Savoring the Smudges

Six years ago, when my oldest child was still tottering around, we went to visit my parents for a week. As our visit came to an end, I began cleaning up and packing to go home. I noticed my daughter had left hand prints and smudges all over my parents’ sliding glass door. I was about to wash them off, when my Mother insisted I leave them there. A month later, she told me Emma’s smudges were still on the window. She was cherishing them.

Motherhood gets busy, I agree, but as all mothers are aware, the pattering of little feet around the house will someday be gone. Someday there will be no more squeals and silliness. There will be no more little voices constantly asking for food. Children grow up. That is what is meant to happen. That is what I want to happen. But in the meantime, I need to be savoring the moments of little lives in my home, not just trying to get by or make it through the day.

A few years ago, my husband gave me a mill to grind wheat. It was something I had wanted for a long time. I love that mill, and have used it to grind wheat, oats, and flax. It is one of my favorite kitchen tools. What if I never took the time to enjoy the mill? Maybe I decided it took more time than I thought it would, so I loaned it out to others or just stored it in the cupboard, and never enjoyed it myself. Or perhaps, if every time I did use the mill, I got upset because it made a mess, was too loud, or took too long grind the wheat into usable flour. How I treat that mill shows if my heart is truly grateful. If I complain or do not use the gift of the mill, I am certainly not it. My lack of enjoyment in the mill would not only be an insult to my husband who so generously gave me the gift, but I would miss out on the joy the mill brings through the amazing, flavorful, freshly ground grains it provides. Motherhood is a gift. We are insulting our Father who so graciously gave us the blessing of children when we fail to enjoy the little ones He entrusted to our care. Yes, it might not look like what we expected. Children are messy, loud, and require much patience. But they are a gift from God. They are ours to enjoy and cherish for the short season God allows us to hold them close.

Culture is increasingly pressuring us as Christian’s to see children as anything but the biblical blessing they are. Children are perceived as the boss of the home. Children are seen as monsters. Children are limited due to their expense. Having a child is more like a having commodity than a living precious soul. The lives of unborn babies are discarded at will. Children in our culture are not treasured for God, but for selfish reasons of parents. Parents are prideful, selfish, and demanding of children. As a result of unbiblical perspectives on children, parenting is not purposed and done with intent, but coped and “fumbled-through.” If I rest on an unbiblical view of children, I am unable to fully enjoy my children. Not that I have to accompany my children on every adventure, but that I open my ears to the sounds of their squeals during play while I wash the dishes. I also need to patiently, and gently answer to the incessant “mommy.” And every time I wash little prints off the windows, I rejoice in the precious little hands that put them there. Mothering is a sacred, God ordained privilege. “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward” Psalm 127:3.

We mothers are tired. We are stressed. We are full of self-guilt. We are sickly. We are worried and fearful. We are busy. We are frustrated. We are cranky. We are human-sinful creatures. Enjoying our children is something we have to purpose to do, because it is not always a nature inclination. I always wondered why Paul instructed the older women in the church to teach the younger women “and so train the young women to love their husbands and children” Titus 2:4. Isn’t motherly love a natural thing? Why does it need to be taught? As other women have shown me, we love our husbands and children, yes, but how we love our children is what we need to learn. We need to learn the right way to love our children. We need to learn how to correctly show love to our husband and children. The major aspect of showing love to our children, is to simply enjoy them.

How do I enjoy my children? Well, Just like I enjoy my grain mill. First of all, I take the time. I purpose to use it. So with children, I take the time. I purpose times with them throughout the day. We go for a walk, we chat about life during breakfast and lunch, I give them random hugs and snuggles. I purpose to spend time with them in their world. This does not mean I manage them. No, I go with their flow, their serious little conversations, I spend time building a relationship with them, not just being “mom.”

I also pause and take in the moments of my children’s little lives. The sound of the mill grinding away is a happy sound to me. I like to hear the mill as it churns and crunches. So, I keep my senses open to my children. I smell their oily little heads, I listen to their sweet little baby sounds and little voices, and soak in their little snuggles, I stare at them while they sleep.

And yes, the mill makes a dusty mess. But it never once troubled me. I am so grateful to have it. I simply wipe up the mess and move on. So it is with my children’s messes. We clean them up and move on. My relationship with my child is far more important than the mess of an accidently spilled jug of tea all over the kitchen floor. Enjoying my children cannot happen, if I am overwhelmed or frustrated by the messes they make. I can’t allow myself to become absorbed in the mess, but must absorb myself in the joy of raising mess-makers. Children are not always a delight, but we as mothers can consciously work to enjoy them even when they are unpleasant. I have often put my arm around one of my little grumpies and told her that “I love you even when you are grumpy.” I can do that, because of the gospel. Someone choose to love me when I was grumpy. “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8. It always comes back to the gospel doesn’t it? I can truly enjoy being the mother of little sinners, all because I am a sinner, and God perused me out of His boundless grace.

As I battle to maintain a biblical perspective on motherhood. I can truly enjoy the blessing of being a mother. I don’t do it alone. I rest completely in the grace and new mercy poured out on my life daily. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” Lamentations 3:22-23. God has bestowed upon my life all the grace I need to do what He has given me to do. “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” I Corinthians 15:10. It is not my work, but the work of God through me, moment by moment. I can truly enjoy being a mother of sinners, because I delight in My God who rescued me from my sin. In that thought is joy. So today, I am going to wash windows, and rejoice.