Thursday, January 17, 2013

This morning, love meant picking wet cat food out of my family’s underclothes.

What would I do if I had a child with special needs? I remember wondering this out loud to my mother-in-law. She just smiled, and said, “You’d love him.”

You would love him. She’s right, it really is that simple. God sends us children, and we love those children. 

We love the specific child He sends, whatever that love might look like.  Love is what we are called to do, for each of our children, in whatever form that takes.  And He helps us do this, even when it is hard.

“Your job is to love.”

I remember when love meant pregnancy aches and pains, the dread of childbirth, and the awkward mama waddle. I remember when love meant nursing and rocking and long days of watching a baby girl make sweet baby faces. I remember when love meant long days at the park, looking for caterpillars and pushing a stroller. I remember when love meant journaling seizures, research, and worry.

The love required of a mother changes form and shape with each child, through each season.

Sometimes love burns as it pours out; it hurts me, because it pours out on a little one who suffers.  It hurts to give that kind of love, and yet, how can we not when our children suffer?

Sometimes love is easy, and it pours out of us freely while we take in as much joy as we give.

This morning, love meant picking wet cat food out of my family’s underclothes.

The backstory:
I have a three-year old with behavior issues. I will share no more specific details, because I have none. I only know he is different, and his differences are pushing the limits of my creativity. I am reading, researching, and talking to other mothers. Right now, loving him means vigilance and observation, journaling and brainstorming.

It was a bad morning. My new strategies were not working, and everything was falling apart. (Insert long list of little chicken-peck problems, like hitting and throwing stuff and biting the cat's tail. Let's just say my patience was already thin.)

 He wanted to play with the dog in the basement, and I let him, so I could catch my breath and think.
That’s when he found the cat food.
He dumped in the washing machine, mid-cycle.
He added a scoop of dirty cat litter, for good measure.

[portions of this story have been censored]

He took an early nap.

A few minutes ago, I started shaking out the laundry, piece by piece.  The shirt, shaken in anger, flung wet cat food across the floor, making more mess for me. My hands smell like laundry soap and fish.  I know this will be funny someday, but right now, I am just done. I am done, and he is going to wake up from his nap any second now.

flickr photo
I am done, but I don’t get to be done.
My job is to love.
And my God, it is exhausting.  But you know that, don’t you, God?

My job is to love.
Even in tears, even when I am out of ideas, even when they won’t stop fighting and the Christmas tree is still up and my hands stink.

My job is to love.
Once again I find myself unable to do this job in front of me, on my face before God, asking for His help.

God, I have been undone by fighting, noise, and wet cat food. I am undone.  My heart is just not big enough. It’s not just the burdens of motherhood, it’s how poorly I am handling them right now. The annoyances and my own failures, Lord, they weigh heavy on my heart.

And yet here it is before me: my job. I must love them.  But I’m out of love, and patience, too. Give me some of yours, please. Be my strength in the after-nap hours.  Be my patience and my energy for snacks, and homework, and dinner. Be my gentleness at bath time. Be my kindness when they go to bed.

Uphold us all from now until bedtime, and then finally, let us rest in peace.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

(Update Thursday PM: He did.)

Your job is to love.
What does your love look like in your home, in this season?
(If you write a blog post on this topic, please leave it in the comments.)

PS It is OK to laugh about the cat mess. I will join you… in a few more days.


  1. In this season, love in our home looks like momma picking up extra duties while daddy is away. It's fish sticks and raw carrots instead of roast, potatoes, corn and beans. It's a hurried evening of help with homework, supper time, baths and bedtime instead of a slower pace and story books and devotions and "tell me about your day". It's chores gone astray or completely undone because we are all tired from a weekend of basketball tourneys, and then trying to catch everything up in a day.

    It's not how I want love to look in my house, but apparently, that's how it is supposed to be right now. As long as we continue to grow together and God continues to lead us, our journey will always be one of love.

    Lord, please continue to lead us on our journey and provide the tools we need to succeed; patience, love, understanding, and naps to reset our tolerances!

    Great post Emily! I am glad you were upheld this afternoon, after a long morning.

  2. I just read this today and I am very encouraged, because I too have a "different" child. Cade will be 3 in April and although I have not experienced cat food in the washing machine, we have had cooking oil poured on the carpet and powdered sugar in the couch to name a few. Most days we can laugh and move on, but again there are those days we send them to bed hoping they will sleep the rest of the day, knowing they won't. Thank you for sharing your "different" child.

    1. Exactly right! Hoping they will sleep, knowing they won't :) This is me so often!


Web Analytics