Every night, before Brian and I go to bed, we go to the tinies’ bedrooms.  I tuck them back into their quilts because they always kick their covers off. I pick up Anne’s Blankie and tuck it back beside her. Brian restores Joe’s stuffies to their rightful place. We pick up all of the books that have been taken out and looked at, no doubt after bedtime, by the dim of the nightlight. We brush the hair off their foreheads.

We look at each other in the semi-darkness and clutch our hearts, Brian whispering about how beautiful they are and how he can’t believe that they’re ours sometimes. 

I always end up saying something about how they have not changed one single bit since they were babies. I look at them in their beds and it’s like they’re every age they ever were, all at once, still the babies I watched sleep for hours, just to make sure they were still breathing.

When we go to bed, we talk through their days, figuring out where we need to adjust, where we need to let go, where we need to lay it down. We pray for them and try to understand their motivations, their reasons for what they do. We rejoice over every small victory and our hearts break over every disappointment, however small. We get a bit pissed off on their behalf at the kids that were mean to them at the playground or preschool.  We see the bigger picture of why and how they do the things that they do.

It doesn’t really matter if it was a good day or a not-so-good day. It doesn’t matter if today was a day when I felt like a good mother – or not. It doesn’t matter if Joe has absolutely no concept of an indoor voice or that Anne practiced my old trick of selective hearing, making me think there is definitely something to karma. It doesn’t matter that they weren’t perfectly behaved little angels (because heaven knows, are any of us?).

It just matters that they’re ours. And we love them so much, we can hardly breathe with gratitude.

Me and Joe when he slept wherever, whenever as long as we were together.

Since becoming a parent, I admit that my entire concept of God has changed.

All I see, all I feel, all I read and know comes through this filter: God is a parent, above all else. He describes himself most as Father but the Psalms and Isaiah also speak to his Mother-heart.

If I in my regular-woman self am able to love so deeply and wildly and purely it must only be because he first loved us. It must be that this gift of parenthood, this gift of a selfless Mama-Papa-love, is given from a God who knows and loves and invites us to feel even a small fraction of his love for us.

And if I can love them without condition or expectation, how much more can our Papa love us? If I can love them for who they are – not who I wish them to be – how much more does our Papa embrace who we were created to be? (And why do we all feel like we need to fit some sort of a cookie-cutter image of what following Jesus looks like?)

If we love our children this way, then we, my friends, are also deeply loved, indeed.

At night, I picture God, in his love without condition, standing over us while we sleep, clutching his heart over how beautiful we are, longing for more and better for us, knowing us better than we know ourselves, seeing a bigger picture, longing for a deeper relationship and loving us so much that it takes over the entire story.

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In which love looks like [on call schedules]
In which I learn when there's joy in enough
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  • Just this year I am begining to understand parenting and my children in this way. My perspective of my “role” as a mom and the way I had been taught to approach discipline crippled my ability to fully love my children. It breaks my heart to look back and realize all the things I never cherished with my first baby. Yes I loved her, more than words can say, but I understood her as the first of many children that I had to have, a person filled with the evils of sin that it was my job as a parent to eliminate, someone foolish and unable to teach me anything. This last year I have been set free and I cannot express how happy I am.

    • I always think of that as almost the anti-thesis of the Christian worldview. We give value and respect to all, as made in the image of God. I struggle so much with that same attitude I see in much of parenting in the Christian world now – it seems so counter to what I understand about God’s inherent value and worth towards humanity.

  • ninilettner

    This is a beautiful post! We have a similar bedtime routine. I love checking on them before I go to sleep. It is a precious time of peace, calm hearts, pieces putting themselves back where they are meant to be. What an amazing God we have, so full of love for his children. Thanks for putting it into such beautiful words!

    • Thank you, Nini. I love that phrase “putting pieces back where they are meant to be.” That’s it, exactly.

  • annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd crying. Oh, how I needed this glimpse of His Heart today.

