936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting
Join our adventure and discover inspiration and resources for refusing rush, creating habits of rest, living intentionally, and making the most of this beautiful life!
The canoe glides effortlessly over still waters. I sit at the front and my husband in the rear, with two of our four kids between us.
“Hi, Mom!” Our oldest calls from his kayak ten feet away, his little brother sits in front of him. “Can we go around the island?”
I nod, and he cuts the water with a paddle, bending the boat to the left. On the island stands a grouping of cottonwood trees claimed by blue herons. The massive birds on stilt legs returned a month ago. They spent several days perched on peripheral trees, strategizing a takeback of their long-held nests.
Swooping over the lake at sunset, they stirred up smaller redwing blackbirds, and sent threatening reminders to the large osprey fish-hawks. Every bird knows to whom this island belongs. One by one, the massive herons reclaimed the nests they’ve raised their young in year after year. I wonder just how many years—for how long have these trees and the homes they harbor endured?
Today we’re fortunate for calm waters. When winds pick up, they whip our lake into a mess of waves. The herons huddle together and wait out the torrent. How many storms and generations have those nests seen?
Shortly after the herons return, smaller nests begin filling the trees of our yard.
“There’s a red-wing blackbird nest in the trellis there,” I tell my kids one morning. A starling pops out of a hole in our poplar tree, his black feathers a stark contrast to the white bark. Sparrows with twig-stuffed beaks land at our bird hotel and busy themselves arranging new nests. They seem to always be working, yet many of their nests will not stand up to Colorado’s spring winds. Many, situated further in the hills, are swallowed by fire. Yet it’s when we drive through the burn scars across our hills that I witness a more enduring work—that of the woodpeckers.
When wildfire claims our forests, it’s the woodpeckers who first return to the scene. While other birds—their nests of hay and grass incinerated—move on, the woodpeckers return to their holes in the trees. New woodpeckers, owls, and bats also migrate in, taking advantage of abandoned tree-hole homes. The woodpecker’s work endures even through fire. It’s the type of work I want to model to my kids—an endeavor that plans ahead for uncertain times, not from fear, but from a simple joy of making good and lasting things.
In a society absorbed in the here-and-now, I want my kids to live and work with eternity in mind. Like the herons on our island, they can plan for future generations. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 talks about this category of eternal work:
“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.”
Last year we stood amid a burn scar—a forest of charred trees—and I watched a small chickadee flitting from torched branch to torched branch with nowhere to settle. I consider the builder in the verse who “will suffer loss” after fire, their work consumed by the heat of circumstances. The loss, perhaps, runs deeper than physical goods and profit. The loss can be the work itself—something poured over and invested in for years, all that time and attention, swept away because it wasn’t built to endure. It wasn’t built upon the foundation of Christ, or by his guidance and power.
I know my work as a mother will be, as the verse says, “shown for what it is.” It will be revealed by fire. In many ways over the past couple years, it has been. Life’s fires come in cycles, just as they did for centuries across this country before we began suppressing fire. Wildfire was a natural means of the land restoring itself—clearing away the old and making way for new growth. Perhaps it’s the same in my life. Yet when conditions heat up, will that which I’ve poured my efforts into endure? Will they, like the woodpeckers’ nests, remain?
Much of what I do as a mom can feel trivial. And yet, with each story read, every board game played, every walk along the river, and every word of life spoken to my children, eternity shifts. I am not building with straw and hay, but with the eternal materials of grace and love. This work endures far beyond one season.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 offers this assurance amid fire, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
In his letter to fellow believers, the apostle Paul encouraged them to not falter in their work when it lost its luster. Do you feel the same—as though the daily ebb-and-flow of motherhood has lulled? I remember when I brought my first baby home. The onesies were clean and crisp. Everything wafted newness and excitement. How quickly those outfits stained. My spirit wore right along with the crib mattress. Over a decade in, perhaps a more crucial piece of this work now stands before me: joyful endurance. In his letter, Paul wrote of those “who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have.”
So now finish doing it as well.
Let us endure when the continuing becomes a trudge. When it feels commonplace and ordinary. When enduring, in itself, is the most important work. God does not let our perseverance go to waste. “… he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion,” Philippians 1:6 assures us, and in Galatians 6:9, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Daily, God restores and replenishes our reserves. Each dawn meets the weary mother with new morning mercies.
Let me constantly ask myself, “is this work built on Christ? Is it moving forward at his pace, by his power, and for his glory?” Then, I can arrive at a day’s end and rest with confidence. I can know God will take what I did with the day and make it matter for his kingdom. Mine will be a work that endures.
Raising kids stirs something deep in our souls — an innate knowing that our time is finite. Taking my kids outside in creation, I’m discovering how to stretch our time and pack it to the brim with meaning. God’s creativity provides the riches of resources for teaching the next generation who He is and how He loves us. Join our adventure and discover inspiration and resources for refusing rush, creating habits of rest, living intentionally, and making the most of this beautiful life!