DSC_06225If 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 Β 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.


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66 thoughts on “Frantic

  1. I just cried and cried as I read this (three times). What a crucible many children close together has turned out to be, and what a delight. The worry, the hard, the guilt, the wish-i-could-start-this-incident-over seem overwhelming on days when I forget merciful kindness. Good one, Rachel. Whew. (It’s nap time.)

  2. I think you wrote this post just for me! πŸ™‚ I litterally cried though the whole post. So encouraging. I am right in the trenches of morning sickness with a 14 month old and a just 2 year old. Just typing that out makes me laugh at how crazy that sounds. But you get it. πŸ™‚ I am just praying my checks don’t bounce. πŸ˜‰

  3. This is beyond encouraging and brought me to tears. I keep trying to remind myself of these truths. Thank you!

  4. Kim- It was for you! But then I think you saw I was recycling texts πŸ™‚ Hang in there! You won’t ever regret it!

  5. My tears are freely falling. And autocorrect wants to say my years are freely falling, which oddly seems fitting. Thank you – I have been trying to remind myself of these
    words these days when number three is on her merry way and life is stretching me beyond what I thought possible. Thank you.

  6. Thanks for the encouragement and truth! I have a 4-month-old and 19-month-old and i think the only thing i want more than sleep is to be a loving mom (and wife). It’s good to hear from you in the middle years and look forward to it not being like this forever so that i can enjoy these many good moments now more. πŸ™‚ And the days where I most cry out to our heavenly Father are definitely the days that feel biggest in mercy (although not necessarily lack of disasters. πŸ™‚ )

  7. Just wanted to say than you for this ministry God has given you of encouraging and challenging young moms…it means a lot. I needed this reminder today.

  8. Alright- the blog post was pretty great. But what I REALLY loved was that top picture! Your face sums up your words just about perfectly. JOY.

  9. You have a beautiful way of getting the truth out there. Thank you for this refreshing bit of heaven. It is so good to know that others believe the same way, and SO good so see these beliefs exhibited so joyfully. Praise the Lord!

  10. What a way to start my day! Thank you. We are coming into that same phase of middle years shortly. Still remember that time of three under three. It was indeed what you described! Hard, joy and hard. Now we have five and some medium sized people who I just love to watch mature. It WAS all worth it. Over and again. πŸ™‚

  11. This made me teary eyed. Thank you so much for the encouragement! I have 5 kids under the age of 6 and this is something I really needed to be reminded of. πŸ™‚

  12. Oh the timing! I have been faced with my own inadequacies and unmet (self-imposed) expectations about parenting this week. This refreshes my soul because I strive to find the joy in every day since I really do love the “little years” – I want to hold onto every moment and be present but most days I get lost.

    Also I would love it if you ever felt like writing an entry on how you feel like you adequately give of yourself to each individual member of your family. I struggle with this and it keeps me thinking that maybe we’ll stop at 3. I am a quality time person. I highly value time and one-on-one experiences so of course this may be more of a struggle for someone like that but I would love to know how you connect with your children individually and also with your husband in the midst. It’s even made its way into my dreams as I told my husband that last night I dreamed that he felt neglected and hated all my sweatpants. hahaha. πŸ˜‰

  13. Rachel, your posts the past few days have been so perfectly timed with truth I desperately needed to hear. (And I love reading the comments from other mamas with small children, as a reminder that there are a lot of us in the trenches!) With a two year old, a one year old, and #3 due for Christmas, the tired days are hard and I fail daily to be the kind of mama and wife I want to be: the kind, sweet, always patient woman who always knows exactly when to discipline and when to love and laugh and give grace instead. It’s so encouraging to be reminded that these children were given to me to grow me into that kind of a woman – I’d never learn these lessons without them!

  14. Well, I was another one reading this crying…I’ve spent the last week not sleeping because my youngest son – age 2 – suddenly refuses to sleep, like AT ALL and sleep deprivation is making me a puddle of tears about every darn thing. A quart sized container of Greek yogurt fell out of the fridge and landed with an explosion on my foot and I collapsed on the kitchen floor in more tears as my almost 5 year old told me I was a good mom and voluntarily held the trash can so I could throw away the messy trash. And I so needed to hear today that this is all good. This is making me who God wants me to be and it is making them who God wants them to be…this is my lifeline today. Thank you so much for having all those kids close together and struggling because it is such an encouragement for us moms who are floundering through it.

