If we really face the facts, it is true that my kids are growing up. I mean, I still have a one-year-old, and a three-year-old who work together to keep the time of the baby-toddles fresh in my mind. But the truth is, things have changed. Slowly, some of these wonderful kids have grown into the kind of maturity that can handle their own zippers, button their own pants, find their own socks, and they even do things like load the dishwasher, or fold a load of laundry on occasion.
I don’t exactly know when it happened, but it does feel like we have left the little years and moved into the middle years. And I love it here. It is still the challenging, wild, wonderful, messy, hilarious, and outrageous life I have come to know and love – but it is just a little more mature. Our family life is somewhere in the middle lands -like we have lost our front teeth and they are growing back in way too big for our heads, but we have plans to catch up to them.
But it wasn’t that long ago. Only a handful of years ago in our house, if playing in the toilet had come to a vote, I could have lost. The people could have spoken and called it all good fun. I was outnumbered, outsmarted, outrun, and seriously outdone. My days at home were blindingly tiring. I’m not exaggerating, and I know some of you are right with me here. Many of you are still in it. You are hanging on by a thread. You are puking in the bathroom for the 10th solid week in a row while little children whom you love dearly are running around the house largely unkempt and unruly. You are lying on the couch trying with all your might to eat a cracker and not smell anything. You are wary of people who smell like showers. Or onions. Or garlic in yesterday’s food. You resent people who talk about tortillas. You are holding your breath as you walk into the kitchen and fill a sippy cup against all odds. Or you might even be as desperate as I have been and tell children who certainly aren’t big enough to go ahead and pour themselves juice.
I recently spoke at a local MOPS group, and during the question and answers, a lady in the audience asked me about my coping mechanisms. And when I looked out to talk to this brave soul with her three under three, I saw it in her eyes. Oh, how I remember that time. It was a desperate time – and here I am, surprised as anyone to be looking back on it. But I want to write to you who are still in it and tell you a few things. Don’t believe that you have made a mistake that this is what your life is like. These little people were called by God to your house now. He knows what He has given to you to do, and in the middle of all this craziness is some profound mercy.
I have been surprised more often than not in pregnancy. And when I was surprised to learn I was expecting a number five, when the twins were still two – I knew enough to know that God was good and this was kindness. But one Sunday morning I was doing my hair in the bathroom, sick out of my brains, listening to the chorus of tiny people clamoring around the breakfast table. And then they started singing a new Psalm we had been learning. Those little voices, trailing down the hall, “For His merciful kindness is great towards us.” And I was standing, looking at myself, all sick in the face, and the tiny person in my belly, all merciful kindness. I don’t know that I can describe exactly what this meant to me, because it was more like the relief of heat on pain, or water to thirst, or warmth to coldness than it was a sudden understanding of anything. But I realized at that moment that this new life – this new uptick in what God was requiring of me wasn’t just a blessing in the abstract – it was mercy to us. It was kindness to us. She was His expression of love to us at that time. And she still is. Merciful kindness will always be how I think of my little Blaire girl.
But you know what else? While God gave us more children closer together than reasonable people would have – what He gave us was a profound gift. That time was incredibly hard. And sweet. And hard. But God was there with us. He was there convicting us and challenging us. He was there, pouring out His love on us as we sought to give our everything to these little people. His hand was in our every maturing. His mercy to us in every hilarious day of mayhem. Before the beginning of time, God planned that moment of accidents and pretzel salt, and broken eggs, and skinned knees, and a crying mother, and a disapproving neighbor – and He planned it for our good. God gave us these children in this outrageous way because He had a plan for us, and His plan for us was to not listen to our plans.
His path for us was not our path for us, but it was a path of mercy, and joy, and delight, and tears, and sweat, and growth beyond what we would have ever tried for. I often think of our children as one of God’s most amazing investment plans for our life. And because we are seeking to honor God, things get deducted automatically. We have signed up to give more than we ever, ever could have of our own strength. When you are up in the middle of the night, God is not letting your life go to waste. When you are up earlier than you ever should have been – God is telling you that He has a plan for this life of yours. If every moment of child care was voluntary – if you could put your kids’ needs on pause, or postpone that work for another month or two, we would all be doing it. We would want the DVR version of our children’s lives. Skip the commercials of potty training, and feeding them every hour, and the croup moments, and the snarls over toys, and the heaviness of worry. Skip morning sickness. We would skip all the things that refine us, because our flesh is weak. But God, in His merciful kindness, has more for us than our flesh would ever volunteer for.
I’m not so far out of the little years that I can talk like it is in the distant past. But I want to tell you who are still in that frantic phase – this is beautiful. And not because it is easy, but because it is impossibly hard. I would never go back and undo the horrible insanity of that time, because that was a time when God worked great mercy into my life. It was a time when God was putting some darling people in my life forever. And not as babies only, but as the men and women He is growing them into. It’s not only a sentimental mercy. It is the mercy of a legacy, the mercy of making our lives forever change the world.
So continue to rely on Him. Live in joy. Believe His mercy. Know that your trials, lived in obedience, are yielding more profit and fruit in your life than anything else could, at least in part because investments from you are being taken against your will, and probably against your better judgment. You couldn’t be who God wants you to be without this. Your children would not be who God wants them to be without this, because this is what He has given you, and you are who He has given them. And when you know all these things, and you believe all these things, just hang on like crazy, and laugh.