"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
Motherhood, as all mothers know, has some ugly moments - and ugly days. I have shared glimpses (trust me, they were just glimpses!) into such times in my own life in previous blog posts. Any day has the potential for ugliness, for sin to creep in and eat away at the blessings of domestic life, but each day also has the potential to be an occasion of joy and thankfulness to the Lord. And today, I am happy to report, was not an ugly day.
In fact, the day started off with some of my favorite routine activities: snuggling between a sweet baby and her wonderful daddy, an early morning workout, a hot shower, and a hot breakfast. Despite the imperfections (a wet boy with wet sheets that now needed washing, just two days after I last changed them), the morning was altogether pleasant. This was partly due to the fact that both my workout and shower were surprisingly free of the usual (and often frustrating) interruptions.
Instead of leaving the children to their own devices while I washed off, I set up Lydia on her blanket with toys, and the boys close beside, each with a pile of laundry to fold and put away. Laundry is the boys' least favorite of their regular chores, and the mere mention of it often elicits groans, whines, or mysterious disappearances. Upon seeing Donny's chagrined face this morning, I encouraged him to please God, to please Mumma and Daddy, and to displease Satan by folding the laundry with a joyful heart. I reminded both children that God is watching them even when Mumma cannot, and that they would choose between consequences for disobedience or the rewards of completing their task before my return. I dared not expect too much - after all, there are many days when I command, "Fold the laundry," with repeated warnings and reminders, and the task still takes three times longer than it should. Yet I stepped out of the room hoping that today, after my gentle explanation and encouraging reminders, would be different.
And it was! I enjoyed a refreshingly unhurried shower, got dressed, and returned to find Lydia still playing on her blanket, and the boys putting away the last of the laundry they had folded. What joy to a mother's heart, to see her children obey completely! I have a strong suspicion that the time I spent in explanations and encouragement - the fruit of gentleness and patience displayed in me, by the grace of God - was what made the difference between an ugly morning of incomplete chores and a the joyful morning I experienced.
There was more encouragement later, while we ran errands. The cashier in the grocery store recognized us, and told the woman in line behind us how good my children are, and how the boys are always such good helpers with the groceries. It's true; they may have occasions of whining, begging, or spilling their snacks, but for the most part, the boys are great grocery helpers - especially when we get home, and they help me put all the food away!
Now of course, my three children did not suddenly morph into perfect, sinless creatures, or even into completely obedient little soldiers. By the end of day, discipline for bad attitudes and delayed obedience was necessary. Yet by the grace of God, the day did not go sour. I was able to remain patient and calm, correcting what needed correction, and helping my children come to a place of repentance for their sin. And in those moments, moments that could easily have taken an ugly turn, I saw God's hand at work. I saw spiritual fruit in myself: a gentle patience that is so often lacking when I am not connected to the Vine. Had I flared up in anger or collapsed in discouragement, I would not have experienced the peace of walking with God and leading my little ones to His feet. If selfishness had crept in, I would have been too self-occupied to notice the many blessings laced throughout my day.
In a similar way, today I saw fruit in my children, which encouraged me that the praying and Bible reading and verse memorizing and hymn singing and theological discussions are not just producing well-educated hypocrites. It seems that somewhere in their childish hearts, a seed has been planted, a seed that I pray daily will grow and blossom, that my children may come to truly know Christ as their Savior. Today I witnessed the fruit of my labors: children are not born knowing how to put away laundry or be cheerful in the grocery store, but consistent training in the ways of the Lord is effective.
I wanted to record today's events, however unexciting they may seem to some, to encourage myself and my readers not to give up on the ugly days. Get connected to the true Vine, find peace and refreshment there, and watch as the fruit you bear for Him produces seed for the next generation.