Because I want our children to have these memories of a mama who smiles easily, listens closely, shapes laughter and grace, compassion and thanks and all these good days out of all the tangled craziness.
But I’m not sure when it happened.
When I first realized the sighs and whines and groans slipping out of my mouth – over the littlest of things. Or how my children too often became inconveniences… interruptions.
Why was I all of a sudden so surprised by the puddles of water after a bath? Why did I groan every time we went somewhere and I had to find missing shoes, zip up coats, and buckle safety-straps? When would I stop counting the numbers of interruptions, the loads of laundry, the hours I didn’t get to sleep? How long would I find myself cringing at the decibel of happy-noise, instead of joining in with it? Why would I sigh when my boy came to me with crocodile tears instead of having compassion on him?
I remember the day the little old lady with gray curls, smiles of wrinkles, and a heart of gold took my hands in hers. And I looked into the gentle eyes of this mama who had birthed nine babies and raised them to love Jesus though she had married an alcoholic, an atheist.
And she didn’t sugar-coat motherhood. She knew the pains, the toils, the messes, the not-liking-being-a-mom moments.
But she also knew the countless joys, and the beauty found in knees bent low – in prayers prayed, in shoes tied, in crumbs swept off the floor, in getting down with aching joints in trust of her Father when her kids didn’t seem to have a father.
And she told me I could too – if I would remember who my God is and who my children are.
I remember smiling and nodding and thinking that I wasn’t planning to get amnesia anytime soon. Yes, I mess up my kids’ names. But I’m their mom. I’m not about to forget who they are – even if I did have to put the doctor’s office on hold every time they asked which child I was calling about.
It wasn’t until I recognized the little acts of discontent quietly creeping into my life that I understood that gem of wisdom.
That it’s not just about whether I say the right name at the right time, but it’s remembering that in my home are little souls. And I shouldn’t be shocked when they act like… get this… children. :)
He knows how you, how me, how any of us are formed. He remembers that we are dust. And God-became-flesh may have been amazed at their unbelief, but He didn’t sigh over their neediness. He didn’t groan every time someone came to be healed. He wasn’t surprised when they got hungry. He had compassion.
He saw them as real souls.
So for all of us who have always aspired to be moms, yet find sighs and moans our new primary language – and for all of us who have been thrown into this mothering gig, and had NO idea – here’s a start of a list to help us know who our children really are…
(Hoping you can smile and nod and giggle just a bit along with me – and that together we’ll see the joy in who God made our children to be today. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll fall in love all over.)
Children are messy.
They dump organized toys into a pile of stuff in the walkway. They spill juice and milk and hot-chocolate and nail-polish. They spit-up on your shirt. Clog toilets. Explode poop across the room. Track mud prints everywhere. And drop paper scraps, hair accessories and every single Lego ragtag all over. They leave permanent markings on walls and books and living room couches while you’re trying to take a shower. And they make a mountain of crumbs from one little cracker – it’s amazing! Like their own little fish and bread miracle?
Their slobbery faces leave smudges on mirrors and windows and grocery cart handles (and occasionally the dreaded public restroom stall). And their sticky fingers entwine with yours and streak right to the depths of your heart.
Children fall – a lot.
Bumps. Bruises. Casts. Stitches. Scars left blaring or hidden on the inside. And we can baby-proof all we want to, and protect as best as we can. But if our kids never fall, they just might never learn how to stand on their own two feet. Sometimes I think this is where our kids can learn the most… about life and courage and getting back up again after a fall. It’s this crazy thin-line dance between protecting our kids, and realizing that broken arms and broken hearts happen, and might just bring about the most glorious of life lessons.
We can’t protect our kids from everything – whether it be a bee sting or bike crash or walking into a wall (or maybe that’s just my kids). So let’s show them how to crawl to Jesus when they are down, and not forget to reveal how to rise again after a fall.
Children are children.
They are not adults yet. It should be a no brainer, but I seem to need a reminder every so often that it’s normal and fun and incredibly awesome to be a kid. To have energy and innocence and wonder and no cares about what others think about crazy hair-dos and mismatched outfits or if you’re running behind for that appointment. To be loud and forgetful and silly and not know how to cut paper.
And while I want my kids to be respectful, wise, mature, and responsible – it takes time and lots and lots and lots of practice (and even more patience from an adult willing to come alongside them to guide them and answer their millions of questions).
Children are individuals.
