After eight hours yesterday spent running our 9 year old to two different doctors to get several different tests done— all is well and she’s feeling better!!—I got home feeling more than a little exhausted. I was so glad to be home. And yet, almost the first thing I saw when I walked into the house was a bunch of half-done chores.  I made an effort to greet people cheerily, and tried for at least a bit of conversation while I put groceries away,  then directed them toward chores they’d neglected.

Some attacked their work with good humor.  Others scowled and sighed, making it obvious by their attitudes that mom’s return was a great burden to their lives.  I divided a messy room into zones, and assigned zones to kids.  A teenager way old enough to know better threw things into a sibling’s zone. Sibling shrieked and arguing commenced.

My tired self was pushed beyond the limits of my weariness.  Lectures were given.  Privileges were revoked.  I talked and the teen glowered for 20 minutes while the dinner nearly burned and another kid had to leap in to save it.  Some of my words were pure old-time-revival preacher.  I doubt if Billy Graham could have done better.  Some were harsh.  Some were tender.  All were spoken with a fierce longing to inspire my child toward good choices and a happy future.

This kid is most inclined to make bad choices when his/her idea of justice is insulted.  The whole snafu started because I’d asked him/her to clean up a mess of someone else’s making. (How dare I??) So I talked about the general unfairness of life and the importance of faith in spite of it all.  I talked about having a servant-heart and what we really deserve in life, and how God shows us grace and how when it seems God is giving us evil not good, that’s the very moment when we need to choose faith in His wisdom– over and over and over again.   I hugged the child and prayed over the child and talked passionately about the joy I envision and long for in future years with that child.   And still the child’s stiff anger continued.

Way down deep  (and sometimes right on the surface) I was angry too– angry that the kid didn’t care about the stress I’ve been under this week.  And I was tired.  So bone-tired. Their sister had been in the HOSPITAL, for crying out loud– could the child not do a few chores, obey with good humor, and speak a few civil sentences between 4PM and bedtime?

No.  The answer, most definitely, was no.

And so when bedtime finally came and the child went angrily off to bed, releasing me from the purgatory of hostility in my own living room, I sat feeling hopeless, like I’d been pushing a rock uphill for years without getting anywhere.  Yes, I was discouraged with the hardheartedness of my child.  But I was also beating myself up. Thinking that certainly the failure must be mine in part. I should have been more patient, could have chosen to ignore muttered insolence, could have turned a blind eye to messy bedrooms even if cleanup is a normal daily expectation.  Failure lay on me as heavy as a wheelbarrow full of bricks.

People persist in thinking that certainly with all these kids, I must have things figured out.  In some cases, maybe.  But in other cases, my ineffectiveness would be ludicrous if it weren’t so pitiful.  I’m tired. I’m discouraged.  I’m infuriatingly, endlessly, relentlessly human. I’m a cracked pot, daily using my broken shards to trickle bits of truth and love into the heart of other broken folks.

If these kids turn out right, it will not be my doing.

But ah.  In that thought, light streams through cracks into my discouraged heart.  Because there, exactly there, lies my hope.

Our already-grown children?  The ones raised by the same cracked mom? The mom who loses her cool over sassy mouths and dirty bedrooms and sibling battles? The mom whose lectures can range from brilliant to ridiculous to stupifyingly boring all in a 2 minute time span?  These kids are bright and God-loving and thriving.  Not because of me.  But because of the One in Whom I hope.

God matured our older kids in a wonderful way. His character has not changed.  He’s still the same big God, everlastingly able to redeem my passionately caring but inescapably flawed efforts on behalf of my younger ones.  He holds them in the palm of His hand.  He holds me tenderly in those same powerful hands. I can rest in His new-every-morning mercy, confident that His plans will be accomplished in my children’s lives.


2 Corinthians 4:7-11 (NIV)

7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.



