This past Thanksgiving, I placed my china plates on our dinner table, just as I’ve done since 1995. They come out from their hiding place in the hutch every holiday we’re home, and often for impromptu tea parties in-between. As I sat a plate at each chair, I remembered how its pattern is a classic compromise between my husband and I. When we were engaged and picking our china, (A Very Typical Thing done in our neck of the woods for those who married in the 1900’s!) I wanted colorful florals with swirly patterns. If we had to get china, David said, he wanted geometric shapes with straight lines. So, we compromised on Noritake’s “Halls of Ivy” pattern, a classic cream colored set with gold rims and raised ivy leaves. No color at all, but no geometric shapes at all, either.
When we were moving hither and yon every few years and our household goods would pull up outside our condo/duplex/apartment/house, I checked the china first thing. I wanted assurance it made it safe and sound to our new home, wherever that was. Even as a child-bride of 21, I loved to use my china rather than leave it boxed up. Often our movers would do a great job and pack each piece of china in miles and miles of paper. But I’ll never forget the time I unpacked our belongings in Ohio to discover the movers in New Mexico had doubled and tripled up the china plates and cups, wrapping paper around two or three pieces together rather than seperately. Ironically, the same packers had individually wrapped up each of my children’s plastic Little People toys as if each one was breakable and priceless.
Running my fingertips over the raised ivy pattern once again, I couldn’t help but think that after all the moves and meals our family has had with those plates, I’ve not lost any of them. There’s a few cracks, but by and large, they’re in good shape and have held together well.
It’s a miracle, honestly.
All three kids were home last week, and I enjoyed them to the hilt. Being the reflective type that I am, especially during this time of year, I thought about how I’ve often worried I vacillate between treating them like fine breakable china and like they’re completely indestructible. I’ve tried to wrap them in miles of bubble wrap to keep them from breaking or cracking. On the other hand, I’ve also been lazy and left their hearts exposed when I should’ve been more attentive. I’m a pendulum that can swing from too careful to not careful enough.
The other day, I told my husband, “Man, being a parent of older kids ain’t for wimps.” He replied, “Nope, not if we’re trying to do a decent job!” Amen. When I look back over the last twenty years, I see how I could’ve done better, certainly. I have my share of regrets. But I also see that as time continues to unwrap and unfold them, His grace has kept them more intact than my own parenting could ever testify. While they’re a work-in-progress just like anyone, they’re honest, hardworking, caring, kind, and chock-full of character and integrity. I’m thankful for that and so much more.
These days, I see afresh how God can take all the pieces of the mess-ups and rearrange them into something that lands our kiddos in a better place than they were before–that lands us in a better place than we were before. And what’s more, He helps them see their own need for Jesus (whether they come around slowly or quickly in naming that) and helps us mamas see how Jesus has been alongside us all along.
He redeems anything and everything.
We–and our kids–aren’t fine china. We’re all tougher than we think and can take the daily jostling life gives. We can make it through the times when life gives significantly more shaking and stirring.
As we do our best in the present not to major in the minors, may we look back and dwell on God’s goodness. May we look ahead and see how Advent proves prayers are answered and promises are kept. And one day may we see ourselves sitting around a table and look around in wonder and thanksgiving because by God’s grace, a miracle or two have revealed themselves and we can hardly take it in. Because . .
“At the right time, I, the Lord, will make it happen.” ~Isaiah 60:22 (NLT)
May it be so.