  • LauraLeeGroves

    So sweet, so heartfelt. Sounded so familiar to me! What a blessing those tinies are.

  • Carrieburtt

    Sarah this is wonderful….the love parents have so reflects God’s love for us….and then when they have children it even magnifies for our Grandchildren….we understand more and more how powerful love is! 🙂

  • Anne J.

    Love the image you created here. Thank you.

  • http://wieberfam.blogspot.com/

    And I, too, can hardly breathe with gratitude. I love that line. I also like how you came full circle…in relating God’s fatherly love for us. Such a beautiful picture, huh?

  • Sarah,
    This is SO beautiful. A mama’s heart indeed.

    I LOVE this:

    At night, I picture God, in his love without condition, standing over us while we sleep, clutching his heart over how beautiful we are, longing for more and better for us, knowing us better than we know ourselves, seeing a bigger picture, longing for a deeper relationship and loving us so much that it takes over the entire story.

    I think I will take this with me, this thought of yours and I will share it with you this night, as I lay me down to sleep…. I am going to think on the Love that “takes over the entire story”.
    A perfect nightcap. 🙂

    Blessings,
    Kara

    • Thank you, Kara. And you’re welcome to it – it just gives me great peace, too.

  • Janelle

    Beautifully written. Goosebumps thinking about how much our God loves us!

  • Thank you. I spent years making God into a math teacher rather than a parent of unconditional love. The last few years, as God has changed this in my heart, I can’t help but wonder if He’s used my new daughter in doing so, without my knowing it.

    • Now that’s a mental picture! God as “Math Teacher!” You summed it up, perfectly. God often uses the simple and pure things, like our children, to teach us more than any thing else, I know.

  • sarah, this is beautiful and god-breathed. like so many other parents, i, too, felt the recklessness of salvation once mama was a part of me. it is amazing grace, truly.

    • I love that – the recklessness of salvation. Yes, yes, yes!

  • i am bawling. this line:
    We look at each other in the semi-darkness and clutch our hearts, Brian whispering about how beautiful they are and how he can’t believe that they’re ours sometimes.

    oh sarah. how very true. i know this well. and sometimes i selfishly cling to my own time, and wish for it back, but in those dark hours, when i stare down at my son, i realize, this is all that matters. thank you. and for making me appreciate and love our father God all the more… what an incredible write. i’m so glad you linked. xo

    • Thanks, Emily. That means a lot since I respect you and your writing so greatly!

  • And if I can love them without condition or expectation, how much more can our Papa love us? If I can love them for who they are – not who I wish them to be – how much more does our Papa embrace who we were created to be? (And why do we all feel like we need to fit some sort of a cookie-cutter image of what following Jesus looks like?)

    this paragraph resonated with me. i love my children like that, but struggle to accept that God loves me as I love my children, if not more.

    • I keep going back to that idea, too, when I feel like I’m not measuring up. The truth is – good God, good gifts for his children.

  • I love how you say that when you look at them, they seem “like they’re every age they ever were, all at once, still the babies I watched sleep for hours, just to make sure they were still breathing.”

    I have felt that same feeling so often! I see the baby face in my now 13, even though his cheeks have hollowed and there is not a trace of that chubby face. It’s still in my heart.

    This is such a lovely post.

  • Deborah L

    Wow – just gorgeous.

  • So true . . . oh how much He loves us. Jude 1:1,2 have become very favorite verses of mine that fits with your thoughts. We are kept by Him.

    Thank you for sharing! This is my first time joining Imperfect Prose.

    • Thanks for that reference, Loni. You’re right on!

  • Oh I love that last paragraph – so beautiful.

  • Stephanie

    *goosebumps*

    Tim & I have these same conversations post-bedtime.

    Also – have you read “The Shack,” by chance? Your references to “Papa” made me think of it.

  • Jeff Neely

    Thank you. I am really enjoying your perspective. I’ve had this same thought, that God is showing us something in the way we love our children, but you’ve said it so well.