  1. Perfect Mary! Perfect in the imperfection yes, but perfect for me today. My kids haven’t been in hospital but the bone weary discouragement has gripped me hard this past week. This post is a page straight out of my family. And my heart too. Thank you for the reminder. And the encouragement it brings. Bless you!

  2. I am walking in your shoes. God led me to open this computer to write an email I needed to write. I then gave myself permission to go to facebook and saw this post. I thank God. We have had one daughter adopt a newborn baby last month, one put on bedrest for 5 weeks which called for me to take care of her and her 5 kids, do her Christmas shopping, take her to the doctors 2 to 3 times a week. All done with complete happiness because of my love, but did get weary. ( we have 13 of our 21 kids still at home) She gave birth on January 4 and on January 9th we took our precious 11 year old daughter for a serious operation. We have 10 out of 13 on antibiotics and/or breathing treatments. So stress is OUT OF THIS WORLD. I feel like I am at my wits end but then I read your post. I am sorry you are going through it but know that you are not alone. I am clinging to God and asking Him to change ME. God bless.

  3. Oh yes! You nailed it. I look at my kids, who are fairly awesome most of the time, and I know it’s not because of me and my parenting!
    Great post Mary! And I’m glad your daughter’s feeling better.

  4. Thank you, Mary. This is exactly what I needed to be reminded of.

  5. YES! Cracked pots are His favorite vessels! Thank you Mary for typing this all out; it is really helpful to hear the nuts and bolts of the hard days for seasoned moms. What goes on in your heart as it plays out is a huge learning opportunity for the rest of us. Bless you, your precious recovering daughter, and the rest of your sweet family.

  6. Oooooooooo I so get this! So thankful for the Potter!!! Thankful for His great LOVE and MERCY and GRACE that He pours out! Even most days thankful for the incredibly humbling journey of mothering! Through it He refines me so deeply. More importantly teaches me about HIM. Blessed.

  7. Mary – thank you for sharing this. Your post brought me to tears, as this is exactly where I’m living this week. Feeling angry and like a failure, as this oldest child whom I love more than life and who I know is a great kid, this week makes me want to pull my hair out. Dealing with feelings of my own failure, and fear for the future. Weary of the sass and poor attitudes flying around here too often. THANK YOU for reminding me of the character of God, whom I can trust to accomplish His plan in my children’s lives, perhaps in spite of me, but hopefully using me along the way. Yes, I needed these words of encouragement, and the reminder that He also is holding me tenderly in the palm of His hand as I face this privileged parenting season. Thank you!

  8. Surely you’ve read the story of the cracked water pot? A quick google search turned up this version-

  9. Bless you – your honesty is wonderful – and we are all damaged vessels in one way or another – praise God we are still allowed to be adopted into the family and be disciplined, loved and guided by the only One who never is tired, stressed or just plain out of sorts! Your children are quite a garden – sometimes you have to prune back a bit to get the good fruits and flowers out of’em! Bless your household and so glad the sick child is well and the tired mom can have time to herself!

  10. tiabennett says:

    Thanks for the reminder. Thanks be to the God of grace and mercy with all of my failings!

  11. Mary, that was bang on! I have been battling anxiety and sometimes when the kids wind up and find myself winding up with them. Oy vey!
    And Robin….do you blog? 21 kids? I want to know your story.
    It’s so interesting to think in my own little world, we don’t know anyone else that adopts and has their family growing. But in the blogging world, I keep finding more moms in my same shoes and (I know this is something we’re glad to hear but here it is) I’m happy to find others living in the same overwhelmed state I feel I’m in sometimes.
    Thank you for sharing your experiences. Your words are a comfort to my soul.

  12. i have read your blog for a while now ~~~ i don’t recall if i have ever commented. this was my favorite post to date. real and raw and full of emotions that moms feel every day. thank you for the reminder that HE is the same big God and we are daily held in the palm of his hand. how comforting.

