Years ago we sold our home and bought another one. I was skeptical of the potential new kitchen, and with good reason. In addition to the not-so-level country-blue laminate counters was this ocean-blue floor made of tiny 2 by 2 square inch tiles. That floor was the stuff of Mexico, and I wasn’t having it. I live in the mountains of rural north Georgia for goodness sake. So when we toured the house, Jeff said, “Yes, Sarah, we can replace the tile.” “Yes, Sarah.” He said that. Direct quote, people. Can I just tell you that tile has left me sea-sick for almost 5 years now. FIVE years. To tell you that I have loathed the shiny, cobalt ceramic squares is an understatement. I L-O-A-T-H-E-D the tile. So, when I found some peaceful grey (neutral is my love language) tiles on sale for pennies, I grabbed a hammer and chisel and told Jeff it was time. Time he ante up. He promised after all. He was at work, probably doing something spiritual like preparing a sermon to share with your children on Wednesday nights, but I interrupted with photos of the new tile and requests for permission to proceed.
And proceed I did. The elation I experienced at busting those tiles with my hammer ranks right below having my children and my wedding day.
I was pumped.
By pumped, I mean I went insane. I seriously put on lip gloss and fixed my hair for the demolition. Legit. Hammer in hand, Cort by my side (I think Jeff sent him a text and told him to supervise and make sure I didn’t hurt myself), I tapped the tile gingerly at first, and then with a gusto and vigor I can only explain as being “caught up in the Spirit.” (Cort may or may not have thought I’d been overtaken by a demon, but really, he’s young, how could he know?) I banged and bashed and brandished my hammer like a crazed banshee.
Then I noticed how SLOW the tile removing process was going. I noticed after about ten tiles, the hammer was getting heavy. (Seriously, in this day and age, why does a hammer have to weight 5 million pounds?) I noticed I wasn’t quite prepared. (Read: I had to go get safety glasses because shards of ceramic are sharp and they slice skin without apology or warning. Sorry about your leg, Cort.) But I was determined. Nate was at work, but Cort quickly saw that an intervention would be necessary, so he had mercy on me and assisted. We pounded and chiseled, and pounded some more. When Jeff got home, he found only a few square feet of tile removed and a wife who was utterly exhausted. We had about 140 square feet to go.
(Some will judge my son’s bare feet. Judge away. I pick my battles.)
I was discouraged.
But I was still determined.
And I was invested. You can’t really change your mind once you’ve busted out a few dozen tiles and cracked scores more. We were all in, like it or not.
Kind of reminds me of parenting. Does it you?
So excited about having a beautiful family, we bring children into this world and it is all roses and butterflies and heavenly choirs for the first few minutes.
They don’t sleep. They end up with colic. (Lord help us, mommas of littles, how I remember those days. What in the world was wrong with me, I thought, that made my kids the only ones that cried constantly?) Or they don’t potty train. Or they bite. Or they hit. And later, they talk back. They use their phones to send inappropriate things. They hide things from you. They disrespect you. And if you’re like me, you’re convinced that you’ve done something wrong, you missed the memo on raising perfect, well mannered kids. Or maybe they don’t do anything wrong, they just don’t do anything at all. They don’t talk to you. They don’t participate in activities with the family. They just dissolve into their bedrooms, and you can’t find a way back. You wonder how you can ever get them to actually talk with you. They get a little heavy, don’t they? And the work . . . the real work of parenting lies before us. And oh my goodness, it is way more difficult than we ever could have imagined. All of a sudden, we are in shock and a little uncertain if we will make it through.
But we’re all in. They’re ours. No return policy.
And the potential for beauty and joy is undeniable.
It’s just hard sometimes, isn’t it?
When Jeff came home, he grinned at me in the midst of my mess. Then, he had this advice for me, “We just gotta keep going, Babe. We’ll get it done.”
And you know, he was right?
And here is something so beautiful. He said, “We’ll get it done.”
Did you catch that? WE.
