A Messy Refinement: How to Refocus When You Feel Defeated as a Parent

by | Jul 17, 2023

There’s no denying that parenting can be messy. Sometimes it’s a literal mess. Like when your two-year-old draws on the wall with crayons. Or when your toddler grabs his dirty diaper and swings it around his head like a lasso. (This happened to me last week.) 

Then sometimes parenting feels like a mess because, despite our best efforts, we feel like we miss the mark. You said you wouldn’t lose your temper again today. You did. You said you would be more intentional with your kids today. You weren’t. You said you’d spend less time on your phone today. You didn’t. You said your kids would eat a vegetable today. They didn’t.  

Our growth as a parent doesn’t move along a straight line. We have ups and downs, moments of victory, and of course moments of defeat. 

FOLLOW MY LEAD

This past week I was in the backyard pulling weeds in our garden. My 14-month-old boy was with me, watching me. He’s at that age where he’s watching everything we do. He’s listening to every word. He’s taking it all in and trying to make sense of the world around him. 

He watched intently as I started pulling up the weeds, rooting out anything that didn’t belong. Maybe he wanted to help. Maybe he just wanted to get dirty. Whatever his motivation, he toddled over and burrowed his hands into the dirt—all ten fingers, digging and covering himself in garden soil. He may have accidentally pulled up a weed at some point. I’m not sure. He did make a big mess. I’m sure of that. He made a mess of himself and honestly, the garden. His “help” took some undoing when all was said and done. Not only in the garden but getting him cleaned up—wiping his hands, washing his clothes, and getting him in the bath. 

I didn’t mind that he got so dirty since he was having so much fun. I told him he could play in the dirt as long as he didn’t put his hands in his mouth. It was a lofty expectation for a 14-month-old boy who regularly eats food off the floor. I have no idea if he understood the request. But he played in the dirt for nearly 15 minutes and not once did his hands go in his mouth. Maybe it was a coincidence. Maybe he’s learning to listen and obey. 

I couldn’t help but see myself in his tiny body, making a mess of things. He wanted to do what I was doing. He wanted to follow my lead. He didn’t do it perfectly. 

The genuine desire of my heart is to follow God’s lead. I want to do what He is doing. I want to be in the middle of His plan. I want to parent my children the way He has laid out in His word. I want to watch the Master and look to Him for guidance.

If you’re reading this, you probably want that too!

You want to grow in your affection for your Savior. You want to lean on Him in your weakness and not make the same missteps you’ve made before.

But I know I don’t do that perfectly. I’m not the perfect parent that God is. I look to Him and then at times, I look away. I follow His lead and then I become self-reliant. 

There are days when I’m keenly aware of God’s presence, guiding me and giving me wisdom at the exact moment I need it most. And I’m listening, eager to obey. 

Then there are days when I rely on my own strength. My patience wears thin. I don’t extend the grace to my children that I know they need. 

In my journey with the Lord, I know I’m always growing. Always learning. But I can still make a mess of things. And every time, faithfully, God comes behind me to clean it up. He patiently puts the dirt back in place and lovingly wipes my hands clean and sets me upright again. 

If you’re in one of those moments today where you feel defeated, I want to encourage you. God has equipped you for this journey of motherhood and given you what you need to carry out your purpose. If you feel a little off course, here are 3 things to help you refocus.

RECEIVE HIS GRACE FOR TODAY

When I’m living in the reality of God’s grace in my own life, I am in a much better position to show grace to my kids. 

When I recall His grace, I remember my own sin. And remembering my own sin always leads me to have more compassion for my kids.

How great is God’s grace for me? His patience is unending. His love is unfailing. 

 

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.

2 Corinthians 12:9

When you feel defeated as a parent, when you know you’ve missed the mark with your kids, receive God’s grace for you today. His grace is sufficient for every need. He’s not surprised by our weaknesses. No, He takes our weaknesses and reveals His power through them. 

DON’T WORRY ABOUT TOMORROW

I don’t know about you, but when I’m having a day where I feel like I’ve made a mess of things, it’s easy for me to wonder if I’m ever gonna “get it together.” I start to feel defeated about tomorrow before it even comes. I start to anticipate the next mess.  

When my focus is more on what’s next, I lose sight of what God is doing today. I forget to thank Him for the sanctifying work He is always doing in my heart. 

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:34

I love this verse. I love that the Bible doesn’t gloss over our troubles. But when we’re seeking Him instead of looking at our messes, He provides what we need in the moment. 

LOOK TO THE PAST WITH THANKFULNESS

On the days when you feel defeated, look back at your journey with thankfulness. Identify those spiritual markers—those times when you know without a doubt God was molding you and shaping you into the person, mom, and wife He designed you to be. 

And when you have those days that make you say, “Ugh, this isn’t the kind of mom I want to be . . .” Take a step back and remember all that the Lord has done in your life up to this point.

One of my favorite old hymns is “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” . Here’s the second verse:

 

“Here I raise my Ebenezer; Hither by Thy help I’m come;

And I hope, by Thy good pleasure, Safely to arrive at home.”

-Robert Robinson

Do you know what an Ebenezer is? The hymn author was borrowing a phrase from the book of 1 Samuel. 

Afterward, Samuel took a stone and set it upright between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, explaining, “The Lord has helped us to this point.” 

1 Samuel 7:12

The meaning of the word is a “stone of help.” It was a symbol to mark the spot where God intervened and rescued His people. In 1 Samuel 7, God’s people, the Israelites had been living without the ark of the covenant for 20 years. They longed for the presence of God and expressed their desire to return to God in worship. Samuel told them what was required. They must give up their false gods and worship only the true God. They did as Samuel commanded and gathered at a place called Mizpah to fast and pray and confess their sins. While in Mizpah, their enemies the Philistines marched against them to attack. The Israelites called on Samuel to pray to the Lord on their behalf. Samuel prayed and the Philistines were defeated. And the Israelites raised a stone in that place to commemorate what the Lord had done. 

“The Lord has helped us to this point.” 

When you look back to see all the ways the Lord has carried you up to this point, you can be confident in the Lord’s faithfulness today and for the future. 

What is God showing you in the midst of your mess today? How is He revealing His grace? How has He been faithful to you in the past? Follow His lead. Keep your eyes on Him and trust that He is working out His purpose in You—messes and all. 

Listen to this podcast below to hear more about how God can meet you in the midst of your “messes” so you can find peace and feel His grace on a daily basis.

 

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