Don’t Give up: Cultivating a Harvest in the Trenches of Motherhood

“How was your day?”

It was a simple enough question, yet one I found almost impossible to answer. How could I possibly condense the last ten hours into one concise response?

I immediately wanted to reel off an exhaustive and impressive list, showcasing the full range of my mothering and homemaking capabilities. Except I couldn’t—not today or any other day, if I was being honest.

How was my day, really? The truth was it had been a long, relentless, overwhelming blur. I was worn out, weary, and had barely drawn breath. And though I had been home all day with my two young children, somehow it didn’t feel like I had much to show for it. Toys still littered the floor, while the laundry from three days ago was still in the dryer. My girls had spent large chunks of the afternoon arguing and had barely eaten dinner. 

It was only Tuesday. The rest of the week stretched before me and I wondered—not for the first time—if I could do it all again tomorrow.

A PURPOSE, A PROMISE, AND A PLEA

The days are long, and the nights are longer.

That’s probably how many of us could describe life in the early years of motherhood. Deep in the trenches with our little ones, the days (and nights!) can be difficult, energy-sapping, lonely, and long. Down in the darkness with us are the nagging doubts, the quiet, secret thoughts we dare not speak aloud:

I can’t do this.

I’m not enough.

I’m not making a difference.

Unseen, underappreciated, and so very tired, we wonder when, or even if, we will see a return on our labor.

Yet God sees. He sees it all: The daily struggle and the sacrifice, the worry and the tears, the selfless, overwhelming, unconditional love poured out day after day after day even when it takes everything we have. And He responds—with a purpose, a promise, and a plea: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9, NIV).

THE WORK YOU ARE DOING IS GOOD

“Let us not become weary in doing good…”

In the mayhem and monotony of daily motherhood, it can be easy to forget the significance of what we’re doing. “I’m just a mom,” I’ve heard women say, quickly downplaying and devaluing their God-ordained purpose and significance. Raising children and “training them in the way they should go” is Kingdom work of the utmost significance because these little ones were His first, bestowed to us as a blessing, “a heritage from the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). 

Every day, in big and small ways, from the moment they wake us up in the morning until we tuck them into bed at night, we are fulfilling the Great Commission. In the ordinary moments and the mountaintop ones, we are given opportunities to model and reflect Jesus to our ever-watching little disciples. Our life is a window through which our children can glimpse the Father and experience a taste of His grace, forgiveness, kindness, compassion, servant heart, and fierce life-giving love. As moms, this is our ministry, our calling, and our greatest purpose. As Andy Stanley once said, “Your greatest contribution to the Kingdom of God may not be something you do, but someone you raise.”

Do not let yourselves be deceived—the work you are doing is good.

THE HARVEST IS COMING

“…at the proper time we will reap a harvest.”

In my kitchen sits a treasured gift from a mentor mom I met at church, a plant pot inscribed with vibrant hand-painted letters: “Mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow.

It’s a reminder of the harvest that can come from the tiniest of seeds.

“God’s kingdom is like a pine nut that a farmer plants. It is quite small as seeds go, but in the course of years it grows into a huge tree, and eagles build nests in it” (Matthew‬ ‭13:31-32‬, ‭MSG‬‬).

A mighty giant does not grow overnight. Beneath every tree lies a vast network of roots, representing countless years of unseen growth. Supporting, nourishing, and nurturing, the roots give the tree everything it needs not only to survive but to fulfill its purpose and reflect God’s glory.

Consider the farmer. He cuts a lonely figure, but every day without fail, in sunshine and rain, he is in his field, tending to his crops. He is cold and weary. The work is beset with setbacks and difficulty, and he receives little thanks. Nonetheless, every day he shows up. His eyes fixed not on the daily struggle, but on his future vision for the field—the promise and possibility of these tiny saplings and the harvest he will one day reap.

This is the legacy we are creating as we faithfully nurture our children in their journey toward independence and adulthood. In even the most mundane tasks we are endeavoring through God’s grace to provide them with everything they need—physically, emotionally, and spiritually—to grow, flourish, and bear fruit. For these little people who almost smother us with their love and incessant, desperate needs, and these adolescents who simultaneously drain every last ounce of pride and patience, are the future men and women of God’s kingdom with a plan and purpose of their own. This season of cultivation may be painstaking, backbreaking, thankless work, but we can be encouraged that “in the Lord our labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). We have received our inheritance in Christ and one day will be granted the reward He has promised us.

DON’T GIVE UP

“…If we do not give up.”

Through the long days and longer nights, the fear and the failures, the discouragement and the disappointments, the invisibility and the thanklessness, how do we keep going?

Motherhood is not a job that comes with an abundance of daily validation and praise. There will be no certificates of excellence when I finally see the bottom of the laundry hamper and no one will ever offer me a sticker for making my children dinner. This is not a job with a tangible reward system. The accolades and affirmations can be in short supply.

“Do it anyway,” God says. “Do it for Me.”

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” ‭(Colossians‬ ‭3:23-24, NIV)‬.

