I used to think that the best years of parenting would be the very first ones…when they were cute and tiny (and thought the world of me). And then the later ones…when they went off to college (and once again began to think the world of me.)
But let’s be honest…most parents are so desperately sleep-deprived during those “cute and tiny” years…that they kind of miss the whole thing. I vividly remember the very moment, several months into Freddo’s life, when I stumbled upon a Sealy mattress ad in a magazine…and started to weep. The advertisment said something sappy like, “The people in your life depend on you to get a good night’s sleep,” and after nine straight months of waking up at least nine times a night with our acid-reflux-plagued-little-puker…oh how that ad was speaking to me.
All of THAT to say…it turns out that my theory was a little off. Because I have found that it’s actually these floundering “elementary-school” years, when they can finally think and feel and speak and reason and relate…that have become infinitely precious to me.
But they are especially precious to me…because I will never have them with my sweet Charlie. I feel like we have been totally robbed. Robbed, not just of the sleepless nights I would have GIVEN ANYTHING TO HAVE HAD with our baby boy, but also robbed of these precious middle years that were coming. If Charlie were here he would be two and half now…getting into all sorts of adorable mischief, and talking up a storm. And. We. Missed. The. Whole. Thing.
Even two years later, it hurts so badly I physically ache. I wanted to hear his voice. I wanted to know each and every wild thought that came into his little mind. And as much as I longed to hold him through those long, sleep-deprived nights and care for him as a baby…as my other little ones began to share the very depths of their souls one conversation at a time…I feel so much more deeply all that we will miss of Charlie’s life.
We will miss his every thought. We will miss his dreams. We will miss his fears. His off-key songs. His endless lists of favorite things. His crazy-but-they-might-just-work-ideas he would have wanted to try. We will miss every single thing that makes him laugh, and even the painful things that make him cry. And I am finding that as I move into these “messy middle years” with Charlie’s big siblings…these years of akward, missing-teeth smiles, and the millions of wacky life-questions that fill my days…I most grief Charlie’s unlived life.
Because I know that I am not just missing out on Charlie…I have missed my opportunity to know Christ-in-Charlie. I had wanted to know Jesus more through the joy of sharing this life…not through the suffering of being denied the whole thing.
I’d like to put a bow on that, and say something deep and holy about how great Heaven is going to be, and believe me…it is. Sometimes I wonder if there is anyone on the planet who longs for it more than me. But down here, stuck on this broken earth, I have found that you need to see Jesus in THIS day…and not just in the hope of the Heaven-ones coming.
And that…is why I’ve started the #kidssaythedeepestthings project. For all of us, stuck here on this earth, whose souls groan and ache through Earth’s dark days, and yet whose lives have been made a bit brighter…by the little ones in our lives. And honestly, that’s…everybody.
The moment I saw this on a friend’s Insta-feed I thought to myself, “What a great idea…ANYTHING is doable for 100 days!” It’s short-enough to make it happen, and yet long enough to maybe just maybe change your life. I read somewhere once that it only takes 21 days to make a “habit” out of something. I think of this fun fact…every time I renew my commitment to become avid about the habit of flossing. And yet, here I am, all these years later…still standing before the principal (I mean, dentist) fudging about my flossing habits biannually. (I’m starting to think 21 days is too short to change your life.) But 100…? Well, maybe just maybe.
And it got me thinking, “What could I really do for 100 days, that would create a habit that would permanently and eternally impact my life?” My friend decided to talk to 100 people about their spiritual journey’s, and the journey has been totally amazing. But I just don’t see all that many people in my mom-days.
And then it hit me…Who do I see every day? Who has God called me to listen to as I go through the glamorous task of wiping the crumbs off the same 5 x 5 foot floor space three meals a day and snack times in between?
My little glories.
And as I began to think of not just the mundane, and insanity-inducing moments of our daily life…but also the holy and wholly amazing ones when the little people I live with say something that truly stops me cold by the brilliance and depth of their tiny minds…I realized how good it might be to commit to stopping and listening to them a little (read: a lot) more closely.
And so, I began to listen. To listen to their phrases. To listen to the conversations coming from the backseat. To listen to their whispered words in the hushed (and sometimes NOT so hushed) moments of bedtime. And most of all…to listen to their words when I am busy, and most prone to only pretend to be listening. I began to listen all day long for glimpses of the incarnate Christ in my little glories…one conversation at a time. And it has been life-changing. I haven’t even made it to the coveted 21st day, but I’m feeling pretty confident that this habit is here to stay.
Because what I’ve realized ten days into this journey…is that I just wasn’t listening very closely. Oh, I heard them. But I’m not sure I always saw them. And worst of all…I’m not sure I always saw Him in them. Weekly? For sure. But hourly? Hardly. But now that I’m searching for hidden treasure in the simple words my kids speak…I am amazed at the radiant display of God they are showing me daily…through their simple and child-like lives. In the last ten days alone, of really truly listening, my children have deeply challenged me in the ways they both encounter and reveal the living Christ.
