The old adage is true: Having children changes everything. How I spend my time and make decisions is different than it was a few years ago. When I became a mother, I expected changing diapers and sleepless nights, losing the spontaneity of being able to go out for ice cream at 9 p.m. on a Tuesday or to enjoy a leisurely Saturday afternoon away from home at a football game. I hoped that I’d have fun with my children and that even though I wouldn’t be a perfect parent, that my parenting skills would grow with experience.
What I didn’t realize was how having children would show God’s presence to me in a profound way. Having been a practicing Catholic my whole life, I have always firmly believed in the beautiful teachings of the Catholic Church, but the truth that God deeply loves me simply because he created me was harder to understand in my heart. I expected a booming voice of God from the sky to make this truth about his love sink into my heart, but what I really needed was to pay attention to the simple, ordinary moments with my children to hear God’s voice. Here are three examples when God has revealed himself through my kids in seemingly simple and ordinary ways.
God creates good things and delights in his creation
My 3-year-old daughter loves to play with Play–Doh and sculpt all sorts of animals and pretend food. Sometimes, she requests I help her make something specific. Usually the requests are not too challenging (“Make a snowman, Mommy!”). Then, there are times she has asked for a dragon – not hard right? Taking the Play–Doh a bit begrudgingly and molding it, I make my attempts at a dragon. I hold my breath as I hand the very abstract dragon back at her. She gleefully says, “Good job, Mommy!” and proceeds to continue to play. I was surprised that she was joyful even though it didn’t look like the images in books she read or movies she watched. She was joyful simply at the creation itself. This is the way that God looks at each of us – with delight and joy simply because we were created. He molded us in his image, as good and beautiful.
God loves us when we are broken
As a parent to young children, I have had those days when no housework can get done because the kids will not nap, there are tantrums over who gets the green cup, and not even a moment to go to the bathroom by myself without a child trying to come along. On days like that, it’s hard to be joyful and see myself in a positive way. I’m utterly exhausted and just want to have a quick bedtime for the kids so I can, too. Recently, having had one of these types of days, my daughter asked me just before going to bed, “Jesus loves Elmo?” As she shoved her well-loved Elmo doll into my arms.
“Yes, Jesus loves Elmo, I responded as I smiled at the half-flattened stuffed Elmo before giving it back.
Then, she asked, “Jesus loves Mommy?”
Softly, while holding back some tears, I replied, “Yes, Jesus loves Mommy.” Just the words I needed to hear at a moment I felt worthless and frustrated. If Jesus loves a well-worn Elmo doll, he loves me more. He looks at our hearts and sees the lows and highs and uses them to bring us closer to him.
God’s mercy washes over us and makes us clean
There was a recent day with a seemingly never-ending stream of dirty diapers. Despite my personal woes about having to change yet another, I lovingly made my baby clean. Before long, I realized God does this for us too. Each day is a new day to start again and be made clean. Even more so, when we go to a priest in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are made clean. How many times have we sinned and then gone to Confession to cleanse our souls? With every diaper change, bath, or load of laundry, a parent compassionately cleans up the mess. When we enter into the confessional for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are made clean by a father who loves us, regardless of if we have gone recently or if it has been years.
During these first years of parenting young children, I would have never expected that I would feel closer to God in the ordinary tasks of parenthood. God is present in all our moments during the day, even in the most basic of activities, to help us grow into a deeper relationship with him. We only have to be present to what is happening around us and see what God has revealed through those moments in our lives.