Guilt transformed into Grace

I woke up this morning with the Hot Dog Story on my heart.

The original story happened in the summer of 2008. My kids were in preschool. I wish I had the exact date circled on my calendar because it’s the day in my life that mom guilt transformed into mom grace.

I had no way of knowing it, but I was forever changed by the hot dog incident.

from guilt to grace

The Hot Dog Incident (in brief)

If you want to read the full version (and I encourage you to) it’s posted <here>.

The short version? I discovered my kids sitting on the kitchen floor eating a meal of over-cooked hot dogs and watered down soda. They’d cooked the hot dogs themselves and put them on a (slightly) dirty plate. My microwave was covered in bits of exploded hot dog shrapnel. The soda was leftover melted ice from a drive-through cup.

No buns. No ketchup. No chips.

Just exploded hot dog on a dirty plate and watered down soda.

My kids were proud and happy to be eating kitchen scraps on the floor.

I had planned an elaborate hot dog “feast” involving buns and ketchup and chips.

Right there, in the midst of my mom guilt about the dirty kitchen floor, the melted soda, the unsupervised children, the dirty plates, and whatever else I could find to beat myself up about, God spoke.

Apparently, I’d been missing out on a few hot dog “feasts” from God. I’d been content to eat scraps off the dirty floor and skip the ketchup.

If I was saddened to think about what my kids missed out on, how much more was God grieved when I missed out on the “ketchup” he had intended for me to enjoy?

All of my mom guilt just drained away.

Guilt transformed into Grace

God used that hot dog incident to reach me.

I had been struggling – our family was still reeling from the financial impact of me becoming a stay at home mom. At the time of the hot dog incident, I was still unpacking boxes in our downsized home. We’d moved from new and big to old and small.

I was far from God – after many years of being without a church home, we were in the beginning stages of embracing a church family. My prayer life at the time consisted of “why me?” and “God, help me find the car keys.” and “Lord, I need diaper money again.” After years of running from God, it was proving… difficult.

I was feeling anything BUT blessed.  The downsized house and praying for diaper money were just a sample of my woes.

In my mind, all the problems started when I became a stay at home mom. To top it off, I wasn’t even enjoying my new role.  You can imagine the amount of guilt I was feeling.

God met me where I was. Right there in a dirty kitchen, surrounded by mess.

The brutal truth is that I felt like I deserved it. I deserved the mess. I deserved the old and tired house. I deserved the adult equivalent of exploded hot dogs without even a little ketchup to help choke it down.

I was wrong.

Grace: being given what I don’t deserve.

Mercy: not being given what I do deserve.

I was so focused on what I felt I deserved that I couldn’t see or comprehend God’s Grace or Mercy for my life. I was stuck. I had been spending so much time on the kitchen floor that I couldn’t even see the banquet that God wanted to spread before me.

God used those hot dogs.

It changed everything. Once I got up off my kitchen floor (both literally and figuratively) I began to look around. I began to be able to SEE how God was trying to bless me.

I quit seeing the “old and tired” house as a punishment. I began to see the blessing that we’d sold our “too big and fancy” house just before the housing bubble burst.  I began to see just how often God answered my prayers for car keys and diapers.

When I could see those little blessings, I could begin to see the big ones. I could see Mercy and Grace.

God’s mercy and grace give me hope -  for myself, and for our world.   ~ Billy Graham

I let go of guilt.

When I did, it was life changing.

I began to see how all my struggles and failures as a mom were drawing me closer to God.

I began to draw close to God. I could understand more about the loving character of God (my heavenly Father) as I experienced the love that only a mother can comprehend.

I began to feel blessed.

I began to apply the healing balm of grace liberally in every aspect of my life. My husband might “deserve” burned beans for dinner, but he was given grilled chicken instead. My new friend might “deserve” a cold shoulder because she forgot it was her turn to arrange the play date, but she got a warm hug instead.

In turn, I was blessed by a happier marriage and a stronger friendship.

My guilt transformed into grace. With every faltering step towards Grace, I was blessed more abundantly.  Even now, over six years later, the cycle continues.

Sweet friend, if you’re wrapped up in mom guilt, I want you to know that I understand. I’ve been there. I go back and visit from time to time. But it doesn’t have to be that way! You can say yes to ketchup! And buns! And even clean plates and a fresh soda.

Quit settling for the scraps on the floor.

You deserve far more. You deserve far better than hot dogs.

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Susan Baker
I have a passion for encouraging weary worn out mothers to find joy in everyday motherhood and peace in unlikely places. I have two elementary school boys, one nerdy husband, and two cats. I have a strange fascination for bad puns, the color pink, socks, and books. I worry about running out of toilet paper, wine, and chocolate.. I serve an amazing God. I live an ordinary life filled with wonder.
Susan Baker
Susan Baker

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  1. What a wonderful illustration. Did you see that someone on the 31 Day Survivors Facebook page was asking about mom guilt experience. I’m sure she would love to see this. It is amazing how God teaches us so much through our children. Now it’s time for me to start seeing the blessings in my life.

    • Natalie, that’s actually what prompted my post today. I read her question and immediately thought “hot dogs.” This is one of those stories in my life that just won’t quit giving.

  2. Awesome post, Susan! Our God is so great and so gracious! He is so good to have spoken to your heart through a hot dog explosion. Thanks for sharing.

    • I’m so happy I was prompted to share the story again today. I love being able to share how God has lavished his love on me, even in such a quirky and unexpected way as exploded hot dogs.

  3. This is so very beautiful and totally spot on. I’ve discovered that guilt always creeps around waiting to hit me on the head in my lowest moments (and those tend to be the moments when I’m furthest from God).

  4. Don’t you just love how God is ever ready to speak to us -to break through and bring a breakthrough – using our everyday lives? What a great exchange – guilt for grace! Such a powerful story, friend! Thanks for sharing!

  5. OH YES. Hand me the ketchup!!! Well, actually make it Dijon Mustard, I don’t like ketchup! All.Is.Grace. Love the post. It was so visual, I could “see” it. Bless you Susan DEAR!!! Using that word a lot today because I mean it. #FMF xo

    • I miss #FMF and am always tempted to rejoin in the writing. For now, God has me where I’m at. I love reading all the posts and seeing how each of you take the same word in different directions. I love seeing how all those different voices combine to tell a bigger truth – invariably revealing God great truth in a new way. You are all DEAR to me, even if I no longer join in the free writing frenzy.

      I’m more of a chili dog girl myself. But for this story, it’s always been about the ketchup.


  6. Love this post filled and overflowing with grace and humor. Oh what we learn from our kids. And I’ll take a little ketchup today! Visiting from Inspire Me Monday and so glad to visit you again. Happy Christmas!

  7. We are going through a “single income down size” with our not so new house and these words spoke to me. Thank you. It’s tough when we live in a such a materialistic society to see how much God gives us and loves us each day.

  8. I love that you’ve shared your baby steps toward Grace. Us mom’s DO carry a lot of guilt and we need these kinds of reminders about God’s grace and mercy. Thank you!

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