  15. I am on the other end of parenting, with seven kids aged 5-21. And a new one on the way. This was beautifully written, and encouraging. I can testify to the fact that these precious little ones become big in the blink of an eye. There will be other challenges to face in the different stages, but the extreme exhaustion, unending work, and constant tugging will be only a memory. Even if you, like me, continue to have more kids, the weight of EVERYTHING will not fall on you. Laundry can get folded, and meals on time even when you personally have no time. And the family can actually get fed when sick with morning sickness AGAIN. All I can say is you will never regret sitting on the couch with your little ones, snuggling up with a good book. Those precious moments are what keep you going until they are big enough to offer more tangible help. And even then, snuggle up and read to them.

  16. This was precious! It seems like such a blur when I think about those frantic years. It all melded together into “I kind of remember that crazy time” but it’s true, I would do it all over again, the EXACT same way. Thank you Rachel!

  17. Your last few posts could have started with “Dear Ashley,…”! You have been so encouraging to me and I have to say thanks. I have 3 kids 3 and under, and know exactly what you mean by being blindingly tired. My husband and i are going through far more than only raising a family at this point, and the least of our difficulties is the new business we started last month! We remind eachother that we are climbing a mountain, and someday we will reach the top. I can’t wait to read readthis to my husband and say “Rachel was spying on me again today” πŸ™‚

  18. Wow, I needed this tonight. Too long to explain why, but I’m so glad I remembered seeing this on fb this morning and came here tonight to read it. Thank you.

  19. Thank you for this encouragement! I feel like I have a friend even though I don’t know you personally! I have three under three and although I feel frantic more time than I can say, I wouldn’t change anything about my life!

  20. I was pregnant three years in a row. I am not kidding when I say that about four or five years of my life are sort of hazy :-)But now my kids are 18, 13, 12, 11, and 7 and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. The joy you feel in these middle years? Oh, just wait! Because it just gets better and better.

  21. This is exactly where I am. A first trimester, pregnant mom of an 18 month old, 4 year old twins and a 5 year old. I’ve been in a rut since finding out about this surprise baby. Somewhere between happy and extremely overwhelmed. Thank you for reminding me of His merciful kindness!!

  22. Thank-you so much for this πŸ™‚ What a wonderful reminder … and man, today was not one of those days where I felt like a shining example of what a good and godly Mother should be. It was one of those days where I felt like I was always yelling … know what I mean? Sigh *** I have four littles four and under, so this was really encouraging. I had my babies so close together that I really don’t enjoy telling people when we’re pregnant with another, but, you are right, this is God’s grace in my life and I need this … badly. I need His grace and I need the sanctification, hahaha, and I cannot think of a crazier way to be refined, to tell you the truth πŸ™‚

  23. That should be “didn’t feel like a shining example of a good Mom … but you get the idea! I need to learn to spell check!

  24. This is resounding with the prayer that I’ve been praying lately, praying that I never get used to not working really hard. The last five years have been filled with four kids, one princess girl and three busy busy busy boys. But the change in my own heart and total reliance on God that occurs when I can’t do anything (sometimes quite literally) in my sleep deprived or sick and pregnant stage has been worth it all. May I never not know this kind of hard work because it’s beautiful and so rewarding. Thanks for the great post.

  25. I have been reading your blog for years, always eager to glean from what you write about next. This, my friend, filled my heart and articulated my thoughts better better than I can even tell you. If I could possibly jump through my screen and hug your neck to thank you for this one, I would.

  26. “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 needed someone else to say this to me this month. Thank you.

  27. I really needed to read this post too! I’m entering the “middle years,” since my oldest is 8, but still very much in the little years too, with baby #6 on the way. I was also “surprised” by the timing of this baby…I found out I was pregnant right after my husband and I were talking about how *we* thought we should wait a year or 2 before having another one. πŸ™‚ I’ve been very aware of how God planned the timing of this baby, and how much I need Him to make His strength perfect in my weakness. Thank you so much for this encouragement!

  28. My kids are 5,4,2,&1. Reading this is so helpful for me too! It’s hard to feel godly when I don’t go to the potty alone & most days have zero refueling time unless I’m asleep. The Lord has been teaching me tons on expectations & allowing him to meet w me & refill me right where I am. In the car driving 4 little ones, 30sec in between a kindergarten problem to snag a verse, dancing in the kitchen to praise music w my baby while dinner heats up, falling into my chair during nap time w my bible open in desperation for the living word to transform & renovate my mind. I am a perfectionist by nature & live in an idealistic world in my head….my heart is having to learn to accept my reality & ask the lord for eyes to see it like he does! In the end…these four little people have taught me to trust in ways I never have before! I’m also learning to live…really live & invest right where I am!