God doesn’t demand perfection, Martha Stewart meal plans, and homes Joanna Gaines would be proud of. He desires only us, our wholehearted obedience and unflinching surrender to this worthy calling He has placed on our lives.

As we look to Him for our daily portion—to carry, sustain, and strengthen us in this season—we find ourselves transforming, too. Our own journey of growth not yet complete as He molds and changes us into the women He created us to be, continuing His legacy.

The season we are in may feel equally thankless and exhausting, messy and mundane. There will be hurt and heartbreak, disappointments and discipline. But we must not lose sight of the vision God has given us and its eternal significance. As legacy builders of God’s Kingdom, we must persevere because the harvest is coming. And oh, what joy there will be when it is time to reap!

“Those who shed tears as they plant will shout for joy when they reap the harvest” (Psalm 126:5, NET).

This article first appeared in the Redeem (Fall 2019) Issue of Joyful Life Magazine

Photo by Kristina Paukshtite on Pexels.com

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: Celebrating the Children God Gave Us

We took our seats at the large, rectangular table in the center of the meeting room, facing an imposing panel of educators and evaluators. As the chairperson cleared her throat and picked up the stack of papers with my daughter’s name at the top, we steeled ourselves for what she was about to say. 

What conclusions had they drawn from their gamut of testing? And what would it ultimately mean—for her education and for her future?

I wasn’t sure I wanted to find out. 

***

Almost exactly five years before, we stood in her newly painted, pink and gray nursery admiring our handiwork. There, on the wall above her crib, was the stencilled white lettering of Psalm 139:14:

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

This chosen verse—and its placement directly above her bed—was no coincidence. For it was our deepest desire that from the very beginning, this child of ours would know who she was, and, more importantly, Whose she was: a beloved child of God, a masterpiece of the Father’s creation. We wanted her to be reminded of it every single day—from the moment she opened her eyes to the moment she laid her head down to sleep.

Yet, ironically, that verse I saw countless times during the long days and even longer nights of early motherhood, was placed there for the both of us. It turned out that in the months and years to come, I would need to be reminded of its truth just as much—if not more—than she would. 

NAVIGATING ‘NORMAL’

She made her debut into the world on a snowy February afternoon. A fierce, red-faced, intensely curious little thing with the bluest eyes I’d ever seen. And—landing herself back in the hospital at barely 3 weeks old with breathing and reflux issues—she soon made it clear this was not going to be an easy ride. A complete novice in the realm of motherhood, I immediately felt out of my depth, turning to the ‘experts’ to guide me through those turbulent first few months—experts my baby mostly ignored.

As she grew, however, more challenges continued to emerge—rigidity, picky eating, sensory aversions, social communication difficulties, gastrointestinal issues, night terrors, the list went on. Oh, she was downright spectacular in other ways too, of course—but more often than not I wasn’t focusing on ‘that.’ No, I was more concerned with what she ‘wasn’t doing’—the things that made her different from the rest, stand out from the crowd, and—I shamefully admit now—the things that made me stand out too.

I vividly remember at a birthday party one afternoon, trying to coax her unsuccessfully into joining the other children digging into their pizza and juice—how obvious her differences were. Driving home frustrated and a little heartbroken at yet another ‘typical’ experience she had missed out on, a haunting refrain echoed in my mind. 

Why can’t you just be like everyone else?

It wasn’t the first time I had thought such a thing, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last.

DEFINING DIFFERENT

Finally, after almost five years of wondering and worrying, we had an answer: Asperger’s Syndrome, or High-Functioning Autistic Spectrum Disorder as it’s otherwise known. 

There was relief, of course. A diagnosis would help us more effectively understand her mind, her behavior, and her world. It opened doors for support and services, and demanded a greater understanding and empathy from others in a way that hadn’t been possible before. But I also balked at the significance, permanence, and harsh repercussions of such a defining label.

A torrent of questions raged through my mind, threatening to pull me into a spiral of doubt, worry, and fear.

What would her future look like? Would she have meaningful relationships? How would she navigate school, college, and beyond? Would she be happy, fulfilled, and accepted just as she was?

And then I remembered the verse on the wall. The letters were peeling a little now, tarnished with age and wear, yet their message stood firm. A message that drew me back to the only One who could provide solace to me in these fearful moments—the One who had created her. 

FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE

As I poured out my heart, surrendering my doubts, fears, and many tears into His Almighty hands, His response resounded in my mind with piercing clarity. He wasn’t worried—and neither should I be. She belonged to Him first, after all, as we read in Jeremiah 1:5:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart” (NIV).

It was the jolt I needed to shift my perspective and start seeing my daughter through the eyes of her Creator. All this time, I’d been unwittingly viewing her through a lens of comparison, measuring her against unrealistic, worldly standards and my own misplaced expectations. Instead of delighting in her differences, I resented them or wished them away. I apologized for them, often downplaying them—and in doing so, inadvertently diminished her.

Yet, she was not merely a lump of clay created to fit the mold of this world. She was clay in the hands of the Master Potter—a Potter who molded her with tender love and exquisite care. He crafted every remarkable detail of her being, even down to the hairs on her head, with a purpose and a plan, and formed her in His image to reflect His glory and make her unique, indelible mark on the world. He intended her to shine His light brightly and unapologetically for all the world to see—in a way that only she could. And yet it was this very light that—in my quest for ‘normalcy’—I had been hiding under a bushel, lest someone might see it. 

