Some days are hard around here. Some days the craziness of small people in the house at dinnertime/naptime/bedtime/rainy day/snow day/sick day, etc. who may be feeling intermittently hungry/tired/mad/sad/confused/ornery is enough to drive a person to drink or stress-eat bagfuls of chocolate chips. Some days this mama feels like running away, particularly between the hours of 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.
But, I don't. I stay. And, inevitably there are hugs and jokes and sleepy kisses and silly faces and "I love you's" that make up for every. single. one. of those hard moments during the day.
In our four years, two months, and thirteen hours of parenting, we've seen walls covered in Sharpie art, a cellphone plunged to its death in a glass of sweet tea, copious amounts of dish liquid squirted intermittently throughout the house, odd items flushed down the toilet, and a host of other unmentionable things that I'll just leave to your imagination (hint: they usually involve poop). There have been moments where I really and truly thought one of those experiences was going to be the actual, literal end of me. Or at least the sane version of me who can carry on normal conversations and dress myself in the morning.
Those moments test the bounds of the love I have for the little people I brought into the world. But, as it turns out, the bounds of that love have yet to be reached. Pretty sure we've never even come close. It reminds me of how women forget about the pain of giving birth approximately twenty-four hours after doing so and start imagining what their next baby will look like. It's kind of amazing how mamas' hearts work.
Sometimes, I find myself wondering what's going on in the world outside my house and so I check the news online to see if there's anything I should make myself aware of (such as Y2K or global warming or who Taylor Swift is dating or not dating or writing bitter songs about). I do this hesitantly because there never fails to be some story recounting someone's child being lost or abused or neglected and I find myself unable to think about anything else for the next 2-74 hours. I cannot handle these stories. Cannot. They make me want to burn things down.
I read a story in this vein recently, or I should clarify, I read the title of the article. Not the story, mind you. Just the title. And, I still lay awake at night thinking about the plight of the child in that story. A child the age of my littlest. It makes me want to squeeze both my children breathless and then squeeze them some more. And then maybe a little more for good measure. I find myself whispering into their hair how much I love them. So VERY, heart-breakingly much. And then I kiss their sweet little cheeks until they squirm and wiggle and announce that they seriously need some space. Those stories make me want to wrap my arms around them and never, never let go. Like, ever.
I'm a little undone sometimes by how much I love that crazy boy of mine and that sweet-cheeked baby girl. And I find myself flummoxed by how anyone could do anything BUT love their little ones. I do not understand it. Even when my children are pushing me to the absolute limits of sanity, I still love them more than I have words for. The thought that someone could ever hurt their child or neglect them or do anything but love them is hard to fathom. And yet, it happens in families all the time. What on earth makes the difference between my love for my children and the lack of it that precipitates the suffering of the ones in those news stories? What is it that we have in our family that enables us to love our babies like we do?
I love my babies because God loved them (and me) first. He makes me able to love them with this new heart he's given me.
This thought struck me the other day when I was reminded of one of those unbearable stories of a child suffering and I ran to pick up my girl and hug my boy. I found myself flooded with thankfulness that my children were loved. By me, by Matt, by their grandparents, by friends, by our church. They don't have any concept of what it means to be anything other than loved by the people around them.
And this is how I know that we are covered by so much grace.
So, even as I find myself staggering through long days of disobedience and crying babies in the middle of the night and non-stop questions that usually start with "Why?," I'm more than a little confident that there will always be enough grace for me to love these little ones. Even when the toilet overflows with Barbie's summer wardrobe or the curtains get shanghaied into tent duty or the last shred of patience I have is just about to disappear. Even on the darkest days, when it's just all so hard. Even then. There will be enough grace for us. Enough grace for me to love my babies as fiercely as I did the day I first saw their scrunched-up little newborn faces.
And if they ever find themselves asking why I love them, I can tell them why:
God loved you first. He loved me first. And he teaches us, in his infinite grace, to love each other.
This is why I love you.
We love because he first loved us. -1 John 4:19