True Christmas: Parenting Until it Hurts

This time of year gets me thinking about Mary. I wonder what it was like back then; pregnancy and childbirth in times where there were no cars or hospitals. She was most probably contracting while riding around town late at night on a donkey. I can’t imagine a labor like that!

Then, after working and pushing and all that which birth entails, her child came forth and she held His warm, soft body next to hers. Those of us who know the sensation of the first few moments have a little glimpse into her experience. There she was in the middle of a barn holding her baby. I’m certain the rest of the world disappeared from her thoughts as she held Him and looked at Him.

Besides getting over any birth trauma a woman may experience, and of course a dose of sleep deprivation, early parenting is marvelous. There is a mountaintop experience of emotion in the bringing forth of a new human being. I always want the whole rest of the world to go away as I enjoy the sacredness of something new, something eternal, entering the earth.

But time marches on, and the world keeps right on turning. The baby grows and changes. Then we have diapers and colic and teething and tantrums and puberty and on and on and on. Our own 15 children have marched on through their childhoods with a vengeance, and we have melted with warmth at their innocent expressions of love, clapped and celebrated at each milestone, and laughed and laughed at all of their little antics and misunderstandings of the world.

We have also sighed as we scrubbed crayon off the wall, or called out in pain as we stepped on Lego’s strewn all over the floor. There were nights where we lay listening to shallow breathing as a tiny child struggled for air, nights spent pacing the floor with a baby who fussed with fever, and nights where we sat up worrying as a young person failed to come home on time. There has been crying as we felt the searing pain of a child who took out their own fears and frustrations of life on us, their parents.

Yes, parenting is filled with pleasures that money cannot buy, but it is also filled with opportunities to love when loving means pain.

Whenever I myself become “astonished” with the changes in the actions of my children, I am reminded of Mary and Joseph as Jesus was changing into a man.

Mary knew this. She knew it the first time they found Jesus missing on their way out of Jerusalem. The Lord of the universe was beginning to take His place as a Man who was separate from His earthly parents; He was beginning to find His role in the greater scheme of things and Mary, the woman who held Him to her breast at the dawn of His earthly experience, was not even in His mind as He discussed with the priests in the temple.

When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.

Luke 2:48-51

I am also reminded of God, as He portrayed Himself as the Father in the parable of the prodigal son.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

Luke 15:20b

God understands what it means to parent until it hurts.

He breathed life into the first man, enjoyed walking with Adam in the cool of the evening, and then had to expel him and leave him to make his own choices after the fall.

Every day God causes the sun to rise in splendor, painting the sky like the Artist He is, on an ungrateful and disloyal population. He gives us eyes to see, and ears to hear the songs of the birds. He puts goodwill in the hearts of men so that we have eggs and bread and warm coats and cars that bring us to jobs. He blesses us whether we acknowledge Him or not, and then He watches and waits in hopes that we will turn our gaze from our own belly-buttons and look on His wonderful face.

Then He rejoices. He doesn’t even hold our past misconduct against us; He just hugs us and kisses us.

This is the heart of God; to have intimate fellowship with the crown of His creation.

This is the true message of Christmas, but we have altered it, maybe distorted it a little so that it is like a gouging elbow at the rib of our pain. It is supposed to be a time when loved ones get together, at least that’s what the songs say. But sometimes Christmas is not full of sweetness and light and laughter. Sometimes it is a reminder of separation.

There is a great misunderstanding of Jesus’ mission on earth. We have been told it was to bring us all together, to bring peace among men. This is not true. The peace we sing about is a peace between God and man, a declaration that the war between heaven and earth was over. It did not mean peace among men:

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

Matthew 10:34

That’s parenting, too. Parents sometimes have to expel, they have to hold children at arm’s length, all the time watching and waiting and praying. Sometimes the watching isn’t over until we all pass over into eternity.

This has the potential of turning loving parents into cranky, bitter people. But not for those of us who understand eternity. I have had more than my share of all of the aspects of raising children, and yet my heart is soft and I smile more than I frown.

How is this possible? Because my eyes are turned upward. My mission as a mother has always been unto the Lord. I never considered even one of my children to be my own; they have been loaned to me, an orchard of fruit trees for me to husband, a cellar of fine wines for me to steward. I watched and cared and watered, but the Master is the Owner. He sees my work, He knows about my labors. Ultimately, it will be His words that will be my reward:

He who tends the fig tree will eat its fruit, And he who cares for his master will be honored.

Proverbs 27:8



21 thoughts on “True Christmas: Parenting Until it Hurts”

  1. Beautifully written. I too thought of Mary when I was in labour. I thought of how scared she must have been with no doctors or nurses or midwives, just Joseph, whom I am sure had very little experience in childbirth! I struggled a lot with fear during my births, with history of anxiety and panic attacks, and the thought of Mary many times gave me peace, that when God has a purpose, if we are willing, He will carry us through it. Sending God’s Peace to you at Christmas!

  2. I just wanted to say thank you. I’m a very young mother of 16 soon to be 17 children. (We are a blended family.) Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning. Like I’m looking up to other mothers with large families and thinking will I ever be that patient and wise? With age and time will I get better at this? I want to be the very best mother to my children that I can possibly become. Thank you for the reminder that parenting is hard for everyone, and to remember that they are God’s, only on loan to me.