  13. Mary,
    We just had our small group bible study and during our accountability time we chatted about some of the challenges of homeschooling. Oh the tough days I can really get discouraged. It leads me to believe I am not doing a good job. But as you gently reminded us, if our kids turn out right it will be not our doing, but the Lord. And He is our hope for why we should carry on and God is using me (a cracked vessel) to carry out his plan.
    Thank you for the post. I had a very discouraging week and really wanted to throw in the towel with homeschooling because I am such a cracked vessel and this is so hard to do daily. I want help and I was looking at sending them to school as my help. But this morning I had such a sweet time with the Lord and it was quiet. He renew my hope for the journey! I hope you find some more rest this weekend. Glad to hear your daughter is well. Blessings!

  14. Thank you for sharing…Now I know for certain that my kids arent the only ones who test beyond belief despite my valiant efforts!

  15. Your story reminded me of an incident in my life this summer. We had a massive storm go through our town taking out trees, roofs, etc. and there was TONS of clean-up. I had immense trees to remove from my property so that we could get in and out of the house so we were sawing them down and hauling all day in 80+ degree weather that first day. In the back of my head was the thought that I still had housework and cooking (without electricity) to do when this was all over.
    Imagine my surprise when I walked in the hosue to find that my twelve year old daughter (I would not allow her outside with all the posibilities for her to be hurt there) had been dusting, sweeping, washing dishes in cold water, folding and putting away clean clothes and to top it off had made two loaves of lunch meat sandwiches and sliced oranges and apples for everyone along with lemonade. I just stood in the kitchen and looked around and cried. It was so totally unexpected. She suggested that since she couldn’t go outside she would take care of all the inside work that needed to be done until we were done. What a priceless gift that was too.
    God surely blessed me that day and since then I will occasionallly remind her of it and thank her again which she just loves and beams.
    For me it was the unexpected and not having to ask.

  16. so appreciate your humility, Mary. So admire you, and appreciate your blog because you don’t pretend that you are perfect.

    I am a homeschooling mother of 9, and so overwhelmed and discouraged alot of the time lately.

    Trusting in God to fill in my gaps 🙂 And often saying that any fruit in my childrens’ lives is not my own doing :).

    Thank you for being real. Nice to know an amazing mom like you also has children that sometimes complain and are disrespectful and unappreciative and difficult. Encouraging to know how your older ones turned out, too 🙂

    Thank you thank you!

  17. Thank you for this, Mary! It is a ray of hope, and I need that so badly some days!

  18. Thank you for sharing this Mary. I can only pray that the Spirit will change me and change the hearts of my children. I need to do all that I am commanded to do as their parent-but I cannot change their hearts. I need to be reminded of this over and over.

  19. Bethmorris1125 says:

    I only have 2 children, but have Ben so discouraged lately with the messes, fighting, arguing, hostility,tempers……….I cannot thank you enough for how this article has touched me. It has encouraged and reminded me to stop and pray right then and there over my bad tempered child. Thank you for being real.

  20. I was really curious to see what a post titled “crackpot” was going to be about!

    You mentioned that if you kids turn out good it isn’t becuase of you, but you didn’t mention that if they don’t it also isn’t becuase of you. They have their own choices to make in their lives. You can’t MAKE a person do anything, they must choose. And it’s just your job to guide them while you can and pray when you can’t.

    I’m not doing so well explaining this but I got it from Dr. Rosemond. He mentions often that moms feel it’s their fault when their kids don’t succeed or make good choices and that moms 50 years ago didn’t do these things and felt a whole lot better about themselves in general.

    It’s so hard for me to stay level-headed when my kids are in temperment extremes (anger, sadness, whatever) I was so worried about one kid the other day and his trouble with math homework over the past week that I was in a mental toozy! I wasn’t sure how I was going to sleep. But luckily his dad handled the whole thing and we all went to bed with smiles.

  21. Thanks for this Mary. I always enjoy the glimpses I get into your home and heart! I relate to these feelings and appreciate your wisdom, you blessed me this morning!