Just when I thought I was ready to jump into the pit of despair, the Lord sent me the words I needed to hear.  They were in the form of a little child.  This morning, as tears were streaming down my face, due to feeling like a complete failure, my young son Bryan approached me.  He looked at me quizzically, then said, "Mom, you look like ... "

His words trailed off, as he remembered why he had come into the room.  He then picked up his thought and said something that boggled my mind, because I was still wondering what I looked like to my four-year-old.

I don’t know what possessed me, but I pushed for an ending to his statement. "What do I look like?" I asked him.

"Oh." Again he looked at me with a sideways kind of look and his eyes scrunched up. "You look like one of those moms with funny hair."

It made me chuckle when he said it.  It was only 9:30 and I was already having a "feel sorry for myself ’cause I’m such a failure" kind of day. Bryan isn’t the type of kid to comment on my appearance, so it made me laugh that he thought I looked like one of those moms with funny hair.

A few minutes later, Christi came into the same room.  She looked at me in a quizzical sort of way.  Then she said, "I really like your hair that way!"  Again I laughed.

In the midst of my tears, the Lord gave me laughter. I discovered that I was trying to find the answers to my sorrow in grown-up kind of ways.  I was looking at all the externals in my life, trying to fix them all, so they could show me that I wasn’t a failure.  I was failing to see right before my very eyes, the one thing the Lord had called me to do.  He called me to "train them up in the way they should go."

He didn’t call me to make sure they don’t make any messes, or that they don’t sin, or that they live perfect little lives, and don’t miss any math problems.  He called me to reach up to Him, at the same time reaching out to my child, so she could feel the love of God through me.  If I am diligent in showing my children the Heart of Jesus, as He lives in me, then I am not failing.

Throughout the day the Lord showed me this truth in my life.  As I talked to my mom on the phone, she shared with me what a joy it was for her to have the children along when I went to help after she had a knee replacement surgery not long ago.

I did not think that way at all.  To be honest, I felt like they would be too loud, or would get on Grandma’s nerves, or that they would be irritating to each other, staying in a small apartment for several days.  Every time they were loud, or made a mess, I would cringe inside.  I was missing the joy.

Since coming home, my mom has called to talk to Erica several times.  Erica, who is five, helped my mom do her therapy.  I thought Erica was in the way.  My mom saw Erica as her driving force.  Erica would count every time Mom lifted her leg, or moved her leg sideways, or pushed it back.  Then Erica would put her little thumb up in the air and say, "Way to go Grandma!"  When my mom changed her bandage, Bryan was quick to come over and see the "owie."  I thought he was in the way.  But my mom enjoyed seeing him interested in her and in her surgery.  She took the time to explain the whole procedure to him so that he could understand.  He bent down and kissed her owie before she replaced the bandage.

One night while we were there, my mom was having a difficult time with the pain.  She, knowing the kids like to pray, called them over to pray for her.  They all laid hands on her leg and prayed for her.  It was a precious moment for my mom.
 
That moment wasn’t enough for me though; I still thought the kids should have stayed home so I could have been focused on helping my mom. 

As I talked to Mom on the phone tonight, she shared with me all the ways the children were a blessing to her.  She didn’t tell me all the things they did that irritated her, like when they brought the giant crawdad in the apartment, making her scream and wishing she could run into another room.  Christi thought Grandma was going to have a heart attack. She didn’t mention that the children scattered toys all over the living room. She didn’t even mention how disgusting it was when Erica threw up all the way down the hall.  None of those things mattered, because the children were showing her the love of God.

After I hung up the phone, I felt pretty sure I had received the message the Lord was trying to tell me.  He has called me to love them. And in doing that, I can reach up to His heart, and touch theirs.

Tonight at bedtime Bryan desperately wanted to say the prayers.  This is what he said, "Dear Lord, please help us to not be naughty, and to not throw the books off the shelf when we are mad, because books are for reading, even though I don’t know how to read, that’s what they are for, so please help me to not throw them on the floor."
 
He went on for a while longer, but I think that part of his prayer was for me.  Lately he has been a bit trying for me.  I have been feeling discouraged that I tell him the same thing over and over again.  Yet still he continues to lose his temper and destroy things.  When he prayed about the books, it gave me the encouragement I needed that the Lord is working on his heart through me.

And my own prayer of repentance says, "Oh, Lord, change my heart to see and reveal your love and not to see the irritations that seem to penetrate my heart clouding me from seeing the love I have for my children.  Make me an instrument of You."

In addition to devoting herself to her husband and the eight children she home schools, Terri also enjoys writing and speaking to offer encouragement to women in an effervescent, humorous way. Visit her Web site at www.ignitethefire.com or e-mail her at terri@ignitethefire.com.