Each one unique in their own special ways. With their own personalities and interests and character traits and quirkiness.
She doesn’t like cheese no matter how I try to hide it. He will always run out of the room and around the house during “intense” parts of a movie. She has to have her clothes just right. She, I think, was born mischievous. She chases every stray animal in hopes of making it her pet. And she just might build her own orphanage one day.
And I can choose to nurture these children in all their quirkiness, even when I don’t understand it. I can let them be people, and have their own opinions. I can learn to listen deeply, and to find value in who God has and is making them.
Children are sinners.
Yep. Even the cute, snuggly, smiley, melt-your-heart ones. And nothing can quite prepare you for that first time you know that your sweet little angel knows that what she’s doing is wrong – or the time after and the time after and the time after that. And at some point each of these babes who were cradled in wombs will crush the hearts of those who love them most.
It’s this tender place where the need for a Savior is so raw and so real. And Jesus says, “Come!”
Children are followers.
I’ll always remember the sweet tiny hands that patted my back as I rocked her to sleep – a mimic of her mama. And I’ll probably never forget the look on her face when she scowled at her unsuspecting baby dolls.
Little eyes always watching. Little ears always listening. Little hands and hearts that need to be taught how to serve and love and forgive one load of laundry, one misunderstanding, one grocery store run at a time.
Children are image bearers.
It doesn’t matter if they were born with three toes or an extra chromosome. If their hair is curly or straight. If they have light skin, dark skin, in-between skin. If they excel in math or fail in spelling. If they live on this side of the world or bone-thin across the ocean. Every life is valuable, because every life bears the image of God.
Just as he has my dimples and she has a way of talking just like her mama – God’s fingerprints are all over this dust that He breathed right into… beautiful reflections of Him.
Children are not the center of the world.
They might think they are, and I might be tempted to place them in this exalted spot at times. But these children must know that although they are precious image-bearers of God, they are not and never will be Him! There simply isn’t room to put our children in that position when we’re centering our lives around Christ.
It’s okay for them to wait. It’s okay to tell them “no” even when everyone else seems to be saying “yes.” It’s okay for everything to not be exactly to-the-millimeter fair. It’s okay to teach them to show honor by putting others first. It is okay for them to realize they are but dust. And as I lovingly show these little ones that the world does not revolve around them, I must remember that I can’t do so while acting like it revolves around me either.
Children cost time and energy, privacy and tears, sleep and money, love and prayers.
They have this innate sense of knowing the moment an adult is on the phone – even when they’ve been happily playing on the complete other side of the house and their mama happens to be hidden away in a closet trying to make herself comfortable on top of the hamper. And they are so good at squishing their little faces to the ground to peer through and poke as many wiggly fingers under the crack beneath the bathroom door… that is until they learn how to unlock it. They wake us up with hunger cries and bad dreams and wet beds, and they steal our place in bed. They get sick ten minutes into vacation. They make the process of getting out the door one hundred times longer. They need their food cut up into eventually thousands of bite-sized pieces.
Oh, and did you know that if you have two kids, you spend about 1460 minutes each year just brushing their teeth!? That’s over twenty-four hours of bubbles and spit. You’re welcome. – And, yes, Dr. Hankerson, we are working on flossing. :)
Once smooth skin is made stretch-marked flabby. And they stretch into the deepest places of your very being.
But I dare say they’re worth every single sacrificial penny!
When the little boy had no coins to offer, he emptied his pockets inside out and came up with a half-ripped sticker – but he gave it anyway.
Though they take, they have got to be some of the best givers ever. Of hugs and dandelions and already been chewed crackers. Of smiles and forgiveness and all that can be found in their pockets.
And it happened. I turned one day from cutting pizza into slices looking for babes crawling at my ankles, only to end up looking at eyes that reach almost to my own. No more colicky babies. No more cribs. No more diapers. And this season of half a dozen kids ages 9 down to 2 will soon be but a memory as well.
Them growing me in ways I never thought possible. In wombs and arms and grace and love.
Children are a gift.
“Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him.” – Psalm 127:3 NLT
A gift. A treasure. From the LORD.
So, no more sighing or groaning (except when I forget once again, and need to come back to remember). For although motherhood is hard, I can choose to see… to see my children for who they really are… to see my God for who He really is… to see Joy in the the tangled craziness of it all.
Memorizing Psalm 103 with us? Here are this week’s verses…
13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
Psalm 103:13-14 NIV
Last week: For the Guilty Mama