We were having a hard morning. Our house was overrun with toys, I hadn’t had a chance to get dressed, and my stress level was increasing by the minute. To top it all off, my 3-year-old was having a meltdown anytime I spoke to her. Even looking in her general direction was a grave mistake. It was one of those days that as a parent, you know you’re really in for it.

I was quickly losing my patience. My frustration began to ooze out of me. I snapped orders, stomped around, and my attitude quite clearly was not pleasant to be around. Doesn’t she understand I have a long list of tasks to get done? After a block went flying through the air, landing near me, I finally had enough. It was time for a time-out and a long talk about having a good attitude.

As I carried her to her room, I felt her mold her little body onto mine. Despite her knowing she was in trouble, she sought comfort in my arms. In that moment, I sensed she needed more than discipline. She needed her mom to take a moment to help calm her busy, overstimulated body.

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We sat in her room for over 30 minutes. We didn’t say anything. We didn’t need to. We made a home in the rocking chair, and slowly I felt her body release all the big emotions she was holding in.

In the calm, quiet room, as the rocking chair creaked back and forth, I began softly writing words on her back with my finger: Loved. Chosen. Fearfully and wonderfully made. Forgiven. Made in God’s image. God rejoices over you with singing.

As I gently traced each letter on my daughter’s back, I was able to exchange the frustration of the morning for compassion. The chores could wait a little longer. The house could stay messy. Errands will get done another day.

In that moment, I had clear eyes to see her for the gift she really is. My biggest blessing. A person loved so dearly by God. And she was having a hard day. Just like me.

My daughter didn’t understand the words I traced along her back. The random scrawling had no significance to her at that moment beyond a comforting touch. But it changed me. We were in the midst of a sacred moment, one I could have missed if I neglected God’s tug to embrace grace for both of us.

We certainly didn’t have a perfect day after this. I’m sure I lost my cool a handful of times that afternoon. And you can bet I yet again got caught up in the looming list of tasks yet to be accomplished.

RELATED: Toddlers Are Human Too—And Sometimes They Just Need Grace

But even a week later, I still can’t shake that moment. Even in the hard minutes and hours of parenting, I’m taken back to that quiet moment when God revealed my heart to me and gently corrected me, so I could help steer my daughter to peace.

Often in my frustration, I forget I have a unique individual in front of me, with a very different agenda than my own. Now, I see what will always remain the samewho God has declared each one of us to be.

So even though I will never be the world’s greatest mother, I’ll never have it all together, and despite my imperfect parenting and flawed discipline, I have the great opportunity to tell my daughter who she truly is. She is joyful, loving, creative, and so much more. Wholly loved. By God, and by me.

It’s a task I wholeheartedly intend to tick off the to-do list every day. Especially on the hard days. The days she needs some extra grace. The days she needs to offer grace to others. I can’t think of a better use of my time.

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Kit Heffren

Kit is an artist, pastor's wife, and mom to a very energetic little girl. She lives in the Midwest and fills her time creating beautiful things, cheering on her favorite baseball team, chasing after her daughter, and pursuing Jesus with the best husband a girl could ask for.

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