Choosing the Better way


It’s that time of year again: a flurry of graduation notices nestle in mailboxes, tassels are ordered, gowns prepped, excitement at what lies just around the corner fills the air… I remember the day our firstborn was graduating from High School. It was a hectic day, with lots going on. She brought me her blue gown, “Mom, could you please iron this? It has some wrinkles on the front.”  I took it, hesitatingly. My skill sets do not include using a hot iron. “Um, honey. Are you sure we can’t just sort of shake them out?” I looked hopefully at her. She laughed. “Mom, it just needs a couple passes with the iron. I would do it, but I have to finish getting ready. Thank you!” She gave me a peck on the cheek and dashed back upstairs. I sighed. “Ok, let’s get this done.”

I followed everything I knew about ironing: plug in the machine and let it get hot. That was the extent of my knowledge on the subject. As it heated, I started humming, excited for the day. I spread the blue material out on the counter, and lay the iron over the worst of the offending wrinkles, pressing lightly and quickly. To my utter horror, a hole appeared in the delicate fabric – it had melted right through it! What had I done!?

“Oh no!” I cried out. Mark and our four other children gathered around to see the damage, as Hannah also ran into the room. “What’s wrong?” “Oh honey, I can’t believe this! Look! Oh Hannah, I’m so sorry! What are we going to do?!” I wrung my hands, tears streaming down my face, as I held the ruined gown, showing them the hole, the size of a giant strawberry, right on the front panel in plain sight for all to see. I was devastated. I had ruined not only the gown, but the Day. The day that was supposed to be filled with promise and hope, excitement and laughter, beauty ~ and lots of pictures. And now, all of that was going to be ruined – just because of my ineptitude. Tears didn’t fully convey the pain in my heart as I held out the evidence of my inadequacies to my daughter. I waited for her to cry in dismay, too, but instead, she took the gown and set it on the counter. She gave me a hug and gently assured me, “Mom, it’s ok. Please don’t worry about this. I can still wear it – it’s not the end of the world.”

What? It would be ok? How?? Hadn’t I ruined all chance of that with my carelessness? She hugged me again, “I love you. And this doesn’t matter. It’s just a gown. I’m still graduating, right? It’s all ok.”

Her sweet words of encouragement hit the intended target, as I dried my tears.

I remember feeling such pride in our girl that day. Not only for her achievements in finishing well her scholastic goals; but even more, for her sweet, gentle expression of forgiveness and love when I truly needed to hear it.

Her response reminds me of the verses in I Peter 3:3-4, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

I doubt that too many people noticed the hole in her gown that day, but I sure did. And I teared up with joy at her God-honoring response as she crossed the stage to receive her diploma, radiant and lovely.

The following year, our second daughter was graduating. I offered to buy her a new gown to replace the one with the hole in it. Abby smiled, “That’s ok, Mom. I kind of want to use that one. It has a special meaning now, you know?” Oh my! Really? Tears filled my eyes as she hugged me. Talk about the gift of encouragement!

This year, our third beautiful girl is graduating. I assured her that it wouldn’t be wrong to purchase a new gown, but she too has opted to use the “special gown” over replacing it with a new one. It’s almost become a badge of honor. May I tell you what a joy it is to this mama’s heart to see that my daughters are all choosing to place more emphasis on the day than the accouterments of it? Each time I see that gown, I think of the road that we could have headed down, full of anger and frustration, bitterness at broken dreams… but instead, it has become a symbol of a better way that was chosen: letting go of all insult and offense, and replacing it with love and forgiveness.

If you’re blessed to see our daughter Lydia stride across the stage to receive her diploma in just a few weeks, you may notice a gaping hole on the front panel of her gown. Now that you know the story behind it, I pray that you are blessed and that you smile a bit, as you’ll surely see me doing.

Do you have a story to share of a time when you, or someone in your life chose a better way, that had ripple effects of blessing?  I encourage you to share it… Let’s talk…you know – between friends. 🙂