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Singing blessing...

I love having kids.  One reason why?  It means I'm constantly learning.  I thought I would be always teaching but I find I'm the student (and sometimes aptly the child) more and more.  For instance, one thing that I am learning over and over again is waiting.  Waiting and putting off everything I want or need to do because someone very small always, always comes first.  And they have to come first.  I've heard it said to never pray for patience.  Wrong.  If you never want to learn patience, don't have kids.  Just a head's up.  Pretty sure I'm going to be learning patience for the rest of my life now.

My boys teach me beautiful, Biblical truths.  They don't even know it.

Yesterday I walked into the living room and Joel launched into an immediate first confession: "Sorry, Mommy!"  I took in his sad countenance and how he was all slunched (my new word: a combination of "hunched" and "slouched") against the end table next to the couch.  "Sorry for what, bud?"  He looked appropriately ashamed, "Mess with the remote."  The remote was there but his hands were nowhere near.  "You messed with the remote?"  He affirmed.  I told him that he was right, it's not a toy and he's not supposed to mess with it.  And then I told him I loved him and that I appreciated his honesty.

Confession.  Grace.  Unconditional love.  No condemnation.  Christ's love and life pattern shouting loud right in my ears.  Blinding true right in my eyes.

Even this morning, all early and still dark, I soothe a crying, snotty infant back to sleep.  He flops his head from side to side and kicks his legs, his frustration evident and I continue to "Shhhh." and rub seemingly lazy circles along his back, my palm rustling over the soft blanket.  And I think - how many times has that been me?  How many times have I soaked my own bed with tears of either anxiety, grief or shame?  How many times have I begged for sleep, pleaded for salvation from the feelings and the burning tears and how I always felt, in time, the rest and the ease and the calming?  God has calmed me many times.  I can certainly do that with my boys.

I'm learning that even when my kids push my buttons or when I'm physically or mentally in no mood for their shenanigans, that is exactly when I need to step back and love as God has loved me.  That I have to look on these boys that I grew and carried and birthed as MINE.  As part of me.  And I have to see them with love and honest adoration, not as someone who is simply annoyed or aggravated with them.

Gratitude has been an overarching, continuing theme in my life for the past couple of years.  I've always been a glass-overflowing kind of girl, but my focus on giving thanks - and the necessity of it all - has just grown and grown.  Every day I experience it more... how the petty things wash away when I look at how much there is to be grateful for.  That my frustration or annoyance with someone - something that was said or done or a stranger who drives crazy and makes me crazy - that if I put that aside and refocus, suddenly it all changes.  I all change.

I know that saying, "Thank you." for the little things changes things.  But now, as I find I am doing more and more as a Mom and my daily-closer-to-three-year-old now responds to both my good and my bad.  And when he gives me an unexpected confession or apology or an unexpected, "Thank you." it changes my heart.  It softens every muscle in my body even more towards him.  A simple, un-coaxed, "Thank you, Mommy!" for picking Crayon wax out from under a fingernail or wiping a stray booger from under that tiny nose.  All I can feel is love when he's being so completely and honestly grateful.

And I think, in that moment, is this how God feels when I stop and say, "Thanks!"... ?  Is His Father-heart softened towards me?  Does He sigh in relief that I'm finally getting some lessons learned?  Is He energized knowing that His parenting isn't in vain, that I'm obviously catching some of what He's sending down?  Does it please Him to see that I notice and that I'm aware and that I'm thankful for all that?  It must.  It has to.

Having children has opened me up to everything.  It has made me stronger and able to believe in my abilities more.  Who thought I would give birth, twice, without any pain medication for example?  Not me.  I always hoped I had that kind of strength inside, but I honestly doubted.  I was never so thankful to be proved wrong.  To have the ability and the opportunity to do something truly tremendous and truly difficult and succeed.  I recall both times often because they were powerful and beautiful and so beyond me.  It was so honoring to be able to have such a part in it all.

When you first get married, the ones who were married before will tell you, "Welcome to learning how selfish you really are!"  And it is never so true as when you have someone staring at you, day in, day out, a mirror of your true self.  If I thought Aaron was the true mirror, I was wrong.  Joel and Travis, our miniatures, are more a reflective image of our true selfs than anything else.  And when I catch behavior that is appropriate and pleasing, I tell them.  When I'm out of the room but I can hear Joel talking kindly to his brother, I am quick to tell him that that is good and right to be nice to his brother.  When the "I'm sorry!" and the "Thank you!" and the "Help Mommy!" come easy and of their own free will, my heart flutters.  And it's humbling because they can learn all the good from me that I have to offer (which is admittedly limited)... or they can learn all the bad (which is admittedly often boundless).

Children are little mimics.  Every time Joel sees an "x" he says, "Dig, dig!" because ages ago he saw Pluto do that when "x" marked the spot on an episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.  They don't miss much, these littles.  And sometimes I stress about the little things or what if I introduce this food too late or too early or what if I don't do sensory bins or what if I don't have a scheduled pre-school curriculum for Joel at two and a half?

And I can either focus on all the things that I can't do perfectly and strive to be a more perfect, crafty Mom... I can take my cues from parenting magazines or blogs or friends... or I can hone my parenting skills from Someone who knows what it's like to create life.  From Someone who knows what it's like to be frustrated with your creation and to offer love and forgiveness and grace when a good spanking seems like more the likely answer (and for the record: punishment is definitely necessary at times and Biblical).

I will never do this Mom-thing perfectly or even as good as I could.  I'm human and I'm faulty and I lose my patience when I shouldn't and I snap and hustle and hurry when I should slow down or carry or stay in.  There are times when my good intentions backfire because they were my intentions but not what was needed at the time.  But I want to keep learning how to love better.  To give more fully.  To sacrifice more easily.  To be slow to snap or to be irritable.  And my kids provide ample opportunity for all of that.  That is just another of God's graces to me.  As a mother I think my goal is always to make my kids better.  I wonder that God's goals for me are not so different.

God knows I can't be perfect.  He knows I need Jesus and I know I need Jesus.  And likewise, I don't expect my kids to be perfect.  I know they will have meltdowns when they are tired, regardless of whether we are in public and that behavior is acceptable or not.  I have meltdowns all the time that are neither well timed nor acceptable (har har).  I know they will be hungry or have a diaper issue at the most inopportune time.  I know there will be times when I'm energetic and ready to go, go, go and they will want to stay home and play quietly with their toys instead.  I don't expect perfection from my boys.

But I do expect some progression and some learning and some thankfulness for all God's good and perfect gifts.  I expect that of myself and of my husband.  I don't require anything for Joel and Travis that I don't require for myself.  I don't hold their behavior to a standard that I don't also use to measure my own.  I try to not lash out or be quick to yell and slow to love, because when I'm on the receiving end, I would definitely prefer a little more love and understanding.  God gives me chance after chance, grace after grace, overarching, undeserved love, over and over.  Surely I can do more of the same.

I'm the mother that I am because God is the God that He is.  I love, because He loved.  I have to remind myself of this all day, every day.  Because parenting love is often the hardest love.  I didn't know this as a child, but I know it now as a Mom.  And I would give up and give in to 24/7 Disney Junior watching and eating nothing but Trix and Cookie Crisp if I didn't know there was better and that there can be better and that God is in all of this, especially when I feel I'm so deep I can't see myself any longer.

But He sees.  He knows.  He gets it.  He's been there.  He's still there.

Always has been.  Always will be.

"Your mother was like a vine 
in a vineyard planted by the water,
fruitful and full of branches by
reason of abundant water."
~  E z e k i e  l   1 9 : 1 0 


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