I resolved then and there to celebrate her—every part of her—in the same way her Heavenly Father delighted over her with singing and great joy (Zephaniah 3:17). I decided to take pleasure in all that she was instead of all that she wasn’t and be filled with gratitude and joy at the beautiful, curious, smart, hilarious, creative child He had entrusted to my care. I was determined to finally stop trying to fit her into a mold that was never meant for her. 

And when I did, it freed us both.

DELIGHTING IN OUR DIFFERENCES

Maya Angelou once said: “If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”

For so long, I had regarded the traits that set my daughter apart as problems to solve or challenges to overcome. Instead, God began to show me they were treasures to be celebrated—gifts He used to reveal Himself, impact His kingdom, and gently transform my heart.

  • GOD USES OUR DIFFERENCES TO REVEAL HIMSELF

“So God created mankind in his own image, 

in the image of God he created them;

male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27, NIV). 

The Bible is clear: We are, each one of us, image-bearers of the God of the Universe. Each created in our own unique way to reflect the character and nature of the Living God. As the whole of creation sings His praises and declares His glory, so too, do we. 

We read in Romans 1:20: “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”

My child’s creative, curious, gentle spirit; her compassion and empathy for all living things (especially those of the four-legged variety); her determination and drive; her zany sense of humor and infectious, abundant joy for life—they all point directly back to the Father. Her unique blend of characteristics reflect the different facets of the Father like a living, breathing kaleidoscope of color and light, through which I can see and experience Him in wonderful and surprising new ways.

We read in Isaiah 43:6b-7: “Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” My daughter was formed and made to reflect the glory of God. By dismissing her differences, I was, by default, dismissing Him; by embracing them, I was able to enter into a richer, fuller understanding of my God. And for that alone, I was truly thankful. 

  • GOD USES OUR DIFFERENCES TO IMPACT HIS KINGDOM

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).

As children of God, each one of us has been created with a plan and purpose in mind, divinely appointed to do “good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10, NIV). Our distinct personalities, passions, talents, and traits are no happy coincidence, but gifts He has given us in order to do His Kingdom work, and do it well (Romans 12:6). They are carefully designed tools, equipping us to touch the hearts and lives of the hurting, the hungry, the broken, and the lost with His message of hope, restoration, and life.

Therefore, as Paul concludes in Romans 12:4: since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be” (MSG).

Who was I to stop my daughter from being who she was made to be? She had been given a distinct voice within the symphony of heaven to reach and bless those around her, simply by being herself. And if I diminish that voice I diminish her and the vital Kingdom work God is doing in and through her.

Coco Chanel once said, “In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.” If my daughter’s differences make her an irreplaceable servant for the Lord, there is no greater reason to celebrate them. 

  • GOD USES OUR DIFFERENCES TO TRANSFORM OUR HEARTS

“Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind” (Romans 12:2, GNT).

Looking back, I had wasted so much precious time and energy attempting to conform my daughter to the worldly standards Paul warns us about in the Scriptures. But, for what? Why was it so important to me that she ‘fit in’? Why did it take me so long to embrace who she truly was?

One word: Pride.

Parenting a child with Autism forced me to confront my own sinful nature—to look deep inside the dark, hidden corners of my heart and bring my prideful motives out into the open. It forced me to clearly see the idols I was unwittingly bowing down to and the areas of my heart and life that were in desperate need of the transformative power of God.

It wasn’t my child that needed to change—it was me. And God knew it. He may have not given me the ‘perfect’ child—for such a child doesn’t exist—but He had given me the child that was perfect for me. One that would humble me, and lead me to seek God’s opinion first over anyone else. One that would direct me back to Him, seeking daily the strength, patience, and wisdom I needed to face every new challenge and parent this precious child with grace and love. Among so much more, through this daughter of mine, Christ would finally help loosen the chains of my striving and perfectionism, and help me find peace.

***

Parenting a child—any child—brings with it its own unique challenges. Being their advocate and their biggest cheerleader in a world full of people who simply don’t see them the way you do can be exhausting, defeating work. The pursuit of ‘normalcy’ can be an ever-present temptation.

Yet, repeatedly, God draws us back to His Word, inviting us to look upon our offspring with fresh eyes—with His eyes. For when we love them the way He loves us, we, in turn, point them back toward their Father, and show them who and Whose they truly are.

As I sat in that meeting room, holding my breath as the chairperson prepared to speak, I wanted more than anything for them to see my daughter as I saw her—fearfully and wonderfully made. To see the potential and possibilities in the midst of the challenges presented before them. To see her, as she truly was, and love her for it. 

And I wasn’t disappointed. 

“I just have to tell you before we start,” she began, “your daughter is simply a delight.” 

“I know,” I said with a smile. And this time, I truly believed it. 

This article first appeared in the Delight Issue of Joyful Life Magazine.

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk on Pexels.com