As I sit and prepare to write this reflection, a phrase jumps out at me: “Set aside some uninterrupted time to consider and complete the statement.” I am 29 years old and, as so many of my friends are completing graduate school or having their first baby, my oldest son is on the cusp of his sixth birthday. In five years, my husband and I had four sons. I live a beautiful life at home with my boys, but uninterrupted time is hard to come by.

My Workspace

We started our first year of homeschooling this year, and we have committed ourselves to making it work financially for me to stay at home. My husband is a social worker (which means, of course, he is hardworking and underpaid), so we live in a small house and consume carefully.

Our home is loud and crowded and energetic, but it is a place of incredible blessing. I spend my days changing diapers, breaking up sibling arguments, washing endless piles of laundry, cuddling bed-headed toddlers, considering curriculum changes and teaching methods, playing board games, cooking meals, and doing a (sometimes) overwhelming number of other things.

My Unintentional Life

I love the life that God has chosen for me. I thought I would be a teacher in an inner city public school. I would, of course, eventually have a couple of children, and they would somehow fit into the life we had carved out for ourselves. Then I graduated from college with a degree in education . . . and three months left before our first son’s due date.

He was a hard baby, that first boy of mine. Lonely, sleep-deprived, and a bit in over my head, I was blessed to experience first-time motherhood at its hardest. All of my friends had graduated college and moved on (and out of town), and I was left to fend for myself in a world occupied primarily by women years older than me. And yet, in the midst of all of that experience, the Lord was turning my heart and surrounding me with godly examples of how to live a life at home for his glory.

We had a second son and then a third, and I realized that the Lord had directed me to a life that was more fulfilling and satisfying than any I had imagined for myself. I had made plans, but they were not the best plans. The Lord knew my heart. Being a mother to these boys has opened my heart to him in a way that only he could have known was possible. I am challenged every day. It is an impossibly difficult task, being with them all day, every day. They are selfish and impulsive and loud. They test my limits constantly. But isn’t it the fire that refines?

Our Prayers, Together

This past year has been incredibly hard. We lost two grandparents. We got a house-wide, two-week stomach bug. I gave birth to our fourth son, and my gallbladder was removed two weeks later. At the same time, a respiratory infection, which had knocked my husband off of his feet for four days straight, overcame our two-week-old and threatened to take him from me into the care of the children’s hospital. I broke my ankle. My 2-year-old cracked his skull, which was followed by a DCF investigation accusing me of neglecting my children. My dad is currently in the hospital three hours away with multiple, complicated, and antibiotic-resistant infections that have been threatening his life for the past month. In the midst of all of this, I am still a mother. There is no family leave time when your family is your job.

The Lord has surrounded us with an incredible body of believers who live in service to him. We have been cared for and prayed over. Our boys have seen the body of Christ at its best. So many times they have been pointed them to God’s provision, his goodness, and the hope we have in him even when things are—and continue to be—hard.

I have been so challenged this year to trust God. But living out the hope of the gospel with and before these four little ones has been incredible. I have watched their prayers go from vague and repetitive to specific and heartfelt because we have had real and difficult things to pray for, together.