"Children are a gift from the Lord;
they are a reward from him." Psalm 127:3 (NLT)
In my once or twice a year effort to turn this house into a place even Mr. Clean would find acceptable, I can often bemoan and get frustrated over the never-ending dirt I find everywhere. Just when I think I have cleaned the last smudge on the wall and done the last load of laundry, I realize a new spot or dirty pile of clothes somewhere else. Sometimes I think that it is easier to give thanks for the bigger things that I cannot always control--those things that I know are God-sized problems that are just not worth me getting all worked up over. It is much harder to give thanks with a joyful heart for those things I think I should be able to control, like a house that should stay clean after I have worked so hard to make it that way.
I groaned yesterday as I looked at the doors leading to my deck. Between our golden retriever puppy's tongue and three children's comings and goings, the door was plastered with fingerprints. I just did not have the energy to bring out the Windex again. I had hand-scrubbed (I am telling y'all, this is once a year kind of cleaning!) all the floors downstairs and then put lemon oil on them. My husband's knee pads were nowhere in sight and half-way through the task, my body was telling me that I am no longer twenty years old! I could not bear the thought of having to wipe in between each individual pane on both the inside and outside of the doors, so I just sat there staring at them, wishing I could will them away.
I find it so odd sometimes when I hear God's voice most clearly in my mind. I thought of a poem I had read in Ruth Bell Graham's book, Footprints of a Pilgrim. Instead of stewing over what sticky fingers and dog drool had done to my doors, I went upstairs to reread the poem for some perspective. This is what Mrs. Graham wrote:
I found God was continually opening my heart to more...I wrote this after the first funeral Billy conducted.
"I'm Daniel Creasman's mother.
I brung these clothes
could dress him up real natural-like--
navy wouldn't do.
He liked this little playsuit--
it's sorta faded now--
that tore place he
he got tryin' to help his daddy plow.
if he dressed real smart-like--
and all that fancy trim--
the last we'd see of Danny,
it wouldn't seem like him.
comb his hair...real special
(if 'twouldn't seem
I'll brush it so
come Sunday when he goes
to the house of God."
I saw him--
so still, so tanned he lay--
with the faded blue suit on him,
like he'd just come in from play,
but his hair was brushed
and it didn't seem one bit odd, for...
he was just a small boy,
done with play
gone home to the house of God.
--Ruth Bell Graham,
Footprints of a Pilgrim, Word Publishing, Nashville, TN, 2001.
I left the sticky fingerprints on the door as a deliberate reminder of three precious little people I have the privilege to clean for and, with God's help, convey how precious each one is to me. Today I will be thankful for a life as a mother that has required my heart to walk around in three other little ones' bodies. Today I will be thankful that there are messes to clean up, lunches to be made, and deliberate interruptions to my agenda which have the potential to be a God-given moment of pure sweetness between my babies and me, if I make the choice to see it that way. Oh God, please give me those eyes today.
Today I will remember that four of my siblings (two by birth and two by marriage and love) have a precious boy and girl that are playing in the house of God who will not be around our Thanksgiving table. But I will thank my God again for the impact their short stay on earth has made in our family. And although I wish Audrey Caroline and Luke were here with us, I will thank Him that I can leave with Him what I do not understand as He promises I will when we all sit down at the great banquet table waiting for us on the other side of eternity.
Today I will be thankful for the stretching of my own selfish heart that my mothering has required. I have a friend who once said to me that the sanctification of women comes through being a mother. Truer words I have rarely ever heard spoken.
Jesus, thank You for my children today. Yes, they are messy. Yes, they do fight. Yes, they can be strong-willed. But I thank You that they are here with me. I beg You to comfort all those who desperately want to be mommies and are not yet. And I beg You to comfort all those who are mommies who have children playing in Your house today, far away from them. Fill that ache with Yourself. Help me to remember that my children are Your blessing to me, the most wonderful gift, besides my husband, that I have ever been given. Help me to treat that gift with tender loving care today.