God NEVER LEAVES us to do this incredible work of parenting alone. He doesn’t.
I will never leave you nor forsake you–Hebrews 13:5
We are all in, yes, but we are all in with the power, the might, the wisdom and the strength of the God who hung our planet into orbit and breathed life into mankind. He’s way more invested than we’ll ever be. He’s the architect! This is his gig.
In the end, every muscle in my body was sore. Look, I turned 40. Things have happened. My knees hate me. My arms are like long animal balloons filled with water. I’ll just tell you I was popping 12 hour Aleves and vitamin B12s like they were skittles. And I have concluded that all flooring guys should be nominated for Nobel prizes and given raises after every job they complete, and also they should be knighted or sainted. What? I’m not even kidding.
But, I have a lovely, inexpensive (thanks to sweat equity and my husband who can do anything in the world.) neutral floor that no future home owner will want to curse me for. It’s so pretty.
(And may the God of heaven and earth grant me new counters someday before I am 100.)
It came one way.
And hard work takes time. Lots of time. Lots of sweat. Lots of commitment.
Can we just encourage you to keep going? Keep chiseling away at the tiles in your children’s lives that need removing. Keep carefully, attentively laying the foundational mortar of God’s Word that will ground them for a lifetime. Keep doing the things that seem basic and simple and not very glamorous, but are truly critical and vital to the end result. Things like reading them the same story for the millionth time. Things like telling them tales of your own childhood. Things like teaching respect and honor. Things like requiring the truth and giving fair consequences for wrong choices. Things like Nerf Wars and dressing up like Super Heroes and watching all the Marvel movies. Things like asking your kid questions even when they only give you one word answers. Things like texting funny memes that they think are stupid, and like tucking them in at night even when they are long over it, and roasting s’mores in the middle of a rainstorm, or making them a coffee and bringing it to them in bed. The magic of insignificant things is that when you accumulate them over a lifetime, they become the mortar that cements your hearts to one another. There’s no perfect formula. Your things will be different than my things. Don’t be tempted to compare. Never measure yourself by another human. Allow God to equip you with His tools, and that will always be enough.
Your children may not thank you now. They may not always be dream-boats to raise. Sometimes they may be a lot like my blue floor–horrifying. But they are yours.
God chose YOU and appointed YOU to raise them, to love them, to guide them in truth.
Keep going, friends and fellow parents. In the end, you will reap a harvest.
I always knew the vision I had for our kitchen. I didn’t look at the tacky tile and dismiss the kitchen as useless. I knew deep inside of me just what that space could be. With parenting, we have to keep the end in mind too, you know? You and I? We know what our children can be. We know deep within us who they are meant to be. What do we hope for our children in the end? What kind of people do we want them to be? And every choice, every decision, every word shared, every interaction should take that end goal into consideration. We are NOT guaranteed that our children will walk with Jesus all their days. They get to make that decision for themselves. What we CAN guarantee is that we lay the foundation for them to walk with God. That is the choice you and I get to make. Each day. With each truth spoken, each kindness offered, each smile given. We get to introduce our children to the heart of God by mirroring Him every chance we get.
Be imitators of God as beloved children–Eph. 5:1
Keep going. Your children are beautiful. Your work is sacred and holy, and it matters tremendously. You may feel ill-equipped, weak, and unprepared, but you are all in, so keep going. Because your YOU is not just you, it is you and HIM–God Almighty is working through you.
For it is God who works in you (and your children), both to will and to work for his good pleasure–Phil. 2:13
Encourage the exhausted and strengthen the feeble. Say to those with anxious heart, “Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; The recompense of God will come, But He will save you.” Isaiah 35:3,4
Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone.And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-8
Maybe you look at the landscape of your child’s life, and you think, I want to keep going or even begin anew, but where do I start? I hear you. It can be daunting and overwhelming. Parenting is the stuff of heroes. I have this one suggestion.
Just start with one tile.
And then the next . . .
and the next.
Just one tile.
Because it matters.