  3. Sherry- I have not commented in the past but I could not keep myself from commenting on this post! You are such an inspiration to me. Thank you so much for sharing your heart on this blog. There have been a few times where I was discouraged as a Mom and your posts gave me the spiritual encouragement to keep on! May the Lord bless you and your family!

    • Thank you, Miriam, for letting me know you were encouraged. I know what it is like to feel the pain of motherhood, and then when I look to Jesus I sense His overcoming love, and joy returns. How anyone survives this life without Him, I don’t know!

  4. I notice that Jesus actually Celebrated “feast of dedication”……John 10. Our family choose to focus on that aspect of bible during this time of year rather than commercialized confusions.

    The writer of this youtube video has a bit of aspergers and minority ancestry. However, she brings to light truths about things.

    Focus on serving others because “jesus is the reason for this season”……disabled, rejected etc.

  5. I enjoy reading large family blogs because I usually find that the mother behind them has rock solid faith and it is inspiring to me to read about challenges she faces and can overcome, because of her faith. I just found your blog last night (as I lay in bed fretting over my own circumstances) and once again, here I find a mommy who has trials and tribulations just like me but has a faith so secure she is not afraid to face them. Thank you for witnessing to the world through your blog. I must confess, probably the main reason I hesitate surrendering control of our family size is, now don’t think I’m crazy, because of sickness. Isn’t that crazy? But it’s true. I am paranoid about stomach viruses, flus, fevers, and the like and the thought of having more than 2 or 3 kids go through all of that absolutely paralyzes me. How do you handle that type of stress with so many children? I currently have 2 and when a stomach flu hits our house I have a week of paranoia over children waking during the night after getting sick in their bed, or my husband getting sick and not being able to help me with the children, or worst of all me getting sick and not being there to take care of one of the sick children. With 15 children, a stomach flu must last for a month as it slowly makes its way through your house! How do you cope! I can’t even imagine. I have confessed to the Lord that if I could guarantee that vomiting and flus could just instantly vanish from the world then I would have so many more children!!! But my fear of handling allllllll their sicknesses stops me. It’s not diapers, potty training, homeschooling, behavior stuff, etc. that scares me about having lots of children. No, it’s the increase in the likelihood of sickness that comes along with them. :/ That’s sinful I know, selfish, fearful, etc…. but it’s something I’m praying about. Could you speak to how you handle those trials? I should also note that my husband travels frequently and I have little help where we live so when someone comes down with something I am likely on my own to handle it. Sick babies are scary enough as it is; make mommy the only adult around to hold down the fort and that becomes terrifying. I’d love to hear any encouraging words you have since I’m sure with 15 children you’ve seen it all. 🙂

    • Thank you for being so transparent. Yes, we have endured quite a bit of childhood illness, and recently the whole family was attacked with the flu and at the end when everyone was in recovery we discovered one of our daughters had an abscessed appendix and had to be hospitalized a number of days.

      Of course, this meant a lot of shifting and coordinating and there was some fatigue, but everyone pulled together and God was with us doing His creative miracles the whole time. Are we worse for the wear? No, we are better, and we are still blessed as always.

      If I share the things we’ve been through over the years it would be to encourage you, not to dissuade you. We made it through, we not only survived, but we thrived. There is never a place we can go that God will not meet us, never a situation in which His graces are not evident.

      I’m sure the fear you feel is very real, but it should never be the determining factor in your decision making. As I have heard before in my life, it is often where we feel the most fear that we should be aware the devil is trying to keep us from great blessing. The enemy of our souls moves primarily by fear, while God might issue a warning, but never to encourage panic. As He has told us in His Word, perfect love casts out fear, and He has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind (you can look these verses up, write them on a card, read them aloud and meditate on them until they become more a part of your psyche than the fear thoughts that want to assail you).

      I do not think of you as a hopeless sinner, just a little confused as to what voices to listen to. Here is a link to some teaching that has actually revolutionized my life and helped me tremendously:

      I hope this blesses you–you are a precious soul to God and He loves and cares for you deeply.

      • Thank you so much for this. Even though we are not close friends, just one blog reading mommy and another :), it still means a lot to me that you take the time to reply thoughtfully and kindly, as someone would do for a dear friend. So thank you for caring like that! I appreciate your encouraging words. I can’t see the link you suggested on my computer though. Is it just me? I’d really like to check it out. I hope you enjoy a nice weekend and God bless you for offering sweet words of wisdom to this young mother.

    • Buy disinfectant wipes isolate the sick person wipe EVERYTHING with wipes WASH HANDS constantly and only the person who brought it into the house should get it stomach flu is a contact illness and can live on the counter or lightswitch etc for 48 hours it is not air born and scscince we learnt this 20 years ago we have never had more than two come down with it but mostly just the one who brought it home.

      • This is really good advice and would definitely keep disease at a minimum, but is almost impossible to follow-through with a house full of tiny people, such as the time I had seven children under ten, three each in small bedrooms. Even in our house with six bedrooms there is only one person who has a room to himself. Keeping things clean is a plus, but there is also the problem of keeping such a house clean everywhere at the same time (four bathrooms, two offices, three living areas, etc.).


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