From Naughty to Nice

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I made the naughty list.  And I’m OK with that.  My five-year-old, on the other hand, is not.

I heard the squeak of the office door, a tale-tell and soon-to-be tattle-telling sign she was where she shouldn’t be—doing what she shouldn’t be doing. 

I caught her red-handed and covered in smudges of bold black ink, cold-busted holding a used ink cartridge she’d creatively used to decorate every visible area of skin on both her and her little sister (A.K.A. sneaky little accomplice).  There they stood, covered in soot from head to foot.

After yelling the ring leader’s first AND middle name (‘cause you know I mean business when I yank out the middle name card from my mean mama bag), I said, “Go get your little tail in the corner right now!”

Seconds later, the wailing ensued and the river of tears flowed.

The punishment fit the crime, but somehow the reaction didn’t.  For even greater infractions, I’d seen her react with utter nonchalance while choreographing a tap-dancing show in her time-out corner.

So I bent down to ask, “Why are you crying like that?”  She drenched my shoulder and hugged my neck, slobbering and blubbering, “I’m…I’m afraid I’m on the naughty list!” And then back to the ear-shaking, earth-quaking sobs she went.

“Ahhhhh!  I see,” I said as the lights twinkled on.  We’d just visited Santa who’d told her she “should” surely make the “Nice List” for behaving so well.

I tried to stifle my grin, before my own creative mind went to drawing.  I could sure milk (and Christmas cookie) this for all it was worth and for as long as it lasted.

All I had to do now was add the Naughty List to my bag of mama tricks each time she dared to make a bee-line for the naughty line.

Visions of obedient girls danced in my head as I nearly giggled with glee and shook my own bowl of jelly.  But as much as my head wanted to, my heart melted like cookie dough instead.

I saw myself in those same coal brown eyes and crocodile tears. At times weighing my good and my bad, thinking God was keeping a list and checking it twice, and hoping he was adding more checks than x’s.

And maybe I don’t do it for my ultimate salvation, but if I’m honest, I’ve done it for the gifts in between.  The peace.  The joy.  The blessing—even the healing.  Well, if I do more here, maybe He’ll bless me there.  Or, I haven’t done this, so He can’t do that. If I could only be good—enough.

Until He fixes my fuse and strings together truth, illuminating His Christmas tree of grace. Erected in love. Held together with nails on outstretched branches and dripping with ribbons of scarlet. Topped off with the crowning Star of David. The Son of man, born in a manger to die on a tree—and rise again for you and me.

Once and for all.  For all who would receive this priceless gift.  No strings attached.  Only believe. And receive. (John 1:12)

We won’t be, can’t be, and we don’t have to be good enough because He—is enough.

Grace is Him doing what we couldn’t and us getting what we shouldn’t.  He took the nails and the coals, and every bit of our naughty when all He had in Him was nice.  Removing our sin-filled smudges and soot from head to foot —with one swipe of grace, there’s not even a trace.  How can it be?  He leaves us as white as snow, spotless and free.

So my naughty little kids and their naughty big mama can celebrate the greatest gift exchange of all time.  Merry Christmas y’all! You betta be good for—well, you can scratch that.  Freely receive His gifts and embrace His grace this CHRISTmas season.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

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