What I did not want to see

The One Thing I Didn’t Want To See (But Had to Ultimately Face)

Once upon a time.  There was a nice girl.

She was kind, patient, caring, and comforts others when they’re down. She always tries her best to say the right thing at the right time.

She is helpful and thoughtful.  If anyone looked a little sad or even just a little out of it, she’d pick on on the non-verbal cues and say with a concerned voice, “What’s wrong?”

She’d sit with a friend who might be down.

And certainly, she never yells, “Why are you crying?  Stop crying!”

And then she got married. And had kids.

Now, she spends her days glaring, huffing and puffing.  Her regular vocabulary was, “Stop! What part of NO do you NOT understand?”

“Leave me alone.”

“Don’t talk to me. I don’t want to hear it.”

And she asks questions she knew the answers to.  Like, “Why are you crying? Stop crying!”

All the ugliness.  And it’s not the parent-correcting-their-child kind of way.  She can’t even call it discipline.

It was more annoyance, agitation, and sometimes, just plain mean.

Like spewing vomit, she can’t stop it from coming out.

Ready for confession time?

That person is me.

Towards the world, I thought I was a generally a calm, loving, compassionate person.  I thought I had (somewhat) reasonable judgment and of sound mind.

Many people could attest to this.  (Maybe except my sister because she grew up with me and had to tolerate my big-sister craziness). But, my past roommates, friends, co-workers, and even the youth I worked with… would probably say that I was a somewhat, nice, sane, normal person.

But when I had kids…

That person I knew fell apart and shattered to a million pieces.

Why the Falling Out?

I used to chalk it up to sleeplessness, exhaustion, and the physical demands of being a caretaker for very needy little people. That alone will drive anyone to their breaking point, right?

I thought it was because I am an introvert.  (I may not seem like it to my friends, but I definitely need a LOT of alone time to recharge and refuel.)  So for me to constantly be around four very loud kids will sap all of my energy. Surely, this is why they drive me crazy, right?

And finally, I thought it was in the general job description of being a parent — no break-time, no personal space, no time to do what I want to do… Surely, that would be enough to drive a person bonkers, right?


But here’s the thing.

I’ve been definitely been exhausted before.  I’ve pulled many all-nighters in college. I’ve had jobs where I have had to stand straight through 12 hour shifts with hardly time to go to the bathroom or even eat.   I’ve been yelled at and cursed at by belligerent retail customers. (There was once I even called the cops.)  I’ve worked through graveyard shifts at the hospital, going through the entire night without sleep…

I’ve definitely had felt weak and tired and exhausted…and most certainly cried.

But it didn’t morph me into a constantly crazy, negative, ugly person…

Fast-forward.  Four kids later.

They are like little mirrors, reflecting different pieces of me back to myself.

Sure, they are their own person.  Each one of them are uniquely different.

But still, oftentimes, throughout the day, like dancing shadows in the sun, I would catch little glimpses of myself in them.

Mom encouragement
Sunlight at the beach during a family stroll

Not just in physical looks or facial expressions.  But yes, those too.

Like super absorbent double-plied paper towels, they soak in my demeanor and attitude.  And if I was negative, they’d soak all of that in too.

SOMETIMES… they remind me of stirring rods in the chemistry lab, constantly swirling round and round, bringing up sediments from the bottom of the glass beaker.

If it was pure water, the stirring rod could stir all day long, and you’d still see nothing but clear water.

Here’s the thing. Stirring rods do not create sediment.  They do not add debris.  They not cause a chemical reaction.  They are inert objects that simply stir up what’s there.

BUT what if there are sediments?  Then these stirring rods would stir it up and it would whirl around…like debris of trash whirling around in the ocean. Round and round it goes…

And when my kids stir my life around and around… I saw lots of debris.  I didn’t like it.

And I finally realized what broke me.  They simply uncover parts of MYSELF that I do NOT wish to see.  

They force me to face my inner-self, the one I’ve been trying to run away from, hide, and bury deep inside.

You see. I’ve been pretty good at hiding insecurities all my life.  I learned that I could cover them by working really hard to earn accolades in life – titles, degrees, awards, achievements and sigh…sometimes (gasp!) even in the name of doing things to serve God

But all of those exteriors….none of them mattered.  They see right through my masquerades.

They are my soul agitators.  Like the stirring rod in a chemistry glass beaker, they stir up sediments that have settled on the bottom of my soul that I haven’t dealt with… my deepest worries, anxieties, fears, anger, hurt, lack of patience… and ultimately, my lack of trust in God.

They are the mirror of my soul’s condition.  They are reflections of who I am, deep inside. They reflect back to me my attitude and demeanor.  None of it escapes them.

And I’m disgusted by what I see.

It’s how I react to them (no matter how they behave)  reflects the condition of my heart.  And I feel naked.

