The first snow flurries are rushing over the farm and I am remembering the winters when there were no children racing through our house. It was always so quiet in the evenings, after the little ones I watched during the day would go home to their mamas.
Our tiny house would be cluttered with my papers and scrap journals and I would look around and think that somehow I would be a better person if I kept a clean uncluttered house without dust bunnies and smudged windows.
And then I would whisper a broken thank you to the God who allowed me to have tiny fingerprint smudges on the glass door because it meant that even though I was barren in body, my life wasn’t barren at all.
I was never a good housekeeper, not like I aspired to be. There was always a book to read or a scene to write or a thought to ponder, and I ponder best when I am scratching out words on paper.
I wrote through those quiet evenings and my writing birthed stories that are still being read. I wrote Christmas! for the little boy who came to my house after school each day, and I wrote parables and fairy tales for the girls who allowed me to mentor them, and I wrote my heart bare to the God who knew and understood the pain of my lost-babies and lost-dreams and lost-hope.
All of today has been hard.
One child picking on the other, arguments, complaints, questioning every instruction. They melt down, then I melt down, and then I’m left scrambling to find my footing again.
I’m not always good at this mothering thing.
I’m especially not always good at mothering wounded hearts.
I speak too quickly and rashly. I lose sight of heart-issues, my gaze trapped on what I see in front of me. I get caught up in the moments when my child seems to have forgotten how to subtract and feel the weight of the world’s disfavor on my shoulders. Everyone will say that I should have sent them to school where they would have a real teacher. It’s obvious I’m not good at this job. I should be more organized. I should read to them more. I should get a better school curriculum. I should do more science projects. I should buy more books.
The words blanket me, stifling anything I have left.
I leave the dishes in the sink to sit in my kitchen-chair and take deep breaths. One more whine from an irritated child and I pull the bright-colored afghan over my head. I hear the children giggle.
I ask God for strength. For truth.
I whisper my heart bare to the God who knows and cares about attachment disorders and unorganized homeschooling mamas and how easy it is for the words of the enemy to drown out truth when we’re not careful.
On Sunday our church had communion and a foot washing service. Many children stay in their seats while their parents participate, but we’re working so hard to teach our children that they are not on their own. They are family. So we gather them up and take them with us.
But our girl didn’t make it. She started looking around, looking at who might be watching, looking at where we should go and how we should act to make sure we were just like everyone else. We mustn’t be different. We mustn’t look foolish. We mustn’t let anyone think we don’t know how it’s all supposed to go. So we stopped short of going to the room where the women kneel and scoop up water and remember Jesus’ commandments to serve each other in love.
Instead we talk. We talk about what washing feet really means and how it has nothing to do with sprinkling a tiny bit of water on someone’s foot and it certainly has nothing to do with how we look. It has everything to do with serving those around us. Of giving up what we want. Doing the dirty work instead.
I tell her how I realized one day that to do the physical “washing feet” today, we’d really need to go and scrub someone’s floor on our hands and knees. Clean their bathroom. Do the not-fun stuff, getting our hands dirty, acknowledging that we all have our dirty-spots and how we all need each other to keep our hearts cleaned up and focused on Christ.
“We’re not going to wash each other’s feet this way, in front of all these people,” I tell her, “we’re going to do it in our home instead. I’m going to wash your feet the best ways I know how this week. You can look for ways to wash my feet and daddy’s and your brother’s.” This is the true-washing, not for show or to fit in or to look right—but to do, to be, to follow.
After pulling the afghan back off my head, I go downstairs to switch laundry. I stop by her room. I’m still frustrated. Exhausted. I see the little bits of paper that cover her carpet. How does she even get little bits of paper all over her room? She’s hardly ever in there. Where do they come from? Do they fall from the ceiling while she’s sleeping?
I open my mouth to call to her to clean and I stop.
Doing the dirty work.
I get down on my hands and knees and I pick up the pieces of paper and the dirty clothes and the yarn and scraps of material. I scoop the trash together, thinking we should probably buy a vacuum cleaner that works. And then I glance up and see the line of sticky notes.
They cover a whole section of her wall.
They are prayers.
Lord, help me love my mother.
Lord, help me learn to submit without fighting.
Lord, teach me not to resent my brother.
Lord, help me work hard at my jobs.
I blink back tears then give up and let them fall. Because she’s hearing me.
My greatest fear is that I will work so hard to show Jesus and instead of her knowing love, we’ll be left saying words like attachment disorder and permanent damage from childhood trauma.
But we’re claiming something more over our children. We’re claiming freedom and life and hope. We’re claiming the healing power of God’s infinite love.
And beautifully, miraculously, she’s hearing me when I tell her where to go for help. She’s hearing the whispered, Jesus.
It’s quiet tonight. My babies are sleeping.
Yes, they are tall gangly babies, but my babies none-the-less.
The Isaacs of my heart.
They worked in the shop with daddy this evening. Helped him organize a whole section. They climbed all over the barn and threw mini snowballs at each other. They hugged me tight when I came out and buried their freezing noses into my coat.
We had dinner late. We ate caramel apples for desert. They asked me to read Hebrews 2 so they can practice for trivia on Sunday. I wrapped them in warm hugs and sent them to bed.
I’m still not a great housekeeper, you know. I still have smudges on my windows, oh, thank you, Lord. I still have piles of papers and scrap journals and books I want to read someday. And I’m still birthing stories.
Only now the stories are greater and more beautiful than I could have imagine. Now I have the stories of how God heard my heart cracking agony over my lost-babies and how He moved mountains and built houses to bring my forever-babies home.
And right here in the hard days, in the am-I-good-enough days, I am in awe.
Because God is working miracles again. He is healing my children. He is healing me.
And He is ready and willing to work healing in you as well.
That is the glory of the gospel. That is the hope of Jesus. That is the wonder that keeps my heart filled with joy, even through the am-I-good-enough days.
Because no matter what, He is.
Good. Faithful. Redemptive.
Everything I lack within myself, I find in Him.