Unrefined Beauty and Hope for the Season of Little Ones

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

I love that verse. It gives me such hope. It is my very favorite verse. I have had seasons in the past when I have been drawn to other verses, verses about grace and heaven. I’m sure seasons will come when I’m drawn to other verses. But for now, this is it.

He who began a good work in you will

This is the season of littles. It’s a season of living life inside a rock tumbler with all our unrefined and immature gifts banging against each other all day, every day. A season of waking up to read the Word and sitting quietly in a rocking chair with a cup of steaming coffee in hand for 2.9 seconds before the dog vomits in the floor or someone cries out in pain because they bit their own finger. From that moment on, the day goes fast and hard. I never stop moving, they never stop talking, we never stop thinking. And because of that, there aren’t many moments that pass by without someone in danger of sin.

I wake in the morning full of repentance over my sins of yesterday, and determined and steadfast in my  heart to respond with gentleness and sweet words to each need of my family. But somewhere during the day, I fall short. The word for sin actually means to miss the mark. I have a target, but when I aim as well as I can at that mark, I still often miss. Sometimes I’m close to the target, but not quite on the mark. Other times, my arrow didn’t even hit the target. It went way over it and over a fence.

And sometimes, that fact makes me lie in the floor on my face sobbing because as long as I’m bound in this body on this fallen earth with these children bound to their own bodies, I am prone to sin. But, then I read this verse. He is faithful. He will continue His good work in me. I don’t struggle with what I did before. What once made me angry in years past, I could take all day long and make it look like a joy ride. But, I’m not around those things, I’m around little children. And I am being refined by them. And that verse reminds me of that. But, there’s another side of that I often forget. so I need a reminder.

I have three bracelets made of raw stones. One made of raw and unrefined amethyst, for my February first born. One made from sapphire stones, for the little girl with eyes to match her birthstone. And then one made of rubies, for that littlest one. The thing about those bracelets is that they didn’t cost much. Because they’re unrefined and not perfectly cut. However, if I had the experience and tools, I could put the time in and refine those stones. I could cut them and polish them, and eventually, those stones would become jewels. But I do have the experience and tools to help refine those little girls, maybe not the ones I need in years to come, but I have enough for today. God has promised that.

I have a daughter full of compassion and grace, but who often wants to control and boss. I have another daughter who is joyous and trusting, but who often wants to ignore what needs to be done and let someone else take care of it. And one who is full of surprises and laughter, but who often throws tantrums when she can’t have all of the attention.

They are valuable and their gifts are valuable. But their gifts are unrefined and raw, causing their sinful nature and emotions to be unrefined and raw. And that’s okay, because He is faithful. He will continue the good work he has started. The unrefined gifts are the proof of that. They are the deposit He has already made into their eternal souls, and part of my job is to stop holding them to a human standard and trying to be their Holy Spirit. Love is what molds. I could nag all day long and maybe refine a bit, like a slow stream. But loving someone enough to live with them through their flaws, in spite of their flaws, and helping them to strive for more refines like a rushing waterfall. We can’t always see that, of course. Because waterfalls are loud and hard to get too close to, without splashing you with water or pulling you down as well. and homes full of little children who spill all the cups and bicker and run and giggle and hug hard are much the same. Getting close will be loud. They’ll splash you as well and likely pull you down into the mess to be pounded by the waters. You’ll all lose your cool and calm, and bump into one another repeatedly in an attempt to find your ground. BUT, you’ll be refined in ways you never knew possible. And though I can’t speak from experience yet, I have a feeling that one day, I’ll stand on firm ground again, soaked and exhausted but with a deeper understanding of His grace. And I’ll be so very grateful for the season of littles.

Keep going. He is faithful to continue that good work! and not just in you, but in those kiddos too, praise the Lord! 😉 

Dear Mother of the Difficult Child…

Dear Mother of the difficult child

It’s almost Mother’s Day. I know that because of the spotify commercials mostly. Mother’s Day is a good day in this house usually. I’m of the mind that says we really should get as many Mother’s Days annually as we have children. I don’t know if I’d spread mine out so I had three a year, or use them all in one lump of a little Mother’s Day vaca. Then Mrs. Dugger could take almost an entire month off a year….and that would almost be worth 19 kids. just kidding. mostly.

But there’s always been a somber side of Mother’s Day for me, as well. I remember clearly the years my mom was a young woman in her 20’s, working several jobs and a single mom to two young children. and I have known many women that watched mother’s days pass by with empty arms.

After we miscarried, I understood another depth of Mother’s Day for others too. But, then we had our rainbow baby, which is what they call a baby born after a loss. Miss Norah was born, and her funny ways and independence add so much to our family. We love her so so much. But, Norah is difficult. Not in general, but she’s tricky to parent. She cried so much for the first year. I never understand the saying women say of “I hope you have children just like you.” I would never in a million years wish the year of Norah’s babyhood upon her.

I would sit and cry with her, feeling mostly sorry for my big girls. Pregnancies had been easy before with the first two. I didn’t have sickness or extreme fatigue or any of that stuff. But, I was on the couch almost as soon as I found out I was expecting with Norah. I stayed so tired and so nauseous the entire pregnancy. Holidays passed by without baked goods or special Christmas extras. My light at the end of the tunnel was that summer would come, and I’d have a sweet newborn, and the girls would have their mama back. And months and months passed with a baby that was never happy. I’d sit my big girls in front of a TV hoping to soothe Norah, but I couldn’t and they couldn’t hear over her. So in the back room we stayed and cried together.

and I felt so guilty. So awful because I did not enjoy my baby, even after knowing some women want desperately for a child and never have one. even after knowing what loss felt like myself.  But even still, I dreaded the sounds of her waking, and grieved over how short lived her good moods were. She’s creeping up on two years now, and “don’t poke the bear” is a common saying in our house. I still dread when I have to tell her “no” or get onto her. It must be done, of course, but I feel myself tense before I even get to it.

But this child has a purpose. God knew before she was born how we needed her. There was a Norah sized hole in our family, and though I didn’t know the trials that would come, I prayed desperately for this child. I have months worth of prayer journal entries to prove it. And though I will always miss the baby we didn’t get to meet before heaven, I am grateful for the lesson that baby taught me even without holding him or her. If it wasn’t for that brief life, I don’t know that I would know the gift that is Norah, even in those moments of darkness and desperation.

Some children have large lessons to teach, some have large lessons to learn. Some children have both. And whether that difficult child is a tiny baby with flailing arms or a teenager that breaks your heart daily, you are not alone. The same God who gives us summer and winter has given us children with their own seasons. There are lessons that will only come through the souls of those children, and it’s okay to love your child with a fierce passion and still ask God to help you love them  with gentleness, beauty, and self control. That’s part of the lesson they’ll teach, after all. Enjoy those moments of sweet belly laughs and grins as the gifts from the Lord that they are. And when they are gone, take those other moments as the opportunities to love like Him that they are.

I know I have been difficult. I have been hard to love and defiant. I have been ungrateful and apathetic. and yet, my Father has always loved me with faithfulness and sweet sensitivity, and because of that, I am aware of just what it looks like to turn to my own children with that kind of love, if I will only do so.

Happy Mother’s Day, dear mother. You deserve chocolate and kisses and flowers. Remember that it was the Lord who first instituted festivals and celebrations to remember Him and good things. It was He who commanded honor for mothers and fathers. And absolutely believe that Mother’s Day is a day He truly enjoys. He’s rooting for you, there for you, and loves you and those sweet kiddos.

“He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.” Isaiah 40:11