  29. Thank you so much for this post. I’m pregnant with #2 and I have a 17 month old. A yucky pregnancy cold+insomnia brought me here on this very early morning to read your blog and I am so thankful for your words of truth and encouragement. Just what my heart needed to hear. Thank you again!

  30. And then they are all teenagers and young adults and loud and busy with advice and questions and help. You realize they are unfolding, their wings are spreading and you somehow want to hold on. And then you realize you do not have to, because they are holding on to what you taught them, sometimes with just one hand, but holding on none the less. Fight the good fight, finish the race and keep the faith.

  31. A friend of mine sent me this link after I blogged about my own hard day of pregnancy sickness, accidents, skinned knees, and kids with a mind of their own. This is still so fresh and raw in my heart and mind. The aftermath is the part I struggle with the most, when I’ve lost it and have to pick up the pieces and bandage the wounds.

    I know this is just a season in life, but sometimes, in the midst of it, I really do wish for a DVR with fast forwards and rewinds and pauses.

    Thank you for reminding me of His mercies. God bless you and your six beautiful mercies. I’m hoping to keep that concept in the forefront of my mind in these rough and tired years. πŸ™‚

  32. Thanks again for your encouragement Rachel! You have such great perspective and a beautiful way of writing… this post also brought tears to my eyes.
    You have a beautiful family!

  33. Rachel, this was super! Now I’m a grandma and watching (and hopefully helping!) my kids go through these years. You are spot on with it being God’s mercy of a LEGACY. And the last picture made me chuckle!

  34. This is wonderful! I am a Grammy to 5 little boys under 6, and seeing their parents do this crazy life (one with 3, one with 2), I daily marvel and am thankful to be close enough to have a part in it with them! As my husband and I are discovering as empty-nesters; the crazy, dishes, clutter, sickness, etc. is truly short-lived! Recognizing the investment we have been blessed to share in with their parents is truly what matters! So young parents, carry on knowing there are Grammy’s and Pops’ out here that are praying for and cheering you on to grow and leave legacies! πŸ™‚

  35. Oh what a busy time you’ve had! What sweet blessings and a precious family. Sweet smiles.

    I’ve been the mama with two under three in the double stroller that i’m pushing with my bulging belly, three four and under, pregnant while up at night with a teething one year old and homeschooling while chasing a toddler. It’s busy and crazy and exhausting. But I love it.

    You know what is really hard? The not being pregnant and no knowing why the baby died and was it because I didn’t wean the one year old who is teething or was it that cup of coffee from the utter exhaustion? Why did it happen the DAY I saw the heartbeat strong and clear? And twice in two years?

    So, not to be snooty, because I know lots of helpless messy littles is overwhelming, remember that the mama who appears to have full arms with a toddler or looks to be “spacing out” her family might just be crying herself to sleep at night because her morning sickness is gone. Gone.Gone.

    3 in restime, 2 in eternal rest = 5, 5 and under.

  36. I like to think of it as “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” πŸ˜‰ When we reach out and accept the blessings God desires to give us, then He strengthens our arm to receive them. When it hurts, you know it’s working. It reminds me of the Proverb, “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.” Bring it.

  37. Ahh. Thanks Rachel. Its funny how in the hard times I forget the simplest things. So thankful for great reminders of God’s promises. Off to fight for joy!

  38. You have a way of reaching my heart and my struggles. I am always so encouraged by your words on motherhood. I am a mom if little ones with one on the way, and I need constant reminders of God’s plan in this crazy home! Thank you!

  39. There were so many times when I struggled with being the mom of “an only” and I would have been crying through this post for very different reasons, as I spent most of my energies trying to have babies and the frantic season of continually miscarrying baby after baby after baby kept me on the couch and in the dark for a couple of years…

    But the Lord’s gracious hand has rained different types of mercy on me more recently (for there were mercies in the darkness, pain, and loss too; just vastly different ones)…

    And so as I read this today with my now *three* sweet children making chaotic joy fill our home, I cried because *this post was for me too.* And there were years where I doubted that such a post would ever be for ME.

    So Rachel: thanks. For being a conduit of grace to all of us in so many different situations.

  40. Thanks so much for the pep talk! I’m due in a week with my fourth and desperately needed this encouragement. God has gifted you with such perspective and wisdom and I’m so glad you use that gift over and over again on this blog.

  41. Take it from a mom of 4 – going back to work out of financial necessity has taught me how much I LOVED being at home with my children. Embrace what God has given!

