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Love and Punch Buggy

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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“Silver one!” she yelled, punching me in the arm from the passenger seat. Michaela, my ten-year-old stepdaughter, had spotted a silver Volkswagen bug parked on the side of the road. “Aw, that’s not fair!” I joked. We were nearing Randolph College, home of at least two VWs. Who would see them first? I tried to distract her. “I wonder if you’ll see Claire at music camp…” All’s fair in love and Punch Buggy. “Black one! Blue one!” We yelled in unison. Then we punched each other with great satisfaction. “I saw them first,” I said playfully. “No, I did.” “No, I did.” She grinned. I tussled her hair and ran my fingers along the length of blonde strands, savoring the moment. The game started earlier this summer. Any time the two of us were in the car, we played Punch Buggy. Initially, the competition was fierce. As was our relationship. In the four years since Peter and I have been married, Michaela and I have had more than our fair share of battles. As recently as last fall we faced a standoff. I noticed Michaela struggling with math homework. She’d been home from school over an hour and hadn’t refueled. Sensing she needed sugar, I poured a glass of orange juice and placed it in front of her. “Here, Michaela,” I said. “Drink this. You need energy.” “No, I don’t,” she refused. “Yes, you do. Please drink this,” I insisted, wondering Why can’t she just obey? Slightly louder she said, “I don’t want orange juice. Can I have grape juice instead?” My stomach was in knots, but my voice remained calm. “No. I’ve already poured this. Drink it.” “Please, Cheryl!” She wiggled in her seat and rubbed her feet on top of one another, a sign of impending meltdown. “No, Michaela,” I insisted. Then I marched to the oven and set the timer. She hates the timer. “You have four minutes.” She erupted. “No! Don’t set the timer. Please, I’ll drink it. Just turn the timer off. Please! Please!” After twenty minutes, countless tears and a phone call to Peter, Michaela drank the orange juice. Similar scenes protrude from the rocky terrain of our relationship. I find it harder to recover from these episodes with Michaela than from negative encounters with my own children. Instead of forgiving and moving on, I build up walls of resentment. I withdraw and nurture my anger. This spring, a wise friend asked, “Do you love her unconditionally?” “At times,” I said, and immediately recognized the contradiction. Gradually, my heart softened. God showed me the ugliness of my negative attitude toward Michaela, and I was broken by the overwhelming weight of my sin. But Jesus' forgiveness brought relief and new resolve to go and sin no more. Michaela and I began playing Punch Buggy shortly after that. Though intense at first, we eventually started to tease one another, grin, connect. No more than a month later I journaled, “In some ways, it feels like I’m finally beginning to love Michaela.” And though we still have tense moments, my love toward her continues to grow…with each VW we spot along the road. "VW Beetle" photo by H de C II/Hugo. Used with permission. Post by Cheryl Smith.
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