There’s a lot of darkness in this world. Depression. Illness. Lack. Anxiety. Crime. Loss. Sorrow. Sometimes it all comes at once, closing in on us. We reach out in desperation for something to hold on to, to keep us from swirling away in that darkness. I reach out to Jesus.
I reach out for comfort and clarity. The comfort usually comes immediately, as soon as I say His name, because I know He is there. But clarity. That one can evade my grasp indefinitely. And the harder I strive for it, the more elusive it becomes. I think Jesus wants us to have clarity, for sure. He wants us to step forward in life with confidence in His plan. But He also wants us to trust Him. If we had the whole picture, we’d have to push really hard against the temptation to let that trust shift to ourselves. So He only gives us a glimpse.
Instead of trusting “the plan,” I’m forced to simply trust in Him. Trust in what I know for sure. That He created me in His image. That He loves me more than I can grasp. That He wants only good for me. That I am righteous through His sacrifice. As I circle around, clinging to those truths and waiting for what comes next, I’m still in the midst of my hectic life, keeping it together for the sake of my family.
It occurred to me, the other day, that the Lord has orchestrated my life for such a time as this. He has given me the medicine I need to bring back my joy, and then bring it back again and again when I lose it. He has given me children.
I am in a somewhat unique position. While I do not have a baby right now, nor do I have any adult children, I’ve got pretty much everything in between. The joy in parenting is different for each stage of childhood, and right now, I feel like I’ve got it all! God has blessed me with eight amazing little (and not-so-little) people. Not just for a lifetime; not just for eternity; but for this day. I want to bring you an ode to my children….the tools through which God is the “lifter of my head.”
Fourteen-year-old boy. It is surreal and almost giddy to see him, so tall, strong, and handsome. I see that when he gently roughhouses with his tiniest sister, he’s not just avoiding his school work….he actually enjoys it. He rolls his eyes and runs away when his sisters try to tackle him, but I can see that it pleases him, and he lets them catch him. We are still working on respect, but he is getting it. He’s working hard. He’s still a kid, and would rather be playing, but when we call on him to help out, he does it diligently and with 100% effort. Joy number one.
Thirteen-year-old boy. He recently offered a greeting and a goodbye to family members, unsolicited, and unprompted. That is huge for this boy. My heart swells to see him engaging in conversations, looking others in the face, and smiling when he does it. With a memory like a steel trap and a voracious appetite for reading anything and everything, I can see that God has equipped him to overcome those blind spots in his mind. While his stories and his LEGO creations are intricate, he finds pleasure in simple things, and the whole world knows when he is amused. Joy number two.
Eleven-year-old boy. I see him seeking out the little boys at church, letting them hang on and pummel him. He begs for a baby brother; but while he is waiting for God to give him that, he embraces his role as big brother to five sisters. In school, he struggles only against his desire for perfection. Learning comes easily to him, and I am glad. He loves to hear, “I love you,” and always says it back. He might even let me hug him. Joy number three.
Nine-year-old girl. This beauty is a fascinating blend of her father’s athleticism and her mother’s introverted mind. His singing voice, my book addiction. Her insanely thick hair gives me vain pride, and her nurturing attitude makes me smile. She still climbs into my short lap, with her long legs, for a snuggle. On the brink of adolescence, tears come more easily to her now; and while I know that the coming years may be filled with emotional upheaval, I’m excited for what we’ll get to share. Joy number four.
Seven-year-old girl. I see her big smile – teeth overcrowding her little mouth – and freckled nose, and can’t help but smile back. Her laugh is at times a guffaw, and so contagious. She’s usually included in the “big kid” activities, but she’ll also take the lead with the younger kids, engaging them in a tea party or block-building marathon. When doing chores, she does more than is required of her, without complaining. Her servant heart is emerging. Joy number five.
Six-year-old girl. We call her “Brutus.” Since she was a baby, she has come at life with a great force and boundless energy, sometimes trampling those in her way. She stubbornly refuses help when she’s reading, often books that are beyond her ability, and just makes up words when she is stumped. The results are pretty hilarious. She is fearless, and thinks she can do it all. Even her rascally escapades exude creativity and ingenuity. Joy number six.
Four-year-old girl. Her fake-looking eyelashes are ridiculously beautiful on a child, and her eyes captivate me. Four is a fun age, filled with curiosity, drama, and rapid learning. She speaks with a bit of a lisp. She admires the older boys in her life….brothers, cousins, and friends of theirs. They can usually tolerate her hanging on their arm or putting their name in a song, because she is so adorable. I think she forgot how to walk, because she seems to leap or skip wherever she goes. Joy number seven.
Three-year-old girl. She will be three in one week, but it seems like she’s already been three for months. I’m not one to rush through life’s stages, but she has been a very articulate two-year-old. We crack up daily at her observations and explanations of life. Her snuggles lift my spirit immediately. If you’ve never had a toddler bury their face in your neck while patting your back as you embrace, I highly recommend it. Even her fake tantrums (“fake” because she’s not really upset), with her arms folded and an exaggerated pout on her face, fill my heart to the brim. Joy number eight.
I could write for days about both the trials and the joys of motherhood. But the Lord has brought these joyful moments to the forefront for me….like one of those trippy hidden pictures that were all the rage in the ’90’s. You’re looking at a crazy, swirling, confusing, and frustrating mess. Then all of a sudden, you see it. The picture seems to magically rise to the surface. And I realize……children are the best medicine.