I know so many moms who fear that life and ministry are kind of “over” when they have a child. Friends, I will die on this hill…being a mama is the best ministry you will ever be invited to, because it is the one, and perhaps the only one…where you cannot hide. You actually literally cannot hide. (Believe me, I know. I found myself in the hall closet one day, and thought to myself, “This is ridiculous. Eventually, they are going to FIND me…and think this is a rad game of hide-and-go-seek.”)
And you figuratively cannot hide. They are around you so much, and in so many behind-closed-doors moments, that it is unavoidable friends: by the time they get to college, if you were even half honest about your sins and struggles in this life…your kids will be utterly convinced that you’re one hot mess and not the chief of saints. They just will. Believe me, I know…I’m in college ministry. You simply cannot escape.
But in that not escaping, you might be their very best glimpse…of someone who desperately needs a Savior…and has found one by His grace. Every single time I yell at my kids too loudly, or drop a colorful word I wish they hadn’t heard me say…I think to myself, “There it is again: My front-row, moving picture, Film-festival worthy display…of my need for Someone more holy than me.” But the same is true for the flip-side. If Jesus is in you, you will also be one of your children’s clearest pictures of Christ-in-you, the true hope of glory. Because being someone’s mama is a Colossians 1:27-kind of ministry.
“To them, God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory…” (Colossians 1:27.)
No one will think it’s a bigger and more glorious mystery that Christ is in YOU…than your kids. They who get to see the “real” you on display day after day. And no one has the opportunity to see Jesus more clearly than they will…through your broken and redeemed life. I’ve always thought this…and been both terrified and excited about this reality. But in these last few years, as we have suffered beyond our wildest imagination, and been forced to do real life together in even deeper ways- a new reality has hit me. That same hope of glory is also for ME to see…through the great mystery of Christ-in-their-lives.
Believe me, I know that I’m raising a bunch of little sinners. That’s usually my first proclamation when my husband calmly strolls in the door at closing time each day. But lately especially, as I’ve begun to really listen to the little things they say, I have become awe-strikingly aware that we are also raising a bunch of saints. I have 90 days to go…but even 10 days into #my100dayproject…my kid’s have downright shocked me with their own radiant displays of “Christ-in-me” the hope of glory.
And so…I wanted to invite you to be a part of this journey. You could take part, by simply listening alongside me as my kids show me Jesus one conversation at a time. The hashtag is #kidsaythedeepestthings. (I forgot the “s” so plan accordingly.) Or, even better…you could JOIN me. And post your own Colossians 1:27 moments with the communal hashtag #kidsSaythedeepestthings. I would SO love to hear how the little people in your life…be they grandkids, or nieces and nephews, or the kids you nanny, or your very own little glories…are showing you the very heart of Jesus, one conversation at a time.
Now I know that when they are young…the verdict is still out on how the little ones in our lives will walk with Jesus through the upcoming “Wonder Years” of middle school, high school, and college. But I also know that the Jesus our kid’s reflect to us each day, had some really strong words about the preciousness of kids, and how MUCH they reveal to us of the King. He was crystal clear: “The Kingdom of Heaven BELONGS to such as these.” Belongs. I love that word. We humans spend our whole lives longing for belonging, and here we are…surrounded by short people who belong to Him in a really special way.
So…Will you join me? Will you commit to truly listen to your littles, and the big and glorious things they say? I have a dream that someday, when we big people are gone, our little people will be able to look back and see that we knew that each one of them had something deeply precious and holy to speak into this life.
The other day, I made an “Earth Day” lunch for the kids. The sandwiches were a little too “earthy” for their liking so I added the last of our watermelon to each plate. Two minutes later, I came back into the kitchen, and found 3 plates, with 3 Earth sandwiches on them, and 3 slices of water melon…nibbled right down to the rinds. I looked up at Freddo, his soft, sweet cheeks dripping with watermelon juice and said, “Umm, Fred…what happened to the watermelon?” He dropped his head and said to me, “I ate them. All of them. I was so hungry and that watermelon tasted sooooo juicy.”
Well, one Time-out and two apologies later, and I was back from the store with more watermelon for the sisters who hadn’t gotten any. I thought nothing of it, as I cut three more juicy slices and plunked them on the plates. And in that moment, Freddo looked up at me and said softly, “Mommy, thanks for giving me grace and letting me have more watermelon. It makes me so happy.”
Um…did he just say, “grace.” In it’s proper context? Like someone who actually gets that big and glorious word? And feels unworthy of it and grateful for it just the same?
Yes. He. Did.
And I realized in that moment, that this little man who is only five years into this life filled with endless opportunities for God-sized grace, is indeed learning about it…one watermelon slice at a time. And as I sliced him another big piece, I had to stop and ask myself, “How often do I stop and THANK GOD…for endless moments of grace in my own life?” Not enough. Not nearly.
And so, I am stopping and saying it for the next 100 days. In honor of all six of my little glories- who are the greatest reminder of God’s undeserved grace I will ever encounter in this life. In honor of the three who are in Heaven waiting for me. And in honor of the three who are on Earth…waiting for me.
Waiting for me to hear them, and see them, and know them more and more each day. And even more…to know better the God of all grace, through the simple experience of listening to their hearts as they chatter through our days. The King who ordained long ago, when He set up a world where we start as little-people, that they would teach us so much. He, who knew full well, far better than we, that #kidsSaythedeepestthings.