They say not to cry over spilled milk, but I have.
When my kids were little, there were expert mess-makers. As soon as I cleaned up a bin of toys, they'd pour them out. If I went to the bathroom, they'd try to climb on the kitchen table or worse, into the dryer. The normal exhaustion of motherhood paired with an international move, purchasing cars and finding housing had finally caught up to me. I was tired, and when one of my little ones spilled her cup of milk, it was enough to bring me to tears.
Recognizing my exhaustion, I often tried to work harder. Maybe if the house wasn't so messy, I wouldn't be so stressed. Maybe if I could get up earlier or have a little more alone time, I wouldn't feel so anxious and worn out. Unfortunately, none of these could satisfy my deep weariness. I knew that the Lord was supposed to be my rest, but I was tired and unsure how to practically cling those promises in this season.
Around this time, I read a Psalm that made me both laugh and cry in exhaustion. It says, "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives his beloved sleep." (Ps. 127:1-2).
"Well," I remember laughing. "That sounds nice. I would love to get some sleep, but how is all this stuff going to get done? Is God going to clean my house and feed my children in the middle of the night?" I didn't know how to let the Lord "build the house" in this tiring season.
And yet, as I read the words of this Psalm over and over, they pierced my heart. I had been laboring hard, trying to serve my husband and children well. I had been trying to "rise up early" and "stay up late" so that I could make my life easier- but still, I was exhausted. And lest I think that early motherhood didn't apply to this kind of rest, I noticed that the next few verses specifically mentioned kids. The Psalmist continues to call children a heritage from the Lord and compares them to arrows in the hand of a warrior (3-4). He even says, "Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!" (v5).
My tired body didn't miss the irony of these words. God talks about sleep in the same psalm that he mentions having kids. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't link those things together. If you have kids, you usually sleep less. I consistently get less sleep due to the bad dreams and "I can't sleeps" of my children. And yet, God in his sovereignty put these ideas next to one another in a psalm about building and rest.
Throughout Scripture we are all called to "build." We are given specific ways to love and serve those around us, and being a mom is one of the greatest blessings of my life. But although we are commanded to build, labor and work hard, all of this work is in vain if not done through the sustaining grace and power of God. Raising children is another form of building, and I can build with my own strength or with the strength the Lord provides. It is in the small, unnoticed moments of the day, that God invites me to find his true and abiding rest- rest that is not dependent on my circumstances, but on the enduring word of God.
I love being a mom. I love morning snuggles, kissing "boo-boos," and watching my kids grow and explore the world. I love watching their minds grasp the stories of the Bible in a fresh and child-like way. They sit in awe as they hear that God can turn five loaves of bread and two fish into a feast for thousands of people. Sharing these stories with them helps me to recapture some of the awe and wonder in faith that I've lost with time.
And yet, motherhood is tiring, and there is no quick fix or band-aid verse to instant soul rest. God's work is not done in a microwave, but through the enduring work of his Word. In tiring seasons it can be easy to forget the essentials of our faith. We stop meditating on God's word, we pray less. But if I am not connected to the vine, I produce no good fruit, for apart from him I can do nothing (Jn 15:1, 5).
Being a mom has shown me that I am completely dependent on the Lord. So when the milk spills (again) and my temper starts to rise, I can ask for His help. In the day-to-day moments when I am building blocks, cleaning the house, reading bedtime stories or giving baths, He is there. I can sleep well at night, not replaying my anxious thoughts, but entrusting them to an all-powerful and all-loving Father. God has offered us a deep rest for our souls as he takes care of us.