In short, they bring out in me what I want to hide from the world.  They surface what I want buried.  The reflect back to me what I do not want to see.

But isn’t this how God sees us?  He sees it all, even when we think we can hide from Him.

Isn’t how God refines us?

Maybe it’s not so different than house cleaning.

The worst way to clean a house is to leave everything the way it is, untouched, cleaning only around objects and furniture.  In contrast, the best way to clean a house is to leave nothing unturned.  Everything has to be moved around – the furniture, the rugs, the knick-knacks…. All of it.  It’s then and only then, that we start to see all the dust balls we never saw before.

And there are plenty of dust balls in my soul.

My heart and soul are in constant need of a deep clean.

And suddenly, I finally realized how richly blessed I am.

These 4 little people God brought into my life are my professional deep-cleaning crew of my heart and soul.  They agitate and test me until all the dust balls of my life comes to the surface.  They reflect back to me the brokenness of my soul.

But it’s then and only then, I realize how much more I need God.

It’s only when we realize how broken we are that we search for someone to fix us.

It’s only when we see symptoms of what’s wrong… that we finally realize we are sick.

It’s only when we realize how sick we are that we look for a doctor.

It’s only when we seek a doctor that we have a chance at being healed.

It’s only in these broken moments that made me realize the magnificence of the gospel and why I needed a Savior.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”(Ephesians 5:8)

Because if it weren’t for my kids, I’d think I’m a pretty cool person.  And I wouldn’t know of all the dust balls that are in the nooks and crannies of my soul.

Without them, I’d forget that I’m a sinner.

And I wouldn’t even know that I needed to get them cleaned out.  And I would forget why I needed God in the first place.

And I’d miss out the most beautiful gift He has to offer — the gift of experiencing His unconditional love and grace.  The kind of stuff that transforms us, changes us to the core….from the inside out.

So in the end, I hate to admit it, but I think this blog has maybe been misnamed.

Instead of us equipping our kids… maybe our kids are really equipping us.


I believe that God puts people into our lives in different seasons of our lives to be our soul’s stirring rod.   If this isn’t a season where the kids are the stirring rods for your soul…then might it be something else?  Maybe a circumstance, a situation, a person outside of the family?

But one thing for sure, the refining process is always painful.  But in the end, being broken makes space for God.  Wherever you are today, may God’s peace and His grace be with you.

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).

{UPDATE May 31st:  I just linked this article up with the amazing writer, Emily Freeman, on her blog as a collective of “What We’re All Learning This Spring.”  I’ve followed her blog for years now, and through her, I’ve learned to be more vulnerable in my writing. Please hop on over to her blog to see what Emily and others have to share as well! You’ll be inspired too!}

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  1. I love this!!! The metaphor of the stirring rod is so good. Thank you for sharing your story and pushing me toward refinement.

  2. “Soul agitators”–you nailed it! I have no idea what you are talking about… I never lose my temper… (says the big liar). Thanks for this honest post. I can relate on every point!

  3. I love it. I’m at home taking care of sick kids right now and I needed this reminder desperately. Thanks, Lilly!!!

  4. There’s so much that you wrote that resonated with me and loved the part where you said the “refining process is always painful. But in the end, being broken makes space for God. ” I’ll be visiting your blog often!

  5. So very good to bump into you at Emily’s just now … you’re speaking truth for all the other mamas out there who find this a rough season.

    Bless you for sharing hope and grace, Lilly.

  6. Parenting is such a refining process, isn’t it? I really don’t like seeing my own sin reflected back, yet if I didn’t witness it, I wouldn’t see my need for God. He is so gracious and I’m learning more every day what it means to balance truth and grace with our kids. Awesome post, Lilly! So glad we could connect through Emily’s blog.

  7. Found you from Emily’s post, and yes, this has been my discovery too. Three stirring rods, four if you add the dog, in my house just starting out on summer vacation. I definitely need the Lord’s filter of forgiveness to clear the water!

  8. Hi Lilly my good friend. As I read I thought u were writing about me. I am blessed by your openness and vulnerability. This type of honesty allows others to take a deep breathe once we realize we r not alone. Thank you for heeding the prompting of the Holy Spirit amidst your busy life to put to words the pains that we all go through whether with our kids ( esp. These grown kids…. the worst lol) not really or with others as you stated. God does not tempt but allows us to be tested and refined. Thanks. I love you God bless. Donna

  9. That is a great post. Raising kids is HARD! They do force us to look in the mirror all the time and the picture is not pretty. I really enjoy your writing and it was nice to meet you at Activate! Best of luck!

  10. I’m sitting on my couch reading this as my trio are napping and I can’t stop the tears from falling. This is perfectly stated. Refining and beautiful. Gritty and graceful. Thank you for sharing this.

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