or pink day, though, was cause for celebration — high fives and hugs all around!
We’d made a half-hearted attempt to use a color chart at home before, and it didn’t help at all. But at this point, I was not just angry and frustrated; I was disappointed in myself and a little desperate for help.
And it worked. It worked! But not for the reasons I expected.
See, at school the colors came with consequences, and the good colors came with prizes. Plus, students had the added incentive of their classmates knowing where they stood each day. But none of that was in play at home. I wasn’t about to give out prizes for simple obedience, and her baby sister didn’t care what color my daughter was on.
What made the difference was that at the end of the day, no matter how ugly or difficult or red it was, I moved my daughter’s pin back to green. Every day started at green. Every day started fresh, blank, clean. It had the potential to be better or worse, but it started on green.
Something about physically moving that clothespin back to the green spot on our laminated color chart reset my heart, too. Even after the worst days, that simple gesture lifted a burden from my heart. Moving my daughter’s pin back to green let me breathe again. It helped me love her better, again. And it reminded me that because of God’s great mercy I get to start on green each day, too.
Though I struggle to be a good mom some days (or some years), God is the perfect heavenly Father. So it should have been no surprise that His methods work for me, too. God promises to wipe our slate clean, to remove our sin as far as the east is from the west. In the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, He offers us an abundance of mercy — and then He promises to refill that overflowing cup every single day.
Part of the Lent season is humbling ourselves. It is lowering our defenses and our pride, allowing God to strip away our sin and our distractions. It’s the grueling work of meaning it when we say, “more of you, less of me,” to our holy and mighty God. But though we begin this season there, God doesn’t leave us in our guilt and shame. He doesn’t force us out of the garden, naked and trembling. No, instead, He reaches for us and covers us in His grace. He erases every sin we confess and loves us through the entire process.
Just like my daughter gets to start on green, so do we. Even when we’re our most disobedient, we are forgiven. And we get to start over again. When we’re washed clean by the blood of Jesus, we get a fresh start. What a precious gift!
Heavenly Father, thank You for loving me so much better than I can ever love my own children. Thank You for adopting me into Your family and loving me even when I’m as disobedient as a child! And thank You for forgiving my every sin, wiping the slate clean, and giving me a fresh start each day. Because, Lord, I mess up every day. I need Your grace every day. And I’m so grateful for it! Thank You, God. I love you. Amen.
Excerpt from Journey to the Cross: Forty Days to Prepare Your Heart for Easter by Mary Carver.
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God reminds us of this powerful promise in His word that offers peace to our hearts in hard seasons.
Ruth Mills says
Love this encouragement! I also like knowing God doesn’t wear a wrist watch, His mercies & forgiveness are there whenever I go to Him regardless of time of day to reset me to “green”.
Beth Williams says
Oh so thankful God is merciful. I a mere human mess up daily. Either saying/doing wrong thing or not doing something I should. Praise God He doesn’t force us out naked & afraid. He lavishes His love on us. He reaches down & takes hold of our hands & clothes us with grace. Every single sin I confess is wiped away clean. Each day we start afresh. With such forgiveness we should also forgive. Even when it may seem hard or frustrating. Loved the prayer at the end. Abba Father thank you soo very much for loving us better than we love others. Teach us your ways so that we can love as you do.
Krystal Killy says
We have the same color chart at home. And for the same reason, behavior. It has worked great, and not just for my 7 year old, but my 4 year old as well!
How my heart needed to hear this today. My daughters and I had a terrible fight last week, and I confess, I am struggling to forgive. Thank you for reminding me of my need to show them the grace that my Father shows me.
Kelley F. says
Thank you for your post. This morning I woke up crying and went to bed crying last night. We have had a family struggle going on for four years this April. I see glimpses of light at the end of the tunnel but then we take steps back. Thank you for sharing your challenges. When I want to give up praying, I will remember your post and continue pushing through our hard places in prayer.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
I don’t have kids. But I was a Registered Childminder for 19 years. It not that I didn’t want kids. I was way to scared to give birth. I love kids. But I found it hard at time with disapline with kids in my care. If naughty. Because I knew they had different types of disapline one from me one their parents if naughty at home. Then me when their parents were working. One I found working parents would be sometimes not disapline as right as they should. Because they had not seen their kids all day. They be a bit softer on disapline things at times. Let them away with things I wouldn’t have during the day. So it was hard for me. One parent in my care said I don’t see my child that long after I pick them up from your house. It 5pm them by the time I get home. Get tea made. It such a short time of quality time together. Until it bath time and story time and bed time. If I see my Child do something wrong like throw a toy. I am making tea. I sometimes just turn my back and pretend I didn’t see them do that. They think I am Mum that does that all the time. Then when I do tell them of for say it wrong the Mum said to me their kid then sometime does not talk to them for a while. They feel they missing out on valuable time with them. When all day they been away at work from them. It near bed time. It hard. Then I am not letting them away for throwing the toys at anytime. When I was a Childminder. The Child looks at me. Think’s I too hard on them. I have to say I not I doing it in Love to teach you throwing toys is wrong Jesus disaplines us Adults in Love when we do wrong it for our own good. Through his Holy Spirit. We that are save might not like it at the time. But in the end it worth it. Like going to someone we had something against because they said something they probably didn’t know they said or done that hurt us. Saying to them in a nice way what you said hurt me. But I prayed about it and asked Jesus to forgive you. Or you said something to hurt them going to them and asking them to forgive you. As you know God’s Holy Spirit is telling you to that. You prayed to God to help you do that. Make friends again. You then feel so much better. Thank you incourage for another excellent reading. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xxxxx
Ooh! This was really good, Mary! I wish I’d read this when our 3 daughters were young. Maybe it would have helped me be a better mom. But now it can help me be a better person or maybe a better grandma or friend. Thank you!
Carol Brown says
What a wonderful word picture for God giving me the “green” start every second of my day. Prayers and hugs that in the precious relationship with your child–there will always be “green” and even more rejoicing in the pink and blue
This was truly inspiring thank-you for sharing.
Blessings to all,
connie ker says
This story of a color chart was given by a teacher at school. This is why children and parents benefit from face to face learning in schools. My grandchildren in Michigan are still doing virtual school and it has been over a year of closure. I am praying for Michigan to open their schools asap. Teachers are front line workers!
Thank you so much! This was the beautiful reminder I needed to hear
This ministered to my heart so well this am. I had just finished pouring out my heart to God about the behaviors struggles with my kindergartener daughter, and how I am just so weary of it all. Then I opened up this. Wow. It’s like God was reaching through your words to give me a hug. Thank you!! And I also just ordered a behavior chart too! What a beautiful reminder of His new and fresh mercies each day. God bless you!
Nancy Ruegg says
Green is for growing! And just as loving parents celebrate growth in character and maturity, I’m quite sure God does too. Mom and Dad don’t withhold love, affection, and praise until perfection is displayed in their child; neither does our Heavenly Father. Praise God, he has compassion on us, he knows what we’re made of, remembering that we are dust (Psalm 103:13-14 HCSB)!