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Spilled Milk and the Power of a Mama’s Words

This morning, one of my children started the day by accidentally spilling their entire bowl of cereal and milk all over the kitchen floor.

And it wasn’t just a neat little spill (is there such a thing?). No, cereal and milk were spattered all over the place.

It was not the best prelude to a Monday morning and I wanted to get frustrated over it. I quickly caught myself, though, when I looked into the eyes of this child and realized that the last thing they needed from me was shame. Instead, they needed grace.

I had the opportunity to either speak words that would hurt my child, or bless my child. Instead of venting, I stopped, took a deep breath, smiled, and said, “Here. Let me get you a new bowl of cereal. And let me wipe you up. Don’t worry about the spilled cereal. I’ll clean it up.”

You know what? I felt so much calmer just saying those words. My child immediately smiled and all was well. And it only took a few minutes to clean up anyway.

But lest you think I’m some rockstar mom, let me tell you that I totally failed in this regard just yesterday — and it was over something much smaller than milk and cereal splashed all over my kitchen. I got upset. I yelled. And I said hurtful words.

Words that wounded. Words that penetrated. Words that shamed.

For the rest of the day, some of my family members carried heavy hearts and discouragement as a result of my words. Even though I asked forgiveness, the damage couldn’t be undone.

As was so evident to me yesterday, our words have lasting impact — either for good or for harm. In 25 years, the spilled cereal and milk and the inconsequential things that happened yesterday will long be forgotten, but my words can never be taken back.

My new mantra: “Grace, not shame.” Will you join me?

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  • Nicole says:

    Ahh, I’m with you on this one. Yesterday I spilled a jar of water with blue food coloring. It wasn’t a “neat” spill, to say the least. It splashed on everything…the counter, window, clean dishes, my clothes, and even all the way across the room to the fridge {still wondering how I managed to accomplish that one!} I needed grace for myself, instead of getting mad that my favourite skirt was no ruined, and taking it out on others. Thankfully the Lord did give grace that was needed.

  • Robyn Y says:

    Wow. The same thing happened to me just this morning with my daughter’s cup of milk. Although it spilled in her booster tray and wasn’t a big deal – I still had that tinge of “UH!” but held it back and gave grace instead. Holding every thought captive!

  • Jen E says:

    I will never forget the day I was helping carry in the groceries and I had the gallon of milk. 2 stairs was all I had to climb. My mom was very much a yeller of everything. She was full of grace that day that said there was no use crying over spilt milk. I felt so aweful and she was so caring.

  • Ginger says:

    Thanks for this story. I once read: “Speak only words that make souls stronger.” This touched me deeply, and made me want to think carefully before I speak. I don’t always succeed, but words are so powerful that I have to try.

  • Amy says:

    Another reason that I love reading your blog! I really feel like the Lord uses you to speak truth into my life at just the right time. I have 4 children – 7, 5, 3, and 22 months and this is an area that I struggle in. I am joining you – “Grace not shame” I may have to post those words around my home and even in my van to remind myself. Thank you for being real and vulnerable with your readers. I have shared this mantra with my husband as well as he has shared that he struggles with the same thing.

  • Elise says:

    I will never forget this post for the rest of my life. Thank you from a mom who really needed this.

  • Abbie says:

    This is so great. Thank you so much. 🙂

  • Becky says:

    Wow, Crystal, you obviously hit a nerve…for me too. 🙂

  • Donna says:

    This article couldn’t have come at a better time…Spot on…I just wanted to let you know that I’ve been struggling with this issue lately. Having 6 kiddos 10 and under whom I love very much, there’s times when I find myself frustrated, overreacting, and using hurtful words that do not build but rather destroy. Lately I’ve been praying hard that God help me keep my mouth under control and extend more grace towards my children. I always regret it after letting my mouth unleashed, but I cannot take my words back at that point. This past week God has really been convicting me of this issue. Just about every radio program I stumbled upon, including the “Focus on the Family” program mentioned in another comment, every article I came across and even Sunday sermon was about how to be Christ like in the midst of the stress when we’re under pressure and how to keep our emotions (anger) under control. Gotta Get To Work… I have a long way to go, but I’ll take it one day at a time..

  • I so needed this today, thanks for enlightening me!!! Grace, not shame…..I am joining you!

  • mommygoes says:

    You are not alone, and yes, I join you. I have had my share of blow-ups – famous for them unfortunately. But you are SO right when you say that taking that breath, and offering grace is immediately calming – like God breathing HIS grace on us as well. Thanks!

  • deborah says:

    A wonderful mantra!

    I fail at it too many times. It is so easy to just react in the moment, in the situation. If I am in another room and hear something happen, I’m much better at taking a deep breath and being calm than when I’m right there.

    Most of the time I’m upset or react with frustration because it is interrupting me or causing more work etc for me. It is my own selfishness instead of grace.

  • cara says:

    grandma now but i remember when i was in the same situation as you were and are now.
    missing every little spill enjoy life and enjoy your kids while you can as the song goes it won’t last long you’ll miss this time. where would we be without grace and what better way to show our kids. Love your story and love and prayers always to you and yours.

  • Kelly says:

    Thank you for this post. As a fellow Mom it made me stop and think. This morning was a rough morning, lots of my daughter not listening (she was busy being 3) and lots of frustration on my part. I thank you for the reminder that on the mornings when I give in to Grace that things go a lot smoother and faster.
    It made me think of a morning a couple of weeks ago, we were having a grace filled morning and after I tied my Daughter’s shoes she looked me right in the eye and thanked me and then grabbed both of my cheeks gave me a big kiss and told me “Mommy, your so pretty when you smile!” Took me everything I had not to cry but the warmth and the positive feelings from that one moment lasted for days.

  • Amanda says:

    Love this. Beautiful motto!

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