  42. Thank you for this reminder-today. I look around me and see my treasures ranging in age from 19 glorious years to one that is ever present in my belly still….only a week over due. As I sit ready for labor, I hear the sounds of each child, whether one giving instruction to a little person or a little person exclaiming displeasure. I remember the early years just how you describe it! And with all the difficulties, I am truly thankful for my brood of 12. There were/are still days when I feel I can’t take another step and yet I still wake each morning alive with God’s grace and mercy. Again thank you!

  43. My sister sent this to me. I can’t believe you just wrote this. It is literally everything I needed to hear. You answered questions I’ve been asking God through tears, while I struggle with overwhelming all day sickness from my 5th pregnancy as I still attempt to daily homeschool my four children under age 8. Thank you! Praising God for your words today.

  44. 5, 4, 2, and 6 months here, and some days it feels like a big party and some days it feels like way more than I can keep up with. Way more runny noses and diapers and hugs and baby feedings and night wakings and laughter and spit up and laundry and dishes than I ever would have imagined. Thanks for the encouragement, and solidarity fistbumps to all the mamas still in the trenches next to me of the little years marathon!

  45. Thank you for being so painfully honest about the difficulties of motherhood, but that you do it in an encouraging and up-building way. I always come away from reading your posts feeling equipped to tackle this job joyfully again. You’ve been a blessing to me many times over.

  46. As the others have said, thank you so much Rachel! Your encouragement is so timely (I have 3 – ages 3,2 & almost 1 and another baby on the way) and I love the perspective of them being God’s mercies to us! So true! I’m often reminding myself that I must not take life for granted–it is so precious — but I also must not take it for granted as it is God’s special gifts of mercies tailored for each of us.
    May our Lord bless you today! πŸ™‚

  47. Loved your post! I had 3 kids, 2 and under and then I had my 4th in 4 years… that was 2 years ago. What a difference 2 years makes!!! It gets easier… and harder! haha. But gone are the days I sit down and cry after a busy day and the kids are in bed (just because it was a whirlwind… not bad, just busy and crying was my release of emotion). Now I lay them all down to bed at the same time, in the same room, and sit and sew… for hours… uninterrupted.

    The memory of that craziness seems distant to me now.

    Now I’m dealing with heart issues vs. the physical issues (although with 3 of the 4 being boys… there is a big physical component too). It’s just so different! Gone are wiping 4 extra butts days and here are the days of complex questions… “How can God be 3 different people (father, son, holy spirit)?”, “Is the government bad?”, or a recent question a 5 year old friend asked, “Does God love Satan?”

    Though the stages are so different, my reliance on God for guidance grows more and more.

  48. What an excellent piece of encouragement. And so true! I am in the teenager entering adulthood of a group of 5 children who arrived in a span of just under 5 years (a little closer than I had ever envisioned having children) and my one worry is adapting to my brood using their wings and leaving. I have a feeling that they will leave as quickly as they arrived. I am enjoying this stage as much as I enjoyed the craziness of the Littles.

  49. It’s not natural for us to think of our trials as merciful kindness, but I think I’m going to start praying for the Holy Spirit to HELP ME SEE IT THAT WAY. Thank you for lending a hand down here in the trenches and pulling me up for a moment to see the bigger picture…

  50. *****What about you and your husband? When you were in the thick of things with lots of littles running around, and the mayhem in overdrive, what about your relationship with your man? Did you ever get to go out alone? I appreciated the encouragement you provided, yet I only, always hear about the kiddies and the mamas, what about the husband/wife relationship? How was that during these years? Did you guys lose each other a little bit? Grow closer? Ever get the chance to escape as man/woman, not mom/dad for a bit? I would love to hear. Thank you :)******

  51. Thanks, Rachel, for this encouraging perspective. We, too, have six kids (ranging from 9 years down to 5 months), and while I can look back and see that these precious ones are growing up, I am also looking into the future with a mixture of anticipation and anxiety regarding the possibility of continuing to add more (indefinitely?). My husband and I have had the conversation many times over the last few years and I continue to feel lovingly pushed outside my comfort zone, which I know may be another major mercy from the Lord, but feels crazy and scary to this aging, only-child, recovering control freak! πŸ™‚ I have wanted to write for some time asking if you’d ever address the issue of determining family size, and after reading this post thought I’d go ahead and do so. I’d love to hear your take on it…how to discern what God is calling us to as far as continuing child-bearing vs deciding our family’s “baby years” are complete and we are moving fully into the toddler/middle years. Thanks.

  52. Thank you! As I am somewhat anxiously waiting for number 3 to arrive just after my oldest’s third birthday has passed, these are very encouraging words to remember!

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