You know those juice concentrate cans you buy in the frozen section? I LOVE those! I get that from my Dad, he downs Orange juice like no tomorrow. Every time I open one, memories flood from childhood. Just the smell, feel, sound of opening and mixing a can of frozen concentrate reminds me of him. I remember that depending on which child had the chore of mixing Dad’s juice in the morning, (we’d take turns on Saturdays making one big gallon for the whole family, but mostly at Dad’s request!) it would be stronger, or weaker. Maybe that child would not measure well, and add one too many cans of water. Or maybe they’d forget one. Or, in some cases, they’d intentionally put less water in so the flavor was stronger. (Ok, I’ll admit, that was me!)
It is this picture that comes to mind when I consider how parenting encourages sanctification. Parenting produces this super concentrated, extra flavorful brand of it, if you are willing. Like the orange juice, parenting doesn’t allow for a lot of extra water to spread the flavor. Stress, difficulties, and hard decisions come every day. So do those little things that can either make you laugh or get you down, like when your 2 year old decides to strap herself into the doll stroller, and take a ride. Or when your 6 year old screeches loudly while you are leaving a message on someone’s answering machine. (I know I should’ve told the children I was on the phone!) Or when your 4 year old decides that peanut butter really DOES taste better when eaten with fingers.
As a Homeschooling Mom, I cannot escape the thick of things, and willing or not, I must face my flaws, shortcomings, and failings daily. There is no gentle confrontation. I cannot ignore my tendency to laziness in the highly charged environment I manage. Ignoring wise financial advice has bitten me in the rear quite a few times on the scanty budget we keep. What about patience? I face that beast daily. Patience is NOT a natural trait I possess.
I have been going through a season. Pregnant with child no. 4 (and due March 15) I am tired, overwhelmed, and not so cheerful. I wake up in the morning, looking pretty scary, and acting pretty scary. This has been the hardest pregnancy so far, and managing the daily tasks of school, housework, and making almost all of our food from scratch, is daunting. Add in a cat, and her 5 kittens (3 of which have recently moved out, PTL!) and 3 energetic children cooped up to escape the cold outside, and I am discouraged. So easily. But I am not alone, and thankfully, I’ve had plenty of “attagirl!” thrown my way.
2 books recently have been passed on to me, and both of them have forced me to re-orient my perspective and consider my attitude. Am I allowing myself to be so overwhelmed that I am forgetting why I have this job in the first place? Am I losing my grip, my goal to honor God in raising my children?
The first book: One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp is not one I’d readily recommend to everyone. As I’ve read it, I’ve been digging deep into scripture, Berean style, to hold it up against the Word of God. I’m not entirely convinced that Mrs. Voskamp’s theology is 100% on the money, but she makes one good point that has made an indelible print on my daily struggle. Be thankful. I know, it is such a simple thing, but finding the joys in the blessing of staying home has kept me from descending into bitterness and wallowing in self pity over a season that will be over in a few short months. Unable to earn the money I did before cleaning houses (I am the size of the house, and frankly, my own toilets have to be scrubbed by my husband or a well trained and supervised willing child… My DIY pedicures have also suffered under this regime.) I am not only struggling physically, but also my husband and I are both stressed by the blow that the past year has been financially. To add a loss of income at the end of a dry spell is rough. We wouldn’t have planned it this way, and things looked very different 7-8 months ago, but sometimes God takes you on a journey, and learning isn’t optional. In any case, God’s Word DOES command us to be thankful, and to praise God in all circumstances. So thank you Ann, for the timely reminder!
The other book, which I would recommend wholeheartedly, is called Loving the Little Years, Motherhood in The Trenches by Rachel Jankovic. I’ll admit to reading it only last night, and being halfway through at that. I appreciate her perspective, her advice, and most of all, the fact that she is in the very same boat as I am. Setting me up for her convicting message, was the idea of thankfulness for what I have. Child induced smiles every morning, flexibility with time and tasks, and life, etc. And of course, ticklefights with little giggles. Rachel takes it one step further and challenges us Mamas to look at Motherhood and those little years in terms of our own sinfulness and how it affects our children. Sanctification is a big theme in this book. I don’t remember if she calls it by that name, but the idea that motherhood is a refining fire in our walk with God really resonated with me. Before we can expect our children to conquer sin, we must look our own sins in the face, and realize that we are sinners too. Complete with our own childish behaviors. This changes my whole perspective. It isn’t my job to hold their feet to the fire because they’ve inconvenienced me, their father or anyone else, so much as it is to encourage, guide, and nurture them as they recognize and address very real sin in their own lives. And I must address the sin in mine.
Then, this morning. I heard a sermon where the Pastor pointed out a truth I’ve known all along, but conveniently forgotten when it comes to Motherhood. It isn’t me who changes these little hearts by doing everything right. It is the Holy Spirit who does the REAL work. My job is to obey scripture, teach it, live it, know it, and consistently apply it in my home. But that alone does not make my children “Good Kids.” In that way, parenting is an ultimate act of faith. One that presupposes that God’s plan is best, submits to his purpose for me, cheerfully, and with a grateful heart, and trusts that his outcome will occur. I am trusting that God will put my children where they ought to be. After all, they aren’t mine, but a precious burden given to me to grow, nurture, teach, and lead to their ultimate Creator and sustainer, God. I can’t expect that my ineffectual efforts, and my sinful failures will produce anything but more sinful failures. But I can trust that God’s Word NEVER returns void, and that the Holy Spirit will work in my children as he works in me. Ezekiel 18 comes to mind, where God says that every soul is his, and the soul who sins shall die. God knows who my children will become, and he will complete his own work in their life.
After all, who knows? Perhaps all 3 of them will one day experience the intense pressure cooker that is Motherhood, and the sweet sweet returns it brings. 🙂
Thanks again to Jenny over at DIYparenting for passing these books on to me! 🙂 They were a big encouragement when I most needed it!